Hey you, how have you been? If you’ve been following my traveling adventures via my Instagram page @unicorninbrooklyn – you would know that I’ve been excellent (because I knocked off yet another dream trip)! I just returned from South Africa (aka SA or ZA) less than a week ago and am still riding high off my travels because the trip was as amazing as I dreamed it would be!
I visited Johannesburg (aka Jo’Burg) and Capetown (with an overnight layover in the UAE – Abu Dhabi) & am currently working on two informative blog posts (which I will break down by city – Jo’Burg & Capetown) to summarize my experiences – stay tuned!
In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to write this post, a concise recap of the logistics of my trip. Keep in mind, this is strictly logistics. I will elaborate on my time in each location in my upcoming posts.
I diligently shared several photos and short videos of my experience via Instagram (using my trademark hashtag for all my travels, #UIBTravels) and Facebook (my personal page as my Instagram posts are simultaneously posted there). This was done because I wanted to “bring” my family and friends (new and old) with me across the world to inspire, educate, and expand their horizons.
In addition, I was honored to have one of my pictures featured on one of the top Instagram pages for Black travelers – @TravelNoire. The featured picture was the one you see above (me getting my “titanic” on as I thoroughly enjoyed my very first tandem paragliding experience in Capetown, South Africa).
So, how did I plan my your trip? Who did I travel with? Where did I stay? Where am I planning to visit next? Was it safe to travel to (with someone or as a solo female traveler)? What did I learn?
Planning My Trip
Planning my trip to the motherland began on Christmas Day, 2014. I woke up around 9:something in the AM and noticed that I had several Facebook messages. To my pleasant surprise, one of those messages was from an avid traveler that was gracious enough to alert me of a travel glitch with Ethiad Airlines – she’d purchased her ticket to Johannesburg, South Africa for $277.00 a few short hours before and she was sharing the goods (click here for more details on the travel glitch that I took advantage of –> http://www.forbes.com/sites/tedreed/2014/12/28/etihad-we-will-honor-the-ridiculously-low-fare-tickets-we-mistakenly-offeredued/)!
I immediately jumped out of my bed and walked into my living room to grab my laptop because I was NOT going to let this travel glitch escape me! I synced my dates with her and locked in my ticket accordingly. Grand total – $326.00 including taxes (the price went up slightly after the travel glitch dropped) AND I was able to choose my seats (I have a weakness for window seats)!
After traveling to Asia solo last year (and loving the freedom of it), I was tempted to keep this glitch to myself and head to SA alone, but I didn’t. I shared the deal with three other gf’s and they were all very excited. Perfect – we had a group of four four our first time to Africa! Who knew that less than a month after discussing my desire to travel to SA (over brunch the weekend after Thanksgiving) that I’d get the opportunity to travel there WAY sooner than anticipated and at such an affordable rate?
Now that the most important part was secured (a roundtrip ticket to my desired country), it was time to secure accommodations and other expenses (i.e. excursions, a driver while in Africa, and a roundtrip plane ticket from Johannesburg, SA to Capetown, SA).
I went to two different countries (South Africa with an overnight layover in the UAE – Abu Dhabi) over the span of twelve days. Below please find my accommodations for each location:
Abu Dhabi: Yas Island Radisson Blu Hotel, for one night. This ran me about $98.00 USD/night –> http://www.radissonblu.com/hotel-abudhabi
Jo’Burg: Air BnB, for 5 days/4 nights (5/2 – 5/6). $78.00 USD/night–> https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2284046?checkin=05%2F02%2F2015&checkout=05%2F08%2F2015&s=96-R
Capetown: Long Street Boutique Hotel, Deluxe Room, for 6 days/5 nights (5/6 – 5/11). $85.00 USD/night –> http://www.longstreethotel.com/cape-town-guest-house.php
In addition to flying from JFK Airport to Johannesburg, SA, I also purchased a roundtrip ticket from Jo’Burg to Capetown via http://www.kulula.com/ for about $160 USD.
In Jo’Burg my friends and I were completely ripped off because we thought that the driver that our Air BnB host provided for us was giving us a good deal – wrong! After using the driver for two days, we learned that using uber would’ve saved us A LOT of money. Let this be a lesson to you. Unless you are dealing with a trusted driver (via a credible recommendation) USE UBER!
What is UBER you may ask? Uber is a convenient app (for your smart phone) in which you order a cab and all charges go to your credit card. I loved it because UBER cab rides were cheaper than the driver that my friends and I used AND we didn’t have to deal with money (South African currency – ZAR, South African Rand). It was very convenient to simply order a cab, receive a minute by minute update on the status of the cab’s whereabouts, as well as the name of the driver and his license plate number.
While in Capetown, if I didn’t use UBER for local excursions I used the services of EC Distinctive Tours (http://ecdistinctivetours.com/) for airport pickup, transport to Table Mountain, Signal Hill (for paragliding), transport to and from the waterfront to catch my boat to Robben Island, and for my tour of the Western Cape. The owner, Cyril, was the epitome of professional, courteous, timely, friendly, and sweet! I would HIGHLY recommend using his services!
While away, my travel companions and I squeezed in quite a bit of adventurous and educational excursions including: Jo’Burg – The Apartheid Museum, Mandela’s House, Cradle of Humankind Museum, Sterkfontein Caves, and Arts on Main / Capetown – Table Mountain, Bo-Kaap Walking History Tour, Spice Market Visit, & Cooking Tour, Tour of the Western Cape, visit to Seal Island (Hout’s Bay), wine tour, massages, Robben Island, and paragliding – whew! I will elaborate on my experience with each excursion as well as the accommodating costs in following blog posts.
Was it Safe?
I’m going to tell you right off bat, the men in ZA were very aggressive. This was the case for the men that begged for money as well as random men on the street trying to mack. I learned quickly that saying a friendly “hello” was an invitation to unwanted attention. The minute I smiled and said “hi”, men would immediately start following me and try to engage me in a conversation despite my lack of interest and obvious guarded body language. So I will tell you this, you can smile as a form of respect, but greet at your own risk because the men of Jo’Burg and Capetown are very persistent!
Aside from that, it is important to not walk around with wads of rands because you will most likely be targeted as a tourist (a “rich” tourist”) – get my drift? Ladies, wear a small crossbody bag (be sure to keep the bag in front of your person) or carry a small wristlet with a few rands and your other necessities (i.e. – credit card, copy of your passport, etc.).
If you opt to go out with a friend or solo at night be aware of your surroundings and try to move with a crowd. Walking in a small group or alone makes you a target for being mugged or attacked.
Lastly, I would advise you to trust your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If an area appears to be sketchy and desolate, don’t venture into that area.
All and all, I felt VERY safe because I trusted my instincts, remained very observant, and didn’t venture out solo for long periods of time.
Where Am I Planning to Go Next?
One of my friends has decided that she would like to celebrate her birthday in Central America this year, so it looks like I’ll be in Costa Rica. I’m excited to go ziplining, walk on the beaches, and explore the beautiful rain forests of this country in late July.
What Did I Learn?
(1) My visit to South Africa sparked a love affair with the motherland. The abundance of beauty on the continent of Africa has inspired me to make plans to visit again and often. Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt, Namibia, Morocco, and a return trip to Capetown are all on my list for the near future. It was very important for me to smell, taste, see, touch, hear, and taste Africa (so that I could get back to my roots) before stepping foot on European soil – because I wanted to go home first – mission accomplished! I found it refreshing to be referred to as “my sista” the ENTIRE time I was in Africa. My brothers and sisters told me that I looked like I was from Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and other regions of this beautiful continent and I felt honored. I am now very curious to see just how much I resemble those living in those countries.
(2) My jetlag was nowhere near as bad as it was when I returned from Asia. While I’m still operating on South African time (6 hours ahead), my recovery is just about done and I’ve been back home for less than a week.
(3) I am very grateful for the opportunity to travel the world the way that I do. While in ZA I learned that traveling to other regions of the world from Africa is extremely expensive and challenging.
(4) Traveling with friends is fun, but I learned that everyone has different vacation styles – not everyone travels the way that I do; different strokes for different folks. While some may enjoy more of a leisurely time, others may want more of an action packed/adventurous type of experience.
(5) This one never changes – every single time that I return home frpm an international trip I always feel like I would rather own little in this world if it meant being able to see more of it.
That’s it. I think I covered just about everything that I set out to cover in this post. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them below or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.