Want to go wandering, but don’t have grands of Rands? Here are six exotic overseas destinations that won’t send your bank manager running
Why go? Whether you’re a beach bum or intrepid explorer there’s little you won’t find in India. Jungles prowled by endangered tigers, ancient forts marooned in the desert, lake palaces, exquisite monuments, exotic temples, towering mountains... the country has it all, and that’s without mentioning the glorious food. India is dirt-cheap on the Rand, so if you don’t mind sharing it all with a billion locals India is your oyster.
When to go: India is vast, so when also depends on where. Monsoons hit the southern regions in May/June and move across the country. December and January are your best bet for clear skies and mild temperatures in the most popular tourist areas.
Make it happen: You’ll need to apply for a visa, but these are issued free of charge at the Consulate in Durban or Johannesburg. Flights start from about R6000 return, and you can either fly direct from Johannesburg on SAA, or get a cheaper fare with one of the Middle Eastern airlines. Travelling around is cheap if you live like a local and use the extensive train system, the world’s largest. Expect to pay from R50 – R150 per night for a double room in a decent small hotel.
Why go? With 17 000 islands flung across 5000 kilometres of ocean, there’s an island destination for everyone. The western reaches of Sumatra are prone to earthquakes, but surfers let nothing stand between them and the legendary breaks of the Mentawai Islands. You’ll find more great surf and sand on the popular holiday island of Bali, which is also famous for its affordable spa retreats in Ubud. On Java you’ll get ancient temples and rumbling volcanoes, while the Gili Islands off Lombok are the place to turn to turn up, tune in and chill out.
When to go: Straddling the equator, Indo is hot and humid almost any time of year. In most parts of the country there’s slightly more rain (which usually comes in short, intense downpours) from October to April, but you’ll also benefit from low season prices and fewer European tourists.
Make it happen: A visa-on-arrival will cost you $25 and a clean and a comfortable beach bungalow will set you back as little as R150/night for two. The easiest way to get there is via Singapore on Singapore Airlines. Expect to pay from R8000 for a return ticket from Johannesburg. Keep an eye out for super-cheap stopover specials.
Why go? Enjoy tropical paradise just a few hours from Johannesburg, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in for good measure. Choose between an island-hopping dhow expedition through the northern islands, hiking through the spectacular spiny forests of the west coast, whale watching in the east or tracking rare lemurs in the tropical rainforests of the Central Highlands. Just surviving the chaotic streets of the capital Antananarivo is a story in itself!
When to go: The best time to travel in most areas is April and October/November, and you’d best avoid January to March when there’s heavy rainfall across the country and a high risk of cyclones in the northeast. Hotels get full (and expensive) during the European holidays in July and August.
Make it happen: All passport holders require a visa, which can be issued at the Consulate in Cape Town, or Embassy in Pretoria. Accommodation ranges from pauper to prince, but you should get a decent double room on the coast for around R350. Don’t forget the island is malarial, so see your travel doctor well before you leave! You can fly from Johannesburg to Antananarivo with Air Madagascar or Airlink, with fares starting at around R5000.
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First published in HighFlyers magazine