Essential Apps when Volunteering in Cape Town

You have arrived in Cape Town – let the adventure begin.  Today’s topic is all about essential apps for both Android and iOS systems which have been designed to make your travelling experience a whole lot more stress-free. Most of these apps have been designed in South Africa to the tech-savvy cell phone user who are loathed to use any paper of getting around a new city.

So let us explore the one’s which we feel will come in handy whilst you are in Cape Town.

The wonderful thing about CityMap2Go is that you do not need data connection to use this app.  citymaps2goOnce you have downloaded the map from City Maps 2 Go, you will be able to use it when you are offline. So you can navigate a city without wi fi connection. You will be able to look up restaurants, place of interest and find anything of relevance as you would have as a digital map user. There are 2 versions – one which you can purchase and the other is free.




This is such a useful organising tool for all your travel documentation such as your flight details, hotel check-ins, rental cars etc and it is especially helpful should you be volunteering in Johannesburg and Cape Town. tripitYour flight details will give you gate information, how long your flight will take, convenient telephone numbers etc. And, TripIt will synchronise with other travel apps.

We have had volunteers whose flights had been cancelled and they never received the notification from the airline.  Imagine their shock when they arrived at the airport only to find they were stranded? This app will alert you to changes in your plans due to cancellations, delays or gate changers and that will make it much easier for you to notify Aviva Volunteers of the changes.


Coming to Cape Town?  Then this should be the first app you download.  Though you will receive the paper version of the bus routes in the documentation section of your MyTrip, volunteers should always have this app myciticapetownhandy when using the bus system. The greatest aspect of this app, is not only the bus routes, but you are able to see the bus timetables, your current card balance and has a fare calculator.

Even if you intend using Uber, always keep this app handy on your phone so you are never left in a position where you have no transport.




You will discover when chatting to our Travel Desk after arriving at the Aviva House, there are free walking tours in the City.  If you download VoiceMap voicemapthough, you will be connected to at least 30 walking tours – all audio and all you need is your smartphone and earphones. And then ….. explore the city at your leisure.

If you need a break, the app will be paused and once you open the app again, it will automatically reconnect you where you left. To make it more fun you have several tours to choose from – historical, comical, fantasy, sci-fi themed tours and you can discover more than one area other than the city. Muizenberg, for example.

Zomato This is a food website and app and it find the best restaurant, cafes, pubs and bars in the city.  Actually, you can use this app in any city so it will end up being a nice addition to your smartphone. Information and photographs are shared by food lovers community and their comments will guide you in making the best possible choice for having a great meal and a fabulous time.

Last but not least, let us tell you about an “awesome” app which is yet another South African development.  awesome.capetownThis is the first location-based travel app developed in South Africa.  You have 4 colour-coded options – Red is for specials, Blue is for Events, Yellow is for promotions and Green is for news. So if you are looking for a good pizza deal or what is hip and happening over the weekend, this app will give you the low down on what you are looking form.  A handy tool on this app is a currency converter and emergency numbers.

So there you go Volunteers ….. we also do our best to look after you whilst you are staying with us. Give us some feedback when you are here as to how these apps helped you.



Dorm Room Living & Travel Hacks

Dorm living as a volunteer can be fun – it is like a grown up pyjama party every night. That is, if you don’t have to get up early and trek to work. For those who need more than 8 hours sleep due to sheer exhaustion, you may need to block out some house noise.

Here are a few useful items which you consider before travelling to South Africa. In fact, “consider” should not enter the equation – the majority of these suggestions will make your volunteering experience a much more pleasant one.  So chat to the folks and family and get them to sponsor you these items as a “going-away” gift.

For When you are Travelling and beyond …..

Packing Cubes

Consider buying packing cubes to pack your clothes as this will come in handy when you are in the volunteer house. 39430566a6c80af99848520b7a81c191

Cupboard space and shelving is limited so you will find you will use your suitcase for the majority of your clothes and keeping your suitcase organised will save you a whole lot of stress and time.

Portable Charger

Though you will have time to recharge your phones in the house, going out for a day excursion, could leave you stranded without battery life on your phone.  514a3565e0683527cb9a671f664957e0We suggest you either (1) buy a battery power pack before you leave home or (2) buy one in South Africa when you arrive.

On the plane, For Chilly Evenings or Comfort on the Couch

These scarves will come in handy, especially on the plane or if you are going out and little eddies of wind funnels have whipped up bringing a chill factor which leaves you shivering.  0e4faa55cd519b4aaf5c1fe7d94ec96aAlso ideal when laying on the couch but you want to block out the sound of everything around you as you are listening to music.  8f63c726935f4595af0feca67bf92c8aComfort is never a bad idea and as you are far from home and your usual creature comforts, why not spoil yourself when you are in another country! AND, they come in designs for men too!


Comfortable Ear Phones

I have just seen these recently advertised and I think they are brilliant as they can also be used over your eyes to block out light, whilst listening to your music.  e7d4b342fe49cb69b722fbe9fe80db3fFor both the plane and whilst in dorm living conditions.  Definitely worth the money and you will be thankful when you are trying to sleep and someone is snoring loudly. They come in a Wi Fi version and also with a cord.  And in case you are wondering, we are not getting a kick-back for mentioning this but seriously volunteers, this is ideal for the house and on the plane. Remember you have many flying hours ahead of you and sometimes a long stopover before your connecting flight .


This will definitely come in handy to keep all your toiletries in one place for when your suitcase undergoes serious gravity tests at airports due to hurried baggage handlers. 541727ffc2e447f59e377f4f1ec0305cMore important, as you are living in a dorm room and though there are plenty of bathrooms in the house, space is still limited so we suggest you bring a toiletry bag with you so you can hook this over your bed each day and leave the area in the bathroom and around your bed as neat as possible for everyone.

Having said this, the Aviva Volunteer has enough shampoo, conditioner, sunblock, creams and unless you use a specific brand, we would venture to say, don’t bring any of these supplies as you are more than welcome to use what other volunteers have left behind.



Time Saving Solutions whilst you are in the House

Laundry Bag


Either buy or make a laundry bag.  The launderette is down the road and you will need to carry your laundry so is makes sense to make this comfortable for yourself. This is also a great way in keeping your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes – makes sense, doesn’t it. Pinterest has great ideas and even a DIY laundry bag which you can get a grandmother to make for you?

Bed Storage Pouch

A great idea for storing items whilst you are lying in bed or whilst you are sleeping.  9402e84104c04a338820faeff587edccThis will also keep the area around your bed neat and you won’t end up tripping over something when you wake up in the dark and need to tip toe to the bathroom.

Day Excursions, Sightseeing or Clubbing/Eating Out

No matter how many times we have mentioned to volunteers to never act like a tourist and leave their valuables laying around, they still seem to ignore this rule especially after a couple of drinks and then end up sobbing into the glass of wine when their phones have been stolen.

We urge you to get yourself a cross-the-body-bag which will hold your money and phone when you go out and you never have to remove it even if you are doing a head banging dance at a nightclub. For day excursions, bring with you an attractive day backpack

like the examples we have included here as it will make your life so much easier and you will be able to store a valuable resource – water bottles!


Great ideas and travel hacks

There are some things that just make sense especially when you are volunteering and you want creature comforts, you need to adult and be independent and to simply bring you peace of mind. So what am I talking about?  Let’s go ……

Comfy shoes are a must when travelling but even more importantly for the volunteers who are volunteering at our African Penguin & Seabird Rehabilitation project, waterproof, non-slip shoes is a MUST.

You will be surrounded by volunteers who have phones and tablets, journals, books and charges so keeping all your technology and other useful objects in one place is the best option to not misplacing anything in the house. Another great should-have is a waterproof pouch for your phone when you head out to the beach or when you go Shark Cage diving.

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What would travelling in style be, without such innovative items which makes life and travelling a whole lot stress-free ….


Important Note: All images have been downloaded from Pinterest so credit to those peeps whose images I have used.

We hope this helps you when packing for your volunteering experience but we are always an email away if you have any questions.

Look forward to seeing you in Cape Town!


South African Visa Requirements

Since the introduction of volunteers needing unabridged birth certificates and various other documentation should they be Under 18 years of age, and traveling alone, the tourism industry including the volunteer industry, have been tearing their hair out.

To put matters into perspective, it is good that visa rules apply as you would have any Tom, Dick or Harry (apologies to any volunteer with those names) crossing borders and staying put because, seemingly, the grass is greener on the other side.

I am here to warn you what you would need if you are wanting to volunteer for longer than 90 days and perhaps to take your entire Gap Year in beautiful Cape Town and are 18 years and older.

  • Plan to take time to travel to your nearest South African Embassy and prepare yourself for a head-ache, you have to apply in person!
  • Check for an interview date which is convenient for you and book it well in advance before it gets snapped up by someone other eager beaver wanting to come to South Africa.
  • Budget for the visa costs (and travel costs to get there) and budget for additional costs if at first you do not succeed!
  • Prepare for a return trip to South Africa as we will guarantee you will come back within the next 2 years after you leave here.  Check if they have visa’s which will last 5 or 10 years.

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The Visa requirements for volunteers who are volunteering in South Africa for longer than 90 days are hectic and it is always best to get all the paperwork done and out of the way, than leaving it for the last minute. Especially as you need to go to the South African Embassy in person and for some people, this means having to travel quite a distance.

We have uploaded an updated Visa form which is available on your MyTrip for download. You will also need:

  • Passport
  • 2 Passport photographs
  • AVIVA will provide you with Certified Copies of our Volunteer Coordinators, ID or passport, proof of accommodation at the AVIVA House plus a support letter.
  • 3 Months bank statements which are to be stamped by your bank, verifying your account, name and address and confirming you have enough funds to stay in the country for the length of time you are volunteering.
  • Radiology report confirming you are clear for TB (tuberculosis)
  • A medical report from your doctor confirming you are in good health and have no infectious illness.
  • Police Clearance


To apply for your visa:

  • All applicants must apply in person.
  • No fixed flight arrangements have to be made until the visa has been attained. Provisional flight tickets are required only if the stay is under 12 months.
  • Payment can be made by credit card, debit card, postal order or cash (change may not be available at the time of the application).
  • Documents issued in a foreign language must be officially translated to English by a sworn translator.

And for your information ….. you now need a Visa to enter Kenya but the good news is you are allowed to apply using a mobile phone and they accept photos taken by and uploaded with a mobile phone.


Before You Leave Home

Before setting off on my travels in years past, I would always purchased a bunch of South African souvenirs to hand out – whether it was to a taxi driver who went out of his way to be helpful, to someone who gave me directions with a smile, a waitron who provided great service – to name just a few. I made sure it was something that the recipient would not discard the moment my back was turned or it ended up in the bottom drawer in the cupboard. The feeling you get from surprising someone is so great, you end up having a really feel-good day. Fridge magnets are the most versatile, the cheapest and small enough to stuff a few in your pocket when you head out sightseeing.

So what do you bring out with you?

  • Fridge Magnets

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  • Key Rings

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Journaling Kit

Before you leave home, create a journaling kit to bring along to record all your favourite moments, favourite volunteer friends, favourite places, etc. You will have opportunity during load shedding to catch up on your journaling – yes, you will have bright LED lighting which will light up the lounge. Remember to light a fire and whilst journaling, let the calming sound of the crackling fire, soothe you. Oh yes, remember that glass of wine! Then journal the events of the day. So here are our suggestions for a journaling kit:

  • A moleskin A5 diary or any other diary which catches your eye

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  • Different coloured pens, patterned tape or glue stickstationary_620x550
  • Print out travel printables (check out Pinterest) and journaling cards
  • A set of clear acrylic travel stamps with acid-free ink pad
  • Map of Cape Town and Western Cape or the area you will be going to
  • Zip around case to carry your supplies and journal conveniently in one place


Another great idea is to stick a heavy bonded envelope into the back of your journal into which you can store brochures, tickets and other items which you would like to paste into your journal. When you get the urge to journal you won’t have to dig around looking for all your things so keeping them in one place is always a good idea. It is so easy if you are well planned before heading off to a foreign land to start your volunteering.

Happy Volunteering!

South Africa Here You Come : Travel Tip #1


You have chosen your project, you have been in touch with other volunteers and are now totally satisfied that we are the only volunteering organisation you want to deal with (grin), you book your airticket and have paid for your project – now what? Now you start the exciting part – getting the things you want to bring with you gathered into a spot in your bedroom so you do not leave anything behind.

When you printed out the Project Sheet, you would have noticed that we supplied you with an idea of what to pack?  But I have some more ideas for you,  That is how I roll.

Grid It

One of the best solutions I have come across thus far to keeping all your cords, whether it be for cell phones, laptops, camera’s, organised in one place.  And the nice thing is that it can be transferred to your purse/handbag or backpack when you go sightseeing.     

Morph Juice Pack or similar


For the most part, our volunteers tend to favour an iPhone over an Android Smartphone so a morph juice pack is a great idea for quick re-charging whilst on the go.

There are plenty other variations on the market and you are bound to find a good deal.  I personally like one that can clip onto the loop of your trousers and you can charge your cell phone whilst walking.  Another favourite of mine is the solar-powered recharger.  Cape Town has so much sunlight, you will always have the chance to recharge your cell phone or iPad or Tablet when you are not close to electricity.

Small Day Backpack

Now listen up girls.  We know you are fashion conscious but you are on holiday, you are a traveller and when sightseeing and going out to explore places, put everything in a small lightweight backpack so you can leave your hands free without compromising the safety of your possessions.  Listen to Michelle – she know’s best.

International Plug Adaptors


In South Africa we use two-pronged and three-pronged plugs with the prongs being cylindrical – not flat.  So don’t leave home without one.

iPad / iMac / Laptop / Tablet

Never travel anywhere without these useful items.  The only inconvenience is that your laptops have to be removed when going through security but fortunately this does not apply to iPad’s and a Tablet.

Camera / GoPro

A camera I would definitely bring with you.  Taking photos with your cell phone is all good and well but often the resolution is too small or too grainy and you only find out when you get home that you missed some wonderful photo opportunities.  Some photos can be so good you would like to enlarge it to frame only to find the resolution is so low that enlarging it cannot be done.  Listen to Michelle, she is always right.  Why?  I used to scrapbook and it became glaringly obvious when I wanted to enlarge a photo, how inadequate my photo skills were.  Lesson learnt!


If you have a GoPro – lucky you!  If not, do everything in your power to buy one.  One of the must-do experiences in Cape Town is to go snorkeling with seals or shark cage diving or you want to take a video of you zip-lining or paragliding or sand boarding.  I better shut up as I could write all day long.  But you get the picture, right?

So peeps, that is the first in the series of Aviva Travel Tips.  Watch this space for more.