The South African economy has definitely seen better days and this has had a direct consequence on the working class’ ability to explore the world and travel on holiday.
By the working class I mean people who work hard to get by and save every extra dime for any added luxury.
For those of you that are swimming in a pool of privilege, I am happy for you but this post isn’t for you.
So holidays abroad are becoming more and more inaccessible because of the weak rand.
Now before we go on moaning about how the state of the rand messed up your Europe plans, take a moment to consider the impact our limping economy has on the majority of poor South Africans.
A weak economy for the poor directly translates to a higher cost of living- basic essentials cost more and earnings are down.
As we move on with our middle class lives, let us show some empathy.
South Africans wishing to travel abroad have another huge disadvantage aside from an ailing currency, i.e. being geographically far from most travel hubs.
And while it makes sense to travel close to home, within the African continent, try booking a ticket from Johannesburg to Mozambique and see how much it sets you back.
We asked ourselves two important questions when we decided we needed a break: what type of holiday do we want and how much are we prepared to spend?
We then decided that a part resort/ part city holiday would be an ideal break. Both my husband and I are not lay-by-the-pool-all-day people yet we were so exhausted from the last year to have a jam packed touring holiday so we decided to strike a balance.
We first looked at destinations which are relatively cheap destinations for South Africans, and naturally the far east came up yet it didn’t appeal to our specific holiday needs.
We then looked at island holidays but I had already had a fantastic trip to Seychelles earlier this year and opted against another island break.
I happened to come across a post on a travel blog about Ras Al Khaimah one of the emirates in the UAE or Dubai’s less glamorous sister and that really appealed to me at the time.
I don’t know what about the desert destination that spoke to my craving of getting far away from life as possible, having the comfort of a good hotel/ resort and the enjoyment of Halaal cuisine. (You may recall in previous travel posts that food is a central part of a holiday to me).
After some research, we decided to break our trip between Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai- a choice we later appreciated as it was the perfect balance between a chill holiday and a busy site seeing holiday.
When it comes to the UAE, you have options as vast as the ocean and you can tailor make a holiday to fit your own needs. I think there are more than enough reviews and recommendations online, but found that there isn’t really a practical way to travel in a budget friendly way. And by no means do I mean we stayed at backpackers lodges and ate two minute noodles! We had a fabulous holiday because of a few tips and tricks that allowed us to save money.
Here are some ways we managed to have an incredible break without maxing out any credit cards:
– For flights, we looked long in advance and weighed different options. A direct flight to Dubai with Emirates is great but we were not satisfied with the price. Incidentally, we stumbled across a Qatar Airways flash sale and managed to find return flights for under R5000 a person which is a steal! We also joined the Qatar Airways privilege club for added discounts and points. I cannot stress enough the importance if signing up to travel royalty programmes- it is free so there is nothing to lose.
– For accommodation, we trawled Bookings.com for weeks, cross referencing with TripAdvisor for reviews of hotels we considered. The thing with Booking.com is that you either get really lucky or you fall victim to a hotel that is far from what it appeared online. In the end, we found that booking Hilton hotels via their Hhonours programme was cheaper and came with added bonuses like free wifi and breakfast. Also, the more you use Hhonours the more points you build which would entitle you for free nights! You actually see the value of being an Hhonours member when staying at any hotel in the Hilton group. Other hotel groups have similar programs too.
– The best way of not throwing forex down the drain is using public transport as much as possible. The idea of being chaffered when on holiday seems dreamy but when you travel to a country with an efficient public transport system, there is no need to pay half a kidney’s worth for a ride. We used the metro in Dubai that works for a dream, t is reliable and so easy to navigate. I found it easier to use than the Gautrain! The best part about it is that it takes you exactly where you need to be. One day we took the metro from our hotel to Dubai Mall, spent the afternoon there then took the metro to Jumeirah beach, followed by a tram to Dubai Marina and then a metro back to our hotel. While at first we did use some private taxis we late found that we saw more of the city through the metro.
– Proper research saves you from being conned by tour groups and the hotel concierge. My husband is a pedantic planner and researches everything thoroughly prior to our trip. I on the other hand usually take one day at a time- meaning I decide on the spur of the moment to do things which can be fun until you realise that you are flushing money down the drain. Take the desert safari package we went on, I told my husband to just book it with the hotel concierge but we later found out that the hotel charged almost 100 Dirhams more than the company he got a quote from and, it turned out, the hotel uses the same company. With cutting out the middle man, you save a lot of money.
– Online deals can save you a lot! Many people have told me about using the Entertainer app, but on further research we found that the deals didn’t suite the type of holiday we were on and the things we wanted to do. But we kept a tab on other sites like Groupon for specials- which really paid off in the end for us. We spontaneously decided to go up the Burj Khalifah and when we arrived at the ticket desk they told us that they only had tickets for 500 Dirhams a person. That is about R2000 to go to the top of a building! We then remembered that Groupon had a sale on tickets to go to the top of Burj Khalifah for 130 Dirhams a person! We booked it on the spot and went up with no fuss. Our ticket even included a pastry and drink at the cafe which was an added bonus. Some sites in many cities have discounts if you book activities/ tours online in advance which can save you lots of money. At first, you don’t realise how much a 10% or 20% discount can help.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any tips to save a buck or ten when traveling abroad. You can follow my travel pics on Instagram @qaanitah and my craziness on Snapchat @QaanitahHunter