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American Express -- Main local offices are in the city center at Thibault Square (tel. 021/425-7991) and at the Waterfront, Shop 11A, in Alfred Mall (tel. 021/419-3917). City center hours are from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday. Waterfront hours are from 9am to 7pm Monday through Friday, and from 10am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Area Code -- The area code for Cape Town and the Winelands is 021.

Babysitting -- Contact Supersitters (tel. 021/552-1220; www.supersitters.net; R45 per hour 7pm-midnight; R58 per hour all other times).

Bookstores -- Cape Town's best is The Book Lounge. The biggest commercial outlets are Exclusive Books (tel. 021/419-0905) and Wordworth Books (tel. 021/425-6880), both in Victoria Wharf at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Doctors & Dentists -- Call tel. 021/671-3634 or 021/671-2924 for a 24-hour referral service. Or try SAA Netcare Travel Clinic (tel. 021/419-3172) or MTI Medi-Travel International, in the Clock Tower, Waterfront (tel. 021/419-1888).

Embassies & Consulates -- U.S.: 2 Reddam Ave., Westlake (tel. 021/702-7300); Canada: 19th Floor, Reserve Bank Building, 60 St Georges Mall (tel. 021/423-5240); U.K.: 15th Floor, Southern Life Centre, 8 Riebeeck St. (tel. 021/405-2400).

Emergencies -- For an ambulance or general emergencies, call tel. 10177; for police, call tel. 10111; in case of fire, call tel. 021/535-1100; for a sea rescue, call tel. 021/449-3500; for Mountain Rescue Services, call tel. 021/873-1121.

Hospitals -- Groote Schuur (tel. 021/404-9111), in Observatory, is the Cape's largest hospital. However, for immediate attention in more salubrious surrounds, you're best off heading for a private clinic (this is why medical insurance is recommended). The Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital (tel. 021/480-6111) is in the center of town, at 181 Longmarket St., while the Cape Town Mediclinic (tel. 021/464-5500) is at 21 Hof St., in Gardens. Contact Mediclinic (tel. 021/883-8571) if you're in Stellenbosch.

Hot Lines -- Automobile Association (for vehicle breakdown; tel. 082/161-11); Rape Crisis (tel. 021/447-9762, for 24-hr. advice and counseling).

Internet Access -- There are numerous Internet cafes all over the city (especially on Long and Kloof sts., and along Main Rd. in Sea Point). Just about every hotel and guesthouse in town offers free (or prepaid) Wi-Fi. Cape Town also has a "Free Wi-Fi Super Circuit," whereby a growing number of cafes and restaurants offer up to 20MB worth of free browsing (if you have a laptop), provided by a company called RedButton (tel. 0861/288-866; www.redbutton.co.za).

Newspapers & Magazines -- The morning paper, Cape Times, and the more sensationalist afternoon and evening paper, Argus, are sold at most street corners. You'll find international titles at the Waterfront's bookstores .

Pharmacy -- Lite-Kem (tel. 021/461-8040), 24 Darling St., opposite the city post office, is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30am to 11pm and Sunday from 9am to 11pm. Sunset Pharmacy (tel. 021/434-3333), in Sea Point Medical Centre, Kloof Road, is open daily from 8:30am to 9pm.

Post Office -- The best-located branch, if you want to park easily and get served relatively quickly, is the Vlaeberg branch on Loop Street (corner of Pepper; tel. 021/424-7477), near the center of town. There's also a branch in the Promenade center in Camps Bay. Hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm (Wed from 8:30am) and Saturday from 8am to 1pm. Note that local postal service is notoriously dodgy.

Restrooms -- The city's large population of homeless people means that the hygiene of public restrooms can be of varying quality. You're best off going to a coffee shop or restaurant, or visiting a gas station.

Safety -- The formation of the Central City Improvement District (CCID), the ongoing installation of closed-circuit cameras, a dedicated city police force, and 24-hour care centers for Cape Town's street children has resulted in a drastic reduction in crime in the city center. This is no reason to let down your guard, however. Muggings can be avoided by taking the same precautions you would in any large city -- lose the jewelry and stash the wallet. Be aware of street children, many of whom beg at large intersections and along Long Street at night. Visitors are requested to give them food coupons (inquire at the CCID Kiosks in St George's Mall and Company Gardens) or make a donation to one of the child-care centers rather than giving them cash, which keeps them on the streets. Note that it is inadvisable to pull over and stop on the N2 (the airport highway), and always travel with a cellphone in case your car breaks down. For detailed advice, pick up a brochure on safety from any tourism office.

Weather -- Call tel. 082/231-1640.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.