Frequently Asked Questions
The question of safety
Most white South Africans are going to tell you how dangerous South Africa is. But most white South Africans live in fear of everything except TV - which is probably the only thing they should fear! (That's a joke, if you are a white South African. See the end of this page for more info...)
There is crime, but if you don't walk around looking like a Japanese tourist you should be fine. (and hey, if you are a Japanese tourist that's also supposed to be funny... On a more serious note, click here for safety tips.
Africa vs the western world
If you want an "African" experience, head for Zululand, Swaziland, Lesotho, the Transkei or Zimbabwe which all have a strong African identity and are not as "westernised" as most of Southern Africa. But remember, balance is best. So we suggest a little bit of everything...
South Africa is cheap! The currency is South African Rand (ZAR), and we can't give you an exchange rate because it changes every day. Mostly in your favour.
Most banks are open from 9am - 3.30pm Monday to Friday and from 9 - 11am on Saturdays. Small town branches often shut for lunch between 1 - 2pm. If you have the right sort of card, you can use ATM's to withdraw cash - just check with your bank before you leave home. Thomas Cook and other exchange bureaus are scattered all over the place, but these days most people use the hole in the wall or pay directly by card. Be warned that many backpackers lodges will charge you up to 5% extra to pay by card!
GPO's generally trade from 8.30 - 4.30pm weekdays and from 8am to noon on Saturdays. But who needs the Post Office when you can e-mail? Most backpacker hostels and towns have internet facilities (maybe you shouldn't tell mom this?) so keeping in touch is a breeze.
Bilharzia and Malaria have taken their toll on human life in Southern Africa. They are both real risks but it's easy enough to take precautionary measures. Avoid contact with bilharzia-infected water and take prophylactic drugs for Malaria. Your doctor will know which prophylactic is best suited to the area you'll be visiting.
Don't run out of time!
Southern Africa is huge and the distances between places are great. People often run out of time. We suggest that you think about making use of internal flights or about arriving in and departing from different cities. How about starting in Cape Town and leaving from Johannesburg (which isn't as bad as the news says it is)? See the "Getting around" section for ideas on transport.
You’re an independent traveller right? Right.
But even though you’re paddling your own canoe, wouldn’t it be nice to know that there’s someone or something looking out for you? Let’s face it, it never hurts to stay at places or do volunteer and adventure activities, when they’re affiliated with something good. Something good in the backpacking world here in Mzansi is the South African Youth Travel Confederation (SAYTC).
The funky SAYTC family has a network of over 250 members all there to make the travel industry a better place for you. You won’t see their good work, but you’ll know it’s the reason you’re smooth sailing through calm travel waters. Of course, behind the scenes, SAYTC dons leathers and whip to keep standards high and ensure members operate safely and responsibly. And hey, if they’re not, then you’ve got something to fall back on. Find yourself in troubled waters and you can always contact the helpful staff on their website for unbiased advice and comments on any route or product.
Bottom line honey bun, is that when you see a big Backpacking South Africa sign at an establishment, you know you’re in safe hands. And safe hands are the only hands to be in.
Ever wondered if the locals you encounter whilst on holiday are getting a raw deal from scaly tour operators and dodgy establishments? Well, Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) is the world’s first tourism Fair Trade certification programme. And FTTSA certification means that your hard-earned holiday moola is going to the right places, and that the cultures and people you meet en-route are being treated with the respect and financial remuneration they deserve. Whether you want to certify your business or travel responsibly, FTTSA will help you play it free and fair.
Links to Coast to Coast
- High Pagerank Google PR Link Directory - Transops.Net
Travel and Tourism Directory
Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open.
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