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Need some basic info about South Africa

Need some basic info about South Africa

Old Aug 26th 2006, 5:49 am
  #1  
Mulebear
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Default Need some basic info about South Africa

I and my partner will be in South Africa from September 6th to the 16th. We
will be traveling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back. Our stops along
the way include Hermannus, Oudtshoorn, Addo, Tsitsikamma, Wilderness, De
Hoop, Boulders Beach, and a few other places.

What I would like to know is:

1. Average prices or price range of restaurants.
2. Current prices of petrol.
3. Tipping policies concerning various services.
4. Banking hours.
5. Which American Credit Cards are accepted.
6. Typical driving time from town to town. (Example: Cape Town to Hermannus
or Cape Town to Oudtshoorn)
One good example will help me determine the other driving distances and
times.
7. Any other general information that you think might be helpful.

Thanks in advance for any information

MB
 
Old Aug 27th 2006, 4:01 am
  #2  
Dave Patterson
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Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

Mulebear wrote:

    > I and my partner will be in South Africa from September 6th to the 16th. We
    > will be traveling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back. Our stops along
    > the way include Hermannus, Oudtshoorn, Addo, Tsitsikamma, Wilderness, De
    > Hoop, Boulders Beach, and a few other places.
    > What I would like to know is:
    > 1. Average prices or price range of restaurants.

First - the dollar has just picked up some strength and you can expect
to get (based on the current rates) about 6.8 rand for a dollar.
Most places you will stay will include a very complete breakfast.
Restaurants will surprise you with the quality of food, presentation.
Lunches - 50 rand would be a pretty good benchmark.
Dinners - start at 50 rand, rarely reach 100.
This web site is sort of interesting - you can see restaurants, menus,
photos.. http://www.dining-out.co.za/?gclid=C...FRg7IgodXg4DIA
takes a few moments to figure out, but well worth it.
Here's the page for one of the fish chain restaurants - their branch in
Hermanus:
http://www.dining-out.co.za/member_d...erID-2116.html
also in Hermanus, the top of the line, at the Marine Hotel:
http://www.dining-out.co.za/member_d...berID-104.html

    > 2. Current prices of petrol.

A little less than a dollar per litre - which will equate to something more
than $3 a gallon. I always recommend avis.co.za for car rental, and look
for their International Visitors Special.
Credit cards are NOT accepted at the gas stations, and it is customary to
tip the attendant. 3 rand would be OK.

    > 3. Tipping policies concerning various services.

Tipping levels are generally lower than in the US. I tip at least 15% at
a restaurant - sometimes more - and it seems to me they are likely to be
surprised.

    > 4. Banking hours.

The same, generally, as in the US. If you take travelers' checks and exchange
them at one of the offices of your particular check companies, they do not
charge a commission. Those offices and all banks will take 1.5% when you
exchange cash for SAfrican rand.

    > 5. Which American Credit Cards are accepted.

Everything but Discover. Right now, AMEX adds 2% to all charges made
overseas - Visa and Mastercard add 3%. But the exchange rate used on your
charges is the best available.

    > 6. Typical driving time from town to town. (Example: Cape Town to Hermanus
    > or Cape Town to Oudtshoorn)

Cape Town airport to Hermanus is 90 minutes. Cape Town to Oudtshoorn,
5 to 6 hours. And there is an idiosyncrasy that is amazing to visitors. Slower
vehicles move to the shoulder (they don't slow down, just move over) so
faster cars and trucks can pass. You drive on the left, which is easy on the
highways but takes a lot more concentration in a confusing city such as
Cape Town.

    > 7. Any other general information that you think might be helpful.

You listed de Hoop preserve as one of your stops - and it is a beautiful
place. But not easy to get to, and I would discourage that unless you can
stay there a couple of days. Accommodations are very limited, so have
something arranged before driving there.

We are Americans with a home in De Kelders - about a half hour
farther east of Hermanus, next to the town of Gansbaai. The area is
the best for whale watching and for going out in the cages to see the
great white sharks. I would recommend this B&B as a place to stay:
http://www.dekelders.co.za/ and the owners are a great resource
for setting up the whale boat cruise or the shark cage boat.

Generally, B&B's and Guest Houses are terrific accommodations
and values. There are numerous web sites that can help you,
and this is the one I recommend: http://www.wheretostay.co.za/
Work your way to the areas of the country that match your
itienrary and you will find many choices. There is an official
grading system - more stars is better and thus more expensive.
But I think - if budget is an issue at all - that a 3-star place
will be a nice surprise. You mentioned Wilderness as a place
you might stop. Here's the page for Wilderness, as an example:
http://www.wheretostay.co.za/wc/gr/a...wilderness.php
Plettenberg Bay -
http://www.wheretostay.co.za/wc/gr/a...enberg-bay.php
Port Elizabeth -
http://www.wheretostay.co.za/ec/cs/a...-elizabeth.php
And you see that hotels are listed as well.

September may be a lot chillier than you would expect. I am also arriving
at the Cape Town airport early on September 6th - and woldn't be surprised to
be met by a chilly, rainy morning. It's a little bit of everything this time of
year:
http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/68816.html

But - I have to add that you have a picked a great time of the
year - early spring. And I am sure you will have a great time.
 
Old Aug 27th 2006, 3:04 pm
  #3  
Mulebear
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Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

Dave Patterson wrote:

    > You listed de Hoop preserve as one of your stops - and it is a beautiful
    > place. But not easy to get to, and I would discourage that unless you can
    > stay there a couple of days. Accommodations are very limited, so have
    > something arranged before driving there.

All of our accomodations have been prearranged.
We were told by our travel agent that De Hoop was a bit "rustic". I think we
suprised her when we said rustic was perfect for us.
My partner and I are photographers and look forward to visiting places that
are off the beaten path.

This will be my first visit there, but my partner spent a lot of time in
South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. Unfortunately the last time he was there
was nearly 20 years ago.

    > September may be a lot chillier than you would expect. I am also arriving
    > at the Cape Town airport early on September 6th - and woldn't be surprised
    > to
    > be met by a chilly, rainy morning. It's a little bit of everything this
    > time of
    > year:
    > http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/68816.html

We are taking light jackets with us, but I'm also bringing shorts too.

    > But - I have to add that you have a picked a great time of the
    > year - early spring. And I am sure you will have a great time.

The timing really worked out for us. The only thing I'm concerned about is
that it may be too early for me to try any of the fresh produce.
Other than that, I think our stay will be wonderful.

Thanks for all the links,

MB

http://weabear.home.mindspring.com/wa.html
 
Old Aug 27th 2006, 8:14 pm
  #4  
Marc Lurie
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

On Sat, 26 Aug 2006 17:49:37 GMT, "Mulebear"
<[email protected]> wrote:

    >I and my partner will be in South Africa from September 6th to the 16th. We
    >will be traveling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back. Our stops along
    >the way include Hermannus, Oudtshoorn, Addo, Tsitsikamma, Wilderness, De
    >Hoop, Boulders Beach, and a few other places.
Sounds like a full itinerary for 10 days, but you'll have a great
time.

    >What I would like to know is:
    >1. Average prices or price range of restaurants.
Restaurants range from fast-food outlets to 5-star international,
however in smaller towns there is usually one or two privately-owned
restaurants in the town and then a bunch of chain restaurants selling
mass-produced generic style pizzas or fish or steaks. Without being
disparraging towards them (they serve tasty, but soul-less food at
reasonable prices), I'd recommend that you stay away from the chains
such as Steers, Ocean Basket, Fishmonger, Mimo's, Debonaires, Dros,
M&A, and anywhere else where they have expresso or Don Pedro on the
menu, instead of Espresso and Dom Pedro :-) The one exception I would
suggest is "Nando's" (I'm not affiliated to them in ANY way :-)
Nando's do a product range of fast-food Portuguese style flame-grilled
chicken. The product is more expensive than most fast-food, but it is
definitely superior in taste and quality. http://www.nandos.co.za

If fast food is your bent, you can get a 1/4 pounder with cheese meal
for just over $2. A fast-food style 12" pizza will be between $3 and
$5. A Nando's 1/4 chicken meal with fries and a soft-drink is about
$3.50

Finding the privately run restaurant is always a serendipidous
experience. At a small family run restaurant a main course will cost
between $4 and $14, with shellfish being on the more expensive side,
and pasta dishes on the cheaper side. If you get a chance to try
Mozambique prawns (often called LM prawns), jump at it.

A fancier private restaurant will range from around $5.50 to $22 for
the main course.

A bottle of wine at a restaurant will cost anything from around $9
upwards. There is no wine in South Africa that is "undrinkable", so
while you may not get a wine that compares with a top international
wines, you will find an enormous range of good to excellent wines
available, even at chain restaurants.

Along that part of the coast, there is always a selection of fish and
shellfish available, and fresh produce is available year-round.

    >2. Current prices of petrol.
Petrol is currently just under $1 per litre. A word of warning, you
cannot buy petrol on a credit card in South Africa. For a visitor the
only option is cash. A typical car takes about 60 litres to fill, so
expect to spend around $60 each time you fill up. I recommend that you
fill up your car only at the larger, well-lit service stations.
They're plentiful on the main routes and they're sign-posted on
highways (Petroport, Shell Ultra City, Engen One-Stop, BP Osais etc.)
They are safe, havesafe and clean bathroom facilities, and small shops
and restaurants alongside for refreshments etc. The smaller, rural
filling stations often have unsavoury elements hanging about who ask
for lifts, hassle tourists etc.

There is no self-service petrol available, and every station will have
a petrol attendant who dispenses the fuel and takes the money. It is
customary to tip the attendant, usually between R3 and R5, and you
should get the windshield washed will you're filling up. It's not
common, nor expected, to tip the windshield washer.

    >3. Tipping policies concerning various services.
Tipping at restaurants is between 10% and 15% of the total. Many
tourists tip more than 15% which is a welcome surprise for the waiter,
however, please don't tip well if you receive only mediocre service.
I'm happy to tip higher than 15% if it makes for a nice round number,
and the waiter was attentive.

    >4. Banking hours.
Most banks 9am to 3:30pm, no midday closing on weekdays, 9am to 11am
on Saturdays. ATM's are available 24/7 and there are certain Bureaux
de Change that are open 8:30am to 6pm, 7 days a week in major centres
only.

    >5. Which American Credit Cards are accepted.
Credit Cards (Mastercard and Visa) are widely accepted at most stores
and restaurants. Amex is less commonly accepted, however all major
stores, restaurants, hotels etc. accept Amex.

    >6. Typical driving time from town to town. (Example: Cape Town to Hermannus
    >or Cape Town to Oudtshoorn)
    > One good example will help me determine the other driving distances and
    >times.
Sorry, I'm 1000 miles away from there, and it's been a while since I
drove that road :-)

    >7. Any other general information that you think might be helpful.
Just the usual safety advice:
1) Don't flash cash, and be careful at ATM's
2) Keep a good eye out at traffic lights for people loitering about
who may try to smash a window and grab a bag etc. If they know you are
aware of them they're unlikely to try anything.
3) Stay out of areas that feel dodgy. If you feel unsafe, you are!
4) etc. etc. etc.... all the usual travel safety advice... :-)

    >Thanks in advance for any information
I hope this info has been of help. I'm sure you'll have a great time
here.

Marc
 
Old Aug 28th 2006, 4:56 am
  #5  
Mulebear
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

"Marc Lurie" wrote:

    > I hope this info has been of help. I'm sure you'll have a great time
    > here.
    > Marc

It has. Thank you.

MB
 
Old Aug 29th 2006, 6:27 pm
  #6  
Marc Lurie
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

News just in is that there has been a road collapse between George and
Wilderness along the N2 due to a rockslide.

I'm trying to get clarity on the extent of the damage, but it looks
like the road will be impassable for several months.

I'll post more when I get more.

Marc
 
Old Aug 29th 2006, 6:45 pm
  #7  
Marc Lurie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

Latest news is available at:

http://www.news24.com/News24/South_A...990322,00.html

However, to summarise so far:

It seems that parts of the Kaaimans Pass between George and Wilderness
is in danger of slipping into the sea. At the moment the pass is open
to light vehicles in one direction at a time, who have to follow an
escort vehicle that strictly monitors the speed limit.

If the road sustains any further damage, alternate routes must be
used, which could add up to 350km (220 miles) to the journey.

Unseasonally high rainfall is being blamed for the slippage, on a
section of roadway that was scheduled for major structural
improvements ironically on 1st September 2006, about 5 days after the
slippage.

If there are further development, I'll let everyone know.

Marc
 
Old Aug 30th 2006, 4:52 pm
  #8  
Mulebear
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

Thanks Marc.
 
Old Sep 21st 2006, 9:06 pm
  #9  
Marc Lurie
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

Mulebear should be back home by now. C'mon mate, where's the trip
report :-)

Marc

On Sat, 26 Aug 2006 17:49:37 GMT, "Mulebear"
<[email protected]> wrote:

    >I and my partner will be in South Africa from September 6th to the 16th. We
    >will be traveling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back. Our stops along
    >the way include Hermannus, Oudtshoorn, Addo, Tsitsikamma, Wilderness, De
    >Hoop, Boulders Beach, and a few other places.
    >What I would like to know is:
    >1. Average prices or price range of restaurants.
    >2. Current prices of petrol.
    >3. Tipping policies concerning various services.
    >4. Banking hours.
    >5. Which American Credit Cards are accepted.
    >6. Typical driving time from town to town. (Example: Cape Town to Hermannus
    >or Cape Town to Oudtshoorn)
    > One good example will help me determine the other driving distances and
    >times.
    >7. Any other general information that you think might be helpful.
    >Thanks in advance for any information
    >MB
 
Old Sep 30th 2006, 7:25 pm
  #10  
Mulebear
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Need some basic info about South Africa

Sorry, I was so busy with work when we got back that I forgot to check back
into this news group.

First of all... I want to thank Mr. Lurie for all of his wonderful advice
and info. Knowledge really does make for a better experience.

South Africa was wonderful. We will do it again.

Both De Hoop and Addo were exceptional. My only regret is that we didn't
book extra time at both. Our travel agent that set up all of our hotel
bookings tried to talk us out of De Hoop. She felt that it was a "bit rustic
and more popular with the locals". It didn't stop us from going and it
proved to be an excellent start to our trip. Huge sand dunes, tidal pools,
whales, ostrich, eland, bontebok, zebra, protea, birds of all sorts, and
lots of other wildlife are major features of the reserve. I even got to see
what I believe is a yellow mongoose.

Our next stop was Wilderness, but only after passing through the section of
the N2 that had been damaged by flooding. The devastation to the road was
far worse than I had imagined. And now I understand that it has sustained
even more damage.

Wilderness was probably the low point of our trip. It had lots of ugly beach
houses and very little else going for it. The exception being the people who
were always friendly and helpful. I do give the town credit for my first
taste of Impala. Now if I could only get Impala meat exported to the U.
S....

Tsitsikama came next. It was a nice place, but unfortunately we arrived on a
day when the sky was gray and the rain drizzled most of the day. We did get
to watch whales and dolphin along the shore and the sounds of the ocean was
very relaxing. I spent most of my time there photographing the dassies that
lived on the rock between our cabin and the ocean. Once again, the people
were very friendly and helpful. When we got there we were told that the
"oceanette" we reserved was leaking and that we could use one of the cabins,
but, if we decided that we didn't like the cabin we were in, we could switch
to any of the others. It seemed to be very important to them that we were
happy with our stay.

The next day we headed out to Addo. It is truly an amazing park. Even though
we arrived during a time when the local electrical company was testing the
lines and had shut down all the power to the park, we were still impressed
by how the facility was run. The staff was working hard to keep everyone
happy and to constantly update us with any information they had. Even the
gift shop stayed open during the outtage, but the clerks had to ring up
their sales using notepads and battery operated calculators.

Our cottage was beautiful, had a well equipped kitchenette, a nice covered
patio, and looked out directly over the park with an additional view of a
nearby watering hole. The cottages were tastefully decorated and clean and
we loved the extra large shower with the huge showerhead.

The park itself was brilliantly executed. It was easy to access and
navigation through the park was a breeze, but you still got a sense that you
were out in the middle of nowhere and that every turn would provide a new
adventure. The elephants were grand and magnificent. The ostriches and the
warthogs were delightfully comical. My encounter with a black backed jackal
bordered on magic. Zebra and water buffalo roamed the parked without any
care about the noisy vehicles that passed through the park. The occasional
kudu or hartebeest would wander out of the elephant bush. Secretary birds,
weavers, cape francolin, falcons, spoonbills and many other birds would
appear out of nowhere. The park is also home to lions, aardvarks, vervet
monkeys, turtles, snakes, rhino, meerkats, penguins, cape gannet, and many
others including the flightless dung beetle. They even boast to have access
to whales and great white sharks making them a home for Africa's Big Seven.

We stayed in the park for two days, but I wish we had booked it for twice
that.

From Addo we traveled to Swartberg Pass where we stayed in a B&B, but, since
we had trouble finding the place, we arrived late and had to deal with lots
of rain. We decided to simply crash for the night and then head out to
Hermanus the next morning via the Lesser Karoo. I really enjoyed driving
through the Karoo. My partner spent lots of time in the Karoo when he was
younger and doing research on euphorbia. Seeing it again after being away
for so many years was a special treat for him.

Hermanus has some of the greatest whale watching in the world. As long as
the whales cooperate. While we were there we saw only two whales. Both at a
distance.

We did have a great meal in an Italian restaurant there. I had an excellent
pizza with pineapple, ham, fig and mint and the dark chocolate cake was one
of the best I have ever had. It was also here that I tried Amarula for the
first time. What a wonderful drink. Caramel in taste with the aroma of fruit
and hints of chocolate. I bought a bottle of it when I returned to the
States and have been making desserts with it.

Boulder's Beach was our next destination. The penguins were a delight and I
spent the day photographing them and the whales that suddenly appeared off
shore. Apparently the whales got lost on their way to Hermanus.

Our last two days were spent in Cape Town. My partner was never a fan of
Cape Town, and since he was coming down with a cold he decided to spend most
of his time relaxing in bed, only to venture out to get something to eat at
the nearby restaurants. I spent my time in the shops on the first day and
found several CDs of South African rock bands that I took back with me.

My second day I spent exploring Table Mountain, but unfortunately the
weather was misbehaving and visibility at the top was almost nil. It was
also very cold up there. I could tell this by all the Europeans on top of
the mountain that were running around in coats and shivering. I, on the
other hand, was wandering about in shorts and a T-shirt. I'm sure they
thought I was crazy, but cold has never bothered me and only after I
realized that the cloud was not going to pass anytime soon did I finally
board the cable car for the trip back to the bottom of the mountain.

Later that day we packed up our luggage and goodies and headed back to the
airport. The only really bad part of our trip happened when we landed at JFK
to transfer to a connecting flight. Our experience at JFK could fill a book,
so I won't try to explain what happened, but I will say that I will never
connect another flight there again. Never.

But, I will go back to South Africa.

MB

And here are some of the pictures.
http://weabear1.home.mindspring.com/sa.html


"Marc Lurie" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
    > Mulebear should be back home by now. C'mon mate, where's the trip
    > report :-)
    > Marc
    > On Sat, 26 Aug 2006 17:49:37 GMT, "Mulebear"
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
 

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