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Cape Town

Africa > South Africa > Cape Town

See: Why rent a car in Cape Town ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Cape Town?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Cape Town?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Cape Town car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Cape Town with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Cape Town? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Cape Town, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Many visitors to South Africa might be apprehensive about driving here, given the country’s reputation the having a high crime rate, although it is noted that this has tended to be more of a problem around Johannesburg. However, crime has risen in recent years in Cape Town.

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Cape Town is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Cape Town? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Cape Town between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 9/10

Non car score:6/10

Balance: 4

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


Why? Visiting Cape Town using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Cape Town ?

  • For most visitors to the Cape, there are simply too many scenic locations beyond Cape Town itself, and this is where getting a hire car really does make sense.
  • Just head east out of Cape Town and you will hit a string of national parks running all the way to Port Elizabeth.
  • Heading north, you will also find a range of stunning scenic locations, culminating in the Richtersveld World Heritage Site adjacent to the border with Namibia.
  • The roads around Cape Town are of a reasonable standard, especially when compared with other roadsa in Africa.

Why not? Visiting Cape Town without a car

Why don't you need a car in Cape Town ?

  • There is certainly no particular need to get a hire car for staying in central Cape Town, where plenty of buses and taxis if needed are readily available.
  • Needless to say, no visit to the city of Cape Town is complete without going up Table Mountain, and this can easily be done using a combination of bus and cable car.
  • Table Mountain is also popular for various different outdoor pursuits, including paragliding, but none of these are the sort of activities where your own hire car will be necessary.
  • The Cape of Good Hope itself, from which Cape town takes its name, is an easy excursion from Cape Town, and a regular haunt for tour buses. You can walk around this stunningly scenic coastline, and you can also descend to the sea front using the local funicular. You can also just as easily drive and park here.
  • Just off the coast of Cape Town sits Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was infamously imprisoned, and it goes without saying that no car is needed to get to the embarkation point in Cape Town harbour (use local buses).

Ratings: How does Cape Town compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Cape Town? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Cape Town, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Cape Town? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Cape Town (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Cape Town? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Cape Town airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Cape Town car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 7

2019 - 6

2021 - 4

Average score - 5



Some visitors might prefer to get around using some sort of organised bus tour. A hire car is always going to be a natural choice if it’s compared with using public transport. On the other hand, South Africa does also have an expansive rail network. Taking the train towards Johannesburg certainly can open up some breathtaking landscapes, many of which are either inaccessible, or very difficult to access by road.

For these reasons, we give Cape Town a high score for both car and non car based touring.

Should you hire a car in Cape Town? On balance, Cape Town is simply somewhere where a hire car is more likely to be useful than it isn’t.


Do you or don't you need a car in Cape Town ?

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