About Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, who named the town after himself. Stellenbosch means “(Van Der) Stel’s Bush”.

This beautiful village is situated on the banks of the Eerste River (First River), so named as it was the first new river Van der Stel reached and followed when he went on an expedition across the Cape Flats to explore the territories towards what is now known as Stellenbosch. The town grew so quickly that it became an important local authority in 1682 and the seat of a magistrate with jurisdiction over 25 000 square kilometres in 1685.

The Dutch were skilled in hydraulic engineering and devised a system of furrows to divert water from the Eerste River in the vicinity of Thibault Street through the town along Van Riebeeck Street to Mill Street, where a mill was erected.

During 1690 some Huguenot refugees visited and settled in Stellenbosch. They planted grapes in the fertile valleys around Stellenbosch and soon it became the centre of the South African wine industry.

In 1710 a fire destroyed most of Stellenbosch, including the first church, all the Dutch East India Company property and 12 houses. Only two or three houses were left standing. When the church was rebuilt in 1723 it was located to what was then the outskirts of the town (now the top of Church Street) to prevent a similar incident from destroying it again. This church with its New Gothic tower was enlarged a number of times since 1723 and is currently known as the “Moederkerk” (Mother Church). Part of the mahogany organ cabinet as well as the front pipes of the organ are still the originals from 1863.

Driving through historic Dorp Street, you will notice many buildings in typical Cape Dutch architecture with thatched roofs. Stellenbosch also has thousands of oak trees lining the streets and visitors can enjoy the public art on display throughout the town centre.

But the history of this scenic town is so much richer than what is usually portrayed in tourist brochures. The Stellenbosch Municipality includes a diverse range of communities – from Franschhoek, Pniel, Johannesdal and Kylemore on the Helshoogte Pass road, to Klapmuts and Cloetesville, Ida’s Valley and Kayamandi closer to Stellenbosch. During the forced removals of the apartheid years, coloured people had to resettle in Cloetesville and Ida’s Valley. Many of the families living there today are the descendants of slaves brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company centuries ago. Kayamandi developed as a residential area for African migrant labourers who were not allowed to live in the “white” areas under apartheid. In the past five years, many more people have moved into the Kayamandi area and started to develop the shantytown Azania.

Accommodation

Stellenbosch offers an eclectic mix of accommodation. This ranges from historic Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian villas to 5-star boutique hotels, self-catering guest houses, backpackers and home-stays in Kayamandi. Accommodation facilities are situated in or near the historic town centre, or further out and on the surrounding wine farms.

More information: www.stellenbosch.travel, info@stellenbosch.co.za

Websites generally used for booking accommodation in South Africa include Lekkeslaap, SafariNow, Afristay and Airbnb, among others.

Activities

Stellenbosch and its vicinity offer many outdoor activities such as walking along the trails at the Eerste River, golf, hiking, mountain biking, trout fishing, wine tasting, park runs (usually on Saturdays), horse riding and outdoor markets on weekends.

Among the many tourist attractions, Oom Samie se Winkel in Dorp street and Amazink Live, a theatre-restaurant in Kayamandi, enjoy iconic status.

For more information, see www.visit-stellenbosch.com

Art Galleries, Museums and Markets

For galleries, museums and markets, click here for our Art Route map.

Banking

Currency

Rand (R ) = 100 cents. Notes are in R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10 denominations.

Coins are R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c and 10c.

Banking hours

Monday to Friday: Generally 09:00 to 15:30 or 08:30 to 16:00

Saturday: 08:30 to 11:00

Foreign exchange

Foreign currency can be exchanged at commercial banks, American Express, Bidvest Bank, Diners Club International and Bureaux de Change.

Travellers’ cheques can be redeemed at banks and most major outlets, but have cash on hand when visiting markets or to buy from informal traders.

Credit cards

Credit cards are accepted by most hotels, shops and restaurants.

Tips

ATM safety

Tourists are sometimes targeted at Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) and approached by people who either seek or offer assistance.

  • Keep other people at a safe distance when using an ATM (ask them to step back and stay behind the line)
  • Do not offer assistance, but rather indicate that they should phone the helpline
  • If you encounter any problems at an ATM, leave immediately, but if your card has been “swallowed”, stay and call the number on the particular ATM.
  • It is possible to draw money inside a bank or, if after hours, rather use an ATM machine at a bank where a security guard is on duty, or an ATM inside a shopping centre.

Big Mac Index for Affordability

The Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a light-hearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries.

The Big Mac Index measures the real value of currencies.

A Big Mac costs R31.00 in South Africa and US$5.58 in the USA. The implied exchange rate is R5.56 to the dollar.

The difference between this and the actual exchange rate, +/-R15.00 to the dollar, suggests that the South African rand is undervalued.

Climate

Stellenbosch has a Mediterranean climate (i.e. hot summers with rain in winter). Stellenbosch is known to display all four seasons in one day, so layering is advised.

For a detailed weather forecast, visit www.weathersa.co.za.

Summery months: September to April                    Daytime temperatures: 25 °C to 34 °C

Wet, wintry months: May to August                        Daytime temperatures: 12 °C to 18 °C

The dates of the TRIENNALE fall over the autumn and summer, from February to April.

Dialling Codes

To a South African landline number from abroad: Dial international access code (+27) plus subscriber’s number: +27 21 123 4567

To a South African landline number from South Africa: Dial the area code (e.g. 021 for Stellenbosch) plus subscriber’s number: 021 123 4567

To a South African mobile number from abroad: Dial international access code (+27) plus service provider code plus subscriber’s number: +27 123 4567

To South African mobile number from South Africa: Dial the service provider code (e.g. 082 for Vodacom, 083 for MTN or 084 for Cell C) plus the subscriber’s number: 084 123 4567

Tips

Mobile phones can be hired at airport outlets. South Africa has the following cellphone providers: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom and Virgin Mobile.

Airtime credit to make calls and send text messages can be bought at most supermarkets and shops.

Driving and Renting a Car

Rental cars are available from Cape Town International Airport from the following companies: Avis Car Rental, Budget Car Rental, Europcar Rental, First Car Rental, Hertz Car Rental, Tempest Car Hire and Thrifty Car & Van Rental, among others.

Tips

  • In South Africa we drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • Make sure you know the country’s traffic laws.
  • Do not use your mobile phone while driving.
  • Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Avoid driving on the N2 and R300 highways  between Stellenbosch and Cape Town late at night.

Electricity

220/230 volts, 50 Hz

Adapters are available.

Emergency Numbers

Nationwide Emergency Response: 10111 or 021 809 5000

Mobile phone emergency: 112 (all networks)

Ambulance: 10177 or 021 883 3444

Fire & Rescue: 021 808 8888

Medicross Stelkor Medical Centre: 021 887 0305

Visitors covered by adequate medical insurance will automatically be admitted to the Mediclinic private hospital in Stellenbosch in case of emergency or if prior hospital authorisation has been obtained.

Languages

South African has 11 official languages. In the Western Cape, where Stellenbosch is situated, Afrikaans, English and Xhosa are the official languages. You will also hear French, Swahili and other African languages spoken by refugees and immigrants from the DRC and other African countries.

Here are a few handy South Africanisms:

Howzit: A greeting, often used instead of hello. Combines “hello” and “how are you”, so it saves time.

Braai: brrr-rye (roll that r): The South African version of a barbecue. It usually involves a large amount of meat such as boerewors (directly translated as farmer’s sausage), lamb chops, steak, mealies (corn on the cob), braaibroodjies (cheese, tomato and onion toasties done on the open coals), and possibly a sprinkling of salad, if you’re lucky.

Ubuntu: Southern African humanist philosophy that holds as its central tenet that a person is only a person through others. I am because of you.

Sharp: Pronounced “Shup” – Usually used in conjunction with a thumbs-up sign to indicate that it’s all good.

Rusk: A traditional Afrikaner breakfast meal or snack. Rusks (“beskuit” in Afrikaans) have been dried in South Africa since the late 1690s as a way of preserving bread, especially when travelling long distances without refrigeration. The use of rusks continued through the Great Trek and the Boer Wars through to the modern day. Rusks are typically dunked in coffee or tea to soften them before being eaten. If you want to know more about the South African obsession with these hard biscuits, you can google “Ouma Rusks”.

Lekker: Afrikaans for nice, pleasant, fun, lovely, good, pretty. It is used by all language groups to express approval. You can have a lekker boerie on the braai. Holidays are lekker.

Ja-nee (Yes-No; Ja-No): A confusing exclamation that actually means “yes”.

Now-now: An indeterminate time that could be now, just now, soon … or even never.

As in: “I will call you back now-now”.

INKOSI, THANK YOU, DANKIE

Markets

Several markets in and around Stellenbosch offer live music, good food and interesting merchandise over weekends.

Root 44 Market: Saturdays and Sundays, from 10:00 to 16:00

Oude Libertas Slow Market: Saturdays from 09:00 to 14:00

Blaauwklippen Family Market: Sundays from 10:00 to 15:00

Also visit the African traders selling curios and beautiful fabrics on the Braak and in the town centre.

Click here for our Art Route map to see the location of the various markets.

Personal Insurance

It is strongly recommended that you take out insurance for your personal belongings such as digital cameras and laptop computers. It is important that you are aware of the conditions of your personal insurance.

Safety tips

  • Always lock your door
  • If your accommodation is on the ground floor, do not place valuable items close to an open window
  • Report any suspicious persons loitering around your accommodation or following you to a responsible authority
  • Use common sense in divulging personal information to strangers.
  • Project certainty regarding your route and destination
  • Restrict night-time travel
  • Do not hitchhike
  • Do not pick up hitchhikers
  • Avoid high-risk regions
  • Do not draw undue attention to yourself, either through expensive dress or personal accessories (cameras, sunglasses, jewellery)
  • Listen to and heed the counsel you are given

Standard Time

South Africa is:

2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time

1 hour ahead of Central European Winter Time

7 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Winter Time

Tipping

Airport/hotel porters: R10–R15

Restaurants: 10% unless gratuity is included in the bill

Car guards in public parking areas: R2 to R5 recommended

Trading Hours

Weekdays: 08:30 to 17:00

Weekends: 08:30 to 13:00

Shopping malls and tourist shops: Monday to Friday until 20:00

Cafes and convenience stores: 07:00 till late, seven days a week

Convenience stores at large petrol stations: 24 hours

Transport

To get around, you can rent a bicycle or book a metered taxi or Uber. Tuk Tuk Stellies offers an affordable way of getting around and can be booked for ad hoc transport needs or a full wine tour.

BMT bicycle rentals

Black Horse Centre
Dorp Street
021 887 3417

Adventure Shop

Bicycle and car rental and tours
Black Horse Centre
Dorp Street
021 882 8112

TUK TUK Stellenbosch

36 Mark Street
076 011 3016

Stellenbosch Taxis

079 020 2816

UBER

Via the Uber app

VAT Refunds

Purchases are subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) at 15%. Tourists can reclaim VAT when they return home by showing a tax invoice at the airport VAT office for purchases of R250 and more and on items leaving the country. VAT on hotel bills and items you have consumed in South Africa is not refundable.

For more information and to download the applicable forms, visit www.taxrefunds.co.za.

Wi-Fi

Most accommodation facilities and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi.

Wine Route

Stellenbosch is renowned for its wines, especially its Cabernet Sauvignon. There are more than 200 wine farms around Stellenbosch that offer various types of wine tastings and wine farm tours. Some also offer a fine-dining experience, picnics and wildlife safaris. Tastings are also offered at various wine bars in the town centre.

Stellenbosch Wine Route: 021 886 4310

What to Bring

  • A hat and sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Plug adaptor
  • Layers – the weather can change suddenly
  • Umbrella
  • Your sense of adventure!