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Good Agent

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Good Agent

Hi,

We are looking to visit South Africa in January 2012 and would like to tailor out holiday with a Safari and a stay in Cape Town; can anyone recommend a good travel agent for tailoring our requirements?

We are on a tight budget (around £2K each),so we are looking for an agent that can offer us sensible options rather then the 5 star hotels and lodges we have been quoted for so far.

Thanks for your help,

Cape Town
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1. Re: Good Agent

Are you talking about £2K including airfares or in addition?

If it is including it can be done but I would strongly recommend that you do it all yourself with masses of assistance from people on here. South Africa is one of the best countries in the world for Internet DIY holidays. The cheapest safari destinations (£50 pn pp) are in the great National Parks - Kruger, Addo or Hluhluwe among others. With good quality, although not ultra luxe, accommodation. Cheaper to book direct then through an agent.

Then in Cape Town and around the country, the best - and best value - places to stay are the wonderful B&Bs and private Guesthouses rather than hotels. Great value and forget all that you ever knew about B&Bs in the UK - totally different experiences! When in Cape Town don't stay in the high priced tourist areas - the Waterfront, Camps Bay or Clifton. There are cheaper areas around different areas of the city.

To get about, SA has good budget internal airlines - as in Europe these are cheaper booked direct on the web. The for the rest hire a car and drive. An excellent road system with a fraction of the traffic of the UK. Same road rules as UK. Easy and relaxing to drive three or four hundred miles in a day if you need to - or just tootle along at your own pace. Cape Town is a lovely easy city to drive in. Above all parking is easy and either free or very cheap compared to UK cities. Car hire is cheapest using UK based Internet Brokers such as www.carhire4less,co,uk or www.carhire3000.com

All these deals will be much cheaper than you can get through an agent - and much more fun planning and booking with the help of these forums.

If you do have more to spend then agents can sometimes get better deals than direct for 5star hotels and ultra luxe private game reserves. Like anywhere in the world, they all build the agents commission into their prices ebven for direct booking.

remember January is peak holiday time in South Africa. As welll as overseas tourists the whole country is on summer holidays. Places are crowded and accomodation is at a premium. However the National parks are the same price 365 days a year and there are still some good baragains to be had that people on here can help you with.

So for the best value holiday - especially on a tigh budget - definitely do it yourself!

Edited: 10 May 2011, 23:10
Boston...
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2. Re: Good Agent

Van_de_Caab is correct: it's possible to do a trip to So Africa without using an agent. And there are some things for which an agent can be invaluable, or even essential. As a very broad rule, the more you are looking for a low-cost trip with budget-style accommodations, the less likely you are to get an agent involved.

There are several things any agent can do, and a few things that a good agent can do: Any agent can book stays for you at hotels, lodges, and other accommodations; any agent can arrange for transfers from place to place. A good and knowledgeable agent can also provide you with good advice based on his or her knowledge of both the places you want to visit and of the experiences of travelers like yourself. But make no mistake: the travel agent is providing a professional service and will earn a commission for his or her work.

Many first-timers -- and second- and third-timers, for that matter -- find all of the options to be bewildering, and they're relieved to have a knowledgeable agent work one-on-one with them to sort out a reasonable itinerary. Many others take Van_de_Caab's view on things and decide to arrange things for themselves. I don't think that there is one right answer for everybody.

My experience using agents is that the more an agent is knowledgeable about the area, the more he/she will be helpful to me.

Don

United States
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3. Re: Good Agent

I agree with what others have said. With a tight budget you can save a lot of money if you do it on your own with the help of tripadvisor forum advice.

Especially if you end up with an agent that is stuck promoting certain hotels to you either because they get kick backs for sending you to a particular hotel or because their agency forces them to use certain hotels. That's what happened to me when I booked my SA/Namibia trip (I was afraid to do it on my own as it was my first time booking such a large trip). I could never get the price I needed until I planned a portion of the trip on my own. The hotels/tours I found were way cheaper than what my travel agent had proposed and in the end I actually loved the stuff I selected by listening to tripadvisor forum advice more than the stuff the travel agent selected).

I plan all my own trips now cause no travel agent can understand what I like better than me. And the tripadvisor people are so incredibly helpful.

Edited: 11 May 2011, 01:47
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4. Re: Good Agent

Thanks everyone for your advice so far. It is a bit daunting to plan a DIY trip to SA when we dont know the area at all. We have found an agent who seems to know her stuff as she's been there 10 times, so maybe we can use her knowledge of places to avoid (as well as to go) and then combine it with all the helpful tips on these forums to plan our own trip. Any tips for best safari (or worst for that matter) would also be really useful. We've heard mixed reviews about Aquila and Kruger.

Van_de_Caab - the budget is approx £2k including flights which obviously takes a big slice out of it and not leaving a great deal for the actual trip!

Having seen some of the B+Bs on TripAdvisor it definitely looks like the type of accom that we're after. Something that really gives us a flavour of the people of SA with a little slice of luxury and not some generic faceless posh hotel where we could be anybody. Self-drive also seems the sort of thing we would do so thanks for the tip on hire cars. Should we be concerned about the safety aspect of driving around Cape Town on our own, not knowing the areas to avoid?

Thanks for your advice, no doubt we'll be asking loadsmore questions before we get to SA next year!!

Edited: 11 May 2011, 09:10
Hazyview, South...
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5. Re: Good Agent

Tripadvisor and booking.com are a good help, but for accommodation have a look at www.safarinow.com a booking engine with reputable establishments and in my opinion with the largest variety.

If you find a place you like, just google it and get in contact with the establishment direct. You may get a better rate or special that may not be on offer via SafariNow (as the establishment pays commission to them).

Another very good website is www.sa-venues.com . When enquiring you will be in direct contact with the establishment from the first moment.

Your budget will be around R300.00 per person and night B&B and you should get a very nice 3 star place for that (for your peace of mind check if it is graded www.tourismgrading.co.za ).

For accommodation inside Krueger Park, see www.sanparks.org

Klaus

-Owner Abangane-

Hazyview

Cape Town
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6. Re: Good Agent

I was just doing my calculations but I think Klaus' are not far off - you could even end up with a bit more. But R300 - R400 pppn is going to be a bit tight in the peak January season especially round Cape Town.

Here are mine - It is difficult to get flights to Cape Town in January for much less than £750 pp. Airlines like Emirates sometimes have cheap offers via Middle East airports, but these are often over 24 hours each way. Then car hire will cost about £250 for two weeks (basic small saloon with aircon - essential for mid-summer) and fuel for two weeks also about £250, depending on how much touring you do. So now you have around £1,000 pp for 14 days and nights - say R10,500. Good B&Bs will serve you a big 3 course breakfast which means that you can probably get away with R100pppd for Lunch. A reasonable evening meal with a bottle of wine will cost about R200pp. Add an extra R100 pppd for allincidentals - coffee's, beers, entrance fees etc. So daily costs work out about R5.600pp. Leaves R4,900 or R350 pppd. At this level I would doubt that an agent would help? They would not get cheaper flights and certainly not car hire and you have to pay somehow for their services.

The savenues and safarinow sites are good for searching for lower cost accom as is http://www.sleeping-out.co.za/ At this price it is probably better to look at self-catering cottages and appartments in the Cape Town area and look at places away from the main tourist areas. R700 per night for a one bedroom appartment in January peak season is not impossible but your choice will be a bit restricted.

SanParks chalet accommodation in Addo - the best safari destination close to Cape Town - is going to work out about R800-900 per night so this fits not far off your budget. Alternatively, as Klaus suggests you could fly up to Kruger. This will add about R700 pp for one way budget flights to Joburg. Rent another car there.

So it's all possible within £2K pp, but requires some work - and some help on here! But, as I said before, many people find the planning and setting up to be a fun experience - and, as hehe says, you end up with YOUR holiday - not someone else's!

Cape Town
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7. Re: Good Agent

BTW You say January. It will be much better if you can plan your holiday starting after the main holiday season ends on January 18th when all the schools have gone back. Cape Town schools go back a week earlier this year but Joburg and the north, who flood down to Cape Town for their holidays, don't return until the 18th.

After that time the crowds will be less and accommodation will be easier to find. High Peak surcharges may not apply and deals will be easier to negotiate!

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8. Re: Good Agent

Thanks for the web addresses and the tip about holidays. We were planning to head out to SA at the end of Jan (after 18 Jan) so that should fit in perfectly!

Looking forward to trawling the websites and putting our own schedule together, just need to find time in the evenings and lunch hours to do it! Still, we have 6 months so there's time.

Thanks

Boston...
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9. Re: Good Agent

> "we have 6 months so there's time."

Yes and no.

The most desirable accommodations, at all price levels, tend to sell out early. If you wait until October or November to make reservations for a January trip, you may well not find room in some or all of the places you want.

Don

Tempe, Arizona
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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10. Re: Good Agent

This is such a helpful thread, it ought to be bookmarkable.