Retiring in Cape Town: Pros and Cons from a Local

Retiring in Cape Town

By Natasha Posnett - Cape Town Local

Retiring in Cape Town may not be at the top of your list but maybe it should be. Cape Town is a city like no other; full of nature and surrounded by luscious mountains, long sandy beaches and beautiful vineyards. It is a city known for its laid-back lifestyle, friendly people and delicious wines. If you’re looking for that perfect mix of cosmopolitan culture and the great outdoors, Cape Town is the place for you.
Also known, as the Mother City, it is the second most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and is the legislative capital of the country.

Pros of Living in Cape Town

Cape Town has so many positive aspects about it which is why it has become such a popular destination for expats and retirees.

  • Location
    The city is in a prime location nestled between the ocean and the mountains. You are surrounded by natural beauty in all directions.
  • Cost of living
    The cost of living is much cheaper than in Europe or America. It is cheaper to treat yourself so you can really make the most of your free time. 
  • Weather
    For over half of the year, you will experience warm and sunny weather. Expect lots of beach days and time outside. 

Cons of Living in Cape Town

It is important to also be aware of the slightly more negative aspects of Cape Town and some of the difficulties you may encounter living here. No location is perfect, it is just better to be aware of the challenges to help you make an informed decision about your move.

  • Economy and politics
    The economic and political situation has deteriorated over the recent years. Cape Town still struggles from underlying inequality and issues left over from apartheid. There are consistently high rates of unemployment and a high proportion of Capetonians still live in poverty.
  • Safety
    There are some safety issues in Cape Town. This can be scary for American and European expats who may not be used to this way of living. We will go into more detail further on, but as long as you take the correct precautions, it shouldn’t deter you from settling down in Cape Town for your retirement years.

Fun Fact

Cape Town's Nickname is "The Mother City".

What is the Culture Like in Cape Town?

Retiring in Cape Town exposes you to a cultural mix of Dutch, French, Malay, English, Afrikaner and Xhosa lifestyles. It is a multicultural city and a melting pot of people and cultures. Its diverse heritage and variety of cultures can be explored through its cuisine, historical architecture and vibrant arts. 

What Languages are Spoken in Cape Town?

English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa are the most widely spoken languages in Cape Town. Afrikaans is the most spoken home language in Cape Town, with more than 40% of Capetonians speaking the language. English is also widely spoken, and Xhosa remains the main language of the local African population. It is a multicultural city with many different languages being spoken, but you can happily get by living in Cape Town just speaking English.

What is the Climate Like in Cape Town?

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate. The summers are warm, dry, and sunny with average temperatures of 68-86 degrees Fahrenheit between November to February.
The winter months are wetter, but it stays very mild compared to many other cities. Average temperatures will range from about 50-68 degrees Fahrenheit between May to August. During the winter rainy season Cape Town’s greenery really flourishes and the natural surroundings are in their prime.

Is it Safe to Live in Cape Town?

Safety is an issue in every city worldwide, so of course Cape Town has a few issues. It is not recommended to walk in the dark on your own. Most neighborhoods in the city are safe, but there are a few areas you are advised to avoid...especially at night time. Just like many other major cities, retiring in Cape Town is safe if you take the correct precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. 

Fun Fact

The World's First Heart Transplant Took Place in Cape Town.

How to Get Around Cape Town

If you're retiring in Cape Town, know that a car is almost essential to get around as the public transport options are quite limited. There are no subways, trains can be unsafe, and metered taxis get expensive when you need to use them often.

The MyCiTi bus is another option. It has grown a lot in recent years and now covers the inner city and Atlantic Seaboard. It also extends north through Milnerton, Century City, Table View and Blouberg.

Cape Town Beach

Cape Town Beach

What are Popular Activities in Cape Town?

You'll never run out of activities to do when living in Cape Town. Whatever your hobbies and interests are, there is something for everyone. The sunny weather and relatively cheap prices makes it easy to get out and about and enjoy your free time. 

  • Beaches
    Cape Town is a beach lovers paradise. From secluded coves to long beaches which stretch for miles up the coast. Here are just a few must visit spots:
    - Boulders Beach
    - Noordhoek
    - Clifton
    - Big Bay 
  • Hiking
    If you enjoy spending time on the mountains and exploring new trails, Cape Town is a great city for you. Table Mountain National Park is in the middle of the city and has many hiking trails to choose from. There is also Newlands forest and Cecilia forest if you are looking for a less strenuous walk. Slightly further out of the city you also have Jonkershoek and Helderberg. 
  • Braai
    A favorite pastime for many South Africans. Braaing is just the South African word for barbecuing. Braais are normally meat focused and done at home. 
  • Markets
    Markets are another popular way for Capetonians to spend their weekends. Try out some local foods and stock up on your fresh produce. There are lots of new ones that pop up around the city regularly, but here are a few you should not miss out on:
    - Route 44 Market- Stellenbosch
    - Oranjezicht City Farm Market- located near the V&A waterfront
    - Elgin Railway Market
  • Vineyards
    Of course, you can’t live in Cape Town and not try out the multitude of wonderful vineyards dotted around the city. Take a stroll through their pretty gardens, relax while trying one of their wine tasting and order some food.

Cape Town Cost of Living Chart



Cost of Living Rank

387th out of 598
#1 is most expensive

1 Bdr Apartment in City

$713 per month

1 Bdr Apartment Outside City

$508 per month

Average Utilities: 1 Bdr Apt
electricity, heating, cooling, water, trash

$91 per month

Inexpensive Meal for One


3-Course Meal for Two, Mid-Range


Where do Locals Dine Out in Cape Town?

You have many choices in Cape Town when it comes to dining out. Whether it's fine dining, family friendly, or a more casual cafe you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.

My top picks for dinner:
- The Test Kitchen (for a real fine dining experience) in Woodstock
- Belly of the Beast in District Six
- The Chefs Warehouse in the CBD

My top picks for brunch/lunch:
- Harvest Cafe in BoKaap
- Nourish’d in Tamboerskloof
- The Strangers Club in Green Point

Cape Town’s multicultural heritage influences much of its cuisine and there are a few dishes that you have to try when you’re in the city:

  • Bunny Chow: basically half a loaf of bread filled with curry. This classic South African dish draws on the country's Indian influence.
  • Bobotie: This is a Cape Malay creation. It consists of minced beef topped with egg and is the perfect mix of sweet and savory flavors with a hint of spice.
  • Gatsby: A sub style sandwich which comes packed full of meat, chips and sauces. Known for its value for money and massive portion size.
  • Biltong and Droewors: A snack rather than a meal, but a staple food in many South African’s diets. They are simply made by drying meat and adding a special blend of spices.
  • Desserts: Don’t forget to try some of the traditional desserts too! Milk tart, malva pudding, and koeksisters are good ones to start with.


Bottom Line

Cape Town isn't often thought of as a retirement location. But if you're looking for an affordable place near beautiful beaches that is surrounded by amazing hiking locations...retiring in Cape Town could be for you. 

If you'd rather be in Europe, Malaga, Spain is another great option.

Retiring in Cape Town Quick Facts






3,300 ft


Warm and dry summers. Cool and dry winters. Average temps are from 48°F and 76°F (8.8°C and 24°C)

Flight time to U.S.

23 hours by plane to New York, 16 hours to London


South African Rand

Retirement Programs


Retirement Visa

Yes - More Info

Public Transportation

Having a car is recommended

About the Author Guest Blogger

Our guest bloggers are retirees or residents living in cities around the world. They're giving insider perspective to what it's like to live and retire in various places.