It surprises many visitors to South Africa how reliant people are on mobile phones for everything from communication to transport. In fact, the country has more SIM cards than people (mobile penetration is at around 128%). Only 17% of the country’s adult population accesses the internet via a desktop computer at all!
That said, we encourage our guests to have a few apps downloaded on their phones (and data, which we’ll go into in a minute) in preparation for their trip to South Africa. This will help with everything from getting around efficiently to paying for certain items from the touch of a button. You’ll be impressed with how evolved the mobile landscape is even compared to many first world cities.
At Explore Sideways, we can ensure your vacation is filled with exciting adventures and insider access to the most unique and exclusive activities in the Cape, but we know your trip will be enhanced with the help of just a few simple apps.
But first, here’s what you need to know about airtime and data…
Airtime allows you to send SMS (text messages) and make phone calls. Data allows you to browse the internet and with the help of the apps below, can also help you send messages and make phone calls.
Wifi is accessible but not abundant in Cape Town so we highly recommend buying data and a small amount of airtime. If your smartphone is “locked” then you’ll need to pre-purchase international data and airtime from your existing provider before your trip. If your smartphone is unlocked, you can purchase a South African SIM card in the airport upon arrival and buy some airtime and data. Both Vodacom and MTN are good providers with kiosks in the arrivals section of the Cape Town International Airport. If you need to “top up” throughout the duration of your trip, you can purchase either data or airtime at almost any grocery or corner store.
Messaging app, Whatsapp (now owned by Facebook) uses data instead of airtime to send messages, voice notes, images, share your location as well as make phone and video calls. South Africa is the top market for Whatsapp and is the go-to communication platform of choice for most locals (as we say, #travellikealocal!). Most companies have their own WhatsApp account and can both receive messages and phone calls via the app, which makes it easy to make restaurant bookings and book your next tour with Explore Sways! (Our WhatsApp number is +27(079)6071978).
Uber is among the best, safest and most efficient forms of transport to get around the city of Cape Town. We often recommend Uber over a rental car for travellers that are planning to stay in the City and take occasional day tours. There is an abundance of drivers in the city bowl making wait times minimal and the price is often cheaper than a taxi. After you’ve confirmed your pickup and drop-off location, the app will source a nearby driver and supply you with the driver’s name, car registration, phone number, and user rating. For safety purposes, always make sure to match the registration number in the app with the car’s license plate before getting into the vehicle. Use the coupon code e9mzg to get your first ride free!
Explore Sideways iPhone app
The Explore Sideways app is the ideal pocket guide to more than 500 vineyards and 21 wine regions in the Cape Winelands. Find estates ideal for your requirements using the 40 distinct filters that vary from organic wineries and cellar tours to onsite dining establishments and health spas. Best of all, this app is completely FREE!
Long gone are the days of paper, fold-up maps that immediately identify you as an oblivious tourist! Google Maps can assist you with figuring out distances, orienting yourself in the city and mapping out the best paths for walking vs. driving/Ubering. Google Maps’ has recently launched an offline feature to download the maps you’ll need to get directions and look up locations without an Internet connection so make sure to have those loaded before you start exploring.
SnapScan is a mobile payments solution provided by Standard Bank that eliminates the need to carry credit cards. Travelers are now able to use Masterpass, an international electronic payment solution by Mastercard, to purchase products or services at more than 30,000 SnapScan vendors in South Africa using their smartphones. To make things even easier, the app will calculate the tip into the total cost into the final payment (standard tipping etiquette is between 10%-15%). To use the app, simply look for the Snapscan QR code next to the cashier or on the receipt, open the app and “scan” the QR code. Once the app receives the info, enter in the amount due and viola!
* It is only suitable for international cards that are enabled with 3D secure.
If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard about Instagram (also now owned by Facebook). This photo sharing social media app allows you to capture all of your travel photos in one places and share them with friends and make them jealous of your amazing trip – the technical word for this is FOMO. You can get some inspiration from our own Instagram feed. You can also use Instagram in preparation for your trip to get ideas on where you want to go and what to see. Some recommended hashtags for this are: #travelcapetown, #travelsouthafrica, #exploresideways.