Travel Essentials – Travel Editors’ Advice For South African Travellers

Couple planning trip with map

4.22min read

Published 7 June 2018


It’s not all palm trees and piña coladas for South Africa’s travel writers and editors who scour the globe in search of inspiring holiday destinations and meaningful travel tips for their readers.

Editing a travel magazine, newspaper or website is hard work. More often than not, the glamour of travel lies beyond their grasp as their hosts nudge them from hotel to hotel or try to pack in as many experiences as possible to ‘showcase’ the destination in its best light.

Despite this, Debashine Thangevelo, Group Travel Editor Independent Media, has fond memories of every place she’s travelled to and the people she’s encountered. “All these things help you evolve into a more worldly individual. Once the travel bug bites, you won’t be able to stop exploring. The adventures that (travel) presents is what makes life, and my job in this instance, all the more rewarding.”

Selene Brophy, Traveller24 Editor, says with travel journalism, she is afforded the opportunity to share “unique stories and open peoples’ mind to what this planet we call home really has to offer”.

Working as a travel journalist satiates her curiosity, at least temporarily, says Eager Journeys’ Iga Motylska, who writes for several publications, and runs a successful travel blog. “It allows me to learn about other cultures, traditions and religions, while visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites and exploring spectacular landscapes.

“It's humbling to realise that my way of doing things is not necessarily the right way, it's just a different way. I have hiked mountains, met shamans and royals, tasted guinea pig and bat, participated in silent retreats, gotten lost (and found again), white water rafted and soared across gorges, missed flights and ferries all in a day's work.”

“Generally in life, you end up regretting the things you didn’t do, more than the things you did,” says Guy Hawthorne, Editor Travel Ideas on his philosophy on travel. “Obviously different destinations appeal for different reasons.”

What you never leave home without on your travels

My power bank, camera and, of course, the right adapter to charge all my stuff.​

I never leave home without dental floss. There’s nothing more annoying than having a piece of biltong stuck in your teeth for an entire 10-hour flight.

Packing a universal travel converter and adaptor means I never have to worry about charging my devices no matter where I am travelling to. The ones with USB ports are really useful for charging phones, iPods and cameras. 

What never fails me is a universal charger. I have two: one purchased out of desperation due to dead devices in foreign currency (15 euro) and the other at a duty-free shop at an airport with interchangeable adapters (R200). Check which plug you’ll need here>.

Top Travel Tips

Always research your destination. Rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. ​Flights could get delayed. You could get lost. Luggage could get lost. Be familiar with the climate you are going into. Look into what the place is recognised for. If you are a foodie, make a list of the places you should try. If you are more into a cultural experience, draw up an itinerary to ensure you get to make the most of your time at the destination you are visiting.

When you're in an unfamiliar town or country, get out and “do” as much as possible. Research the area first to make sure you don’t miss out on sites, activities, even local bands that might be playing in the area. Don’t get home afterwards regretting that you didn’t go on a certain ride at Disneyland because the queue was too long. 

If you're looking for an authentic travel experience, I highly recommend doing a home stay with a verified local family. This kind of cultural exchange will give you real insights into the day-to-day life of the country and people you are visiting. They'll share insiders' insights that will take you beyond the beaten tourist path and who knows you might make life-long friends. 

Start your planning well in advance when it comes to the destination, you could save yourself an enormous amount in travel costs. The best time to go might not be the right time to go. This is true for Indian Ocean Islands like Mauritius or Mozambique, where off-peak is quite favourable for us locals in terms of pricing and the weather is still great. That said, once there, don’t forget to leave a little bit of your itinerary open to serendipity - where you just hit the road, bus or train and explore unplanned for the day. 

Favourite Destination

I think every country has its own appeal, but I'm going to say Florence. It has special memories for me as I spent a birthday there. As a foodie, who loves Italian cuisine, I was spoilt for choice. The architecture and history of the place, especially looking into its historical figures during the Renaissance, as well as the warmth of the people, made my stay there feel surreal. One day, I would love to explore Rome, too

If I had to pick one country that ticks more boxes than most, I’d have to say Slovenia. Besides being so much more affordable than any other European country, Slovenia’s scenic diversity is what makes a holiday here so special. One can travel from the warm turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea (head for the seaside resort town of Piran), up to the highest Alpine ski resorts in just a few hours. On the way, you’ll pass castles on hilltops, drive alongside rivers and lakes, venture through dense forests and come across quaint rural settlements. Must-visit towns in Slovenia include Ljubljana (the capital - which is overlooked by a huge medieval castle, reached by funicular) and Bled. On the shores of Lake Bled, take a boat ride to the church on an island in the middle of the lake.  And I’ll say it again… so much more affordable than neighbouring countries like Croatia. 

That's a really hard one to answer, as every destination has something unique to offer. But as far as my 'recent' travels go, I'd have to say Ethiopia. Ethiopian Airlines offers direct flights from Cape Town and Jo’burg, and South Africans can get an e-visa as of 1 June, which makes it a convenient travel destination. The people are exceptionally friendly and I felt safe even when I was travelling alone. The coffee is some of the best you'll try and vegan food options are found everywhere. Ethiopia is a country that's percolated with a rich and diverse heritage and history - it's one of the world's oldest nations, has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa, and boasts the hottest place on Earth. My highlight was visiting the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela that date back to the 12th century and are located in the northern reaches of the country. No matter what you're after, you'll surely find it in Ethiopia. 

Definitely New York City, because it won me over in less than a minute - even though I had no inclination to visit the US initially. As a city, it just has a frenetic energy that makes you feel like you are at the forefront of where creativity is unfolding, all stoked after attending the Skift Travel Forum -never mind that there is a  six-hour time difference.  I only did touristy things like Time Square and the One World Trade Centre but definitely heading back to explore the rest of its boroughs. 

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