Where to travel with your Rands

With the current Rand/Pound, Rand/US Dollar and Rand/Euro exchange rates being so dismal, Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood, looks at places that are relatively affordable for South Africans given the current financial climate.

As of 24 August 2015, the Rand/Pound exchange rate was R20.73, the Rand/US Dollar exchange rate was R13.21, and the Rand/Euro exchange rate was R15.17. BY 13:00 on 26 August 2015, the Rand/Pound exchange rate was R20.51, the Rand/US Dollar exchange rate was R13.11, and the Rand/Euro exchange rate was R14.98. (Figures according to fx-rate)

This means that if travellers are planning an overseas trip to the United Kingdom, the US or one of the European countries that deal in the Euro, they could end up spending hundreds and possibly thousands of Rands on meals, beverages and accommodation, and sightseeing tickets.

The current cost of a ticket for one adult for the Eiffel Tower is €15.50, which works out to about R232.19 based on the R14.98 exchange rate.

The good new is that there are some countries whose currencies are doing worse than South Africa, so South African travellers could still go abroad on the cheap. Below are some countries where the Rand exchange rate is a benefit to South African rand holders..

However, Alex Smith, an economist at First National Bank (FNB) highlights: “Remember that just because the Rand hasn’t weakened against these countries’ currencies recently doesn’t mean that it is necessarily cheaper to buy goods there than here.”


Where does the Rand have value?

Below are nine countries where the Rand still has some value. While not all of these are popular holiday destinations, it may make a nice change to visit somewhere a little different next time you hop on a plane to go see the world.

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Source: fx-rate (exchange rates accurate as of 13:00 on 26 August 2015)


While these countries may not be everyone’s idea of a holiday destination, they do offer some interesting and beautiful sites to go and visit, and there are travel companies that offer packages to these countries, which may make the experience a little cheaper than if you had to plan and organise it all yourself.


Going on an adventure

The Travel Corporation (TTC) provided a few examples of packages that are available in these less mainstream holiday destinations. TTC is an international travel group that includes brands Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Contiki Holidays.

These prices are based on 2015 (new brochures with 2016 prices will be available from October). The cost of flights is not included.

While these prices are for 2015 trips, they provide a good indication of what it costs to travel to a foreign country, especially in the current economic climate.

  • India

Insight Vacations offers a seven day Essence of India package. The cost for this tour ranges between R18 550 and R25 000.

According to Theresa Szejwallo, the managing director for TTC in South Africa, the trip includes travel on a luxury coach, airport transfers, a daily buffet breakfast, four three-course dinners and one celebration dinner, as well as unique Indian experiences, such as a visit to the Taj Mahal and a rickshaw ride through Delhi.

Accommodation is also included in this package.

  • Russia

Trafalgar offer an eight day ‘Wonders of St Petersburg and Moscow’ at leisure guided holiday, which offers longer stays, later starts and more free time than other packages that the company offers. It is priced from R23 650 per person twin share according to Trafalgar.

Included in the cost of this package is: all transport, all transfers, seven nights’ accommodation, a daily hot buffet breakfast, one ‘Be my guest lunch’, in St Petersburg and two dinners. Other featured inclusions of this trip are: a city tour of St Petersburg and Moscow, a visit to the Hermitage Museum, and viewing the Tsar’s Winter Palace, Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral.

  • Japan

The Samurai Discovery tour of Japan is priced from R37 825 per person twin share through Trafalgar. The cost includes accommodation, breakfast daily, three dinners, three lunches, transport on a luxury coach and travel on the Bullet Train.

You will also get to tour Tokyo and Kyoto, see volcanic activity in Owakudani Valley, view Mt. Fuji, and visit the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Meiji Shrine, Sega Joyopolis and the Pokemon Centre in Tokyo.

  • The Czech Republic and Hungary

The Bohemian escorted journey from Insight Vacations offers travellers a nine day tour taking in the sights of the Czech Republic, Austrian, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. The package starts from R24 450 per person twin share, and includes breakfast daily, accommodation at hotels such as Hilton Vienna and the Sofitel Budapest, one highlight dinner and one celebration dinner, as well as visits to Auschwitz in Poland and the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.

  • Iceland

Theresa Szejwallo, marketing manager at The Travel Corporation (TTC), says Iceland is by no means an inexpensive destination, despite the exchange rate, but Insight Vacations offers a nine day Country Roads Explorer tour priced from R42 300 per person twin share. Travellers will get to take in the sights of Reykjavik, Vik, Hofn, Egilsstadir, Akureyri and Borganes.

The cost includes airport transfers, breakfast daily, a welcome dinner, five three-course dinners, and accommodation, as well as sightseeing.

  • Mexico

Trafalgar offers a ten day Mexico’s Copper Canyon trip from R20 400 per person sharing. The trip begins and ends in Arizona in the United States. The cost includes: a cruise on the Sea of Cortez, accommodation, breakfast daily, eight lunches and six dinners, and airport transfers, as well as a drive through the Chihuahua Desert.

  • Sri Lanka

As part of an add-on to their Indian tours, Insight Vacations offers a Classical Sri Lanka six day tour. Priced from R17 400 per person twin share, the cost excludes internal flights from India. Included in the cost is: all transfers, five nights’ accommodation, breakfast daily, four dinners, a cultural show, city tours of Colombo and Kandy, and visits to the Sigiriya Fort, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Matale.

  • Thailand

Thailand is one of the more popular Asian countries to visit at the moment. Trafalgar offers a ten day Secrets of Thailand package priced from R29 925. The cost includes accommodation with a buffet breakfast daily, three dinners and five lunches.

In addition, the sightseeing includes: a city tour of Bangkok and a village tour of Ban Mae Kampong, a cruise along the Mekong River, see the Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, a view of the Golden Triangle where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos converge and a visit of Wat Pho Temple, the Grand Palace, Damnoen Saduak floating market in Bangkok, and the Hall of Opium.

Unlike the brands within TTC, Club Med includes the cost of flights in their deals and packages, if you select the option. The all-inclusive packages from Club Med include: return tickets with airport taxes, airport transfers, accommodation, food and drinks, and resort activities.


Is it really cheaper?

Despite the exchange rate in these countries being more beneficial to the South African traveller, the cost of holiday tours to these destinations do not differ much when compared to packages by the same companies to more main stream locations such as England, where the Rand to Pound exchange rate is so high.

For example, a nine day Insight Vacations Best of Britain tour prices from R28 250 per person and offers travellers the chance to visit England, Scotland and Wales. Included in the cost is accommodation, full breakfast daily, a welcome reception and dinner, a three-course dinner and a celebration dinner.

It is therefore cheaper to visit Britain on this tour than it is to visit Russia, Japan, Iceland and Thailand on the tours mentioned above. This is why it’s so important to compare prices.


Finding a cheaper alternative

One way to cut costs is to book the holiday yourself, arranging such things as flights, transfers, transport, accommodation and meals, and being selective on which places you’d like to visit on sightseeing tours.

Return flights from Johannesburg international airport to Mumbai, India on Ethiopian Airlines cost R5 385.72* on Flight Centre. The Chateau Windsor Hotel in Mumbai has rooms available for R3 825* per night (it does not specify if this is per person or for the room.) This means that just for a flight and accommodation for six nights for one person, it will cost R28 335.72. The tour from Insight Vacations in comparison ranges between R18 550 and R25 000 (excluding flights).

However, Lesego Matabane, marketing manager for Club Med Southern Africa, notes that when planning to travel overseas, you should always plan your holiday early. “Planning a ‘DIY’ holiday also brings with it issues like fluctuating currency rates, something an all-inclusive package helps avoid because one transaction takes care of all holiday costs, regardless of currency variations.”

Matabane adds: “Planning and booking a holiday six months prior to date of travel gives ample time to work the kinks, to get you and your family ready. Plus, there is a great possibility of getting substantial savings. A lot of people think that last minute specials are the most affordable, but for overseas travel, early planning equals substantial savings.”

Szejwallo stresses that all of the TTC brands offer the Rand Price Guarantee, so when a deposit is paid for the guided holiday, the price is held regardless of what the Rand does.

This may be a relief to those who are budget conscious when booking an overseas trip. However, when the Rand strength improves, you will possibly end up paying more as you price was set when the Rand was weaker.

Szejwallo highlights that TTC are currently running a Preview offer, where travellers can book their 2016 Europe and Britain guided holidays with Insight Vacations, Trafalgar and Contiki at 2015 prices and still get ten percent off.

“This is available on Easy Payment Terms – book and pay a R5000 deposit by 5 October for Insight Vacations and Trafalgar products and pay the balance only by 29 January 2016. For Contiki the date to book and pay the R1000 deposit to secure the booking is 25 September with the balance due in mid-January 2016,” reveals Szejwallo.


Vaccination requirements

Sister Chantal Wood, Moneybags travel medicine expert and a registered nurse, notes: “There are no compulsory vaccines for these countries. However, there are recommended vaccines for vaccine preventable diseases. Some countries have high risk malaria areas, so malaria prophylaxis is recommended.”

While none of these countries require a Yellow Fever vaccine, Wood points out that if you are transiting through a country with a risk of Yellow Fever or travelling on an airline from a country with a Yellow Fever risk, you will be required to be vaccinated against it.

However, for countries such as India, Mexico, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand it is advised to take vaccines to prevent food and water borne diseases, reveals Wood.

Furthermore, “Rabies vaccines are advised depending on the areas visited, the reason for travel and the length of stay. For any travel, it is also a good idea that a person’s anti-tetanus vaccine is up to date,” says Wood.

Before travelling overseas it is important to visit your local travel clinic to discuss your visit. Keep in mind that some vaccines need to be administered several weeks before departure, and health issues may prevent you from taking certain vaccines or medications.


Other countries to consider

In addition to the countries looked at in this article, there are several other countries where the Rand has value. However, it is important to remember that just because the Rand may be worth more in these countries, it does not mean that it won’t be expensive.

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Source: fx-rate (exchange rates accurate as of 13:00 on 26 August 2015)


*Prices accurate at time of publication.