There are a few things in life that rub me the wrong way; loud noises/sounds, disrespectful behaviour towards fauna, flora and humans, the combination of sand and gale force winds in my face and hearing the words: travelling in South Africa is expensive.
That last one irks me.
It irks me because those words are usually uttered on hearsay.
Tom says it’s expensive, Dick joins in and Harry thinks about going along for the ride, but then he just complains about everything before actually knowing how much it would be and somehow, all on hearsay, they come to the conclusion that a week in Thailand (or elsewhere) is cheaper than a weekend in South Africa.
I promise you, it’s not.
It irks me for a few more reasons.
It gets to me because it rolls off the tongue so quickly and convinces so easily.
It bothers me because Tom dreams about going on an African safari but lives in Port Elizabeth and has never even bothered to make the (more or less) 150 km round trip to Addo Elephant National Park (which is possible to do in any vehicle with 4 wheels), pay the R68 conservation fee and enjoy the day on a self-drive game drive.
It troubles me because Dick is part of the high percentage of people who only sees international travel as “real” travel, as the type of travel that results in magical journeys and once-in-a-lifetime experiences while he misses out on everything – all the magic – that is right in front of him.
It annoys me because Harry still just goes along for the ride without questioning Tom or Dick’s word.
Now look, I enjoy international travel just as much as the next person; there is definitely something special about being in a different country with a different culture, language, tradition, religion and people, but it does not make local travel less special! And it certainly does not all boil down to the fact that international travel is the holy grail or cheaper alternative just because a travel package makes eye contact with your passport or because transportation, food, drink and accommodation in said destination is more budget-friendly.
Go Local: The Benefits of Travelling in South Africa
Travelling in South Africa is inexpensive but the value of what you’re getting is not something that you can always measure in rands.
Here are a few reasons why travelling in South Africa will please your wallet:
• You can pile the whole family in the car and drive to your destination instead of paying a minimum of R6000 x 4 for flight tickets. Can you imagine how far R24 000 worth of fuel will get you in South Africa?
• You don’t have to rely on buses, taxis, tuk-tuks or Uber to go from town A to town B or when you go sightseeing.
• You don’t have to worry about the immediate effect of the exchange rate mid-trip and you won’t lose a few rands in the process of exchanging your money for another currency and you don’t have to deal with ATM costs when withdrawing cash abroad.
• There are no international flights involved, no airport taxes and no visa costs.
• You’re less likely to spend money on souvenirs, unnecessary knick knacks and gifts for friends and family when travelling in South Africa.
• You have the home-ground advantage: no inflated tourist prices, you can’t (usually) be easily scammed, you know where to get certain things for cheaper, for a lot of attractions you won’t need a tour guide and you know which restaurants will be easy on the wallet.
• You can choose to stay in self-catering accommodation (often cheaper than a hotel) and prepare the majority of your own meals.
• While camping is possible all around the world, the camping culture is definitely bigger in South Africa than in most “cheap destinations”, it varies in price, you can easily obtain information and you can bring along your own gear.
• Leave days are valuable and by flying to an international destination you might have to add an extra 1-3 days to cover your flying time.
• Hidden costs hiding behind an asterisk and terms and conditions can catch you off guard in a foreign country more often than in your own country.
• Local knowledge is power.
A Travel Comparison: South Africa’s Top Holiday Destinations vs Package Deals
I’ll admit that resort life in some of the more inexpensive holiday destinations (for example, Thailand and Indonesia) is cheaper than resort life in South Africa. And yes, if you can snatch up a package deal inclusive of flights, accommodation and breakfast, resort life will be more affordable abroad than in South Africa.
But what is a resort other than a room with all the necessary amenities, room service, a pool, a bar and a tour desk? And if you’re planning to spend time touring around, exploring, lounging on a beach or by the pool, what is room other than a place where you will spend your sleeping hours? At the literal end of the day, is it not the same as staying in a guest house with a pool? Is it not just about the bed?
You tell me.
There is something about resorts, and their brilliant marketing, which gives the impression that servants will fan you with palm leafs and feed you grapes, and even if you know it is not true (unless you get a butler) there is this belief that the bigger the premises and the bigger the pool, the better the overall experience.
If resort life is what you are after, then go for it, but this comparison is to demystify the conclusion that travelling to (and in) Thailand (or elsewhere) is cheaper than travelling in South Africa.
In the name of comparison, the cheapest package deal I could find was one which offered 7 nights in Phuket, Thailand at a 3 star resort, flights (airport transfers excluded), and breakfast at a rate of R7 990*.
That little asterisk can only mean one thing: *starting from R7990. Because it all depends on when you’re flying (this deal is only available for travelling between 1 April 2018 and 20 June 2018).
But let’s say you chose your dates like a pro and you’re paying R8 000 per person (don’t forget, you still need to pay two airport transfers, pay for lunch and dinner, drinks, transport and excursions).
In a nutshell, for the sake of this comparison, I will use this information and these average calculations:
• Two people are travelling.
• Between two you have R16 000 (that’s if you are lucky enough to live close to Johannesburg or Cape Town for your international flight) to cover transport and accommodation. For local travel, an average of 3000 km will be covered to reach your destination and to get back home, in a vehicle that gives you 10km/liter at a fuel rate of R14 p/liter.
• It is a 7-night stay, breakfast included.
• Travel time is between 1 April 2018 and 20 June 2018.
• Since the package deal is in a beach location it will be compared to some of South Africa’s top beach towns where holidaymakers flock to during SA’s summer holiday (big cities such as Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth will be excluded).
So in another nutshell, if you have to travel on the abovementioned conditions, R4200 will go towards your fuel and you have R11 800 to cover accommodation (R1 685 p/night) for two people for 7 nights. For accommodation I’ll search on SA-Venues.com which offers the choice of a huge variety of hotels and accommodation in South Africa.
Let’s go to Hermanus
According to SA-Venues, Hermanus “is the world’s foremost land based whale-watching destination, it is a thriving holiday resort offering residents and holiday makers all modern amenities.” To read more information about Hermanus, attractions, restaurants and things to do, click here. I highly recommend a side trip to the seaside village of Gansbaai.
How about staying at AmaKhosi Guesthouse which is just a short walk from the beach? The Superior King Room is R970 p/night, breakfast included. And if R16 000 is your budget you’ll still have about R5 000 to spend on food, drink and excursions. Bingo!
Or treat yourself and stay in the picturesque Swallow’s Loft which is R1 600 a night for two people. The whole house – and the swimming pool – will be your private kingdom and with 3 bedrooms you can sleep in a new room every other night.
Want more options in Hermanus? Click here, there are rooms starting at R400 per unit per night!
Let’s go to Mossel Bay
Shopping, sun, sand and sea is Mossel Bay in a nutshell with the mildest all-year climate in the world, second only to Hawaii.
“Amongst the surfing fraternity, Mossel Bay is up there on the list with Jeffreys Bay and Port Elizabeth and Outer Pool is probably Mossel Bay’s most famous wave. Water sports are enormously popular and whale and seal watching and scuba diving a way of life.” To read more information about Mossel Bay, attractions, restaurants and things to do, click here.
If the beach is what you are after then Diaz Beach Guest House, only a two minute walk to dig your toes into Mossel Bay’s sand, might be your answer; all rooms have kitchenettes and rates start at R870 per night.
For some olde worlde hospitality and a cocktail next to a solar heated swimming pool, head to The Edward Manor. The classic double rooms start at R920 per unit.
Want more options in Mossel Bay? Click here, there are rooms starting at R300 per unit per night!
Let’s go to Jeffreys Bay
Jeffreys Bay has holiday, soft serve ice creams, beach, surfing, swimming, shells and shopping for clothes from famous brands at factory shops written all over its streets; in peak season you’ll quickly realise that there is only one traffic light in town but out of season the streets turn quiet.
“Surfers from across the globe come to enjoy the rolling surf. Jeffreys Bay is a beach paradise.” To read more information about Jeffreys Bay, attractions, restaurants and things to do, click here.
Jeffreys Bay Beach House – yes it is right on the beach – will be around R1 200 p/night for a sea view room, including breakfast. So why not head to the Eastern Cape, enjoy a sundowner around golden hour and perch your feet up on the deck while watching the surfers and fishermen?
For something easier on the budget, a bit different and only a short drive from Jeffreys Bay’s centre, stay on the water canals of Marina Martinique B&B where each room has its own private balcony with excellent views over the canal and the marina. Units are R740 p/night.
Want more options in Jeffreys Bay? Click here, there are rooms starting at R400 per unit per night!
Let’s go to Port Alfred
Known as the town with the most sunshine hours in a year, Port Alfred is another firm favourite for South Africans who want to experience a bit of relaxation during their holiday and indulge in some activities, fine food and local beer.
“The Kowie River, which flows into the Indian Ocean, divides the town in two and the banks are linked by a couple of bridges. Boat cruises and various hiking trails navigate this river region, rich in indigenous vegetation, fauna and bird life.” To read more information about Port Alfred, attractions, restaurants and things to do, click here. Also read my blog post about Things to do in Port Alfred.
Get in on the view of Port Alfred and stay at The Lookout Guest House which is perched on a hill with a deck pool, braai facilities and rooms offering vies of the river, sea and/or marina. Units start at R990 per night.
The Halyards Hotel, R860 per night, offers guest the following on-site: Charthouse Restaurant and Wheelhouse Bar, spa, gymnasium, bar, outdoor swimming pool and boat hire to name a few.
Want more options in Port Alfred? Click here, there are rooms starting at R700 per unit (2 people) per night!
Let’s go to Margate
The South Coast with its warm climate and 130 kilometers of beaches is a popular holiday destination and also a quick escape for visitors from the provinces bordering Kwazulu Natal.
“Margate is the heart of the Hibiscus Coast and is a popular seaside resort offering some of the best diving on the South African coast. Margate’s beauty is obvious from the moment you enter into its sub-tropical paradise of golden beaches, coastal forests and endless, sunny days.” To read more information about Margate, attractions, restaurants and things to do, click here.
Only a stone’s throw from the popular blue flag beachfront of Margate Beach you’ll find The Homestead Margate, a 19-room guesthouse with standard rooms, starting at R800 per night, executive suites and a honeymoon suite with a spa bath and a huge balcony with magnificent sea and breaker views.
Want more options in Margate? Click here, there are rooms starting at R380 per unit (2 people) per night and numerous sea view apartments are also available.
Or what about Ballito with its beaches safe for swimming, frolicking bottlenose dolphins, tidal pool, fishing spots, the promenade and the Litchi Orchard Market (food, clothing, jewellery) that’s on the 2nd Saturday of the month or the night market on the last Friday of the month?
There are units starting at R575 per night.
Conclusion: Vacation abroad vs Vacation in South Africa
By no means am I trying to put anyone off from buying that plane ticket and getting another passport stamp – visiting a foreign country is exhilarating to say the least and I’m constantly looking at flight ticket prices for Cuba, Bolivia, India and, and, and – but the point that I’m trying to make, 2297 words later, is that travelling in South Africa can also be cheap. We have the home-ground advantage.
If I want to get my hands on that Phuket deal that’s R8000 I first need to get to Johannesburg airport from Port Elizabeth, so there goes another +R1 500 at least.
But if I want to go to Plettenberg Bay or Hogsback, it will cost me about R700 for fuel (return), and I can get a room in a beautiful setting for two people starting at R500 (and if I really want to save more moola I can opt for a dormitory or even camp at a dormitory, some camping rates start at R50 per person). A few months ago I saw a deal in Sedgefield for R780 for 4 week nights for two adults and two children! That’s less than R200 a night!
Go! Travel abroad! But my dear South Africans, just remember: we have beaches, we have national parks, we have mountains and deserts and big cities and adventure and peace, quiet, ski resort, countries within our country and well-maintained roads. We have it all. And there is always something to do, see and experience right on our doorstep. You’d be surprised how much there is to do in a 200-300 km radius from your home.
Go! Travel abroad! But my dear South Africans, just remember: a vacation in South Africa (and the rest of Africa) is also worthy of your dreams.
Disclaimer: This blog post was sponsored by SA-Venues.com, but as always, all opinions are my own.