Money & costs
Western Cape accounts for about 15% of the country's total GDP, and many of South Africa's petroleum, insurance and retail corporations have their base in Cape Town. Viticulture, clothing, textiles, agriculture and fishing are all important sectors of the local economy, as is tourism. The opening of the Cape Town International Convention Centre has given a significant boost to this sector of the economy, and several high-profile hotel developments are under way, including an ultraluxury hotel complex at the Waterfront by entrepreneur Sol Kerzner of Sun City fame.
Cape Town's economy has been on a roll over the last few years, and is rapidly catching up with similar cities abroad. This in turn means that the city's not quite the bargain that it used to be. There have been accusations that Capetonian businesses have been overcharging, particularly at the high end of tourism where some hotel prices have shot up in excess of international levels. In some respects, Cape Town's prices are just catching up with those of equivalent cities in the world - what still makes the city decent value is the high quality of products and services you get for your cash.
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has become the watchword of Cape Town's economy, with many white-owned businesses scrambling to find either black or coloured partners or investors in the wake of the enactment of the BEE Bill in January 2005. Economic charters and codes of good practice to redress the imbalances in South Africa's economy have been drawn up and all businesses now should be implementing BEE strategies. At the same time, the government is also pushing a 'buy South African' policy with the Proudly SA campaign (www.proudlysa.co.za) - look out for the colourful logo in the national-flag colours on local products.
Most visitors will find eating and drinking very good value in Cape Town compared to elsewhere in the world; in contrast telephone charges, particularly for mobile phones, are pricey. If you're on a backpacker budget, you'll be looking at spending a minimum of R200 a day, while four-star travellers should reckon on R1000 to R1500 per day.
The unit of currency is the rand (R), which is divided into 100 cents (¢). The coins are 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 10¢, 20¢and 50¢, and R1, R2 and R5. The notes are R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. The R200 note looks a lot like the R20 note, so check them carefully before handing them over. There have been forgeries of the R200 note; some businesses are reluctant to accept them. Rand is sometimes referred to as bucks. For exchange rates, see the inside front cover.
If your card belongs to the worldwide Cirrus network you should have no problem using ATMs in Cape Town. However, it pays to follow some basic procedures to ensure safety.
Credit cards, especially MasterCard and Visa, are widely accepted. Nedbank is an official Visa agency and Standard Bank is a MasterCard agency - both have branches across the country. For lost or stolen cards contact the following:
Amex (0860 003 768)
Diners Club (021-686 1990)
MasterCard (0800 990 418)
Visa International (0800 990 475)
Taxes & refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is 14%. Foreign visitors can reclaim some of their VAT expenses on departure. This applies only to goods that you are taking out of the country; you can't claim back the VAT you've paid on food or car hire, for example. Also, the goods have to have been bought at a shop participating in the VAT foreign tourist sales scheme.
To make a claim, you need your tax invoice. This is usually the receipt, but make sure that it includes the following: the words 'tax invoice'; the seller's VAT registration number; the seller's name and address; a description of the goods purchased; the cost of the goods and the amount of VAT charged; a tax invoice number; and the date of the transaction.
For purchases over R2000, your name and address and the quantity of goods must also appear on the invoice. All invoices must be originals, not photocopies. The total value of the goods claimed for must exceed R250.
At the point of your departure, you will have to show the goods to a customs inspector. At airports make sure you have the goods checked by the inspector before you go and check in your luggage. After you have gone through immigration, you make the claim and then pick up your refund cheque - at the airport in Cape Town you can then cash it straight away at the currency-exchange office (usually in rand or US dollars).
To save time, there's a VAT desk in the Clock Tower Centre (021-405 4545; 9am-8.30pm) at the Waterfront, which can take care of the paperwork, or at Cape Town Tourism (021-426 4260; www.tourismcapetown.co.za; cnr Castle & Burg Sts, City Bowl; 8am-7pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am-2pm Sat, 9am-1pm Sun Dec-Mar, 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am-1pm Sat, 9am-1pm Sun Apr-Nov) in the City Bowl.