To be upfront, I have visited the Cape Town Backpackers in a state where it has been recently taken over by new owners with big dreams to give its old charming buildings new glory. So while I stayed here, I saw all the preparations for the big changes in full swing as winter is a less busy season for Cape Town and thus provides more opportunity of renovating without hindering the guests. Needless to say, the building process showed here and there and I have to remark upon it as I am always super honest with you guys. I am looking forward to seeing all the plans implemented and the old buildings receiving some fresh face.
Only a 25 minute walk to the city centre along a street full of bars, restaurants and great foodie places you will find the hostel. It is in an area where hostels collect but still a little bit further off from all the hustle and bustle. Two supermarkets are close at hand with Spar and Checkers being no further than 10 minutes away. But mostly, you will be eating out anyway as Cape Town will spoil you rotten with good and cheap food.
Even though it is not a party hostel, evenings at the Cape Town Backpackers involve happy mingling around the bar or outside lounge area. You will definitely not feel alone and there is always plenty of opportunity to team up with fellow hostel guests and head out for a drink or a night out. The local hotspot seems to be Rafiki’s, which is 2 minutes away and has good pizza deals.
The Backpackers has basically all you need, there is a big kitchen downstairs, a bar and kitchen that provide breakfast and brunch upstairs as well as both outside and shaded inside lounge areas to mingle. The corridors are wide and the yard connecting the buildings can be overlooked from the lounge area or serve as another outlet to just relax among some greenery within the walls of the hostel.
Also, there is the possibility to do your laundry and a tour booking service. If you want to get rid of unwanted unopened food and clothes, the Cape Town Backpackers collects such items and donates them to a local project.
Here is quite some room for improvement. Hostel guests are a lazy bunch and leave their dishes in the sink (which isn’t the hostel’s fault as they put up sings), the floor is not always clean and surfaces sometimes sticky. I even encountered a rat but was told that the problem is being strictly looked after and walls and holes have received traps and electrical wiring to keep them out for good. It is an old house after all and many doors and windows towards the yard are open as seems to be a custom in Cape Town.
Each room is equipped with a place to put your valuables in. However, the old rooms only have a teeny tiny safe that fits your passport and wallet, whereas the renovated ones have actual lockers where you can safely store away your daypack. Having said that, there is still always the opportunity to leave your stuff with the reception as I did all the time.
Regarding overall safety, a passcode is needed to enter the front door, the back door is always locked and high walls with safety wires are there to ensure the guests’ safety. Once, I have seen a drunk beggar rant on the street outside to be let in but with the gate and the locked door in place he soon moved on.
Staff were always super friendly and ready to help out with local tips, directions and generally all kinds of questions. Reception is open 24/7 and each morning the nice cleaning ladies offer a breakfast/brunch menu until 1pm, including traditional porridge, wholesome sandwiches and fresh coffee, among other things. I might also mention that the backpackers announces itself as gay friendly, which is great but you should also know that all of Cape Town is pretty open and tolerant.
Despite the big drawback in cleanliness, the overall atmosphere and welcoming feel of the Cape Town Backpackers makes it a great place from where to start your Cape Town adventures. I myself stayed 2 weeks here and was fine with that. I was absolutely happy with the short time I got upgraded to the ensuite room with the outer balcony. If you can, grab this one!
I would like to send my thanks to Cape Town Backpackers for having me as their guests and taking good care of me and my many questions.