Okay, the T word again for East Africa

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Feb 28th, 2005, 07:52 AM
  #1
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Okay, the T word again for East Africa

You'd think this was my first trip. Doing the final countdown things and money demonination, etc. comes up. I do a search, yes everyone feels uncomfortable just before a trip, wants to review guidelines, etc. It really is different in southern Africa compared to Eastern Africa.
Sandi- Where do you get the 'cheat sheets' on conversion of schillings to dollars? I'm interested in Tanzania Schillings for this trip.
I'm going to be prepared on the tip container at the counter of the camps and tip separately, not assume that they cover the tent people and waiters.
I've reviewed some wonderful reports and think I've got it covered, but still I hesitate.
When in East Africa, does everyone leave the tips in their rooms? Daily or the end of your stay? Tip waiters each meal?
At Governor's Camp we had a room cleaner and a bathroom cleaner. How do you know where to leave your tips? Always tip in schillings at the camps?
Dick Snyder, thank you for your wonderfully detailed trip reports that include all the details including money and converting, etc.
Anyone want to comment, please? Liz
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Feb 28th, 2005, 08:38 AM
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Liz
I'm not Sandi but this is the site I use for currency cheatsheets and they do list the US dollar and the Tanzanian schilling.

www.oanda.com/convert/cheatsheet
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Feb 28th, 2005, 08:41 AM
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Liz
When we were at Governor's we asked about the tip system and were assured that the tip we left in the main tip box was split equally between ALL staff except guides and managers.
We were told we could tip guides (and managers if we wished it) separately, directly.
I nearly always clarify this with camp management for each camp I stay in to be sure that all staff will benefit from the main tip and that it won't just go to the most visible or senior staff in the camp
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Feb 28th, 2005, 08:56 AM
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Kavey-
That isn't what I was told. We had worked out the tips before we left home and I was placing the large tip in the container and the desk lady said it was only for the Cooks and the Laundry. Boy was I shocked! We didn't plan for that at all! Practically ruined my trip to think of the myriad of camp staff relying on our generosity and all our money lying in the bottom of this container. We'll be better prepared this time, but you want so much to help these people out and it seems such a difference between camps.
Thanks for your post. Especially about the schilling conversion sheets. Liz
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Feb 28th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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Kavey- That cheat sheet is JUST the thing I wanted. Thanks a LOT! Liz
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Feb 28th, 2005, 09:05 AM
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Liz,
We were in Kenya and not Tanzania, but I believe that tipping standards are similar in the 2 countries. Every lodge and camp where we stayed had a staff gratuity box at reception which was shared amongst the staff including waiters, etc. So we left a pooled gratuity in the staff box at the end of our stay. We did give a small additional gratuity to our tent attendants at the end of our stay and to porters each time our luggage was handled and this we did directly. We also tipped our favorite waiter at one of the camps separately at the end of our stay. But we tried to do it discreetly so that others would not feel slighted because they were all really wonderful. Other than that the only camp staff we tipped separately was our driver and guide on the night game drive as we had to do that in the camp vehicle and not with our own guide who accompanied us throughout. We tipped camp staff in shillings only as they would have had to convert dollars at a poor exchange rate had we given USD.
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Feb 28th, 2005, 09:06 AM
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Gosh, I'm so cross if that's the case because I specifically asked who the tip went to and they said it was shared between ALL staff. Maybe they just say what they think we want to hear OR don't like to admit not knowing so make up the answer!

Grrrr!
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Feb 28th, 2005, 10:28 AM
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Liz - For currency conversion, go to http://www.oanda.com/convert. But I see that Kavey already provided this (I only read your post, before looking further.. hasty me!). These have worked for any of our trips worldwide. Print the cheatsheets - one each USD/TSh and another TSh/USD.

Like others, we tip our drive/guide in USD as they're always in Arusha and can get to a bank. And the banks do give a good rate. Though it is possible that many of the guide/drivers who work for specific outfitters may have their USD changed thru the outfitter who gives them a good rate.

When we've had a room attendant (butler) or someone who provided extra service, we felt comfortable tipping directly in local currency. As far as the Tip Box, we've never been advised that these were only for the cook and laundry. I've never yet in these years used the laundry, so why should this be specific over anything else? The Tip Box funds are, to our understanding, be split by maids, waiters, kitchen staff, porters and this has been in local currency. Though we've been known to toss in a few USD if short of local currency.

Personal comment - is there a reason for a room cleaner and a bathroom cleaner? I don't wonder that the higher-end camps don't add a few people, for whatever reason. Sure the Crater Lodge and Kirawira have tent/room butler - so be sure you find a reason to use their services. If one isn't used to having "help" back at home, it takes getting used to! Sure they can unpack your bags? For one night? Don't think so. Have some items of clothing ironed? Maybe, but doesn't the laundry take care of that? Run your bath (Crater Lodge)? Maybe? Get drinks from the Bar? Ok, I'll go with this one!

Liz, I'm alot like you that before departure, I have all my money separated for it's specific use. Gotta make sure I don't spend this money on something else. My travel parters get a hoot out of this, but I'd hate to be short when it comes to tipping.

Another - Don't forget for the USD that you will bring and use for tips or other things - bring bills with the new (larger) faces, the tri-colored $20s, relatively new bills (none torn, creased, folded, washed in last weeks laundry) and check the dates that none older than two-years. And nothing larger than a USD$50, you might not be able to get it changed. Just take any damaged or old face currency to your local bank who will exchange them for what I indicated above.
 
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Feb 28th, 2005, 10:45 AM
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Sandi- Thanks for all the info. The butlers will be lost on us. Don't unpack, just use out of duffels. Don't take baths, both of us shower. Get a drink? Sure.
Thanks for the money info too. Why no bills over two years old? How much money do you folks exchange into Tz Schillings? Max says take $1,000. Isn't that a lot of extras? No shopping, just tips. We bundle money together and paper clip it for driver, camp box tips, but then porters, etc. This part just wears me out. We take a few clothes and then 3 times that space in misc., band-aids, sunscreen, lotions, etc. I'm already tired and we don't pack till this weekend. Washing Buzz Off clothes now. If you can live through the details, the trip ought to be great. Liz
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Feb 28th, 2005, 12:28 PM
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Liz - I ran across this while reading about this guy's trip to Tanz. I don't know if it is accurate - I believe the trip was a year ago.

Money
The Tanzanian Shilling is not a convertible currency. This means that it can only be exchanged in that country, and then only one way. In other words, you can exchange U.S. Dollars or Euros for Shillings, but not the other way round. For this reason it is a good idea not to change too much hard currency into Shillings at any one time. Hotels and the larger shops take credit cards, and everyone takes U.S. dollars, though they won't give you any charge so small bills are a good idea. The exchange rate is about $1 = 1000 Shillings.
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Feb 28th, 2005, 12:36 PM
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We also try and work out our tip money before we go. We work out what the minimum we'll likely give in each camp will be and then take at least double that so that we know we have enough to reward people for service above and beyond without eating into tips for later camps.

I have occasionally asked staff whether they have a preference for receiving tips in dollars or local currency and they have said local (this has been the case in South Africa and Botswana) as they have indicated that it's not a problem for them to change it at all. I don't know if it's harder in East Africa or whether they are more likely to get a bad rate but I'd hope that, given camps often recommend in their literature that guests tip in US dollars, that they ensure their staff can easily change US dollars.

Liz, like you it's important to me to know that tipping is received by all those who have contributed to making my stay so special so I can totally understand your motivation in clarifying who shared tips are shared between.

I bet you have your main packing list down to a fine art by now though?
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Feb 28th, 2005, 12:37 PM
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TYPO above

Should read:

I have asked staff whether they have a preference for receiving tips in dollars or local currency and they have said EITHER
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Feb 28th, 2005, 12:50 PM
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Liz -

You ask, "why two years?" This might sound strange to those of us from western countries with stable economies, but in many coutries - Kenya and/or Tanzania - their currencies often loose value or change regularly. Accordingly, while locals in these countries are very aware of what USD or Euro or Pound Sterling notes look like and how/when they change, they may also check the date - assuming if over 2-yrs old... worthless or worth less. We know that is not the case, but............

Your drinks at Kirawira and Crater Lodge are included in price paid. At the other accommodations this is probably not the case. So with only soft drinks and alcoholic beverages and tips to consider, $1,000 might be high. Unless, of course, you plan on any souvenir purchases. And while credit cards are a good option for paying certain bills overseas, don't forget the Foreign Currency Fee charged by most credit cards. This has usually been only 1%, but lately, (notices in recent statements) a number of financial insitutions have increased this fee to 3%. I would suggest that all travelers verify with their financial institutions any changes to this fee, so as not to be surprised when you see that credit card statement with fees in excess of previously expected. Looks like prepaying and cash are back in vogue!
 
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Feb 28th, 2005, 01:06 PM
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We brought bills over 2 years old and didn't have trouble using them in Kenya recently. They were the 'large face' bills but many were minted in 2001 or earlier.
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Feb 28th, 2005, 01:13 PM
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You folks are GREAT!!!!! Thanks for coming to my aid when I was in a quandry.
Now has anyone paid Roy Safaris final payment by wire and saved themselves carrying all those travellers checks? We are tempted because we pay them upon arrival anyway.
We have the cadillac of insurance policies and would get re-imbursed I'm sure if we don't make it over. Just so much money to carry on the airplane. What say you all?
Thanks ever so much to a friend in need of other opinions. Liz
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Feb 28th, 2005, 01:20 PM
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Wire it! I'd never want to carry that many travelers checks, regardless if they can be replaced. You want to travel with no worries, not watching your pockets, carry on - wherever you place these. You wired the deposit, just wire the rest and travel without any cares except the migration that awaits you. Hey, Liz - this shouldn't be new to you; your an old hand at safari. But I too get a bit weird before I leave on a trip regardless. Make it easy - wire the money. They'll confirm to you as soon as it hits their bank - overnight.
 
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Feb 28th, 2005, 01:21 PM
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Kavey,
When I said poor exchange rate earlier, I was assuming that the staff would be exchanging their dollars (or euros or pounds) through the camp since many of these are very isolated and not near any commercial areas where there might be other alternatives. The posted exchange rates at the camps in Kenya were much lower than the actual exchange rate at the time. I'm sure the staff would have gladly accepted dollars but just felt that my money 'went farther' if I gave the equivalent in local currency instead.
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Feb 28th, 2005, 02:15 PM
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Sandi-
That's what I said was so weird about this. I have answered many of these same questions with confidence, but suddenly its ME and here I am asking for confirmation to what I think. It is the strangest thing I can think of. I just feel better when you and Kavey agree with me. Don't know why, but hey, you're friends and don't seem to mind, so what the heck. I thank you both and Dick and the others, its just crazy when its for yourself. I suddenly forget what I think is the truth. Silly, huh? I feel better, all is getting taken care of and I'm confident that its all right so I have no last minute jitters, just looking forward and getting excited. Liz
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Mar 1st, 2005, 03:53 AM
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Liz - I know you've got everything under control, it's just that sometimes we need the reassurance. Though, I believe, it's probably the excitement that is getting the better of you. Everthing will work out fine - hey, you're traveling first class, have a very good itinerary, some new lodges others may have not visited, topping off with 5* lodging. And you know what you're there for - those wildies and their babies, and, of course, the predators not too far away. By the time you get on that plane, you'll be as calm as you can be and you'll have a great time. Have a fantastic time and know we're all thinking of you and Max there (us back here) and we'll be waiting to hear all about it on your return. Watch where you walk and travel safe.
 
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Mar 1st, 2005, 05:24 AM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! Liz
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