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Trying to Plan a South Africa Honeymoon on a Budget. Help/Advice Needed.

Trying to Plan a South Africa Honeymoon on a Budget. Help/Advice Needed.

Dec 21st, 2004, 07:42 AM
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Trying to Plan a South Africa Honeymoon on a Budget. Help/Advice Needed.

My soon to be husband and I are planning a trip to South Africa for our honeymoon (or trying to!) My parents are from South Africa and I haven't been back there since I was 4 years old, so I am really excited to go! Unfortunately, we have to travel on a budget. I have done a good bit of traveling, but really only to places where the dollar was strong (Boliva, Thailand, Ecuador). So, we are trying to figure out whether we can afford to go to South Africa right now. The dollar is weaker than it has ever been and the Rand is quite strong. Because it is our honeymoon, we want to splurge for a few days and do a safari, but the rest of the trip, we hope to stay in smallish, cute, clean hotels/inns for under $100 USD per night. I do not know if this is realistic or not. We plan to be in South Africa for 3 weeks. I don't want to go to S. Africa and find that we simply can't afford to do things that we want. If this is the case, this is probably a trip for another time in the future, when we have more money to spend. I guess for the 3 weeks in S. Africa, we need to stay within a budget of about $4000 USD. Do you think it is possible to stay within this budget and still have a great experience the country (i.e., safari, wine country, CT, renting a car, etc.)
rbh is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 08:57 AM
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Hello Rbh,

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage.

You don't say when you want to go on this trip. That doesn't make all that much difference to your question about costs, but it does make a difference to what you might want to see and do. For example, if you go during the southern hemisphere winter, when Cape Town has its rainy season, you might want to visit Durban instead.

But about your travel budget. If the 4,000 USD needs to cover air fare as well, I would say it would be impossible for you to pull off your trip on anything but a hostel / backpacker basis. If the 4,000 USD is on top of air fare, and is designed to cover lodgings, food, rental car, gasoline, and entry fees to a few attractions, then you'll still have to travel in a modest style.

If you shop around carefully, you can find nice B&B establishments and guesthouses that include accommodation and breakfast for 100 USD per couple per night. Be aware that the prices on many of these establishments' websites are per person per night sharing. In other words you have to multiply the quoted rate by two.

I think you would need to budget 15 USD per person per day for lunches, dinners and the occasional coffee. (Keep in mind that breakfast is included in your room rate if you're staying at a B&B.) So you would need to budget about 630 USD for meals for 3 weeks.

You might be able to bring your accommodation and food budget down still further if you rented a self-catering apartment and prepared some of your meals yourself.

If you were to rent a compact car for the entire 3 weeks, the base rate for that might be in the order of 800 USD.

I think gasoline (petrol) costs about 4.50 ZAR/litre these days. My wild guess is that you would use about 100 ZAR per day on gas, so say about 20 USD per day or maybe 630 USD over the course of your trip.

Taking the cable car up and down Table Mountain, which is a typical activity that a visitor to Cape Town does, costs 20 USD per person.

There is no way that your stated budget will permit you to stay at a private game lodge. However, you could stay in self-catering accommodation in one or more of the national parks, and you could travel through the park(s) on a self-drive basis.

If you have family members left behind in South Africa or even if your parents still have old friends there, perhaps you could spend a few nights with people like that, and that would help you to stretch your dollars.

If you don't want to cut corners and you want to have the kind of trip that I visualize when someone says the word "honeymoon," then I think it would not be feasible to accomplish it within your stated budget.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 10:27 AM
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Is your airfare included in the 4K....?Either way, I say go for it. The short answer is, yes, you can do it. Example: many people think you have to spend a fortune at private game reserves adjacent to Kruger - not so. I stayed in Kruger for a month for less money than most people spend in less than a week at a private reserve. Do your homework with books, internet (Lonely Planet is the best resourse for the budget conscience) and also Frommers. If you wait until a later date....well most people never make it (back). go for it. enjoy.
AdrenalineBoy is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 12:06 PM
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Judy and AdrenalineBoy - Thank you for your input. I appreciate it very much. Since both of you asked, the $4,000 does NOT include airfare (thank goodness the budget isn't that tight!) We would be going December 2005. After looking into private safaris for just a day or so, I quickly realized that we would not be able to do one. They cost upwards of $400 per day per person, so we would have to go the rent a car drive through Kruger route. My only worry is that being that this is a public reserve, it will be overrun with people. I spent 3 months traveling in the remote parts of Alaska which are difficult to access by car and then drove through Jasper and Bamf in Canada and was amazed how many other people there were. Every time we pulled up to look at wildlife, there were like 30 other cars there. So the moment wasn't really special.
After reading both of your replies, I'm still up in the air. I look forward to hearing some more thoughts on the subject. I know that one can travel almost anywhere on a "shoestring" budget -- I learned that back in my hippie days. But we want to live it up a little more upscale for our honeymoon, but don't have lots of money to spend. Bottom line is, we don't want to arrive in South Africa to find that we simply can't afford to do things that we want and have to constantly think about our budget. If that's the case, we are going to have to start brainstorming other exotic destinations that have as much to offer as S. Africa but the dollar goes further.
rbh is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 12:21 PM
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Kruger is a large park -- often compared in size to New Jersey or Israel, and there are parts that are crowded (in and around Skukuza for example). But the northern part of the park is much less touristed and you could drive there for extended periods without encountering many, if any, other vehicles.

When we visited we stayed at Skukuza and Satara, and while we saw lots of game, there were times when we shared the road with other cars. But there were extended periods when we were on backroads by ourselves (well, we were the only people since there were plenty of animals).

thit_cho is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 01:02 PM
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Ditto to what Michael said. In addition to Kruger, you also might think about the national parks in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

One good thing about the South African game reserves is that the ratio of humans to animals is nothing like that in Jasper and Banff National Parks. Heck, if people see one elk or moose in Jasper or Banff, they think it's a big deal. You'd probably see more animals within half an hour of entering the Kruger National Park than you'd see in a lifetime of visiting Jasper and Banff.

Keep in mind, though, that South African schools have their summer holidays from about the beginning of December to the middle of January. That makes popular places like Cape Town and the game reserves more fully booked than usual. So, if you do choose to go to South Africa, it will be essential to make reservations in good time.

Another thing I forgot to add to your budget : the cost of anti-malarial meds, which you will need if you visit the bushveld in the provinces of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

As AdrenalineBoy says, you certainly can do this trip. The question that you're still asking yourself, though, and that no one can answer for you is whether or not you want to travel in as budget-conscious manner as would be required.

For example, if it was my honeymoon I might not want to go further downscale than a bungalow with private bathroom in one of the national parks. As far as I can tell from the Internet, the 2005 / 2006 rate for this (at today's exchange rate) would be 125 USD per couple per day (made up of 85 USD for the bungalow and 20 USD conservation fee per person per day).

The good thing about this is that, apart from the costs of food, a rental car and gasoline, there would be no need to pay for additional attractions (like the cable car up Table Mountain) as long as one was in a national park.

I have stayed in tents with shared shower facilities in South Africa's national parks, and have been perfectly happy with that accommodation, but it wasn't my honeymoon.

Anyway, AdrenalineBoy's advice to check out Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum is sound. There is excellent information on that forum.

I've seen something called the WILD Card on the Internet. It costs 1395 ZAR (245 USD today) per couple, but apparently makes you elligible for all kinds of discounts throughout South Africa, inlcuding the waiver of the conservation fees in the national parks.

Good luck deciding.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 01:25 PM
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Certainly being in Kruger during a holiday period will bring you in contact with other tourist. Having said that, Kruger is huge and if you go remote you won't run into many people. Many people stay on the paved roads, but there are many dirt roads that see little, and sometimes, virtually no traffic (especially in the Northern part of the park). There were day that we never saw another car until we began to head back to our camp. Even at it's busiest Kruger won't ever be like Banf or Jasper (or Yellowstone or Yosemite). Other possible options for an exotic destination with a favorable exchange rate: Namibia (Estosha is about the best one can do for African wildlife at a reseaonable price) Thailand (a great destination with lost to see and do, great exchange rate.....but no wildlife)Brazil (excellent exchange rate, tons to see and do and fantastic wildlife in the Pantanal.....one of my favorite adventures).Feel free to e-mail at: [email protected] Good luck.
AdrenalineBoy is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 01:29 PM
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Dear RBH
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!
My husband and I recently spent 8 weeks in Southern Africa, of which 5 weeks was in South Africa and on a reasonably low budget, though not so low that we couldn't splurge in certain areas.
You should be able to find my itinerary if you search on this forum, if not give me a shout and I'll find it for you.
A few tips: Bed and breakfast accommodation is absolutely superb in South Africa and is very reasonable indeed. The rates are also negotiable, although this may be related to the time of your trip. We went in May/June and stayed in some absolutely gorgeous B&Bs. Mostly we paid between 330 and 490 a night between two of us including breakfast. The most we paid was in Cape Town where we negotiated a sterling pounds rate as one of the owners is British and returns to the UK regularly.
My method was to use the Portfolio Collections website to narrow down a list of possible accommodations for each town but then to find each place's own website and contact them directly. I sent them a nice, personalised letter and asked whether they could offer a discount - I also made sure to let them know what my budget was. Nearly all of the places I contacted replied in a very friendly way and many of them offered me absolutely excellent rates.
Secondly, eating out in South Africa is very inexpensive, but it's worth putting aside some of your budget for occasional splurges such as one or two meals in Cape Town, Jemima's in Oudtshoorn (if you go there).
Oh and as for game parks - Kruger is not the only option.
We self drove in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (which we loved - less tarmac, less people and a much more remote experience than Kruger), Ithala (stunning stunning scenery, not dense in game but the best self catering accommodation of any we stayed in and just hardly anyone else there) and also Kruger (a great park but much much busier). Oh and we also went to Addo which we liked more than we expected.
Good luck and don't stop coming and asking more questions and you work through your itinerary drafts!
Kavey is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 03:28 PM
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Just one point re Kavey's post -- her quotes are in Rand, I believe, not US dollars. Her advice, as always, is excellent.

thit_cho is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 09:15 PM
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I would hate to put a dampener on all of the above as the advice being passed out by Judy, Adrenalineboy and Kavey in this thread truly is excellent in my opinion. There is however something very important that I have to mention and that is the value of the Rand vs the US$. When Kavey was in SA it was not in high season whereas you will be here over the high season period. Bear this in mind when you read her excellent programme that she followed in SA. Furthermore the Rand has not strenthened up against the Pound as much as it has against the Dollar. All in all the currency changes have been huge and dramatic to the extent that I believe that tourism numbers overall to SA are on the downward slide which would be an expected result of this currency situation. What all of this means is that your budget is going to be very, very tight and worst of all is the fact that your journey will only be in Dec 2005. AS the currency swings could be high from now till Dec 2005 I suggest you wait and see what happens with the R-$ exchange and only start deciding on your plans in July of 2005. That should still give you sufficient time to make adequate plans.

Personally I still want a strong Rand for my country no matter what the tourism implications and this leads me to be sorry to be the dampener on your trip as I would love it for you to celebrate you honeymoon in our great country. With that said I also have to remain practical and right now currency swings in SA represent a whole new ball game as far as tourism in SA is concerned.

Just my twopence worth.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 09:44 PM
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I agree with Selwyn regarding the state of the USD vs. the ZAR.

December will place you in high season in South Africa and in direct competition with countless Europeans escaping winter and South Africans celebrating their holidays.

For a honeymoon, it neither sounds all that romantic to be around the masses that will flock to Kruger NP nor does it sound romantic to do a self-drive trip through Kruger NP.

Instead, for your safari, I suggest another route, and that is an Emerald Season special in Zambia. For $1,750 per person, it is possible to have 7 nights split between South Luangwa NP and Victoria Falls, including your flights from Lusaka.


Five nights in the South Luangwa, concluded by two nights in Victoria Falls (Livingstone) would provide an unforgettable time and away from the masses of people that will be celebrating the holidays in South Africa at that time.

Besides those seven nights, I would suggest possibly 3 nights in Cape Town, and 2 nights in the Cape Winelands. I would imagine that you would be able to find acceptable lodging, even in December, for about $150 per night ($75 pp). Therefore, a 13 night honeymoon including 5 safari nights in the South Luangwa, 2 nights in Victoria Falls, 4 nights in Cape Town and 2 nights in the Cape Winelands, would cost you $4,400 USD plus about another $750 for your flight from JNB - Lusaka, Zambia (inter-Zambia flights are included in the Emerald Season special).

Spending time at private game lodges just seems a much better way to spend a honeymoon, instead of being at larger campsites in the Kruger NP. At the private game lodges, chances are that there will only be another couple or two in December and you will have an army of people catering to the two of you, instead of self-catering options in Kruger. Why worry about laundry, food, drinks, transportation, etc. on your honeymoon?

For just over $5,000 (excluding your flight from the USA) you can have an amazing 13 night honeymoon. I just don't think that, even with $5,000, if you want to include a quality safari in your honeymoon, that you will be able to stretch this to 3 weeks. If you are adventurous, you may want to spend one night in Kawaza Village near South Luangwa, possibly between game lodges. It is a real indigenous village, and it will only cost you $100 for the night, giving you 14 nights for $5,250.
Roccco is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 05:24 AM
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Thit_Cho, thanks - I was indeed quoting in Rand - I should have made that clearer.

Selywn, I'm with you on the point about it being harder to get discounts in high season - that's why I mentioned that I went May/June and that negotiation of discounts might be harder depending on when Rbh travels. I knew the dollar was weakening but I hadn't realised quite how much it had fallen against the Rand.
That said, I'm wondering if there are any global destinations where the dollar has retained enough strength to make them a better option for the moment for Rbh. I don't know enough about global currency rates to know the answer.
I adored South Africa so I'm always happy to see people plan trips there but... it might be the case that it isn't the best option for Rbh at THIS time given the budget and the exchange rate situation?
Kavey is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 06:36 AM
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In researching Argentina and Chile for a hopeful upcoming trip, I have found many values.

I was in Chile in December 2002 (at that time the Dollar must have been still about equal to 10 Rand). In researching anew, I have found rates basically unchanged, and I believe Chile has the strongest economy in all of South America, for whatever that is worth.

For example, the Santiago Ritz Carlton is only about $250 per night (and there are many quality hotels available in the $100 - $150 per night range).

In the Atacama Desert, last time I paid about $125 per night for a respectable place, and in reviewing the current rates, I have found them to be unchanged.

The same can be said for Patagonia.

The bottom line, I believe, is that most of Chilean establishments, if not all of them, from my limited experience, use the USD for their pricing. So, Chile is still very affordable for Americans (yet very few visit...their loss).

Chile has winelands that probably rival anywhere else, has the amazing Atacama Desert (the driest desert on Earth, with some amazing landscapes and sand dunes), has Patagonia, features nice beaches in the far north of the country, and has a beautiful capital in Santiago which is surrounded by the Andes mountains.

For Atacama and Patagonia, one should be in relatively good shape. As much as I enjoyed myself, I am sure that both my wife and I would have had a better time had we been in better shape and able to partake in more strenous activities. I began the holiday by running a marathon in Vina Del Mar (1.5 hour drive away from Santiago) and was beat up for the rest of the trip, not realizing how strenous Atacama was going to be (and mostly at over 10,000 feet elevation).
(Haven't really run since!).

Anyway, Chile is an excellent destination for Americans looking to extend the value of the dollar, and I suppose for Europeans who will really have incredible buying power.
Roccco is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 06:44 AM
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To all who replied to my cry for advice/help -- THANK YOU very much for all of your input. Kavey - Thanks for the clarification that the amounts you quoted were in Rand. I was worried that you meant dollars! Unfortunately for us, U.S. residents, the dollar is doing very poorly against the Rand. It's doing poorly pretty much everywhere, except SE Asia and Latin Amercia (where I have already traveled extensively). For example, last year my friend went on her honeymoon and stayed at a great little hotel called Le Feme Petit (sp?). She told me she paid less than $100 USD a night. I looked up the rates for 2005, and it is $200 USD per night. That's an unbelievable jump. Well, I think with all the information you all have provided me, my fiance and I should be able to make an informed decision. If anyone has anything else to add, I of course would love to hear it.
rbh is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 06:58 AM
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No problem... I can see how much prices have jumped for you and it just might not be the right option for you at the moment.

Rocco, you're right about prices in South America. We didn't go to Chile but we did pass through Argentina and spent a night in Ushuaia and one in Buenos Aires. The local currency is weak and US dollars are used everywhere. Things were very cheap for us as the £ is so strong against the $ but I think the prices were so low that an American traveller would also find many bargains in this destination.

For active travellers the Tierra del Fuego National Park is a beautiful destination - we were there for just half a day but hikers able to spend longer there would really love it.

GOOD LUCK with your decision, Rbh.
Kavey is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 12:54 PM
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Just wanted to let you all know that we decide to honeymoon (is that a verb?) in Brazil! S. Africa is just too expensive for us right now. In Brazil, we will more so be able to live it up and spend our honeymoon in style! Thanks for all the advice about South Africa though -- one day, after we have saved a nice nest egg, we'll go to South Africa.
rbh is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 01:22 PM
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RBH - Where did you decide to go in Brazil? The Pantanal? Amazon?

Congratulations on your impending marriage and best wishes for terrific honeymoon.
dreaming is offline  

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