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Anybody else notice how expensive South Africa has become???

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Feb 14th, 2003, 08:43 PM
  #1
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Anybody else notice how expensive South Africa has become???

Just last year the South African Rand plummeted to 12 ZAR to 1 USD. Now, however, it is about 8.3 ZAR to 1 USD. I am not a presiding member of the International Monetary Fund by any means, but I have never seen a foreign currency gain so rapidly against the USD. We are talking about more than a 40% gain in about 11 months.

So now, here I am, trying to get back to South Africa this year and finding it amazingly difficult. While last year I didn't blink before including the Mount Nelson, Table Bay Hotel, Singita and Matetsi (Victoria Falls), this years trip looks more like the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Cape Town, hopefully the Ritz Hotel in Madrid and if I am lucky Vuyatela or Ngala. While these are all still 5* accomodations, the only possible way that I will stay at these places is through a new source that I found where I can sometimes book these places for half price or less.

Even with the savings on accomodations, I am still stuck with airfare from Los Angeles-Madrid-Cape Town-Johannesburg-Hoedspruit-Johannesburg-Los Angeles. The only reason why I am including Madrid is because by breaking the flight up, I can actually save a little money and see a major European city I have not yet seen.

I suppose a lot of the inflation has to do with how weak the Rand was last time that the hotels and game lodges released prices for the upcoming season. Hopefully now that the dollar is weak and the rand is strong, the game reserves will realize that they must lower prices in order to keep their beds full.

I will be happy to report any good looking finds out there that I come across as far as game reserves, hotels and even airfare goes and I hope the other Fodorites do the same.
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Feb 14th, 2003, 10:19 PM
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Part one of mail.

Hi Rocco

I think you are being a little bit unfair in some of the sectors of your mail. While I fully agree with you that lots of the game farms charge outrageous prices you have to ask the question as to why they charge these rates. I feel the answer to this is the fact that they are full every night for the next couple of months in bookings and it simply becomes a case of supply and demand ¡V you know just like the good old American way. (-ƒº As a South African the game farms are generally out of my reach cost wise and with that said you will have to go quite far to find any South Africans on the farms as they are mainly visited by foreigners. So with that said I as a local I should be complaining a lot more than you but I obviously will not do so as it all helps build our economy and if it means that I have to miss out on game farms to do so then I will do just that. In terms of the farms dropping their prices my question to you is ¡§why should they if the are fully booked for the lets say the nest year¡¨?. Can you see Disneyland dropping its price at the gate by lets say $2 if they know that they have a guaranteed influx of visitor for the next couple of months?

With the above all said lets investigate as to why these farms are all full for so far in advance as I believe the answers are simple.

1. Even though you are looking at a higher price because of the Rand - $ improving the event of visiting a game farm in SA still remains great value for money for the visitor to SA. If the same experience existed in a foreign land it would probably cost 4 times the SA $ price.

2. The value for money in other parts of SA be it for service, meals, accommodation (show me the 5 star hotel that you can stay in within the USA for lets say $200 per night) still remains unbelievable and to top it all is presented with genuine, sincere, friendly hospitality.

One could argue that it costs a fortune to fly to SA and I would agree with this however with the value for money that you attain when visiting our country the air costs are soon amortised by the great value one attains for all of what you do in SA with its still being so well priced.

In terms of the Rand dropping to 8.5 from 12 all I can say is that everybody knew that the Rand was badly valued at the 12 mark so it was inevitable that it would gain back the 40% that you speak of HOWEVER I did not hear anybody complaining when the Rand was at 6 to the Dollar as they still flocked into this country to attain what it offers which is a great value for money in a wonderful destination

I can also hear you saying ¡§oh well I might a well go to abc as it offers better value for money. Well I don¡¦t really know where this abc would be however even if it exists this past year Cape Town alone reported a 12% increase in tourism and looking at what has been happening in the first 2 months of this year my gut feel is that it is going to increase by 15% this year so al that I can say is that the rest of the world seems to be disagreeing with you Rocco and I will cry for you ) when you visit the 12 Apostles Hotel which still remains very good accommodation relative to most that you will find back at home for the same price.

Continued in part 2....
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Feb 14th, 2003, 10:29 PM
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Part 2 of mail

Rocco,

In summary recognise that the foreigner to SA still obtains a wonderful deal when coming to South Africa where the travel experience is truly rare in all aspects of travelling. That is probably why the visitors that I am now travelling with around Cape Town are back on their 3rd visit to SA from their very cold UK home.

Rocco my friendly advice to you is that you book your SA trip well in advance because even at a Rand/$ rate of 8-1 if you dont do this you might not get in to the venues that you want to be in SA. I say this because many others would disagree with your views and would put their money where their mouth is. Tis will result in tem arriving on our shores to enjoy what still remains to be one of the best value for money tour destinations of the world while you might have to sit at home thinking that you might be able to find a better valued tour destination.

Sit down and smell the roses while they generate a great fragrance and while doing so dont complain about the color of the flower that changes from bright red to what still would be regarded to be a great red!

Selwyn Davidowitz
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Feb 15th, 2003, 04:59 AM
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LizFrazier
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Rocco-
You might look here:
http://www.mtbeds.co.za/index.xml
This place offers great prices but they are mostly last minute (2-14 days out)and many are restriced to SA residents only. There are some that don't have that stipulation though.
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Feb 15th, 2003, 06:25 AM
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Selwyn,
5* Hotels in Cape Town are not $200 per night but more like $400 per night. You are the expert but I think the only hotels that would qualify for 5* rating would be the Ellerman House, the Table Bay Hotel, the Cape Grace, The Bay Hotel and possibly the Twelve Apostles.
So, how much are the chepest rooms per night at these hotels??? From travelocity.com:
Mount Nelson: $533 USD (4430 ZAR)
Cape Grace - $445 USD (3700 ZAR)
Table Bay - 375 USD (3115 ZAR)
The Bay - $371 USD (3090 ZAR)
Twelve Apostles* - $378 USD (3140 ZAR)
or $402 per night for a luxury king seafacing room

*To show just how inflated these prices are, I was able to win an auction for four nights at the Twelve Apostles hotel for $555 in a luxury king seafacing room. Had I booked on travelocity.com, usually very competitvely priced, I would have paid more than $1000 more for my four night stay.

Part II to follow in order to avoid a timeout...
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Feb 15th, 2003, 07:41 AM
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I studied similar Los Angeles area hotels and I found the following:
Regent Beverly Wilshire:420 USD
Shutters On The Beach: $395 USD
Beverly Wilsire: $310 USD
St. Regis: $269 USD
Loews Santa Monica: $229 USD
Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey: $175 USD

Also, the thing that irks me is that a South African is seemingly given much better pricing for game reserves than a foreign tourist. While walking the streets of Joburg and Cape Town, I came across a few travel agencies that were advertising the game reserves for half the price what I paid for them and this had nothing to do with per person sharing, as I am well aware that most game reserves charge in that manner.
It seems like one set of rates is for the foreigners and another, available only locally, is for the South Africans.
The same practice, to my knowledge, is not found in the United States.

While last year, in my blissful ignorance and amidst an American economy that still had a pulse, I was all too happy to throw my money out the window to Singita, the Table Bay and the Mount Nelson, this year I will be much more considerate with my U.S. Dollars.

I am staying at the Twelve Apostles, a supposed 5* hotel in Camps Bay, for the total price of $550 for a four night stay, although that is only because I found it at an auction website. Otherwise, had I booked on travelocity.com or with the hotel directly, it would have cost me an extra $1000 USD!!!

I will also choose a much more reasonable game reserve such as Vuyatela (Djuma's upmarket new camp), or maybe even a place recommended by another fodorite such as Jaci's Safari Camp. These places are under $600 per night or half the price of the top reserves.

Also, I will take some of my tourism dollars to Europe and enjoy a four night stay in Madrid. I will stay at the very best hotel in Madrid, The Ritz, for less than I would spend at the third or fourth best hotel in Cape Town. Plus, at least one way of my flight to Africa won't be so long.

The whole point of my post, I guess, is just that fodorites should be very careful in choosing their accomodations in South Africa (or anywhere else for that matter).

Last year my trip to South Africa/Victoria Falls probably cost me more than $11000 USD for my wife and I. It consisted of 1 Night Joburg/3 Nights Singita/4 Nights Table Bay/3 Nights Matetsi/1 Night Victoria Falls Hotel/4 Nights Mount Nelson. This year that same trip, based on the inflation alone for the same lodging would cost over $14000.
Part III to follow...
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Feb 15th, 2003, 08:09 AM
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This year my trip will be a couple nights shorter and will likely be 4 nights Madrid/4 or 5 nights Cape Town/4 Nights Vuyatela or comparable.
My costs should be approximately:
Total Airfare - $4000
Ritz Hotel in Madrid - $700*
Twelve Apostles in Cape Town - $550*
Vuyatela or similar - $2250
*Internet Auction

Now let's compare to what the trip would have cost had I stayed at the Mount Nelson, Table Bay and Singita. I am only putting down eight nights in Cape Town because that is what I did last year and thoroughly enjoyed every single day and night:

Table Bay - $1500
Mount Nelson - $2100
Singita - $6500
Airfare - $4200*

Total price of Table Bay, Mount Nelson, Singita and Air is $14,300 USD. Even if I was really able to shop these prices, I would still likely pay $12,500 or above, meaning that I would be paying $5000 or more extra for the above than I would be for Ritz Hotel in Madrid/Twelve Apostles/Vuyatela. Not worth it in my opinion, but I will not know for sure until after I return.

Besides really shopping my prices and accomodations, the inflated South African prices have also led me to spend 1/3 of my vacation time in Europe this year.

I do plan to return to South Africa in April, 2004 to run the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, an ultramarathon that is 56K (35 miles) instead of the standard distance of 42K (26 miles). (I'm not nearly prepared for it yet, with only three full marathons under my belt to date).

Hopefully by next year the prices of the top accomodations in South Africa will come back down to Earth and I will be able to spend my entire holiday in South Africa.


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Feb 15th, 2003, 08:42 AM
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Liz,
Thank you so much for your link to www.mtbeds.co.za
Amazingly, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is less than $400 per night TOTAL ($200 per person sharing)!!! I know that Bush Lodge is not the same as Earth Lodge but it is still Sabi Sabi.
This website can probably shave at least another $500 off my trip, and/or allow me to spend a fifth night on safari for the same overall price. Hopefully I don't come across too many that exclude me, as a foreigner, from taking advantage of these great rates. I thought apartheid was done with, anyway???
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Feb 15th, 2003, 09:18 AM
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As an ex Cape Townian I cannot believe the prices locals need to pay for staple products. Foreign visitors were truly enjoying a wonderful vacation at low cost. I am pleased that things are balancing out. Rocco, stop and try to imagine how costly it is for South Africans to travel outside SA with their weak currency. In the mid 80's one Rand bought $1.20!!! and look what a deal you got last year when you visited. $1 bought ZAR12.!!!!!!
I don't feel sorry for you, I feel sorry for the parents of ex pats who want to visit their children and grandchildren who are living out of SA.
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Feb 15th, 2003, 09:45 AM
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Sue,
In all fairness, many Capetonians are allowed to live a different lifestyle due to the inequities between Whites and Blacks. While it may not be possible for many Capetonians to travel at will, it is certainly not possible for most Americans to employ a "Domestic", since we would be paying a lot more than 500 Rand ($60 USD) per week, or whatever it is a "Domestic" is earning these days. A Domestic, regardless of his/her legal status in the United States would likely earn in one day the same as a South African Domestic earns in a week.

If an American homeowner wishes to be completely legitimate and not employ an undocumented alien, then they are looking at a minimum of probably 650 Rand per day!!! I am sure that there are plenty of people that would gladly give up their holidays in order to have a Domestic worker or two at the rates paid by South Africans.

I do not like to get political but I believe that the prior exchange rates of the ZAR to the USD were largely connected to the system of apartheid.

Please do not be swayed into believing that most Americans can just get and up and take off to South Africa or any other faraway destination at any given time. That is NOT the case. Most people I know think it is a treat to go from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (four hour drive or 50 minute flight) and for a BIG vacation may go to Hawaii, Florida or the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico (Cancun).

One thing that is inexcusable is the practice of some South African lodgings charging more to foreign tourists than South Africans. Try booking a hotel in the USA or Europe as a South African to see if they will charge you more. It will not happen.

Anyway, I did not mean to start a flaming war with this thread but it seems to be going in that direction. I was not looking for anybodys sympathy but instead for some good advice, such as the link that Liz offered to www.mtbeds.co.za
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Feb 15th, 2003, 04:17 PM
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Today I posted my first mail as a response to Roccos, excellent for debate, opening mail however by the time I got back to the Fodors page tonight there was a flame throwing war on the go second to none. I do believe that Sue5250 started it with a slightly out of line mail but then Rocco you surprisingly fell for the bait hook, line and sinker and started to fan the flames. Seeing that I did respond to the original mail I believe that this makes me part of this thread however I will not get drawn into the new type of content in this thread and am thus withdrawing from this thread/debate until it gets back on track.

I urge others to steer clear of this thread until it sorts itself out or hopefully starts up afresh in another manner on this page. This is an Africa travel forum and NOT a political one!

Selwyn Davidowitz
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Feb 15th, 2003, 05:35 PM
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While I did throw in a couple lowblows, I don't believe they were completely without merit.

I do agree, however, that any further comments should get back to the meat of the subject and that is the surge in prices for foreigners visiting South Africa. Already some very good posts with excellent links have resulted in this thread. If people take the time to visit some of these websites mentioned, they will undoubtedly save thousands of dollars on a South African holiday.

I thought I was in the know about South African travel, and that was very frustrating since the planned holiday was still nearly unaffordable for me. I can only imagine how expensive South Africa appears to a person that has not done as much research as I have done.

Now, however, thanks to two completely new sources, mtbeds.co.za and kulula.com, I will save possibly an additional $1000. My trip will be the equivalent to trips sold by tour operators for well over $10,000 but I will pay less than $7,000 in the end.

Thanks again to all that have contributed new resources for us all to take advantage.
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Feb 15th, 2003, 09:42 PM
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Oh my! what a fury I have caused by stating how I feel about people whining that SA is becoming too expensive.
Selwyn even stated in his earlier post "As a South African the game farms are generally o do not know details but I believe there is a pcut of my reach cost wise".
Roccco you obviously travel extensively which is wonderful for you - read that you were recently in Chile. So pleased you are finding alternative booking resouces etc.
I do not know details but I believe there is a package that only those with a foreign passort can purchase. It is coupons that have an expiration date a few years out and can be used at a variety of game parks etc. The coupons work out much less expensive than regular accommodation. If you would care for details please post and I can try and ask the party who told me about them.
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Feb 15th, 2003, 10:57 PM
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Sue,

Thanks for the feedback. But, given that half the time I cannot even find the utility bill before the electricity is shut off, I don't think those coupons would be very suitable for me.

I apologize if I have been testy. I have been eating, drinking and sleeping Africa for the last week or two and have hardly done anything else. I haven't been to the gym in two weeks and am way off schedule for any hopeful marathon in Madrid as a result.

It wasn't until today that I felt that I made any breakthroughs with my research with the introduction to ww.mtbeds.co.za and www.kulula.co.za.

I feel as if a big burden has been lifted because my trip is now that much less expensive, although any sane person would probably wait until their homeland domestic economy was healthy before committing to any costly holiday. But, the "Africa Bug" is very powerful, and short of taking out a 2nd mortgage on my home, I will do everything in my power to get back there this year.

Although I would be better off until waiting until autumn, I am committed to going in April, 2004 for the Two Oceans Marathon and I know if I don't go this spring then I probably won't get a chance to go at all in 2003. I honestly have no desire to go anywhere else in the world other than South Africa.
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Feb 15th, 2003, 11:45 PM
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I am happy to see that it seems as if we are back on track once again. Great.

Rocco may I just comment on the two tier system (foreigner vs local) that you are so angered by. I also hate this damned double tier system of payment. On a daily basis I come up against it in Cape Town when as an example a South African pensioner obtains a discount to ride the cable car up Table Mountain whereas a foreign pensioner who cannot show a SA identity card has to pay the normal price. Another example is if one tries to book into Sun City (why people go to this place still beats me) and you try to buy an advertised deal one finds that if you cannot produce SA identity then you cant get the deal. I could go on and on. With that said the problem is that all the places that have this double tier system are always full house so we come right back to the supply and demand function which runs the free enterprise system. I highly doubt if this will ever be curtailed after all please tell me which pensioner is going to arrive in Cape Town and boycott taking a ride up Table Mountain even though they re being ripped off by lets say $3 because of their foreign status or how many foreigners are not going to go to a game farm because they are being ripped off by many $’s when they know that the farm is a great one and they have already spent so many $’s simply flying to SA. . It all makes me sick to the bone because it is so wrong however it is not going to change so instead of moaning I feel that the time has come to rather highlight the places that offer great deals and hope that in the end the wrongdoers suffer because of lack of support in that the trade goes to the “good guys”.

With the above said may I make some important suggestion with regard to how to save on your SA journey.

1. DO NOT STAY IN HOTELS WHEN YOU VISIT OUR BEAUTIFUL LAND. – STAY IN GUESTHOUSES

Owners of South African guesthouses are generally marvellous hosts. The ones that I use as a tourguide/operator definitely are as such. Bear in mind that guesthouses represent excellent accommodation that is much more personalised at MUCH BETTER rates than hotels. Also bear in mind that guesthouses are marvellous venues to stay in and their rate also includes a fantastic breakfast. (you always pay extra at hotels) At most guesthouse you enjoy this meal while watching stunning views or something else that is of beauty. When you stay in a guesthouse you have total freedom of movement such as if you want to put some juice or soda in the refrigerator for yourself for late at night you can do this and whatever else you would like to do. It is a wonderful free and easy style of holidaying. What also is most important is that because of the size of the guesthouse you will NOT be in amongst the hordes of tourists as you might only have a couple of other guests at the guesthouse while you are there. I also want to dispel the idea of guesthouse being boarding houses. In South Africa guesthouses hire out room s with en suite bathrooms. You never have to use a communal bathroom at guesthouses as so many visitors wrongly think before they arrive in our land.. Thus you get great accommodation, personalised attention as well as wonderful value in a very safe place to stay when you reside in guesthouses and that is why I recommend them so highly. My forte is the Cape Town and Garden route so let me try and direct you to some websites in this area so as to prove a point.

Continued in part 2 due to Fodors time out…..


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Feb 15th, 2003, 11:47 PM
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Part 2.

Go to the following sites which are not in any specific order (makes life more intriguing (-ļ and see what I deem as the best value for money when it comes to great accommodation in Cape Town and the Garden Route. -

http://www.riverbend.za.com/

http://www.glenavon.co.za/

http://www.lemontreelane.co.za/

http://falconsview.com/

http://www.lescascades.co.za/

http://www.campsbayterrace.com

http://www.wheretostay.co.za/wc/cm/12/tempe/default.htm

http://www.cathbert.co.za

http://www.grootbos.com/

http://www.shades.co.za

http://www.knysna.co.za/overmeer/

www.elephanthouse.co.za

Finally make a point of stopping in at

http://www.portfoliocollection.co.za/

and

http://www.villageandlife.com

where you will find out about most of the very best guesthouses in the whole country as well as incredible deals whereby you can hire some of the most incredible houses in Cape Town at excellent rates.

Enough said¡K¡K.

Continued in part 3 due to Fodors time out¡K¡K.



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Feb 15th, 2003, 11:47 PM
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Hi Roccco,
I understand that "Africa Bug" well as I have travelled to East Africa 4 times in as many years. Need a yearly fix.

Just wanted to comment on the inequity of charges to locals vs. visitors.

I typically travel with my friend who is a tanzanian national ( I am under US passport), and I know he pays less for the same lodging, ferries, flights, because he is Tanzanian. But, its comparing apples to oranges as they have so much less economically than a visitor, so i consider it quite fair.

BTW - good luck with your Marathons. Ran one in TZ several years ago, and one in Algeria last year (not recommended). Quite memorable!

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Feb 15th, 2003, 11:48 PM
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Part 3.

2. DON¡¦T VISIT GAME FARMS ¡V VISIT GAME RESERVES

If you want to really experience a great safari at a great price an NOT a canned one at a huge rip off price then visit the game reserves and not game farms ON YOU OWN. Buy a good book on animal life, make sure you have a good set of binoculars, hire a 4*4 vehicle and travel to the various game reserves such as the Kruger Park, Addo Elephant Park etc. Then do the safari yourself. You cannot believe how exhilirating it is to find that lion yourself as opposed to having it found for you. I wont deny that game ranger can bring much to your journey and save you time however all of this worth giving up so as to experience finding the various animals on your own and identifying them via you own reading matter. If you elect to not go via the game reserve idea then another trick is to stay close by to the various privately owned game parks (There ate many stunning great value for money places near to most of the farms) and do the day safaris that some of these farms offer but do beware as the cost of some of these rides can start approaching rip off levels.

3. FLY INRENALLY WITH KULULA.COM
As Rocco has already mentioned fly with Kulula.com It ¡¥s a case of flying without the frills and as long as you book timeously ahead. The deal outstrips all other airlines in SA. Kulula do not have as many time slots as SAA or British Airways but they do fly in and out of main centres at least twice a day.


4. ASK TO PAY IN RANDS AND NOT DOLLARS or POUNDS.
This is a big trick. If you do not take my tip about game reserves vs game farms and decide to stay on the plush farms then ask to pay in SA Rands. You will be absolutely amazed to see how many game farms will accept this deal only because they walk into the stupid trap of with them having a Dollar and Rand price via the 2 tier system and with you as the visitor showing knowledge of this with your request results in some of the establishments being too embarrassed to admit this and guess what you land up with the SA price. Please note that this type of deal will only be accomplished on the phone and not per email. All that you need to say on the phone is ¡§I prefer to pay via the Rand system¡¨ and then make it clear that you know that there are 2 ways of payment. Threaten to expose the whole deal if you cannot pay in this manner. Yes it¡¦s a dirty trick but then so is the 2 tier system. Please note I am NOT saying this always works but you will be amazed to see how many times it does succeed (-ƒº.


5. NEVER EVER GIVE UP RESEARCHING ON THE NET AS YOU WILL BE AMAZED WHAT YOU CAN COME UP WITH.

I feel the above speaks for itself

Continued in part 4 due to Fodors time out




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Feb 15th, 2003, 11:50 PM
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Part 4

6. DONT BE SCARED TO ASK FOR DISCOUNTS
If you have done all the research for your journey via the net and make all bookings yourself then don’t be scared to ask for a discount. I assume that most of the readers to FODORS are pretty savvy travellers and recognise that agents obtain commissions etc. If you are the agent via your own research that effectively makes you eligible for the commission as opposed to the establishment such as a game park paying it out to an agent. Why should the game park pocket the commission that you should be earning for doing your own research? This tips works for 80% of the time and remember that there is no harm in trying it out as you have nothing to lose..


7. FINALLY DON’T ALWAYS THINK YOU KNOW BETTER BECAUSE OF YOUR GREAT EXPERIENCE AS YOU GENERALLY DON’T SO LISTEN TO THE GENUINE LOCAL OR PAST LOCAL EXPERTS
In the case of this page I suggest that you take heed to what some of the regulars who so freely contribute to this page eg. Traci, Karen. Waverley keep advising . This imho would be a recipe to follow no matter where you travel as there is no better advice than local advice.

OK so that’s my two pence worth. I hope it all helps and now lets hear what others have to say.

Selwyn Davidowitz
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Feb 16th, 2003, 08:15 AM
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FOR SELWYN,ROCCCO, SUE5250
I was recently in south africa in november. Selwyn, did you receive my e-mail? Please get in touch with me at [email protected] mention your name on subject line so I don't delete.
I went to table mountain but that's really not my thing and would not do it again-too touristy for me! Yes, you are right about south africans being charged one price and us another. For canadians it is not so cheap either.
I would also love to go back and do it reasonably-I wish some people who live there can organize something not touristy but as a local would do it or at least get that flavour. Hope to hear from you all Regards, Patricia
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