After my recent trip to the Vatican City, I had some time off and decided to visit family in South Africa. It had been a while since my last visit, and I learnt a few new things about money and how to use it (and not to use it) while in the rainbow country.
Although you can bring in a limited amount of Rands into South Africa it is wise not to travel with too much cash. Travellers’ cheques (preferably Sterling) can be exchanged at banks bureaux de change and large hotels – not small guest houses. Credit cards – Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted by guest houses like ourselves; less so American Express or Diners.
Banking hours are 08.30 am to 1600 hrs Mondays to Fridays, open Saturdays between 0830 to 1100 hrs.
Much quicker and less bureaucratic are cards with the Cirrus or Maestro logos, which can be used at ATMs. When using “hole-in-the-wall” facilities be vigilant as card fraud is also prevalent in South Africa.
Lonely Planet recommends : “Use machines only at banks and then only during business hours. After inserting your card and before you enter your PIN, press the CANCEL button. If your card is returned, the machine works fine.”
(Apparently what thieves do is insert a thin plastic sleeve in the slot of the machine with which to retrieve the card).
When paying for purchases or meals it is a good idea not to let your card out of your sight. Petrol stations do not accept credit cards. It’s worth making assurance doubly sure by bringing a second card – in case you are unlucky enough to have an ATM swallow your card, lose it, or it gets stolen.
Unless there is a service charge – around 10% is the norm in restaurants, bars, taxis. Tips – or “bonsellas” as we call them here – for chambermaids or car cleaners (yes some establishments such as The Coachman Guest House may clean your car while you’re sleeping!) are at your discretion. It is not general practice to tip hairdressers or beauty therapists. If you wish to do so they’ll be surprised and delighted with 10%! Virtually all shopping malls with car parks have “Guards”, official or unofficial. Usually this is their main source of income. On return to your car what you tip is discretionary – say between R5 and R10.