Cape Town Internships - FAQs
Will I need a visa for my internship in Cape Town?
You will not need a visa prior to arrival in South Africa unless you are planning to intern for a period greater than three months. When passing through South African customs, you will be issued a 90-day tourist visa after presenting a copy of your flight itinerary to an immigration official. This proves that you intend to leave the country at the end of your visit. If you participate in a three-month internship and would like to visit neighbouring countries after your program is finished, you may apply for another three month extension at the South African Office of Home Affairs, located in downtown Cape Town, Foreshore. We advise all of our participants to secure their visa extension one month prior to the expiry of their original tourist visa. Follow these guidelines and safely extend your internship in South Africa. Our staff assist participants with visa extensions.
Does a tourist visa cost anything?
A 90-day tourist visa is free. The application for a 90-day extension to your tourist visa costs R270 ($45). The cost of a 3-month extension is R450 ($70).
I recently graduated from college. Do I have to be enrolled in school to participate in your program?
No. A large percentage of our participants have completed their undergraduate studies and are using this experience to gain international work experience that doubles as a travel adventure. A smaller percentage of our participants also join our program during their gap year.
Do you offer internships in countries other than Cape Town?
No. Unlike other internship organizations in South Africa, our program is exclusive to Cape Town and we only offer internships in the Cape Town area. We are highly passionate about this city and have rightfully earned our reputation as the Cape Town internship experts. As a result, we give our participants the highest levels of support and service because we know one city and we know it incredibly well—Cape Town!
What is the weather like?
Your internship in South Africa will be remembered for the temperate Cape climate which greets you daily with sunshine and calm breezes. While any true Capetonian will tell you that there are four seasons in Cape Town (sometimes daily), in reality winter and summer are the only true constants. The summers in Cape Town are wonderful. The temperature usually falls within a consistent range of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit (27-35 Celsius). A consistent south-easterly wind blows daily (we call it the Cape Doctor), ensuring that Cape Town is never too hot or smoggy. The sun is very intense in the daytime (usually a 10 on the UV scale) so we highly recommend that our participants remember their SPF 30 sunscreen!
The winters in Cape Town are nothing like the snowy, frozen sense of the word. Rather, “winter” in Cape Town is defined by extended spells of rain and cool evenings. Temperatures on a cold winter day are in the low 50’s (11-13 Celsius) with occasional dips into the high 40’s (8-10 Celsius). However, the average temperature in winter can reach the high 50’s to lower 60’s and on a clear winter day temperatures can easily spike into the mid 70s. You may enjoy winter during your internship in Cape Town, as there are fewer tourists, making the roads and pathways far easier to navigate.
Am I at risk of getting malaria in Cape Town?
No. However, we will strongly recommend that you take anti-malarial medication if you plan an independent trip to Kruger National Park or neighboring Africa countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It would be a good idea for you to meet with your physician before departure to make sure your vaccinations are current.
Can I drink the tap water in Cape Town?
Cape Town and most of South Africa has potable tap water and boasts one of the cleanest, natural water supplies on the planet.
Can I get a paid internship in Cape Town through your program?
No. According to South African law, all internships are unpaid unless you are a South African citizen. There is a high unemployment rate in RSA and the government does not want to create the impression that it is giving jobs away to foreigners. Occasionally sites will give interns under-the-table compensation, though we do not have any involvement in this.
I only speak English. Will this affect my internship experience?
English is the predominant language spoken in Cape Town. Most South Africans have a working knowledge of English, so you will get by fine without any prior knowledge of Xhosa or Afrikaans, two languages also spoken in Cape Town. Xhosa speakers are typically surprised and thrilled to meet North Americans and Europeans who make an attempt at speaking their mother tongue. We offer Xhosa classes at our office every week on Tuesday evenings so you can learn to master the unique Xhosa clicks! Afrikaans is widely spoken throughout as well and you will encounter many dialects as you move from one area in Cape Town to another. The youngest recognised language on the planet, Afrikaans is a combination of German, Dutch, French, English and even Scottish – paying tribute to the diverse array of settlers that originally populated the Dutch East India Company’s Cape Outpost.
Is there an application process?
Yes. Participants are ambassadors of the VACorps and as such, we only want students who are sincerely interested in our program. The application process begins with an email-based dialogue between you, the applicant, and a VACorps staff member. After you have sent us a preliminary application form [located on our application page], we will ask you a series of questions that will help us identify the most appropriate Cape Town internship for you. Individuals who appear to be a good match for our program will receive a formal VACorps program invitation. If you have applied for an internship with academic prerequisites, we will also ask for a copy of your student resume so that we can forward these details to your potential place of internship.
What currency do they use in South Africa?
We use the South African Rand. For the past few years the USD to Rand exchange rate has hovered around $1=R7. Check this link for the official rate of the day.
Should I bring my cell phone to South Africa?
We recommend that you leave your phone at home (particularly if it is a "smart phone") and rather purchase a cheap phone upon your arrival in Cape Town. Having a local cell phone number is a necessity for communicating with your internship site and other participants in the program. A phone can be purchased for R150-R300 ($20-40) and you will be able to purchase pre-paid airtime at stores throughout the city. If you are joining our program from the United States and can't bear to leave your personal phone at home, your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ for a South African SIM card. This costs around $60 [R450]. All European and Asian phones are compatible with the South African cellular network, provided that you purchase a South African SIM card. A South African SIM card can be purchased for $1.
Which internship sites are the most competitive?
If you are pursuing an internship in one of the following fields, it is highly recommended that you submit your application 4-6 months prior to your desired internship starting date: journalism, film, wine marketing, and human rights law. Pre-Medical internships in Cape Town are by far the most competitive internships offered through our program. If you are interested in pre-medical internships, we recommend that you submit your application materials 9-12 months prior to your desired date of arrival because internship positions are limited and in very high demand.
How much money should I budget for my living expenses during the duration of my internship in Cape Town?
During VACorps orientation, we often hear our new arrivals exclaim that ‘everything is so much cheaper here!’ Prices are, generally speaking, cheaper than in the U.S. and Europe. However, this is no excuse to go on a spending spree. If you are willing to cook most of your own meals, this will save you a considerable amount of money. You will find that fresh produce, meat, fish and dairy products are 10 to 20 percent cheaper in South African grocery stores, while imported goods such as pastas and certain canned foods are more expensive due to import duties and value added tax (VAT). Summer internships abroad often equate to eating out, due to the excitement associated with such a trip and the need to familiarise oneself with the surrounding areas. Restaurant meal prices are also cheaper, although beware of falling into the trap of eating out too often if you are on a tight budget. Someone on a tight food budget can budget as low as $200-$250 per month, while someone who wants to eat out more and cook less should plan on doubling this figure. Other items to budget for include entertainment ($150-$400 per month), travel ($500-$1000 per trip) and local transportation ($30-$80). Budget a few hundred dollars for miscellaneous and unforeseeable expenses. You should also plan on spending a few hundred dollars for souvenirs and mementos, as Cape Town is stuffed to the brim with various craft markets and curio stores that are just waiting to be explored.
If you would like to create a detailed travel budget prior to departure, please contact us to request a copy of an "Example VAC Participant Budget," a document that will help you gain a detailed understanding of the monthly costs associated with an internship in Cape Town.
Where can I get more information about Cape Town and your internship program?
Our Facebook Page is an excellent place to learn more about our program and also communicate with previous program participants. For more information about our Cape Town internship program, please email Oliver Hagan, our Director of Applications, to request a copy of The Insider''s Guide to Cape Town, a guidebook given to all VACorps program participants prior to their arrival.