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November 12, 2017

How to make your travel rand go further

By Rebekah Funk

We live in a time when an overnight change of finance minsters can reduce a dream overseas holiday to a no-frills alternative. While there’s little you can do to control the rand’s slide against the dollar (yes, it’s sliding…again – R14.40/US$1 at last count), foreign exchange experts say there are a few ways to ensure you get the best bang for your buck when abroad.

Avoid using credit cards

The first, according to Andrew McDonic, Chief Executive Officer of Financial Services at Tourism Investment Corporation Limited, is not to use your credit card unless you really have to. “The exchange rate [fluctuation] and commission charged on credit cards can amount to between 6-10% of the value charged,” he explains.

Also, foreign exchange rates can make significant gains or losses in a single day and travellers have no control over what rates they’re buying at when using a credit card. “Most travellers don’t know this,” explains McDonic, “and even when they receive their credit card statement it is virtually impossible to know what the exchange rate was on the transaction day in question.”

Go for prepaid and cash mix

Using a mix of cash and a prepaid currency card is a far better option, McDonic suggests. “Both cash and prepaid cards are sold by the foreign exchange bureaus and banks at a total margin of around 2.5% — way less than the rates on credit cards. And the pricing and commission charges are far more transparent at the time of the transaction.

Prepaid currency cards can be used much like a debit card to draw money at ATMs (with a minimal transaction fee), or used like a credit card to pay for restaurant meals and goods in shops. Since currency rates are locked in on the day of purchase and there are no point-of-sale transaction fees, you can avoid hefty exchange fees.

Travelex regional manager Jacqueline Nosworthy agrees that prepaid currency cards are the best bet for extending your travel budget as the value of the rand drops. It’s also the most convenient and safest option, she believes. MasterCard’s Cash Passport, for instance, allows travellers to load more than one currency and is not linked to a bank account. Protected by chip and pin, the currency card is valid for up to five years and can be reloaded more than once, Nosworthy explains.

As an added bonus, Nosworthy says prepaid cards help travellers stick to budgets as amounts loaded are fixed, and you can’t dip into your credit card or overdraft facilities via the prepaid card.

Do your research

Look into how much foreign currency you’ll need for accommodation, activities, meals, transport and souvenirs, advises Nosworthy. “Then calculate the amount of foreign exchange you are going to require and purchase it all at once to avoid being charged for more than one transaction.”

Research can also save you buying too much currency, which can be costly because there’s a transaction fee to convert foreign buck back to rands. And you might lose on the conversion if the rand’s got stronger. Here’s hoping...

3 reasons why prepaid beats traditional debit cards

1. Savings of up to 10% in exchange rate fluctuations and transaction fees when you use a prepaid currency card versus a debit card.

2. You aren’t able to go into overdraft on a prepaid card.

3. If your prepaid card is lost or stolen, thieves won’t be able to gain access to your bank account as the two are not linked.

Need more expert travel advice? Contact your nearest Sure Travel consultant today, or call 0861 47 48 49.

November 6, 2017

Kick-start your 2018 travels with 30% off your Contiki trip

Looking to escape to a cosy continent where you can boat through the canals of Venice, see Paris from the Eiffel Tower, wander through the Swiss Alps, and party in Amsterdam? All in just over a week? Contiki's nine-day European Magic trip will take you from Amsterdam's quaint bicycle-laden streets to Italy's palazzo and Paris's cool little cafés in just over a week – all from just R14,500*.

But if siestas, sangria, sun, sand and Ibiza's sounds are more your style, deep dive into Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and, of course, Ibiza over two weeks with Contiki's Spanish Spree from R17,074*.

Ireland, the Contiki way

Or get a taste of la dolce vita with 12 days coasting from the Colosseum, café hopping in Capri, waltzing through Milan, and soaking up the quaint towns in the Italian Riviera. Plus, you'll be able to save up to R5,300 on your Simply Italy trip*. This trip will have you eating, sleeping, and exploring like a local with more indulgent lie-ins, afternoon Spritz breaks, and experiences to get you to the core of Italy's culture.

Tapas, because... Spain.

How can you bag one of these super-discounted escapades? For this month only, you can save up to 30% on selected Contiki trips to Europe if you book and pay in full before 30 November*.

The world's leading youth travel (18 to 35 year-old) company is offering you big savings on trips to France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Great Britain, with unique accommodation, comfy transport, tons of meals, travel experiences and a trip manager and driver duo. It's all included, so you can have a hassle-free holiday.

Melt festival in Germany – who's in?

Not quite ready to book and pay for your Contiki holiday this month? Don't despair. You can still save 10% if you book your Europe Summer 2018 trip before 29 January 2018, so you have a few months to plan your budget and save for your epic adventure.

BOOK IT NOW: Contact your nearest Sure Travel consultant and ask them about Contiki’s last minute discount promotion for November; or Contiki's 10% early booking discount for the New & Improved Summer Trips. Or call 0861 47 48 49 to speak to a consultant now. 

*Terms and conditions apply (ask your Sure Travel consultant for details).

7 good reasons to climb 7 African mountains in 7 weeks

A team of mountaineers, environmentalist and journalists have begun the world-first 7 Summits Africa Challenge, presented by Great Migration Camps, in which they will attempt to summit 7 African mountains in 7 weeks.

They're doing it to showcase East Africa's eco-tourism offering, and to raise awareness of a cause affecting the people, wildlife and environment around each mountain. 

But what motivates a team of people to dedicate 7 weeks of their lives (and several hundred blisters) to climb 7 mountains back to back?

Seven members of the team share what’s driving them up those mountains:

Sibusiso Vilane

South African adventurer and motivational speaker, author of the book ‘To the Top from Nowhere’ and one of a handful of African members of ‘The 7 Summits Club’ – the elite mountaineers who have climbed the highest peaks on each of the continents. 

“On a personal level, it means so much for me as a proud African to be able to explore and promote parts of my continent. We have a continent that is rich in nature, wildlife and people. It is our duty and responsibility to experience and tell the world about our African pride and heritage.”

Carel Verhoef

7 Summits Africa concept creator & director of title sponsor Great Migration Camps: 

“I’m a strong advocate of conservation through tourism, which is why I want to showcase East Africa to the world through the 7 Summits Africa Challenge. The further you go into Africa the fewer tourist numbers there are, and the interior parts (rainforest areas) of the continent are the hardest and most expensive parks to look after. Unless we bring tourists to these areas and create a reason for the people around these parks and reserves to protect the biodiversity and habitat, in 20 years time we will have lost a huge part of our rainforest parks and reserves.”

This is the overarching reason why we came up with the 7 Summits Africa Challenge – to showcase these parts of Africa to the world and, hopefully, encourage others to follow in our footsteps. Conservation through tourism is the only way to go.”

Gabriele Brown

East African Destination Specialist and 8-time Kilimanjaro veteran.

"In 2012 I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro for the first time to leave my late husband’s ashes on top of Uhuru Peak. Since that time Kili holds a very special place in my heart. Kilimanjaro is a place of adventure, of freedom, of strength and of beauty – a place where everything is removed and one comes to know oneself without any masks of pretences. It’s a real opportunity to evaluate one’s character and resilience.

But during my first Kili climb, I saw first-hand what the porters go through to get people like me up the mountain, to give us these life-changing experiences. It’s not easy and they’re hugely underappreciated. So my cause is an obvious one: assisting the porters on Kilimanjaro (via cause partner Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project – KPAP).”

Jessica Flint

New York based editor and writer, who will be co-authoring a book about the #7SummitsAfrica Challenge with Patrick Thomas.

“As a journalist, I am drawn to great stories. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to chronicle this world-first expedition that aims to good in Africa by highlighting the continent's under-promoted adventure tourism opportunities while promoting various Africa-centric conservation efforts, including saving the black rhino and the mountain gorillas.”

Ake Lindstrom

East Africa’s most experienced mountaineer and high altitude adventure addict.

“For me the most poignant moment of this trip (so far) was at home, as I held my 7-month-old son. In 20 years time will I be able to show him gorillas in the DRC? It is only through the massive efforts of organisations in each region and tourism and governments in multiple countries that a species such as the gorilla has any hope of survival.

And so why am I doing this? Because it is an adventure. Because I believe our network of friends and family will love this adventure and will share the message. Because our partners are the stakeholders in the region believe tourism can answer many problems and are committed to building a positive future. And, finally, because I want my son to see what I have seen in 20 years time.”

Patrick Thomas

US-based editor and writer, who will be co-authoring a book about the #7SummitsAfrica Challenge with Jessica Flint.

"I'm fascinated and encouraged by the potential for how ecotourism in general and mountaineering specifically can help save wild places, strengthen local communities create world-class adventure travel opportunities. And to be completely honest, I love adventure and traveling to places sure to surprise and delight me."

Sally Grierson

Hiker and lover of mountains – retired physiotherapist. Part of the team that successfully summited Kilimanjaro with the first female quadriplegic, Chaeli Mycroft.

“I have grown more enthralled and enamoured by the magnificence and wildness of Africa, particularly my current home in East Africa. On the flip side, it becomes more obvious every day what a precarious position these amazing places find themselves in.

It may be naive and perhaps we are foolish, but I do believe we can create awareness of an incredible adventure that will bring visitors to this corner of the globe. And they, in turn, will bring much needed revenue to the communities, parks, habitats and species.”

October 31, 2017

5 spooky places to spend Halloween around the world

The origins of All Hallows’ Eve can be traced back to Samhain, an ancient Celtic pagan festival. In modern times it is celebrated on the 31st of October and marks the time in the year to remember the dead, including saints (the hallowed) and martyrs. The costume parties, jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating that we associate with Halloween only become popular in the late 19th century.

Here are a few ideas from our partners at The Travel Corporation on spellbinding destinations to be on Halloween…

Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

Like the most unsettling scenes from a horror movie, the Sedlec Ossuary will be something you see in your nightmares for days to come.

Photo © AdobeStock / Alexandr Chernyshov

Also called the Church of Bones, this perplexing chapel is adorned by more than 40,000 human skeletons that make up every part of the décor, including a coat of arms and a chandelier that contains at least one of every human bone.

GO HERE WITH SURE: Visit the Sedlec Ossuary on Trafalgar’s 10-day Prague, Vienna and Budapest itinerary through four of Central Europe's epicentres of culture and arts. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania

Known throughout the world as “Dracula’s Castle”, Bran Castle has been widely purported to have been a source of eerie inspiration for Bram Stoker when writing his iconic novel Dracula (despite the author never having seen it in person).

Wander through the 600-year-old gothic fortress into dark, stonewalled secret staircases and cavernous rooms once occupied by Romanian royalty. Explore its haunting intrigue, mystery and learn about the ghosts of the fictitious undead and the cryptic local evil spirits called “strigoi” that seem to resemble vampires.

GO HERE WITH SURE: Visit Bran Castle on Insight Vacation’s 18-day Treasure of The Balkans journey where you’ll get to discover the myths and legends of Dracula. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

Witches Market, Bolivia

 Boasting brews and potions that exact revenge on a cheating spouse – or aid in seeking an abundance of wealth – the Witches Market in La Paz, Bolivia, is a treasure trove of the weird, the ritualistic and the macabre.

Photo © Adobestock / Scottiebumich 

Selling their wares are the yatiri, the last witch doctors in South America, who wander through the stalls, offering to perform pagan rituals on anyone who needs a little magic in their lives.

GO HERE WITH SURE: Visit the Witches Market in La Paz on Contiki’s new 13-day Bella Bolivia adventure. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

The Forbidden City, China

 It’s near impossible to have a 600-year history devoid of a few bone-chilling tales, and the Forbidden City is not exempt. Centuries of assassinations have made for a myriad of ghost sightings, including a weeping woman in white, long believed to have been a murdered concubine.

Visitors are invited to look into a well haunted by a suicide, but be forewarned that something blood-curdling might be looking back. Lore has it that precautions have been made against haunting ghouls in the form of high steps between doorways to “trap” spirits in a room.

GO HERE WITH SURE: Visit the Forbidden City (with a Peking Duck lunch) as a featured excursion aboard Uniworld’s 18-day Grand China & The Yangtze voyage. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

The Colosseum, Rome

Considered a must-see attraction for visitors to Italy at any time of the year, most forget that the history of the Colosseum includes a lust for blood, gore and revenge. Thousands died in the arena after its 80 AD opening, and the ghosts of slain gladiators are said to haunt the Colosseum to this day.

Many visitors have reported hearing screaming, cheering, crying and moaning, feeling cold spots and gentle pushing – not to mention seeing ghostly figures sitting in the stands and Roman soldiers standing guard at multiple entrances.

GO HERE WITH SURE: Visit the Colosseum and all its ghoulish splendour on Luxury Gold’s 12-day Ultimate Italy journey. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

October 30, 2017

Where in the world can Trafalgar take you?


Photo ©

La Bienvenida a Perú! The third-largest country in South America and, of course, home to the famous Machu Picchu, llamas and alpacas. Peru has it all – history, natural beauty, adventure, wildlife, vibrant culture and delicious cuisine, not to mention an intoxicating air of mystery.

First stop is the Colca Canyon in Southern Peru. More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon (although the walls are not as steep), the Colca Canyon is home to the Andean Condor, one of the largest birds in the world, with a wingspan reaching up to 3.2 metres. This is one of the few spots on the planet where it's relatively easy to see this bird species at close range.

Photo ©

Another definite must-see are the Nazca Lines, a series of hundreds of massive designs dug into the ground by the Nazca culture well over a millennium ago. Their designs range from simple geometric shapes to highly stylised images primarily depicting plants and animals from the natural world. Some of the figures are over 200 metres across and the only way to see them is from an elevated vantage point.

Photo ©

Peru is an incredibly biodiverse country as visitors will see during a boat tour of the Islas Ballestas, the small group of islands that is one of the world's most widely recognised biodiversity hot spots. The islands can be reached by boat tours departing Paracas and generally takes around two hours. The Peruvian Amazon is another biodiversity hotspot, and it’s home to Iquitos, the largest city in the world without outside road access.

Throw a bit of culture into your Peruvian mix and visit the floating islands on Lake Titicaca: the largest lake in South America, the highest navigable lake in the world and home to the pre-Incan Uru people. This indigenous community still lives on what are essentially floating islands built and rebuilt out of dried reeds, drifting over the surface of the lake.

Peru has the highest sand dune in the world, Cerro Blanco, located in the Sechura Desert in the south. It measures 3,860 feet from the base to the summit and towers over the desert oasis town, Huacachina. What makes it even more fun is that you can ride dune buggies up to the top of the dunes and then strap a board to your feet and sandboard down it all the way to the town below.

For a modern-day cultural experience, head out to Barranco, arguably Peru’s hippest neighbourhood. Barranco is home to galleries, cafés, bars, nightclubs, and everything else you'll require to pass the time in bohemian bliss.

For the type of food that attracts gourmet greats to Peru’s shores, visit the capital city Lima. If you’re not a picky eater, you should try out some guinea pig or cuy, a traditional dish eaten served crispy complete with head, legs and eyes. It is healthier and has a lot more protein and less fat than llama meat. To quench your thirst, try a Pisco Sour, made from Peruvian grape brandy, mixed with lemons, sugar water, egg whites, ice and finished with bitters.

Photo ©

So, “paca” your bags and experience this colourful and diverse destination with Trafalgar’s 12-day Land of the Incas tour. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

Play the #TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz and WIN!

Win a R350 Sorbet voucher!

Simply guess…

Where in the WORLD Trafalgar Tours can take you:

* I am the third-largest country in South America.
* I am home to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World - a famous archaeological site.
* I have the highest sand dune in the world.
* Love potatoes? Over 3 000 varieties are grown on my lands.


1. Put your answer in the comment section of the competition post on Facebook.
2. Add the hashtags: #TravelTuesday #Trafalgar after your answer.
3. Share the competition post on your own Facebook page.

It’s really that easy! The winner will be announced on social media tomorrow.

Terms and conditions:
1. One winner will be selected at random from the correct entries.
2. The judge’s decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into.
3. The winner will receive a R350 Sorbet voucher, courtesy of Trafalgar Tours.
4. The voucher will be posted to the winner by Trafalgar Tours.
5. Prizes not claimed after two weeks will be forfeited.
6. Competition is open to South African residents only.