November 27, 2014

Checklist for travelling to the USA & UK

Your flights and accommodation have been booked, visas organised and you've just got to pack and get on the plane. Travelling to the USA and UK in particular requires some extra planning, especially with their strict airport security protocols. Abigail Pires, Sure Travel Group Solutions Manager, a seasoned US & UK traveller, shares her top 10 checklist and travel tips…

1. Hand luggage allowances
Remember to pack anything liquid or gel over 100mls in your checked in luggage. These 100mls or less products then have to be placed in a transparent zip lock bag - you will be required to place the bag on the tray when going through security (especially in the USA). Also don’t forget, nothing sharp and no aerosols in your hand luggage.

2. Slip-on shoes
I would suggest wearing slip-on shoes if possible. You will have to take off all shoes and belts at the security points so easy to slip on and off shoes, and no belts, will make the process easier.

3. Charge those phones
NB!! When travelling to the US, your cell phone must be charged. Even if your phone is off you will be asked to switch it on, and you must have enough battery life to do so. You will not be let through if the phone won’t switch on.

4. Random checks
If you get stopped at customs and pulled out of the line, do not be alarmed. People selected at random are often pulled out of line by officials - they will take you to a room, ask a few questions, check your bags and that's all. Don't panic. It's a fairly common procedure.

5. Stay hydrated
You can buy water once you’ve gone through passport security; you will not be able to take any more than 100mls through security. Stay hydrated on the flight especially to the US - it's long!

6. Using your phone
If you want to make calls or use data, I would recommend you buy a £10 SIM card on arrival at London Heathrow. It will give you some data and let you make a few calls and its must cheaper than SA data roaming costs. You can buy SIMs for all types of phones at little self-service kiosks in the airport. I find Lyca Mobile the best.

7. Turn off your data
Remember to turn off data on your phone and use WiFi wherever you can; the exchange data costs are horrendous. Switch off cell and 3g data before you leave and call your cell phone provider to enable roaming.

8. Activate your credit card
Call your bank and activate your cards for international use before you leave. They will ask you when you are leaving and returning, and which countries you are visiting. If you don’t your card could be blocked for unauthorised/suspicious transactions when you try to use it. Not ideal when you’re standing in line needing to pay for something!

9. Check in online
Check in online for all your flights – this usually opens 24 hours before. Doing so ensures that you won’t be bumped off over-booked flights and will save you time at the airport.

10. Allow more time at the airport
Going through airports always takes much longer when you’re in a foreign country, especially in the USA and UK. Get there as early as you can to check in your bags, get through security, etc. Most airlines also have their own apps where you can check your flight times, if the plane’s delayed, etc. which is also very helpful.

What are your no-fail travel tips? Comment below and let us know.

Abigail absolutely loves to travel and is extremely passionate about the travel industry as well as technology. She loves all things digital and is a definite gadget girl! There is only one continent that she hasn’t been to yet, but her travel list is still very long! Her favourite destinations so far are Croatia, Italy, Portugal, the Azores and the USA (nothing beats the rides at Universal!).

November 17, 2014

Introducing the Sure Travel Journey magazine

We would like to proudly introduce you to Sure Travel Journey – Sure Travel’s new quarterly travel, leisure and lifestyle magazine. The complimentary magazine, available at a Sure Travel agency near you, is packed with traveller stories, tips, travel news and all the very best travel inspiration. Sure Travel CEO, Vanya Lessing, would like to welcome you to the journey and share one of her amazing travel memories…

“It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the first edition of Sure Travel Journey. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Melany Bendix, a well-known travel journalist and past editor of The Big Issue. Melany and her team of journalists and contributors understand the world of travel; the good, the bad and the ugly. Our aim is to bring you interesting stories, travel tips, the latest and greatest destinations people are travelling to, and inspire you to take that journey of a lifetime.

Every person I know, no matter how well travelled, sets off from home with a dream and just a little anxiety. It’s quite normal. Our job as Sure Travel professionals is to make sure that you have a great experience, knowing that we have taken our duty of care very seriously and have managed all the important details. Corporate travel must be managed seamlessly; cost and value are key while we know family time is for relaxation, fun and bonding. When travellers come back and tell us they enjoyed a restaurant we recommended in a little village, danced the night away as Club VIP’s, re-energised at an Ayurvedic spa or simply loved our suggested itineraries, we know we’re in the right industry.

We have chosen our travel partners across the globe very carefully, to take care of you every step of the way, including during challenging times. One of the most challenging yet amazing experiences I had was two years ago, when I got caught up in Hurricane Sandy in New York.

I was on a Queen Mary cruise when, on the morning of disembarkation, the captain announced that we were heading into a very bad storm. I decided the best thing was to get to my hotel as quickly as possible and work things out from there. I never expected the whole of NY to shut down: not a yellow cab in sight, not a coffee shop open, airports closed, sirens blaring. As it was a few hours until the hurricane was expected to hit central NY, I decided to venture outside to see what was happening. Absolutely nothing was going on… just me and a friend walking along deserted streets; it felt as though I was in a sci-fi movie! Fortunately I had a great network of travel professionals keeping me calm and getting on with the business of bringing me home safely. Actually, it was a great experience!
We all have travel stories to tell. We’d love to hear yours. Cross your bridges, reach out for your dreams, tomorrow is a beautiful road waiting to be travelled…..

Enjoy the journey with us!” ~ Vanya Lessing,
Sure Travel CEO

Pick up your complimentary copy of Sure Travel Journey at any Sure Travel agency.
In the summer 2014 issue now out…10 reasons to stay in SA this summer, travelling to Mauritius with a toddler, off-the-beaten track Thailand, Banting on the go, and lots more.

Find your nearest agency here. 

November 14, 2014

Five Reasons to visit Thailand

Thailand, along with Mauritius, is one of the most popular overseas destinations for South Africans. With good flights from South Africa and the Thai Baht offering good value for money compared to the Rand, it’s no surprise.

And there isn’t a better time to visit than now. With Thai Airways no longer flying from South Africa from 14 January 2015, flights and packages will increase in price. Nevertheless, Thailand looks set to remain a relatively affordable destination, especially in comparison to others. Here are just 5 reasons why it’s worth a visit…

The food
The combination of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavours makes Thai cuisine so distinctive and enjoying it in its native country, is a completely different culinary experience.

Go prepared, Thailand is a shopper’s heaven. With markets selling almost anything under the sun, at cheap prices, pack only half a suitcase and fill it while you're there. Shopping is a sightseeing experience in itself with night markets, floating markets and a chance to bargain with the locals and see a snippet of daily life.

Ang Thong National Marine Park
This is a natural, uninhabited treasure amongst all the tourist filled beaches. It’s a national park so protected from development. Boats of day trippers go in everyday to visit the beaches, kayak, snorkel, hike and explore the limestone cliffs, coves and hidden lakes. There are a few bungalows and camping facilities so you can really play at being a castaway and stay overnight when the tourist boats leave.

Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
A far cry from the beaches, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are in a land of misty mountains, temples, hot springs, elephants and hilltop tribes. A must-do to experience a different side of Thailand.

Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is famous (or infamous depending on your viewpoint) for the Full Moon parties, when hordes of neon-clad tourists from all over the world enjoy crazy all-night partying on the beach. If this isn’t your scene, Koh Phangan has a much more subdued personality when the parties aren’t in full swing. Read about its other side here on The Travel Manuel blog.

Shop Thailand packages here.

Got a question regarding Thailand? Contact your nearest Sure Travel agency

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

November 11, 2014

UK eases transit visas for South Africans

UK eases transit visas for South Africans
Good news for South Africans transiting in the UK – as of 1 December 2014, you may be able to transit without obtaining a Direct Airside Transit Visa provided you meet certain criteria.

South African nationals who hold a valid visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA will be able to use them to transit airside via the UK to anywhere in the world without obtaining a Direct Airside Transit Visa.

Travellers who hold visas to these countries can transit the UK (airside) given that they provide an expanded list of exemption documents in place of a Direct Airside Transit Visa.

The criteria are that the traveller: 

• must arrive and depart by air from the same UK airport and on the same day to another country outside the Common Travel Area1 (i.e. a travel zone that comprises the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland);

• is properly documented for your onward destination;

• holds a valid exemption document in accordance with one of the following:
- a residence permit or visa that allows entry to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America, regardless of their route and final destination
- an EEA or Swiss category D visa or residence permit, regardless of their route and final destination
- an Irish biometric visa, regardless of their route and final destination.

In addition, the United Kingdom made changes recently to its transit visa policy, which is positive news for South Africans. The direct airside transit visa fee was reduced to £30 ( about R536,19) in October 2014, and its routine validity was extended to two years.

Note: Different rules apply to Landside Transit Visas where en route restrictions do apply to the exemption document criteria. Landside Transit refers to passengers who arrive at one airport but are catching an onward flight from another UK airport or who have to pass through UK immigration to collect and re-check baggage before their onward journey, and therefore need to enter the UK.

Information correct as of 11 November 2014. Credit to eTNW.
Photo credit.

Airside, landside, transit… visa rules can be difficult to make sense of. When you book with a Sure Travel agent, you get their expert travel knowledge and experience to help you make sense of those visa requirements. Book with a Sure Travel agency today.

November 5, 2014

Trafalgar’s new 2015 Europe & Britain holidays

Trafalgar's new 2015 itineraries
Trafalgar, the world’s award-winning guided travel company, has exciting new additions to their Europe and Britain itineraries for 2015. With more choice and authentic local experiences than ever, Trafalgar really does offer you the most choice and the best experience at unbeatable value.

After extensive consumer research and feedback, Trafalgar saw that clients wanted more local experiences and choices. So they added Local Specialists to their already very successful Insider Experiences* which gives you more choice in how you want to see a destination. A choice of 10 trip styles in the 44 European countries is now offered.

*Insider Experiences enrich your understanding of the destination by letting you live like a local, including everything from dining with a local family in their home to exploring hidden treasures.

New for 2015
Featuring more off-the-beaten-track destinations in smaller, more intimate groups, the new Secrets of itineraries let you discover the true local flavour. Discover Italy, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey with these new trips.

Some other new trips for 2015 are Enchanting Emerald Isle (bringing old-world Ireland to life) and Secrets of Turkey including the Turquoise Coast.

Why choose a Trafalgar guided holiday? 
If you’re looking to really discover Europe with ease, without worrying about a thing, while enjoying authentic local experiences with a wonderful balance of free time and planned sightseeing, than Trafalgar is it. A Trafalgar holiday is also perfect for families and cruise lovers and there is no age limit with Trafalgar (for example, sister company Contiki is for the 18-35s).

Family on Trafalgar Holiday in Spain

What’s always included
- Hand-picked Insider Experiences
- An expert Travel Director (see them in action here)
- Must-see sightseeing and surprise extras
- VIP entry to selected sights
- All accommodation with breakfast every day
- Up to 50% of evening meals
- Free time and flexible options
- Luxury air-conditioned coach
- All hotel tips, charges, local taxes, porterage and restaurant gratuities
- Audio headsets for flexible sightseeing

Trafalgar Expert Tour Director

Trafalgar’s Top 10 Trips
1. European Whirl
2. Best of Turkey
3. Highlights of Turkey
4. Best of Italy
5. Imperial Europe
6. Britain and Ireland Highlights
7. Spanish Wonder
8. Highlights of Eastern Europe
9. Bohemian Highlights
10. Best of Greece

Browse Trafalgar holidays here.

Trafalgar's Best of Turkey

Trafalgar's European Whirl

Trafalgar's Turkey guided holidays

How do you save with Trafalgar?
With Early payment discounts, past traveller, group and single traveller discounts, that can all be combined, you really do save with Trafalgar. The best experience at unbeatable value.

Special offer! Save 10% when you book and pay for your 2015 Trafalgar trip before 30 January 2015! Available on selected itineraries & departures. Can be combined with other discounts where applicable. R1000 deposit and balance due by 30 Jan 2015. Subject to availability & standard T&C’s. 

For info and booking, contact your nearest Sure Travel agency.