The Rand isn’t exactly the strongest currency to take abroad. But that doesn’t mean travel is off the cards for South Africans. In fact, with a little out-of-the-box thinking, you can travel to great destinations and even stretch your budget over a solid two or three weeks. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
While Europe is a popular destination, it’s not exactly the most cost-effective destination for South Africans. Instead, consider destinations like Thailand, where you could probably have two weeks for the price of one in Europe. In fact, much of Asia is easy and cheap enough to get to, and there is the added bonus of it being far more cost-effective on the ground. Exotic destinations like Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia are fast becoming popular with South African travellers for this very reason.
Peak seasons go hand-in-hand with inflated prices and overcrowded sites. If you don’t have fixed travel dates, it’s a good idea to consider travelling in off-peak periods or shoulder seasons (such as Autumn and Spring). It’s important, however, to understand how the nature of your trip might change if you don’t go during the peak season. For example, in a place like Vietnam, travelling off-peak probably won’t change the type of trip too much), but a trip to Croatia in winter would probably mean a ski trip instead of a beach holiday
Your precious rands will also stretch further if you travel in the off-peak season because flights are cheaper. They also tend to be cheaper when you fly outside peak hours. Most people don’t want to fly at 3am, but it could mean saving a couple of hundred or even thousand rand if you are up for it. Have a look at Skyscanner for the best possible rates on flights, but keep in mind that it might mean taking a flight with one or more stopovers.
Do yourself a favour and avoid the tourist traps. Overpriced restaurants close to popular tourist sites are the prime example. At these establishments, you will pay a lot for very average meals. Tourist traps also come in the form of tour packages, day trips and trinket shops. Instead of paying high prices for average goods or services, do your research and look for services and purchases that are good value and authentic.
If you are travelling in a group and your next destination is in driving distance from your current location, it’s a good idea to investigate how much it would cost to rent a car. The chances are that renting a car between a group of people will be cheaper than the cost of train passes or flight tickets. Even with the price of petrol overseas and the fact that many European roads (as an example) have tolls, it still often works out cheaper to drive. Just make sure to get your International Driving Permit (IDP) from the AA before you leave.
Some people like to fit as many destinations as they can into their trip. But this can be as expensive as it is exhausting. One of the best ways to truly experience a destination is to set up a ‘home-base’ in a central location that allows you to make day trips to attractions nearby.
This strategy can halve transport costs, and it will give you a chance to properly explore a destination, speak to locals, get the hang of the public transport and find the best places to eat and shop.
Taxis are notoriously expensive, as are things like Eurorail passes. Public transport is almost always the cheapest, and in some places, like Bangkok (said to have the worst traffic in the world) it’s the most efficient means of getting around. It is, however, sometimes a little confusing. Find out everything you can about the public transport networks before you arrive, and know what you can expect to pay for any taxi rides.
There’s no single ‘best option’ when it comes to getting foreign currency. The best deal will depend on the type of bank cards you have, the fees associated with them and whether or not you can get a good deal on forex before you get to the airport. Be sure to do your research and find the best option for you, be it cash, credit card or debit card – taking both bank fees and exchange rates into account.
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