We came back yesterday from a long weekend in Cape Town. It was good fun, but surprisingly more expensive than I anticipated. At Betsy's work, all the 'Kapies' (that is, people from Cape Town), claim that the Cape is so much more affordable than Jo'burg.
Indeed, Jo'burg can be pricey, so we were looking forward to a relatively inexpensive stay in the Cape.
Not what happened. The restaurants were pricey, the bars were pricey, even parking was pricey. We rented a car, and that was pricey. And our accommodation had every indication of being pricey too: about 180 Rand (some 18 euros) per person per night, in a double room with en suite bathroom. True, we did have an en suite, but this was at a backpackers (and, if you're used to European or American prices, keep in mind this is Africa). So, this being a backpackers, no breakfast included and no daily cleaning of our room.
I booked, the way I always do my booking, through Travelhog.net. So far, I've always been very satisfied with the offers available through this engine.
However, when in Cape Town, what did sting me was that we saw several signs advertising rooms for less than what we payed.
So I stumbled upon a service today, called cheaper than hotels (with, amongst others, hotels in Cape Town, hotels in Johannesburg and even hotels in Sandton, but I find these pages much more confusing than the homepage itself) which, obviously, should be able to compete within the hostel market segment. True, the site looks like crap, but that never stopped MySpace. And since it's advertising only last minute opportunities, it might just be able to offer some good deals.
I checked it out and tried to compare some options. The homepage has a basic but functional search tool where you can drill down to areas within a city (such as Greenpoint, where we stayed last weekend). Taking a similar weekend as the previous one, I wanted to test the period from 7 till 10 September.
I first tried searching only in Greenpoint, but that only returned one (expensive) hotel, so I widened the search to include the whole of the city.
Now, I'm normally a huge skeptic of services like this which claim to be cheap as, usually, they end up being bloody expensive (think Budget car rental, which is generally more expensive than Hertz and Avis).
Imagine the surprise. The cheapest option ended up being a lodge in Somerset West (which is not too convenient if you don't have your own transport) for a total of 96 euros (for three days, for two persons). This is less than what we had to pay for our double room at the backpackers. In fact, four options were cheaper and three more were equally priced, including two in Sea Point, which is a decent place to stay in, when you're in Cape Town.
Feeling like having found the best thing since sliced cheese, I figured that if I'd try and go for something really last minute (the site only allows for booking 21 days in advance as it's a last minute booking site), surely, prices would be even more attractive.
Not so. The cheapest available rooms for tomorrow came in at pretty much the same rate as booking two weeks in advance, around 35 euros per room per night.
Still, it's a pity we'll be leaving South Africa in five weeks time. We obviously could have had some deals here. Three years ago, when we were living in Zimbabwe, we spent quite a bit of time on the road in South Africa, on holiday. For some locations, this could have been useful. Then again, checking for some cities in the Cape, outside of Cape Town, the really good deals don't really seem to exist.
Then again, I also checked availability and prices for both Johannesburg and Budapest. Johannesburg searches only returned one (pricey) hotel, Budapest searches returned lots of hotels, but none that could seriously compete with the hostels in that town.
So, you can sleep for less using the booking engine at Travelhog.net, but that typically means sleeping in a dorm. If you want a good, private room, with facilities, it seems that when you want to stay in Cape Town, cheaper than hotels can be a good place to start looking. But I'll first check the booking engine at Travelhog.net anyway.
(In the end, we paid less at our hostel as they turned out to have a deal where the third consecutive night was free, but still.)
Student Life is a South African magazine aimed at, can you guess, students. I got myself one, while in the Cape, because it was packed with a CD. It's a bit like a sampler, has 15 tracks by as many bands. All of them are new to me, and some are actually quite decent.
The Pigeon Detectives sing I found out, which feels a bit like 80s punkpop. The band The Cinematics also create a similar feel with their track Keep Forgetting, although there's a dash of The Cure in there too.
Midlake, with their song Roscoe feels rather dramatic, in style reminding me of Radiohead and classic rock from the 60s and 70s. It's close to psychedelic at times. Very good.
Then there's Memomena with Wet and Rusting has a bit of a Beatles feel to it. A bit repetitive, but nice.
The first of the two best tracks on the album is by Soulsavers and is called Arizona Bay. It's electronica and reminds me of Godspeed! You black emperor, although the band themselves claim to get their influences from the likes of Public Enemy, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and whatnot. The second is by Paul Hartnoll and is called Haven't we met before. Hartnoll, together with his brother, formed Orbital, electronica at its very best. The album from which this track is lifted was recorded with a full choir and orchestra.