Trip Coach: Oct. 18, 2005

Writer Josh Dean answers your questions on traveling to South Africa

On Tuesday, Oct. 18 Josh Dean, who wrote 'Cape Town: The Top 25',  answered your questions on South Africa. The transcript is below.

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Atlanta, GA: Hello Josh,

I'm considering a trip to Capetown, S.A. but this time instead of being driven around, I would like to rent a car and drive the cape and wine lands. I will be a party of two. We've both have been drivng for at least 25 yrs. I've heard stories of car jackings along the highway, is this true.

Josh Dean: A lot has been made of carjackings in South Africa and I can't tell you there isn't something to it. There is a lot of unemployment in the country and law enforcement can be spotty but I've been there four times and have never felt in danger. It's like being in New York or Moscow or much of the Third World - you need to exercise caution and good sense. Avoid bad areas. But in general, the Cape is well policed and certainly you're safe on the highways. You'd just want to avoid, say, stopping alone at night.

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Winston-Salem, NC: We would like to go to Capetown in mid may 2006. 3 nights in Capetown. Rent a car and visit the cape and the wine country for 2/3 nights. Take the blue train to Pretoria. Then fly to Victoria Falls and visit some game parks includiong the Okavango Delta. Is this feasible? Suggestions, please, especially as to who to deal with on the game parks portion of the trip

Josh Dean: Wow - that's biting off a lot. It's certainly possible to do all of this, especially if you've got a few weeks to do it. Three nights in CT is adequate and a couple nights in wine country should also do the trick. Botswana alone is worth at least a week. Chobe and the Okavango are vast and beautiful and far more wild feeling, in my experience, than South Africa's Kruger (which is still an amazing park). I haven't dealt with specific outfitters in that area, unfortunately but there are no shortage of them, many run by South Africans. You'll find no shortage of lodges too - from rustic to luxury.

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pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: is it safe for a 63 year old woman to drive around south africa alone, and if so, can you recommend a super-low-cost rental agency for a month long rental, since i won't have anyone with whom to share the costs? also, if i can ask a second question, are there any budget hotels that have single rooms?

Josh Dean: That's a tough one. I tend to think that SA is safe if you are smart and careful and travel in touristed areas during the day. But I would definitely rent a cell phone and make sure friends/relatives know where you are. Obviously, though, it would be safer -- and more fun! -- with a friend along. There are plenty of budget hotels and nearly all offer single rates. The exchange rate now is still very friendly to the dollar, so you'll find good value for money.

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san diego ,califoria : 1. when is the best time of the year to go for three weeks ?
2. What is the most economical way to fly from san diego to capetown , roundtrip?

Josh Dean: All flights now go through Johannesburg, though South African Air has in the past offered direct flights from Atlanta to CT. SAA is the only carrier that flies direct from the US and if you buy in advance, and in the offseason, you'll find flights as cheap as $900. You can also score in that range if you go through Europe. British Air and Virgin both service South Africa from England. Air France and KLM from Paris and A'dam. As for when to go, it depends what you're doing. Our winter is their summer, and around the Cape it's lovely in summer. Winter, though, is the best time for game viewing b/c the foliage is dead and the animals can't hide so easily. If you're doing a combo of activities, you might consider late winter/early spring. Flowers will be blooming and the hotter areas won't yet have reached summer highs.

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Seattle, WA: Where are the best places to hike near Cape Town? We're interested in day-hikes (not overnight). Thanks!

Josh Dean: There are so many! The city is literally surrounded by mountains. Table Mountain alone has dozens of day hikes. South of the city, there are hundreds that climb, say, the Twelve Apostles or the hills around Hout Bay -- and then there's the huge Cape Point park. Any local bookstore will have a section of books full of hikes. You could stay there a month and still not run out of options.

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