A South African's guide to travelling on the ridiculously weak rand

2016-03-28 20:00 - Anje Rautenbach
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Anje Rautenbach takes shoe-string budget to the next level and considers all the ways you could possibly have a good time abroad on a South African Rand budget...

You want to sip a Mojito under a palm tree, walk on the Great Wall of China and take a sphinx-selfie but there is just one tiny little thing standing between you and your perfect getaway: the Rand.

You’ve seen the daisy petal picking I-love-you-I-love-you-not relationship between the Dollar and the Rand but you still want to jet off and frolic between canals and cathedrals.

There is hope. 

You don’t need to kiss the ideal getaway goodbye, you just need to be smart (and maybe give up on a few luxuries).

So let’s start with your basic survival needs: food, water and shelter.


Your long-awaited vacation is the perfect time to be a vegetarian and to make Tim Noakes proud.

Now, you are probably wondering what to eat when carbs and meat are off the table, but don’t fret or fear; your answer is in the aisles of grocery stores and their promotional processed items.

Target a different store every day, fill up on their free sample bites and pack a hat, scarf and sunglasses as disguise for your second round. Go to markets where you can inquisitively point to fruit and nuts and taste before you buy. Your go-to phrase should be, ‘mmm delicious, I’m just getting the rest of my family and then we’ll buy some’. Stealing food is never an option, it is usually frowned upon; your go-to phrase should be I-don’t-understand hand signals or, ‘oh, it is not a sample?’.


You will always find free water in office buildings; just pack some neat clothes, waltz through the doors and pretend that you are there for a meeting. If you are really hungry, find a boardroom with snacks on the table. Your go-to phrase should be, ‘oh wait, this is not the fifth floor’.


High-end hotels have the tendency to report you to the authorities if you sneak into a room, you can’t afford that. Your best bet will be park benches, train stations and airports. For a more comfortable sleep, seek a bed in a hostel with backpackers. If someone catches you in their bed, just remember that you are between mostly young backpackers, your go-to phrase should be, ‘dude, my bad, wrong bed’. It might even end in a party (that’s exactly what you are looking for, free drinks and snacks).

Here are some more tips for other travel-related expenses.

Sights and Activities

Join a tour group, preferably an Asian tour group whose entrance fees are already paid for and blend in. The best way to blend in is to follow those with selfie-sticks and pose for photos. If you throw your fingers in the air and make a peace-sign it will be more believable. Your grocery store disguise is also known as the basic Asian sun protection, pack it in and you might even get free meals and accommodation. Your go-to phrase should be a polite bow and the peace-sign.

Staying connected

Don’t buy a local sim card, don’t go to an internet café and don’t opt for roaming. Use the free public wi-fi, the internet at the office where you filled up your water bottle and stand in front of restaurants. Your go-to phrase should be, ‘what is your wi-fi password?’


There shall be no Uber. You can either frolic your way from A to B or stick with the Asians and jump on their big air-conditioned bus. Your go-to phrase should be a confused and bewildered look (not too bewildered, you don’t want to leave the country in a strait-jacket). 


Don’t lose out on the mementoes just because you are on a tight budget. Go through lost and found boxes or bottle some fresh air and ocean water. When you arrrive back home empty-handed in front of your family and friends your go-to phrase should be, ‘the damn airport confiscated it all, I am so furious’.


You really have nothing to lose, skip on the insurance.


Nope. Nothing. If your bank didn’t let you in on the secret already your go-to phrase should be, ‘insufficient funds’. 

And there you have it! Who said you can’t have a good time abroad on a South African Rand budget? Otherwise just heed all the advice that travelling local might just be the way to go this year... 

Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter  or on Instagram!

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