Cape Town travel tips - 3

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Nov 23rd, 2002, 12:19 PM
  #1
Selwyn Davidowitz
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Cape Town travel tips - 3

Foreign currency in South Africa

Virtually every visitor who intends coming to South Africa asks the question of how they should bring moneys with them when they visit my wonderful country. When I am asked this question I generally answer as follows:

1. Bring most moneys in the form of credit cards and travelers cheques.

2. Minimize the amount of hard $$ that you will bring with you as it generally wont be needed in this format and it only represents a risk.

3. In number form I suggest bringing
a: 75% on credit card
b: 20% in travelers cheques
c: 5% in cash.

Visitors should use credit cards for purchases as much as possible as they are widely and freely accepted here. VISA and Mastercard are much more acceptable than AMEX or Diners cards as the latter 2 companies tend to charge more in commissions and thus not all SA businesses utilize their services.

South Africa is a country where foreign exchange rulings (forex) still exists. Thus all foreign exchange dealings, be they purchases made or exchange of monies into local currency (Rand), are subject to notification via our central SA Reserve Bank.

As far as forex rulings with regard to credit cards are concerned most travelers will not even realise that this has an effect when they pay for something with a credit card. What happens when this action takes place is that when the visitor uses an ATM for a cash withdrawal or buys something via a local merchant then the transaction route is

1.To the SA Reserve Bank for passing forex rules
2.To the visitors bank at home where approval is granted
3.To the SA Reserve Bank for final approval
4.To the local merchant. (bank)

The result is that the client/visitor waits for double period of time for approval on the credit card transaction and this generally leads to visitors wondering what is going on with his/her card. It even leads to anxiety sometimes. Thus I always tell those who travel with me about this before they do their first credit card transaction and all generally works out well thereafter.

Hope this helps when you visit us one day.

Selwyn Davidowitz

 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 05:57 AM
  #2
Lisa
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Again, a god tip, Selwyn. But what about ATM cards? I find that one often needs cash for buying souvenirs and curios from streetside vendors who do not have credit card facilities.Also, one needs a supply of coins in the denominations of R2,R5 and R10 notes for tipping. There are posters, people who help with luggage, the people who watch your car in parking lots etc.

Also, travelers need to be aware that they can get VAT (value added tax)back on most or their purchases (not hotels and restaurants, though)but they need very specific receipts, and many shops do not automatically give the necessary receipts. Whenever you make a purchase, always ask for a VAT receipt. There are 10 items of information on the receipt that are needed and if any one of them are missing, you will not get that money back. On arrival in SA, pick up a VAT pamphlet while you are waiting in the immigration line at the airport.That will give you the information.VAT is 15%of your purchase, so it does add up.

Also, when leaving the country, give yourself a couple of extra hours at the airport, in order to get your receipts checked before checking in luggage and then afterwards, at the very long line at the VAT office.If you do not get your receipts stamped before checking in your luggage, you cannot get that VAT back. sometimes they will ask to see those items and then then you have to start unwrapping and unpacking your luggage.When we left Sa last year amidst the chaos of the World congress, they wanted to see every single item on our lists (19 of us with MANY purchases) right down to the guava rolls.

(True story, one of our group had a receipt for some grocery items she was taking back, like chocolates, candy, chewing gum etc. When they asked to see the gum, she pointed to her mouth where she was eating a piece, so they deducted R3 from the receipt, because she was eating it and was not transporting it back to the States!)

Wish they had a better system.

But back to the matter under discussion. A money belt worn under your clothes is a good idea when traveling anywhere in the world.
Waverley
 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 05:59 AM
  #3
Lisa
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Sorry, a misprint in the above message. I meant, you need tips for PORTERS, not posters.
 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 06:27 AM
  #4
Selwyn Davidowitz
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Hi Lisa,

Phew you should become a tour operator in South Africa. You certainly have an excellent grasp on how the tour world works over here.

All that you have added to my original tip is spot on and great advice. As a matter of fact you took away my next tip in 2 weeks time )- when you tackled the very important info about the VAT system and how one can get ones money back.

A couple of comments with regard to what you have said.

When in South Africa you will pay 14% VAT however when you leave SA you only get back 13% with the extra 1% supposedly going for administration costs. <sic>

When travelling back home ALWAYS pack whatever you have purchased ON TOP in your case so that it is easily accessible. I say this because you are 100% correct Lisa when you say that the authorities can ask to look at each parcel. I must add that generally they dont look at all but I have had occasion that they have done a 100% check with my visitors.

I also want to double up on the most important tip that you have passed out and that is NOT to hand in your luggage before you have had the VAT counter check it first. Many people make this error.

As far as in what format to bring moneys is concerned you are quite right in that a certain amount of loose change is needed for tipping etc and that monies would be needed for payment of goods in places where ATM card are not accepted, however I have found that the 5% cash figure that I speak of in my original mail generally suffices.

You speak of the chewing gum story and "strictly" speaking the VAT authorities were wrong to charge you. ) I say this tongue in cheek because the rule is that all goods carried over the border on which VAT was paid should have the VAT reimbursed. With that said it is my own humorous opinion that says that seeing that I am carrying my last meal in my gut as I cross the border I should have the VAT paid back to me. ). With that said you might understand why I reckon the chewing gum VAT should have been refunded to you.

Lisa you end your mail by saying "Wish they had a better system". Well I pray on a daily basis that we do get a better system. Imho this one really sucks however it does not seem as if the authorities think like me and you and this system is here to stay.

Once again thanks for the wonderful, informative response Lisa where you too have added some great extra tips for those travelling to SA.

Selwyn Davidowitz
 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 07:39 AM
  #5
Lisa
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Sorry about jumping the gun on your VAT advice, Selwyn. I guess I got carried away. I will be looking forward to seeing your advice in 2 weeks because you will have it in a concise, explicit, ACCURATE form rather than my own jumbled ramblings. I am embarrassed that I could not even get the percentage correct. So, I'll leave the tour guide business in yours and others able hands and go back to offering advice when I know what I am talking about. LOL.

BTW, you are perfectly correct in your advice on how much cash to bring.I just wanted to add that people should remember to get small denominations when changing money as there is a lot of tipping to do.

Thanks also for the info on the cricket.
 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 09:21 AM
  #6
evelyntrav
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More about VAT receipts... We were able to get our receipts validated at a VAT office in the Victoria and Albert Waterfront Mall. There was no line and it saved a good deal of time at the airport.
 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 09:36 AM
  #7
Lisa
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Evelyn, we did that too, but then we still had to go through the procedure at Jhb international where you have to get the receipts stamped. I guess you can mail in the receipts after that.
 
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Nov 24th, 2002, 12:25 PM
  #8
Selwyn Davidowitz
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Hi Evelyn,

The system at the V&A if OK but as Lisa points out you still have to go through half the procedure at the airport anyway.

There is also another serious problem in this regard and that is that the V&A stall ALSO has to see the goods that you purchased. Because goods are bought in the V&A and shown at the counter they dont look at the articles once they see the invoice. If however you buy anything outside of the V&A you will have to bring the goods in for inspection an I need not have to point out that this could be very awkward.

So with that being the case guess what if you dont show the goods that you bought outside the V&A you have to show them at the airport anyway. With that said why stand in two lines when you can stand in one only? IMHO if you only buy goods at the V&A and nowhere else (highly unlikely) then the V&A cubicle has value,; if you buy at other places dont even bother with the V&A VAT cubicle.

Weve all said it and that is that the system is a poor one and this is just another facet of its problems

Hope this is understandable to all.
 
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Nov 26th, 2002, 05:12 AM
  #9
evelyntrav
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At the V&A waterfront VAT place, we did not have to show the items we purchased I(just the receipt), plus there was no line at all. Yes, we did have to go through the second half of the procedure at the airport, but we did save some time by having the receipts already stamped, especially since we were at the waterfront anyway.
 
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Nov 26th, 2002, 06:38 AM
  #10
Selwyn Davidowitz
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Evelyntrav,

Are you telling me that if let say you bought a small statue at Kirstenbosch Gardens and got a receipt for it that you then went to the V&A kiosk and they stamped the receipt firstly knowing that the goods were not purchased in the V&A and furthermore mot seeing the good at all? Evelyntrav please respond as this is very important for me to know personally.

Selwyn Davidowitz
 
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Nov 26th, 2002, 08:21 AM
  #11
evelyntrav
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The items we bought were purchased in the Cape Town area, but not at the mall. We did not have to show the items, just the receipt. But we did have to show the items at the airport.
 
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Nov 26th, 2002, 09:09 AM
  #12
Selwyn Davidowitz
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Hi Evelyntrav,

OK thats what I thought. Effectively imho you gained no time showing these receipts at the V&A kiosk as you had to still stand in line once again at the airport. Granted the bookwork might have been slightly shorter when you were at the airport but I dont believe it is worth it to stand in line twice when you only have to do it once.

Thanks for the input Eveleyntrav.

Selwyn Davidowitz
 
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