It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime (so far), due to a completely different culture and opportunity to see wild animals in their natural environment, such as lions, rhinos, and giraffes. The thrill was fueled by entries on blogs and forums claiming that South Africa is an extremely dangerous country.
Since recently traveling to South Africa has been for the Poles more accessible thanks to direct charter flights from Warsaw to Durban, offered from fall to late winter by Rainbow Tours. Sometimes I rubbed my eyes in amazement, seeing the promotional ticket prices – even less than 1700 PLN (return ticket; approximately 400 euros). I did not manage to track such a bargain. I paid 1970 PLN, which was not that bad either.
The flight takes 11 hours and is operated by LOT and one of its Dreamliners. I am not a big fanatic of aviation, so besides the name and the media buzz, I know a little about the aircraft. This miracle of technology, however, disappointed me a bit – for long transcontinental flights that take many hours it is inconvenient, especially a seat width and the distance between the rows. With every slight shake you poke your neighbor… But the machine is far quieter than the ones with which I have been traveling earlier.
We’re going in two, it is much easier and better this way. Aside from the plane tickets, we also book a transfer from the airport to the city, because unfortunately there is no public service from the airport. A private shuttle bus must be pre-booked. I prefer not to do that, being cautious: what if the plane will be delayed?
- Time zone: in the summer the same time as in Poland, in the winter – an hour forward.
- Electricity: 220V / 50Hz. Electrical outlets for 3-pin plugs. In practice, there should be adapters in every hotel.
- Currency: South African Rand (ZAR).
- Visa: Citizens of some countries need a visa to enter.
- Emergency: ambulance 10177, police 10111, fire brigade 10111, from mobile phones 112.
- Internet: theoretically the best coverage is provided by Vodacom and MTN. On one of the forums I read that to register a sim card need a passport and a hotel check-in proof are required. Nothing of the kind! I chose Vodacom (it seems to be Vodafone “daughter”). Selected data packets prices in prepaid option: 250 MB – R59; 500MB – R99; 1GB – R149; sim card costs R5. I had an impression that it is a terribly slow service, slower even than that offered by Vodafone in Egypt … But it was just an impression?
Long distance traveling may cause some inconvenience. Trains between major cities are rare, and the journey itself lasts exceptionally long because of the distance – for example: a train from Durban to Cape Town (approx. 1300 kms) takes about 26 hours!
Several carriers service long-distance routes. The most popular are:
- Translux: www.translux.co.za
- Greyhound: www.greyhound.co.za
- Intercape Mainliner: www.intercape.co.za
Opinions about their services are not always good. In addition, a ticket for a flight offered by low-cost airlines costs more or less the same and the trip is much shorter!
I used twice Mango airlines: www.flymango.com. I had no problems. Aircraft is new and neat, prices on board – normal (read: low, e.g., a coffee costs R10 = 3 PLN). I paid R2,079 per person for a return ticket from Durban to Cape Town, which is less than 700 PLN.
South Africa has a reputation of an extremely dangerous country. It is difficult for me to judge to what extent the opinions expressed on the webpages, forums and blogs reflect the truth, but these voices are not isolated. I believe there must be some truth in them, since in Durban and Cape Town, just outside the city center the houses look like fortresses. They are usually surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire, or – and this is not rare – with electric fences.
Planning this trip, I wanted to be careful, so – contrary to the previous ones – I have eliminated small towns and I limited traveling after dark, while still including the main highlights of the trip: a visit to a Zulu village, a safari tour to one of the natural reserves, or a trip to a town famous for its colony of penguins.