So you want to go to South Africa? Who wouldn’t right, South Africa has so much to offer aside from the classic Big 5 Safari, Cape Town is consistently names a top destination, with wine tours just around the corner in Stellenbosch. South Africa also offers a lot more than just a Cape Town and Safari’s, Durban host one of the largest spice markets worldwide, miles of beaches, Zulu Culture and of course shark cage diving. So how do you do it all and save big? There are 5 simple ways to save.
1.) Seasons: Remember South Africa is south of the equator. What does this mean for you? Well in South Africa, Summer is Winter and Spring is Fall and Fall is Spring. Confused, don’t worry, all you have to remember is our travel seasons are opposite each other. This means traveling during our low season (US winter) will put you right in the middle of the South African high season, hotels will be booked up and at peak rates. Okay so then you decide to go during the South African Winter (US summer) but then of course airfare is at its peak rate. Quite the conundrum, right? Not really. If you are pinching pennies try traveling between May 1st and June 11th or August 11 and September 31, this is Fall/Spring in South Africa and not only is the weather is cooler in the Bushveld, but both South African Airways and the hotels and lodges are looking for travelers. We recommend booking these dates early because of the lower rates many conferences and groups book events during this period.
2.) Exchange Rate: The topic of exchange rates can be one of the most intimidating topics for international travelers, but when understood can be one of the greatest tools for saving money. Lets face it, no one wants to get ripped off and now in the post “Great Recession” era, travelers are enjoying the strong dollar internationally and this is certainly true in South Africa. Check the exchange rates at sites such as www.xe.com and you will see your dollar goes a long way against the Rand. Currently the Dollar is at its strongest in the last 10 years against the Rand. So what is the best way to convert money?
Many think going to your local bank ahead of your trip gets you the best rates, but this is not always the case. Banks and stateside exchange stations often charge as much as 3 – 5% of the total to exchange money, effectively snagging your savings. The same is true for many credit cards except many also start charging interest as soon as you make your foreign transaction. So how do you get the most bang-for-the-buck?
South Africa is ATM abundant – so instead of carrying plenty of US Dollars around, rather take what you need to arrival tipping and such. You will never be at a loss to draw cash in South Africa.
Try taking cash in US Dollars and exchange once you arrive in Johannesburg or Cape Town, you will generally get a better exchange rate in South Africa than in the US. We recommend changing enough for the cab and tip at the airport, then speaking to your hotel concierge about where you can get the best rates. Many time hotels offer attractive rates to their guests as part of their guest services. Perhaps the best way to maximize your savings is with no-fee credit cards such as Capital One or Chase Sapphire, many times these cards offer travelers the current market rates at the time of purchase and nearly everyplace accepts major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. Call your credit card company and verify exactly what you will be charged for a foreign transaction before heading out.
3.) Rule of 4: Many of you may not have heard of the rule of 4, but this is one of the best ways to stretch out your time on vacation while saving money. Here is how it works. Hotels want extended occupancy, so they offer incentives for guest to stay longer. Many times these incentives come with every 4th night. So when booking 3-nights at your safari lodge in Kruger National Park ask if there is any incentive to book 4-nights, you just might get a free spa treatment or even better free private charter flights. Many hotels across Cape Town and South Africa offer Stay/Pay offers, so every 4th night is free! When booking ask if there is a Stay/Pay promotion and who knows you may just get a free bonus night.
4.) Be Flexible: OK so we all should know this by now, airlines operate under this crazy concept called “Yields Management” South African Airways is no different. If the lowest priced flight is not available on a certain day try moving your date one or two days, may save you some money. Don’t be afraid to ask if you are getting the lowest price on flights. Any good travel consultant can easily see what type of fare you are getting and advise you accordingly. Many times lower fares are available on a different connecting flight, so having an extra hour on a layover may save you a couple hundred dollars, might be worth it and plus it gives you a little more time to shop in the duty free stores in Johannesburg.
5.) Call: This is probably the easiest way to save big. We live in a world full of high-speed Internet, smart phones, and Wi-Fi. Information is easily obtained on the web and travelers wrongly assume they are getting the best deal “online”. This may not be the case with booking South Africa. Unlike domestic US carriers we don’t discourage passengers calling the reservation line by charging fees. Booking over the phone is free, in fact many times passengers will get the rates cheaper because they can ask one simple question. Is this the best fare? Plus a lot of times there are unpublished promotions, dollars you may have missed out of by simply not calling.
So there you have it 5 easy ways to save big when traveling to South Africa. There is now excuse to go and see those lion cubs strolling out of the bush with their pride or to venture out to the Capes Winelands to discover the uniquely South African Pinotage wine. For more information on traveling to South Africa Contact Us or simply call one of our Africa Specialist at (800) 359-7228.