For my 35th birthday, I decided to get out of the house every weekend in March. If you haven’t met me, I spend most of my free time at home in front of the television. Lately, I’ve been getting a little bored of that and itching to do something different. I don’t think I love (budget) travel, but I’m drawn to adventure. For the second to third weekend of March, I visited Pretoria, South Africa.
Since this blog is masquerading as a personal finance blog, let’s start with what this trip cost me.
|South Africa (Mar 2019)|
|Transportation to/fro Airport||$114.39|
Notes on Expenses
Airfare – Roundtrip coach airfare on Ethiopian Airlines from Washington Dulles to Johannesburg, South Africa. I think it was a pretty good deal! No, I don’t have travel points. It’s the first time I’ve left the country in five years. And first time I’ve flown anywhere other than Tampa in five years.
Transportation to/from Airport – I live in North Carolina but it was half the price to fly out of Washington DC. So I did that. I have an aunt that lives there so I parked my car at her house for the week. It cost $80/rdtrp to get the airport shuttle from her house. I was originally going to take Metro on the return trip but was so tired I splurged. The rest was gas to drive myself to and from DC.
Hotel/ meals/ excursions, etc.. – I was visiting a relative who moved down there a year ago. So housing was free as were meals. And airport pick up. In fact I spent virtually no money the whole week I was there.
Savings – So it seems this is a thing airlines are doing now. About a week before my trip, Ethiopian sent me very enticing email to bid on business class tickets. Given my history of pain with sitting, I was tempted. Finally the night before departure, I submitted my bid of $1400 for the 1st leg of the trip (13 hr duration). You could bid from about $1300 to $2200. My bid was not accepted. I was both relieved and baffled.
Curiosity got the best of me and I asked when I checked in what the price to upgrade to business class was. The agent told me $1700 for that leg. I was tempted, but at that point couldn’t bring myself to do it. On the way home I got the same email but this time I knew how much was required and still couldn’t do it. Thus, though tempted I sort of saved $3,400 on this trip. I’m going to count it as a sneaky win. I did activate a credit card specifically for the bidding! Shame, I know.
Early Retirement – South Africa Edition?
In South Africa, I mostly lounged, ate, and slept. My host had a great covered patio with a pool and it was the perfect lounge spot. I ate all my meals outside. I read outside. I napped outside. The weather was quite ideal for my chosen activities. I didn’t go because my host said it was dangerous and didn’t want me traveling alone, but Botswana is a 6 hour bus ride away. And Cape Town is only $110/rdtrp from Johannesburg. Note to self for next time.
South Africa Trip Report
Since I know no one else in my small circle of influence that has been to South Africa, I decided to do a little book report on my trip. 🙂
Given its apartheid history, I thought there would be more white people. I was confused at first. There were so many black people! It is Africa after all; I don’t know why that surprised me. America has so warped my brain about what a black person is or isn’t, or where a black person should or shouldn’t be, my brain had trouble adjusting. It really did beg a question many people are afraid to ask themselves Am I scared of black people? Example: everyone was silently passing money up to the driver on one of the buses, a black man reached his hand out to take my money (to pass up to the front, but I didn’t know that) and I jerked my money away (as though he was going to steal it)!
Talk about cause for pause.
The currency in S. Africa is the rand. The exchange rate is 1:14.43. However, because I used smaller bills (think twenties), I got an exchange rate of 1:9. USE BIG BILLS, LIKE $100 notes. I didn’t even use that much money. I spent maybe 6 USD so the exchange rate was a bummer.
My host had a domestic African woman who cleaned and cooked. It was very odd for me coming from America. When we ate, the woman ate in a little separate area off the kitchen. And from what I could tell she slept on the floor in one of the spare bedrooms. Yes, spare bedroom with a bed. It was very strange and I didn’t share my concerns with my family or my host. But otherwise, we all travelled and hung out together.
I could get Google Voice to call American numbers through wifi. FaceTime audio/video obviously worked through wifi. My Simple Mobile phone service did not work. From what I could tell, most people utilize WhatsApp and Messenger to communicate with their friends and family around Africa and back in the States. It was pretty cool to see technology and social media really bring people together and help them stay connected! Not like here where social media has been known to cause depression. Oh, le America.
They even have Uber in Pretoria, and I imagine Johannesburg as well. We used the Uber, and you could pay cash.
As I’ve echoed in previous posts, sometimes I wonder if I even like traveling. I certainly don’t enjoy the journey, but I suppose it is an entirely worthwhile experience to find yourself in a different part of the world. I just don’t know yet what the ultimate objective is other than scratching something off a to-do list. Maybe it’s the sum of the experiences? The jury’s still out. However, I will say changing time zones always seems so cool to me; it’s like modern day time travel.
Traveling from Washington Dulles to Johannesburg, South Africa
Dulles to Addis Ababa: 13h 15 min (even longer on return trip)
Addis Ababa to Johannesburg: 5h 13 min
Door to door:
I was picked up in Rockville, MD at: 6:37a EST Saturday. I arrived at my host’s door in Pretoria, South Africa at: 3:04pm/ 9:04a EST Sunday. TOTAL time in transit: approx 26.5 hrs. Some Ibuprofen helped.
CDC recommended for “most travelers” to S. Africa: Hep A + Typhoid.
I had Hep A from college and single girl wasn’t about to drop any more hundos on a vaccine. I took my chances on the typhoid and lived to tell about it. Do with that what you want.
March is early fall in Pretoria. Mornings were cool and the afternoon sun is hot. Then it cools off again in the evening. Bring layers like a thin long sleeved shirt if you visit this time of year (March).
Thanks to God
So here’s the thing about life. One minute you’re complaining that the Addis Ababa airport is a joke with hide-and-seek drinking water, misplaced security, and toilets you have to use buckets to flush. And gosh where is a refuse bin to throw away this paper towel. And oh why this long queue to board this delayed flight. And now we’re on the plane bemoaning yet another delay because ‘the airport is temporarily closed.’ And oh the drunken man three rows back won’t stop screaming. (Note, they serve free alcohol in economy.)
Then when we finally land, the Muslim man directly to my right says we all need to say thanks to God. For while we were all lamenting the comedy of delights that was this flight, the passengers and crew on the plane that took off just a few minutes before us were losing their lives. All 157 of them. The Ethiopian Airline stewardess was openly weeping as we disembarked.