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Cape Town's popularity has produced an ever-expanding list of accommodation options, and many seasoned globetrotters contend it offers the best selection of guesthouses in the world, though over the years its reputation as a great-value destination has been somewhat tarnished by a handful of greedy operators. That is why I am delighted to report that -- finally, after a decade of wallet-stripping increases -- rates have finally stabilized.

The City Bowl (which denotes the residential suburbs on the slopes of Table Mountain), the V&A Waterfront, and Camps Bay remain the most popular areas to stay; most options listed here have great views and/or good access to restaurants, attractions, and beaches. If you're traveling between May and September, you'll inevitably get a fantastic low-season (or "green-season") rate. The exception will be during the FIFA World Cup series in mid-2010, when peak-season (or worse) rates will apply, and many places, in any case, will be sold out at press time.

Note: The airport is no more than a 20- to 30-minute drive from most hotels, so it's not necessary to move to an airport hotel for early-morning or late-night flights. All the places listed below will arrange airport transfers.

Self-Catering Options for Budgets Big & Small

Renting an apartment or home is a good-value option, particularly for families or couples looking for absolute privacy. Thanks to Mr. Delivery, you won't even have to cook. A good option is Côté-Sud Apartments (tel. 072/608-1889; www.cotesud.co.za; R850-R1,600 for 4, according to season) -- four neat two-bedroom apartments with separate entrances and a communal pool conveniently located on busy Kloof Street (plenty of dining options are within walking distance and it's literally a stone's throw from an excellent pizzeria and useful minimart). Proprietors Robyn and Jacques are very flexible, so it's worth dealing with them directly; book an upstairs apartment for views from a private balcony (downstairs units have gardens). These days there are plenty of online agencies where you can browse through images of potential rentals. Best of the lot is Icon Villas (tel. 086/184-5527; www.icape.co.za), which deals with a broad spectrum of well-dressed apartments and luxury villas in upmarket suburbs throughout the city and as far afield as the Winelands, Hermanus, and the Garden Route -- again, there's a strong Camps Bay bias, useful if you feel the pull of the Atlantic seaboard. They also offer a full concierge service to ensure your holiday is as relaxing as possible. You'll see a few similarly exquisite apartments and villas for rent at www.campsbayapartments.com -- very chic, very exclusive; and check out www.cliftononsea.co.za (tel. 021/557-9132), which actually covers places all along the Atlantic seaboard and as far inland as De Waterkant. Most places have pools and superb sea and sunset views of Africa's Côte d'Azur. Platinum Places specializes in modern apartments and villas across the city, but with a focus on Camps Bay (www.platinumplaces.co.za); rental prices vary considerably, as they do with the selection at Cape Portfolios (tel. 021/438-3416; www.capeportfolios.com). And if push comes to shove, you may be forced to contact overextended Village & Life (tel. 021/438-3972; www.villageandlife.com), which runs a bloated assortment of self-catering accommodations options, some way more exclusive than others, in popular tourist districts and as far away as the West Coast. At the absolute upper end of the rental spectrum, there's little to beat the spectacular La Montagne (www.la-montagne.co.za; R56,000 per night), a sublime ivy-clad mansion in Bishopscourt, or the Atlantic Ocean-facing mansion of your dreams, Ellerman Villa. If all this seems like a lot of work (and finding the right place does take time), contact Cape-based Michelle Snaddon, editor of www.justtheplanet.com. She has visited all the villas she puts forward, so she will ask all the right questions and give you information you can trust (and it doesn't cost more). Simply e-mail michelle@justtheplanet.com or call tel. 27/83/463- 4435.

B&B Ubuntu

To experience real ubuntu and the warm spirit of African hospitality, you can arrange to spend a night in one of the city's "townships," or black suburbs. Portfolio has approved four guesthouses in Cape Town's townships: In Khayelitsha, there's Kopanong (tel. 021/361-2084; www.kopanong-township.co.za) and Malebo's B&B (tel. 083/475-1125; malebo@webmail.co.za); in Guguletu, it's Liziwe's Guest House (www.liziwesguesthouse.com); and Ma'Neos is in Langa (tel. 073/146-0370; maneo@absamail.co.za). Expect to pay around R420 to R800 for a double, and prepare for a display of unbridled hospitality. Even if bedrooms are small and lack most of the amenities of a big hotel, the welcome and personal insight you'll get more than compensates. Ask in advance if your hosts will be willing to take you to their neighborhood restaurant, and get them to recommend the best time to come to catch local musicians in action. For an utterly authentic cultural experience, a night at one of these establishments will be a major talking point of your stay in the Cape.

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.