Tag Archives: avoid tourist traps

Tips to make planning your trip easier

Yellow line trafficThere have been a few things mentioned previously about planning your holiday – using Google Maps, asking locals for suggestions and advice and planning your route. Here are some basics to consider before setting off into the “great trek” known as the end-of-year-holiday.

  • Get your accommodation sorted ahead of time! I know that it adds spice to the adventure to rock up and ask whether there is room at the inn but when the computer says, NO! It’s not much fun trying to sleep in the car in the hope that the next day will yield somewhere to lay one’s head. This is where Africa Places can help – Elaine and Jill are experts at sourcing the type of accommodation you are probably going to want to use. Comfortable, with amenities, in great locations, with lots for the kids to do and activities for the mums and dads too.
  • Make sure the vehicle is ready to roll! Check the tyres, get it serviced and checked over. Tell your garage that you’re going to be going on a trip let them advise you accordingly on the state of your vehicle. If they suggest it needs shocks – do it! Carry an emergency tool kit with the type of essential tools you might need if you get stuck between Touws River and Montagu – or on some other road that’s not a main route with lots of passing traffic. Screwdrivers, some spanners some wire, duct tape, some rubber tubing (you never know how useful THAT can be to temporarily seal a broken pipe), jubilee clips. Ask your mechanic what he takes with him, that’ll give you an idea. Don’t forget your wheel spanner and a jack that works.
  • Maps! Yes, even in the days of GPS and Google Maps available on mobile phones, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned map that you can fold, write on and show to locals when you’re lost. The chances are, the local you ask won’t be au fait with a GPS or Google Maps and will get confused.
  • Local knowledge! Do some online research of the area that you’re going to be visiting. Even if you’ve been there before, there are bound to be new things in place and even some old places no longer there (like a coffee shop that you loved). Search some Facebook pages with the name of the town or resort in, you’ll get a lot of information from very involved locals who contribute to these pages. Local tourist information bureaux will also provide information but be aware that many tourist bureaux will only “actively promote” their members – there are many really good establishments who are not members who also need to be supported. Google blogposts for the area you’re going to – bloggers can give you some really great insight into what’s happening in the area. Narrow your search from “what’s on in Gauteng?” to “what’s on in Northern Suburbs?” to “what can I do in Fourways?” or something similar.

Here’s another tip … keep enough fuel in your tank to reach the next town plus a “contingency” amount of about 25% more (just in case). Some people advocate that you should never let the tank get below 25% full. But don’t carry an extra can of fuel in your car – that’s just dangerous!

In any event, the fuel price comes down tomorrow, 5th November … but I wonder if it will come down on 3rd December or not. Just keep budgeting!
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Always ask a local …

You hear this advice when people are about to travel overseas, “avoid the tourist traps! Go where the locals go. You’ll save money and get better value!”

RSRIMAG2783So why do so many people ignore this advice when they go on holiday here in South Africa? Is it laziness on the part of the traveller – they just want to do the easiest thing possible? Or is it that they have enough money not to care what they spend?

Definition: “Holiday – a period of suspension of work, study or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation or travel, release from duty, business or activity.”

Surely this suggests that holidays are times spent doing different things, exploring a little, not following the same routine as one normally would?

One would think, therefore, that it would be the perfect time to stop at that small town (or big one for that matter) and pop in to some local shop and ask the proprietor, “where do you go to eat when you have a night out?” Or, “what are the 5 best things to do in this town?” Or, “where is the friendliest place to go to relax?”

When you arrange your accommodation, Africa Places will do their best to find the best type of self-catering or resort unit to suit your needs and budget. They will even make some suggestions of what facilities there are in the area. But the finer details of what you really want and need is impossible for anyone to plan, other than yourself.

One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it has made the process of planning so easy to do. From following your route on Google Maps to exploring the various options via the myriad of websites that will tell you about the place you are going.  Just about every fact about your trip and destination can be found.

But what the internet will not be able to tell you are what the locals say. That personal interaction from the saleslady behind the counter at the homebakes shop who will tell you the best place to get the chops for your braai. And the chap at the petrol station who can suggest the best time to get to the dam that will more likely get you a bite on your rod (he might also tell you the best place to fish from, too). Or the local mother, pushing the toddler in the stroller, who can also tell you about the local “holiday club” that is designed to keep kiddies occupied during a morning so parents can do things that would otherwise bore the kids to tears.

And if you ask a local where they go to eat and they say, “we always just go to the SPUR,” find another local to ask! Nothing wrong with a SPUR, but if that’s where you go to eat on holiday, you might as well stay at home.