Lonely Planet recently voted South Africa one of the major bargain holiday destinations in the world – alongside Bali, Samoa, Uruguay and Taiwan.
It is not the only organisation to publicly recognise the value of a visit to the south of the African continent. Last year the Garden Route was awarded Destination of the Year by the Global Golf Tourism organisation, whilst for over three years running Cape Town ranked as one of the world’s top-ten best cities to visit, and as the world’s top place to visit in 2014 (The New York Times).
With all this attention, and the beginning of light at the end of the tunnel after the worldwide economic decline that put more than a bit of a damper on international travel for most people, South Africa once again shines as a bargain holiday of note.
Here are 6 reasons South Africa is a bargain holiday destination…
1. THE EXCHANGE RATE
The rand is at an all time low (the lowest level to date against major world currencies). And whilst this is not all that comfortable for those who live in South Africa (despite remaining one of the most affordable countries in the world), the exchange rate is in favour of foreign visitors – particularly Americans and Europeans for whom South Africa is a bargain basement when it comes to value for money.
To coin a phrase: you get luxury for less. Little surprise then that CNNMoney picked South Africa as one of five travel destinations that just got cheaper. As they so aptly say: ‘The famous ocean views in Cape Town looks even better now: it’s 13% cheaper for folks with dollars to vacation in South Africa (compared to a year ago)…‘
2. CHEAP SAFARIS
If you think South Africa, you think Big Five Safari. Since the beginning of 2013 the rand has dipped 17% against the US dollar, which translates into safaris that are a LOT cheaper.
South Africa is regarded as one of the best places in the world for viewing African wildlife and what makes it an even bigger bargain is that Big Five (buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino) safaris can be had in almost every province of the country. But the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces are the country’s Big Five drawcard.
3. LOW-COST DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
With local players – Mango, Kulula, FlySafair and Skywise – jostling for the local airline scene when it comes to bargain bums on seats, domestic flights are a lot easier, and cheaper, than ever.
An average two-hour flight comes without complimentary snacks and beverages (pretty standard when it comes to low-cost domestic flights), but South Africa is still rather civilised, all things considered, when compared with a few years ago when Kulula hit the scene running a policy, similar to that of Ryan Air, of first-come-first-served for seat allocation (Ryan air apparently now charges for the privilege, but for the moment South African domestic flights include being able to choose your seat, if you consider computer generated allocation a ‘choice’).
4. INEXPENSIVE FOOD
The most expensive thing about South Africa is flying here. Once you are in the country the exchange rate means that things like food are relatively inexpensive. For instance, a Big Mac at McDonalds is cheaper than most of the rest of the world at around 1.86 USD. A budget lunch will cost you between 3.72 and 7.45 USD and a beer between 1.12 and 1.79 USD.
On average, you’re paying half of what the same thing might cost you in the US. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost you in the vicinity of 29 USD, as opposed to 50 USD back home. Your flat white is so cheap that coffee addicts may well consider moving here – 1.42 USD as opposed to 3.74 USD for the same thing at home.
5. THE WEATHER
There are very few months you need avoid when travelling to South Africa. Unlike other worldwide destinations where it is essential that you make the couple of winner months (summer or winter, depending on whether you are splashing in the waves or skiing down the ramps), South Africa is dry and sunny virtually everywhere.
Even when the thermostat drops during June and July, maximums are still well above 10 degrees Celsius.
6. MORE DIVERSITY FOR YOUR BUCK
Not only is South Africa culturally diverse (where else do they recognise 11 official languages?) but it is also described as ‘a world in one country’ for its diverse landscapes: from major cosmopolitan cities, like Johannesburg and Cape Town, to incredible scenery;
Big Five game viewing; land dominated by mountains (the Drakensberg; the Western Cape), to the rolling green hills and sugarcane farms of Zululand; the beaches of the east coast; the lushness of the Garden Route; the barren beauty of the Kgalagadi, Kalahari and the Richtersveld; the vast soulfulness of the Karoo; the vines of the wine routes and the rugged beauty of the Cape peninsula mean that you could spend a month here and not experience even half of what the country has to offer.
Some Useful Planning Links
• South Africa Hotels
• Family Friendly Accommodation in South Africa
• South Africa Backpacking and Budget Travel
• South Africa Game Reserves
• South Africa Tourist Attractions
• Things to do in South Africa
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