Advice on Travel to South Africa

Jul 8th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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Advice on Travel to South Africa

Hello all...

I've posted many times on Europe and U.S. forums and now find we have a trip ahead to South Africa. It seems our son in MA (we are in MO) is setting up an academic program at Univ. of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg during Sept. & Oct. He says not to worry about lodging since once there he will get a place. And he'll be our guide since he has lots of time.

In talking with a travel agent she says not to wait too long to book flights. When is best? I am concerned about travel insurance, too. Usually we have traveled in a tour group so such matters were already arrainged. Any advice appreciated about going to S. A. We know there is much to see including safaris and the Cape fact I think our son has connections to stay in a private castle near Plettenberg Bay for a week.

What would you not want to miss in the country? We'll be there the end of Sept. into Oct. and note several festivals.

Thanks...Bill Longman [email protected]
Ozarksbill is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 09:15 AM
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Lucky you -- you'll see South Africa under the best of circumstances!

It's been my experience that flights from the US to SA do fill up fast. Do you plan to fly direct from the US, or to go through Europe? Going through Europe takes a day longer, but you're less jet lagged when you arrive, at least in my experience.

On a first trip to South Africa, I would say don't miss Kruger Park or Cape Town. Johannesburg itself isn't that much of a touristy place, but if you're interested in the gold mining history of the country, you should go to Gold Reef City. You can ignore the amusement park section, and just do the tour of the mine, and see the mine dancers (great entertainment!) Also, the apartheid museum is really instructive. The South African Breweries tour is a real hidden gem. You learn a lot about beer, but much more about SA society. The mockup of a shebeen is as realistic as can be.

Sandton is a Jo'burg suburb with elegant shopping and dining, and the ugliest statue of Nelson Mandela that I can imagine. Rosebank is a suburb that I love. There's quite a mix of people; trendy restaurants; interesting passers-by. It has the best African market in Jo'burg, I think.

September-October is a great time to go for weather -- not too cold any more and not too hot yet. Good for seeing game in Kruger too, as the vegetation is still not too thick.

Since your son is working there, he'll be acquainted with locals who, I'm sure, will show you very warm hospitality.

When we first went to South Africa many years ago, my husband's office was just across the street from Wits University, so your posting brought back a nice memory for me!

Celia is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 02:13 AM
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Here are some great places for you to visit in South Africa. There is the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. Tony Roocroft created a great website about the Kruger and you can find it here : , if you are looking for accommodation then try . Its a great website with hotels, lodges, B&B
Hilton_Johani is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 02:56 AM
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For Kruger Park, use the official S.A. National Parks website, which covers Kruger and other parks.
ArthurSA is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 06:38 AM
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Bill, are you planning on visiting the Cape Winelands?

How long will your trip be?
Celia is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 09:47 AM
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1. Travel Insurance--Take a look at for a variety of travel insurance policies.
2. If you haven't done so already, you probably need to see your doctor about which immunizations and/or medications he/she recommends and get started on them right away.
longhorn55 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 12:09 PM
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Thanks a bunch for the info on South Africa. It is a big country and so though headquartered in Johannesburg we will venture forth to Kruger Park and Cape Town and more.

Questions for Celia and others: is safety a concern in Jo'burg incl. area around Wits Univ? is the train the best way to get around and Thanks...down to Cape Town? by chance know anything about King Shaka Day celebrations and Magaoebaskloof festival and other such events? how similar is S. A. to the U.S. or UK? so immunizations shots are likely needed?

Ozarksbill is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 12:43 PM
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If you buy certain travel policies within some period of making your first purchase of your trip (like airfare), then pre-existing conditions will be covered. So be sure to get your insurance in a timely manner. Have a great trip!
Clematis1 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 04:36 PM
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On the subject of safety: Always be alert - alert and more alert. Do not, ever, ask for or accept "help" from strangers with your ATM / luggage / asking your way around etc. Do not look like a tourist - with camera and guidebook in hand. Avoid certain places / roads after dark - but your son will be able to help you here.

On Cape Town: BEAUTIFUL! I always advise people short on time to book 2 - 3 nights in Cape Town itself and then 2 - 3 nights in Stellenbosch.
When in Cape Town : Trip up Table Mountain; visit Kirstenbosch; take a drive to Houtbaai and enjoy fresh fish at the harbour - you could take a trip to Seal Island; go on a day trip to Simon's Town (penguins), Cape Point, Kommetjie - many excellent restaurants. Cultural: The Slave Lodge in Adderley St.; Die Groote Kerk; the Company's Gardens (be over-alert); The museum and the Art Gallery. The things I have just mentioned is just the tip of the ice berg on what you can experience.
STELLENBOSCH: Visit a few wine farms; Visit Oom Samie se Winkel; Village museum; Go on a day trip to via the Helshoogte Pas to Franschhoek; Go on a day trip to Somerset West and the Strand - crafts / farm stalls / nurseries dotted along the way. You will find many excellent guest houses and restaurants in the Winelands.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy...
Judith18 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 05:05 PM
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Yes, immunizations are needed. It's often better to go to a travel clinic than your regular doctor because they are more knowledgeable. You'll also need malaria prevention if you go to Kruger/Sabi Sands and/or other malaria areas.
hills27 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 11:38 PM
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hills27, immunizations against what?

Malaria prophylaxis (pills, not injections) will be necessary, but only when you travel to the far NE part of the country, which includes Kruger Park. Game parks that are closer to Johannesburg, such as the Pilanesberg and Madikwe are not in the malaria-endemic zone. If you go to Kruger, you typically won't need to start popping pills until a week before you travel, so you can get those here. Most convenient is usually at one of the "travel clinics", where they both prescribe and dispense.

When you ask "is the train the best way to get around" do you mean around Johannesburg or to Cape Town? If the former, then no. It's difficult to get around Jo'burg without a car, if you're not accustomed to the local taxi services. If the latter then yes that's an option ("Shosholoza Meyl"), but obviously far quicker by air. There are (if I've counted correctly) seven local carriers, of which three are "budget".
ArthurSA is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 05:50 AM
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Depends on the person. But mostly boosters that a lot of American adults have not had yet, though they should (e.g. polio, measles, tetanus/diphtheria). If you are staying for more than 3 weeks, the CDC recommends typhoid. In addition, most Americans have not had Hep A and B, which I think everybody should have regardless of whether they travel or not.
hills27 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 05:59 AM
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Travel Clinics can be expensive.
However, the basic boosters - Tetanus, Polio and the Hep-A should be stocked by any general practice physician, at a far lesser cost. Especially, if you have a health plan of some sort.

It's the malaria pills that can be expensive, especially the Malarone which appears to be what most who travel to Africa are taking. Some travelers do have side-effects, most are minor, though on occasion can be more dramatic. For that reason, decision re which malaria protocol should be discussed with a physican with travel med background or a specialist at Travel clinic who handles this regularly.
sandi is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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My travel clinic (at Northwestern) was covered by my insurance. So it really depends on your policy.
hills27 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 11:55 PM
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When I referred to travel clinics I meant those in South Africa. I have no experience of the cost of other medications, but for malaria prophylaxis they used to be considerably less expensive than doctor+pharmacy. They are prescription drugs, so need a prescription from a S.A.-registered doctor (at a typical minimum consultation fee of about R260, then purchase of the pills at a pharmacy. At the clinics the prescription fee used to included in the price of the pills, with a net much lower cost.

However . . . recently the clinics have changed their pricing. Or certainly the Netcare ones have. ( From what I remember when I costed it for someone earlier this year they are now more in line with doctor+pharmacy costs. But not more expensive. That might be different if multiple prescriptions were being done in the same doctor's appointment.
ArthurSA is offline  
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