South Africa 2012 trip planning, Phase 2: details, details

Hey, did you hear: I’m going to South Africa! Having wanted to make this trip for most of my life, I’m really excited about it and very focused on my preparation.

Nova Scotia to South Africa
I’m going from here to here

During last week’s post about Phase 1 of planning, I covered the “big things:” where, when, who, and how. This week, I’m getting into the weeds.

Vaccinations (Six weeks out)

When traveling abroad, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the public health situation in your destination and whether there are any specific health risks that should factor into your plans. In Canada, travel health isn’t covered by universal health care, but finding doctors who specialize in travel health (and those who do it on the side) isn’t terribly difficult. When you see a travel health professional, be sure to get a vaccination record (sometimes called a Yellow Card) to track your vaccinations. Check ahead to see if you are required to provide proof of vaccination in your destination.

I got the full suite of vaccines a couple of years ago. For South Africa, I’ll consult my travel doctor for a couple of boosters (if necessary) and some anti-malarial medication since I’ll be in Kruger National Park and it’s included in a malaria zone.

There are many great travel health resources out there:


Family: There are lots of people to notify in advance of traveling. I provide a complete itinerary and as much contact info as possible to my parents and at least one friend.

Banks and credit cards: A week or so before my trip, I’ll call my bank and credit card companies to provide my travel dates and destination information. So far, so lucky – I’ve rarely had bank issues while abroad. I have a separate bank account at another bank I use as my primary travel account. It’s completely separate from my day-to-day banking at home, and has some international travel benefits, including free ATM withdrawals at certain partner banks around the world.

Government: This one is obviously optional, but for trips longer than one week, I sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad. In the event of an emergency at home, or abroad while in-country, the registry can make it easier for Canadian consular staff to provide assistance. I am biased because I am a public servant, but I usually err on the side of helping people who can help me.

Visa: I’ve checked with the South African embassy and I don’t need a visa. My passport still has a couple of years on it, so I’m good to go.


This item always depends on the destination. For the United States and Europe, I usually enter the country with “walking around” money and withdraw cash when I arrive, since it’s usually cheaper with my travel bank account. For this trip, I’m doing the opposite since we’re heading out on safari shortly after my arrival and will order some currency (at a slighly inflated rate) two or three weeks in advance of my departure.

I am pretty excited to get my hands on some rand. The bank notes feature elephants, rhinoceroses, and lots of other lovely animals. Future plans: a photo of me holding a R2o note (with an elephant on it) next to a real elephant.

Packing list

I love packing lists to a rather unhealthy degree. If the Olympic motto is “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” my packing corollary is “Lighter, Smaller, Better.” As such, my packing list is a constant work in progress and source of pride. To mix things up a little with this trip, I’ve been building my packing list in Pinterest. A Pinterest packing list is definitely not essential, but it’s been a fun way to learn Pinterest and how it can be put to practical use. As part of Phase 3, I did compile a proper packing list.

Pinterest South Africa Packing List

Cape Town or bust!

I’m still working on accommodation and plans for Cape Town. I’m a little overwhelmed with options right now. It’s an amazing destination and there is simply so much ground to cover. I’ll be there in the spring/early summer and I want to cram as much fun as I can into my time there. I’m still looking for suggestions and recommendations, particularly about how to see some penguins and/or get out to Cape Point. Don’t be shy, tell me where to go (in Cape Town), in the comments!

Ok, now what am I forgetting? 



  1. I posted on the Facebook page for the internship program I traveled through asking for hostel recommendations. Interns with Connect-123 stay in apartments for the duration of their work terms, but I know a lot of people stayed in hostels before or after that, so they might have some suggestions for you.

  2. Defiantly do a wine tour in Cape Town and Table Mountain! We always travelled with American cash in Africa and changed it locally…take some neat little things to trade/ barder with when buying local souvenirs; the kids there LOVE balloons, pens, candy, etc (load up from dollarama). Try and stay away from taking Larium as your anti malarial medication as the nightmares are crazy I have been told! Can’t wait to hear about your trip…Africa is amazing!

  3. Have you explored renting a car to drive to Cape Point? It’s an easy – great – day to drive from the city out to the point stopping in Simonstown for lunch and penguins. Not that the penguins are lunch….Cape Point is probably an hour away max. Not only baboons. (don’t feed them), but ostriches. Wild. Just walking around. It is to swoon.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Nancy! I’m going to price rentals, I’ve had others suggest that’s the best way to do it, and, overall, I think it gives me a lot more flexibility.


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