Traveling to South Africa - money tips

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prairieman
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Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by prairieman » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:07 pm

Hey, I really am not sure what the best process is for paying for stuff while traveling in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
I currently use Apple Pay for most things and almost never use cash. Do I need to notify all the cards on it where I’ll be? Does Apple Pay even work? Should I just get and use cash? Should I bring Rand with me or use an ATM when there?

123
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by 123 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:10 pm

Be sure to file a travel notice with whatever payment services (credit card etc) you decide to use to lessen the likelihood that your transactions will be rejected. Generally you can do these online.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

02nz
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by 02nz » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:12 pm

My travel to South Africa was before Apple Pay, but withdrawing with ATMs using my U.S. ATM cards was no problem. I would never exchange currency in the U.S. before travel - you're guaranteed to get a terrible rate, especially on a currency like the rand.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by Shallowpockets » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:14 pm

You should notify CC companies.
If you want local currency, you should get it in country.

Nowadays most places take CC.
Don’t know about Apple Pay.
If you have to get visas at borders, they may want USD. You can google those things specifically.

mlipps
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by mlipps » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:19 pm

You don't need to notify credit card companies anymore with the advent of chip cards. Both CapitalOne & Chase have done away with travel notices, for example.

If any of those countries use the USD as their "defacto" currency, make sure you go to a bank, not an ATM, before you go, so you can get NEW high quality bills. I was lazy when I went to Tanzania in September & ended up with about $100 in $10's and $20's that no one would accept due to rips or just general wear and tear.

I usually find it comforting to arrive with about $200 in cash in a foreign country, just in case. In general you get the best exchange rate by using a foreign ATM, but I have occasionally run into (temporary) issues withdrawing money while abroad. $200 is enough to get by for a day or two but not so much that it will ruin your trip if it gets lost or stolen somehow. It's not worth the hassle to try to get foreign currency before you go though, especially for something as obscure as the SA Rand. You'll get a lousy exchange rate and your bank will probably have to "order" it for you which will take some time.

chrisam314
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by chrisam314 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:24 pm

I used credit cards everywhere in South Africa and never had an issue. We did take out cash for tipping from an ATM.

keaton
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by keaton » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:26 pm

No Apple Pay as they have their own form in most areas. I just used Chase Sapphire and Revolut. Also used Ally to take out a little. Have a bunch of small rands like 2-5 rands for car guards. Don’t have anything visible in the car when driving or parked. Even in gated areas! Keep the doors locked when driving as well.

jminv
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by jminv » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:58 pm

In South Africa, you can use cards most places. It’s still helpful to get some rand from the atm if you’re going outside main tourist areas, making purchases from small roadside vendors, tips outside of restaurant situation, etc.

Zambia and Zimbabwe you’ll need some cash. Dollars in zim but it’s complicated there and keeps changing. How you pay in dollars matters since in some situations it’s much cheaper to convert and then pay while in other situations it’s cheaper to pay in dollars. See https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic- ... babwe.html In Zambia I would get kwacha from an atm but only as much as you’ll actually use since don’t want to convert back. You can use cards in lots of places in the tourist areas. Prices in day to day life are better in kwacha. Kwacha also better if you are in a negotiation situation ie crafts.

When you land in Zimbabwe (or Zambia) get the dual visa (kaza Univisa) on arrival not the one just for the specific country. Otherwise you will pay more getting each separately. Hardly any tourists know about it. Bring 50 dollars in cash or you can now pay ahead of time online for small surcharge.

informal guide
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by informal guide » Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:02 pm

I just returned from a trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana in early November

In Zimbabwe, the currency used most places was either the US Dollar or sometimes the South African Rand - -cash much preferred. Flying into Zimbabwe, US dollars were required for an entry Visa (cash only, in crisp clean bills; about US $45 for a double entry visa) . The economy in Zimbabwe is a disaster, with 80 % unemployment.

South Africa has ATMs in most urban places, including the airport; credit cards are accepted by most merchants. Tips, however, are much preferred in South African Rand.

When using credit cards, never have the charges posted in US dollars - -it is a lousy exchange rate (thye will offer you this option when you pay with a card). Rather, accept the charges only in local currency.

One comment for those who follow every penny - -oftentimes foreign ATM fees don't get identified for for your financial institution to reimburse. You may need to contact them after the fact to get the fees reimbursed. I did an ATM withdrawal in a mall and the bank owning the ATM (FNB) charged a R50 fee (a little over US$ 3.50) for a R3500 withdrawal.

Flyer24
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by Flyer24 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:06 pm

mlipps wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:19 pm
You don't need to notify credit card companies anymore with the advent of chip cards. Both CapitalOne & Chase have done away with travel notices, for example.

If any of those countries use the USD as their "defacto" currency, make sure you go to a bank, not an ATM, before you go, so you can get NEW high quality bills. I was lazy when I went to Tanzania in September & ended up with about $100 in $10's and $20's that no one would accept due to rips or just general wear and tear.

I usually find it comforting to arrive with about $200 in cash in a foreign country, just in case. In general you get the best exchange rate by using a foreign ATM, but I have occasionally run into (temporary) issues withdrawing money while abroad. $200 is enough to get by for a day or two but not so much that it will ruin your trip if it gets lost or stolen somehow. It's not worth the hassle to try to get foreign currency before you go though, especially for something as obscure as the SA Rand. You'll get a lousy exchange rate and your bank will probably have to "order" it for you which will take some time.

Chase hasn't done away with travel notices. I travel overseas about once a month and still put the alert on my card.

aristotelian
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by aristotelian » Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:47 pm

I had no problem using my ATM or credit cards. Do be aware they drive on the wrong side of the road over there, and you will get a stick shift if you don't request otherwise. I couldnt find an open kiosk for SIM card at the airport but did just fine downloading Google Maps data over Wi-Fi and the driving around without data.

coalcracker
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by coalcracker » Thu Dec 19, 2019 2:57 pm

keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:26 pm
No Apple Pay as they have their own form in most areas. I just used Chase Sapphire and Revolut. Also used Ally to take out a little. Have a bunch of small rands like 2-5 rands for car guards. Don’t have anything visible in the car when driving or parked. Even in gated areas! Keep the doors locked when driving as well.
I spend a summer in SA as a poor student (without a car) and have not heard of "car guards." Are they people you actually hire or those hired by establishments to guard the parking lots?

I'd love to go back there someday with my family. Beautiful country and people.

obgraham
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by obgraham » Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:44 pm

My experience was a bit different....In SA out of big cities, and in the other countries up the East of Africa, cash was much preferred, and cc often refused. This for small purchases, refreshments, etc. So yes, get some rand at the ATM.

At home when I come across a clean USNote (1-5-10) I toss it in a box, and this is the cash I use on trips. Agree that $200 US is very handy to have in most of the less developed world.

For some odd reason, most of the Euros I get at an ATM are pristine!

jminv
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by jminv » Thu Dec 19, 2019 9:13 pm

coalcracker wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 2:57 pm
keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:26 pm
No Apple Pay as they have their own form in most areas. I just used Chase Sapphire and Revolut. Also used Ally to take out a little. Have a bunch of small rands like 2-5 rands for car guards. Don’t have anything visible in the car when driving or parked. Even in gated areas! Keep the doors locked when driving as well.
I spend a summer in SA as a poor student (without a car) and have not heard of "car guards." Are they people you actually hire or those hired by establishments to guard the parking lots?

I'd love to go back there someday with my family. Beautiful country and people.
This has been a thing for a long while. There's forms of it in other countries as well. You run into it on free side street parking in certain areas, especially in areas of Joburg and Capetown where parking is in short supply. You don't tip at your own risk. Technically, they are random people who don safety vests and some people want to think of it as begging. Some are more enterprising and offer to also wash your car (in place). You sometimes run into these people after coming back to your car since they didn't catch you on the way out which in case I wouldn't pay, just fyi if you're surprised.

rich126
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Re: Traveling to South Africa - money tips

Post by rich126 » Fri Dec 20, 2019 12:01 am

Some cc companies now allow you to notify them via their web site regarding foreign travel. American Express is the only one that I know you don’t need to notify them. If in doubt I’d call. Better safe than be without money in a foreign country.

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