Spending Money

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Dec 30th, 2004, 01:37 PM
  #1
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Spending Money

Is 500 USD, converted into ZAR, enough spending money for meals and moderate- to low-priced souvieneres for an 11-day trip that will include Johannesburg (though only staying one night), Kruger National Park and Capetown? We won't have to worry about breakfast the entire time or dinner two nights. All of our entry fees, excluding riding up Table Mountain and Robben Island, are included. We're not into having fancy meals, though we may want at least one since we'll be there for Valentine's Day. And if we see something that we "just have to have" and it's over our budget, we'll use the credit card.

Also, a friend went to East Africa recently and suggested taking $50 in one-dollar bills to use as tips. She said it was more welcome than giving tips in local currency. Can anyone here comment on that?
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Dec 30th, 2004, 01:39 PM
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Oops. Meant to say that is for two people.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 01:57 PM
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Are you intending to self cater any meals or not?
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Dec 30th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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Aggiewriter, people in the hospitality industry in East Africa welcome tips in US Dollars. However, the situation in South Africa is entirely different. There you need South African Rands.

Being as mathematically challenged as I am, I'll have to put on my thinking cap, and get back to you re your budget.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 02:38 PM
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South Africa has a first rate banking system and is a first-world country. ATMs are easy to find and use in CPT, JNB, and at the airport - all in English. Your meals and tours can be paid for with local currency or credit cards, as can any purchase of souvenirs. The only place we used USD was for tips to our rangers and trackers at our camps at Sabi Sands (Kruger), but we could have just as easily used ZAR. You don't actually need USD, except if you feel comfortable to have some USD Travelers Checks in case of an emergency. More then likely you won't need these and can be redeposited them in your bank once you return home. Why take USD to carry around it you don't need it.

For using ATMs, be sure you have a 4-digit PIN. Call your bank and credit card companies before departing on your trip to advise where you will be and the dates, so they don't put a hold on your cards assuming they've been stolen or fraud of any kind. And be sure you have enough funds in your checking account for ATM use (you can't withdraw from savings), and sufficient credit on your credit cards.

While the current exchange rate is not favorable to the USD, and since most of your trip has been prepaid, you will find that the cost of extra meals are not at all expensive.

Unlike East Africa, where USD are preferred, that is not the case in South Africa. Have a great trip.
 
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Dec 30th, 2004, 03:35 PM
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Ditto to everything Sandi has said.

You could have lunch for the equivalent of US$7 each and your dinners could average about US$10 each, except for when you want to splurge. So figure about US$35 a day for food for the pair of you. On a budget of US$500 for 11 days, that will leave you with about US$10 a day for miscellaneous items.

"Mad money" amounting to US$10 a day would enable you to buy some modest souvenirs, but if you spot something very special, you may go over your budget.

I'm mentioning all of these expenses in USD terms just to help you with the planning of your trip. As has been pointed out, you would need to pay for stuff in ZAR.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 07:05 PM
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When I asked if 500 USD is OK I fully intended that we would convert that much into ZAR. I figured it would be easier to deal with than dollars there, I just wanted to use the USD figure since that's what we're talking about between ourselves (according to the latest conversion, that would equate to a little more than 2,000 ZAR).

I gather from the response here that using USD for tips would not be as beneficial to people in South Africa as it was for my friend when she was in Kenya.

We checked with our bank and one of our credit card companies charge a 3 percent surcharge for every dollar charged while the other doesn't charge anything extra. We'll be using that card if necessary
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Dec 30th, 2004, 07:11 PM
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So, what is a good per diam figure to consider when visiting South Africa - only considering modest meals (no more than two nice dinners) and souvineres?
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Dec 31st, 2004, 11:43 AM
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Aggiewriter, you have asked an impossible question. How do we know what you'll consider to be an acceptable souvenir? Will you buy half a dozen crocheted table mats from a sidewalk vendor, which will be cheap, or will you buy a hand carved, soapstone chess set from a curio store, which will cost more?

Do you use a digital camera or a film camera? If you use a film camera, will you need to replenish your supplies of film?

One could go on and on naming variables.

Although I would not be attracted to a cheap souvenir such as an "I Cape Town" T-shirt, I think it's fair to say that I am one of the more modest spenders around here, given that I am happy to stay in self-catering accommodation in the Kruger Park, etc.

But I think even I would consider a 500 USD budget for 2 people for 11 days to be rather lean.

I think it's more realistic to think in terms of 35 USD per person per day. I think that will allow you to have 7 moderate dinners, 2 fancy dinners, 11 moderate lunches, buy some supplies that you run out of along the way, buy a couple of decent quality souvenirs, and pay some tips, e.g., to your tour guide, the guide at Robben Island, etc.

My rough guestimate gives you a total budget of 770 USD. Round that up to the nearest 100 USD, and I think you're looking at something that is closer to 800 USD than 500 USD.

Yes, you could make it on 500 USD, and indeed less than 500 USD, if you were disciplined, but I think it would cramp your style to some extent.

I would hope your tour company would have given you some guidelines re tipping, spending money, etc. If they have not already done so, I would suggest you request such information from them.
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Dec 31st, 2004, 12:06 PM
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Thats very little money in real terms and will limit your options a great deal, Even twice that amount will still leave you short do do much more than just survirve.

www.franceinfocus.net
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Dec 31st, 2004, 03:34 PM
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$500 seems very lean. It is not much fun to be on vacation and run out of money. Make sure your bank is connected with banks where you are going.
When we were in Egypt and needing cash, the machine that was readily available did not accept our card. We ended up finding another bank's machine, but when we needed cash and were out... it was a "scarry" time. When we ran out that was after being very generous on our calculations.
Unless you are very mindful of every dollar you spend would recommend taking much more than you expect to need. You can always bring it home.
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Jan 1st, 2005, 10:23 AM
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Although I have not been to Egypt, I think the ATM problems that JackieSun ran into may have arisen because some ATMs accept only debit cards that are linked to the Cirrus network, while others accept only debit cards that are linked to the Plus network, while still others accept debit cards that are linked to both networks.

I've heard from American visitors that the ATM in the village of Lake Louise, which is in the Canadian Rockies, accepts only Cirrus-linked debit cards. If you have a Plus-linked debit card and you want to withdraw cash in Lake Louise, you're out of luck, or so I've been told.

I also have heard instances of travellers to the United States, Canada and various other countries finding that either their MasterCard credit card or their Visa credit card works but the other one doesn't.

For this reason, when my husband and I travel anywhere we always ensure that, between us, we have at least one MasterCard and one Visa, and we also have two debit cards, one linked to Cirrus and one linked to Plus.

This strategy has enabled us to conduct the transactions we've wanted to conduct wherever we've travelled.
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Jan 1st, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Aggiewriter, your mention of using a credit card for anything you "just have to have" that's over budget leads me to make this suggestion -- use your credit card for meals and for everything else that you can. You'll get the best exchange rate that way. Most restaurants and shops in South Africa take credit cards. You'll need cash for souvenir shopping in the street markets, but use your credit card for souvenirs you buy in shops. We go to SA about every 2 or 3 years, and we don't take any dollars other than what happens to be in our wallets at the time. We get rands at ATM's as needed, and use our credit cards for almost everything.

Restaurants aren't as expensive in SA as they are in the US. You can have a pretty elegant dinner with a bottle of wine for about R100 per person. You can eat very nicely for less than that at the many good chain and non-chain restaurants in the country. If you do any picnicking or self-catering, you'll spend even less. I think $500 will be enough for two meals a day for 11 days.

Oh -- don't change money before you go. If you go to a US bank to do that, they'll charge a hefty fee. Just use your bank card at the ATM in the airport to get some rands on arrival.
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Jan 1st, 2005, 12:50 PM
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As I was finishing my previous reply, my husband said "why don't we look at our credit card receipts and find out actually how much we did spend on food last time?" (Brilliant man, no?) So we looked, and in May 2004 these were our expenses: five lunches for about $15 for 2 people; one lunch for $30; two dinners for $20 and $22; two dinners for about $30 for 2; three dinners for $40; one dinner for $110. So I guess a $50/day budget would be cutting it a little bit close.
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Jan 1st, 2005, 03:27 PM
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Would agree with Celia on using credit card for most things.

Be aware though that petrol stations do not accept credit card (or debit card) and you will need cash for petrol.
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 09:29 AM
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Celia: I like your suggestion of using our CC/ATM for everything and taking little cash. My question, though, is with the ATMs in SA do you need to covert the currancy yourself? It was easy in Europe since the euro value was basically the equivalant as the USD. We just really don't like using a credit card unless it's absolutely necessary.

As mentioned, one of our bank cards does not charge us for using it overseas and we have already contacted them to let them know when we will be traveling. But one other question: we have a traditional CC and an ATM card that also acts as a CC. Surely if the shops in the US view it the same as a traditional CC it will be the same there. Am I correct?
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 12:08 PM
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A few days before departing go to the below currency coversion site and get the current USD/ZAR exchange rate. Then you an print out a cheat sheet coverting USD to ZAR and ZAR to USD. They are small enough to place in your wallet so you know how much things cost/what you're spending.

http://www.oanda.com/convert

And when at an ATM machine, using the cheat sheet you will see how much money you are withdrawing at any given time. Just be certain to withdraw sufficients funds in CPT or JNB or at the Airport before heading to Kruger as ATMs might not be as readily available there.
 
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Jan 6th, 2005, 06:13 AM
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Aggie, at the ATM you input the number of Rands you want. R1000 is about $160 -- do as Sandi suggests and look up the current rate, either on-line or in the Wall Street Journal, a few days before you go. I like her cheat-sheet idea.

As to your second question, about the credit card/bank card, I'm not sure, but I think so.
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