(By Jenna Berndt)

Don’t let the rate of exchange derail your travel plans…

With South Africa’s economic climate and weaker rand, travellers could rightly be concerned that their 2020 holiday dreams are decreasing at the same rate as the country’s GDP. But, there is a way to travel, even in less rand-friendly destinations such as Europe, with a little pre-thought and planning. Here are five useful travel hacks to help locals save on their next overseas adventure.

Book early

When it comes to travel, the early bird catches the worm, which makes the number one travel-saving tip, no matter where you’re headed: book early. Travellers might find last-minute specials, but these are not always guaranteed and usually come with a limited booking window and your choices will be limited.

Flights can be booked up to a year in advance, so book early to secure the limited seats in the cheapest fare classes. Three months down the line, that very same economy-class seat could set you back a lot more.

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When it comes to accommodation, cruises, touring and sightseeing, it also pays to book early.

“We‘ve already seen an increase in the number of enquiries for travel in 2020,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa, the parent company of popular guided holiday brand Trafalgar. “We decided to open bookings for our 2020 guided holidays in Europe and Britain even earlier this year to accommodate this.”

The pre-sale means travellers can book a European guided holiday with Trafalgar departing in 2020 and pay current 2019 rates. “The rand guarantee also locks in the price, so if it goes up thanks to economic fluctuations, clients don’t need to worry as they’ve already paid. If the price goes down, the difference will be reimbursed,” Richardson adds.

Prague, Czech Republic. Christmas Market in Stare Mesto old square, Tyn Church, Bohemia. Copyright: emicristea / 123RF Stock Photo

Not all countries cost the same

Get the most bang for your buck by researching the cost of living and travel in the different areas of Europe.

Countries such as Portugal are very trendy right now and offer a similar sun-splashed Mediterranean-style holiday for less than some of the more popular tourist cities in Europe. Eastern Europe is also considered rand-friendly, says Richardson. “Consider countries such as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – or the Baltic countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. They have the same quaint Medieval city centres and European charm but with a more rand-friendly price tag – and with fewer tourists.”

Or, if you have your heart set on a destination that is not as rand-friendly, don’t despair. “Go inclusive and pay upfront as much as possible to avoid any extra surprises,” suggests Richardson.

Holidaymakers can also opt for a country that doesn’t require a visa, saving on that extra expense. Ireland is a great example. South Africans don’t need a visa (although you will still need to show the documentation usually needed to apply for one at immigration). However, Dublin can be pricey, especially for food and drink. Head out of the city and prices drop. The Irish countryside is also known for its stunning scenery, friendly locals and charming atmosphere.

“A good tip when eating out in Ireland is to choose a different time of day to eat out,” recommends Megan McLaren, a South African expat who has relocated to Dublin. “Pubs and restaurants will offer exactly the same meal, but priced differently. Instead of dinner, go for lunch or the early dinner option (usually 6 pm) to save on the very same meal.”

Copyright: sborisov / 123RF Stock Photo

Head off the beaten (off-season) path

There are many reasons to travel off-peak, especially as rates are usually cheaper. Travellers will also have their pick of restaurants and hotel options and could upgrade their room category but pay the same price.

Off-peak will also mean fewer travellers than in the popular tourist months. Europe’s summer is peak tourist season, running from mid-June to August. Shoulder season is generally considered to be April to June and September and October while off-season runs from November to March.

“Exploring Europe in the different seasons is especially magical for South Africans, not familiar with drastic season changes. There’s the magic of a white Christmas in the snow or the beauty of the changing leaves in the Autumn,” says Richardson.

Use public transport

Not only is public transport a great way to save money in Europe, but it is also the best way to find hidden treasures you would have missed sitting in a taxi or your rental car. Snap that selfie on the London Underground, cruise the canals of Amsterdam, hire a bicycle in Paris or hop on the tram in Prague so you don’t miss out.

Pack snacks and reusable water bottles

Pack snacks to take with you when out and about sightseeing. While you certainly want to sample all the delights of the local cuisine, stopping to buy food every time you feel peckish can add up.

Pack your reusable water bottle, too. Bottled water is unnecessary (and not good for the planet). Visitors will find places to fill up with safe drinking water in most locations across Europe.

With these rand-savings tips and 2020 booking incentives, you can be the (super organised) travel bird who catches themselves an affordable holiday in Europe.

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