Your Top Travel Questions

An article by Caryn Parker, Travel Expert at Travelcheck, South Africa

Where are the safest countries to travel to?

Definitely Denmark, namely Copenhagen. This place stands out as one of the safest countries to travel to, however I’m sure there are loads more super safe options to travel to. According to Google, the country that takes the title of safest place to visit is, wait for it… Iceland. However, from a personal point of view, if I had to combine certain qualities like vibrancy, culture and of course safety, Denmark grabs the gold. I remember strolling late one evening, all by myself, in Copenhagen to a beautiful corner café at around 10:00pm to grab a coffee and pastry that I’d been craving all day…imagine being able to do that that in South Africa. People in Denmark are generally very friendly and helpful, and as a South African woman it felt amazing to be able to enjoy my surroundings rather than worry about them. Then there’s good ol’ Canada, another favourite and safe destination.

What are the cheapest countries to travel to regarding currency, accommodation, food etc.

South East Asia has been good to us South Africans’ pockets. These countries tend to be very cost effective in terms of the Rand to local currency conversion – we can really get a bang for our buck in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, to name a few . Then there’s also Turkey, India and Philippines that offer great value for money. Philippines is fast becoming one of the my favorite, most scenic and beautiful destinations to travel to. Everything there is so cost effective, however traveling there is very pricey so look out for flight specials and travel deals.

Most cost effective and scenic places to go backpacking?

Think lush greenery, towering waterfalls, ancient volcanoes and warm tropical oceans, it doesn’t get better than…you guessed it…South East Asia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.Remember if you are backpacking you need to be able to rough it a bit and be prepared to get down and dirty and these spots offer beautiful scenery on a backpackers budget.

Are there any hidden costs associated with international travel that people should be aware of?

es yes yes, there are so many hidden costs that we don’t even think of when planning our trip:Most European countries charge local tax and although it’s not much, it’s still an additional cost to be aware of.Low cost carrier airlines and local airlines often charge you for checked baggage, some as much as R1200.00 per bag. Make sure you ask your travel agent to add the baggage on for you at the time of booking, much cheaper that way.Transfers, you may think the cost of a taxi is not much, but trust me it adds up when traveling around. Here bargaining will be your best friend. International roaming on your phone can rack up the bill as well as international credit card costs, so take this into account when budgeting is important.And lastly, this may not be a hidden cost – but Visas – they cost loads and we need to consider this when planning our holiday.

Best location for a cultural experience?

South America. Think salsa dancing, culture, the Spanish language and local cuisine – it doesn’t get any better than South America. However it takes forever to travel to and with lengthy travel time, often comes hefty flight fares. Nevertheless it is a must, to add South America to your travel bucket list.

Best location for a romantic getaway?

I find that Most South Africans love a gorgeous beach holiday for a romantic getaway, and if that’s the case, by all means, go for it. Bali is a favorite cost effective destination! However a firm favorite of mine would be a ski trip! Picture dog sledding in the Swiss or French Alps, cosying up to your significant other in an igloo with hot chocolate or Rum, ice skating, sitting by the fire place in your private log cabin and watching the snow, and don’t forget the skiing.. the amazing skiing! So magical, sounds pricey right? Most of these trips you can pay off, speak to the right travel agent **Hint Hint** to hook you up with the best all-inclusive deals you’ll get the best ski deals toward the end of March.

Best location for a family getaway?

Definitely Mauritius, a six hour flight gets you there. Minimal travel time, minimal time difference. Lots of activities for the kiddies to do, lots of westernized food for the young travelers to enjoy. Mom and dad can lounge around and sip on cocktails while the little ones enjoy the awesome kids clubs. Win win!

Do you have any tips on what people could save money on when travelling abroad?

Add brekkie to your hotel stay. Often a late breakfast is all an adventurous traveler needs to last until dinner. Food can really eat away at the budget.Use local transport as much as possible, train, tube, bus. Don’t be scared, take a map and go!Also, pick centrally located hotels, less travel costs to get down town and to those tourist attractions.Bargain with local tour operators when booking transfers and tours. Bargain is the name of the game.

Best time of year to book overseas travel?

Sooner rather than later, most companies offer early booking discounts. So get in early.Then there are those crossover periods between seasons such as March and September that also tend to be a very cost effective time to travel. If possible avoid school holidays and peak holiday periods, as airlines and hotels hike up the prices ridiculously.

Is it cheaper to book packages via an agency, or do everything yourself separately?

The age old question..Just as one would need to ask around and do your homework to find a good hairstylist, so too you must do to find a good Travel Agent.You should be able to give a travel agent a budget and if it is realistic and reasonable then the agent should be able to come up with a fantastic holiday suited to you. Tell the agent if a package is too pricey, packages can usually be tweaked here and there to lower the price. Often people don’t ask and just look elsewhere.If you don’t mind the homework and research of travel planning yourself, then yes go for it, by all means book your holiday online, it’s convenient and simple, but can be very time consuming, honestly you could probably find things cheaper online. However If it were my choice… I would pick quality over cost here.If you just don’t have the time and want the added value that agencies offer then booking through a Travel Agent is the way to go. You have peace of mind before, during and after your travel – that company is going to help you out should a problem arise. The thing with booking online is…often it’s very easy, but you can lose money when a problem arises. Like having to change your flight date due to an emergency or moving hotels because of poor quality. I think we need to think of the quality of the holiday we want and how nice it is to speak to a friendly voice rather than a computer if a problem pops up. And yes I’m being biased, but I’d probably say go with a good agent when it comes to spending your hard earned money.

Popular destinations that don’t require a VISA?

We can get visas on arrival for most African countries. Thailand, Indonesia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Ireland and pretty much all of South America don’t need visas from us SAFAS! Viva Brazil.