Travel
July 13, 2009 6:07 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: 17-hour layover in Frankfurt, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kruger, Victoria Falls: Any and all travel advice. Some SLR photo advice for this kind of trip as well.

This trip has been a long time in the making, 2 years of planning roughly, but we're finally departing this week. As a sanity check, I'd like the hive mind to weigh in and make sure I don't forget to pack my tooth brush. I would appreciate whatever experience you have to offer, thanks!

I've read previous AskMeFi questions, summarized here for convenience. Please fill in any blanks. We're pretty much on a set tour through Africa, however we'll have a couple nights to our selves, as well as the daytime between safaris. This is rather open-ended, but I do have some specific questions:

-I was really worried about Frankfurt, but I believe the Mefi questions below cover most of what I was worried about. How much will being an English-only speaking family prevent us from going places? Any locals want to recommend a place for lunch?

-I have an old SLR with a bunch of lenses (note the lack of D)... which I don't think is overkill for this kind of trip. However the tripod I bought has raised some eyebrows. I'm not a photo nut by any stretch, but I feel a simple tripod helps me take better shots. Am I crazy? We're limited by the weight we can bring on safari. What kind of film should I be bringing (speed, etc)? Again, I really am an amateur.

-How much cash is necessary in Victoria Falls? I'm well aware of the state of the local currency. Any personal experiences would be helpful.

-YANMD, but any advice on medication, over-the-counter products you wish you had, etc. would be very helpful.

-VirtualLeash: I have international roaming for my Blackberry (ugh) and my little netbook for checking in with the office periodically. Any advice related to working on the road in these places would be appreciated.

-Wine: my dad is a wine nut, specifically a collector of French and California wines. Any South African wine advice would also be appreciated.

-Clothing: it's winter in South Africa, most literature has us dressing for the summer. We're packing some warm clothes, however local advice on weather would be helpful.

Frankfurt
-What's to do in Frankfurt - Very helpful
-London or Frankfurt for the weekend
-Must see things in Frankfurt, Desden, and Berlin
-Cheap sleep near the Frankfurt airport


Cape Town
-South Africa travel advice needed
-Traveling to South Africa
-Travel in South Africa


Victoria Falls
-What's it like in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
posted by teabag to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Response by poster: Whoops, the title is a bit generic, we're off to a great start...
posted by teabag at 6:08 AM on July 13, 2009


The Vic Falls thread that you pointed to is from 2006. I hope you realize that Zimbabwe has changed a lot in the last three years, for the worse. Will you be traveling from South Africa to Victoria Falls overland? I don't know that it's specifically unsafe, but if you haven't yet I recommend that you do some research on current conditions so you aren't surprised by anything.

As for Victoria Falls itself:

-- Make sure you view the falls from both sides, the Zim side and the Zam side. They are different and each beautiful.

-- I'd personally skip the tripod; if you really want something to help you steady your shots, bring a lightweight monopod. If you do bring a tripod, be prepared to leave it behind often.

-- If you have any interest, do the bungi jump at Victoria Falls. I had no interest, I ended up doing it, and it was spectacular. Terrifying on the way to the brink, sure, but their business is getting you through that and they do a wonderful job of it. It's a fabulous time.

Have fun! Southern Africa is wonderful.
posted by alms at 7:22 AM on July 13, 2009


Leash: Check the data rates! International roaming is frequently enabled by default, unless you've bought a special ($150-$200/month) unlimited international package you may return home to find a $7,500 phone bill.

Skip the tripod and if you can afford it buy a DSLR body that will work with your current lenses. Take a 16GB memory card and one extra battery for the camera body.

Zimbabwe is pretty nuts right now and you might want to do a lot of reading of the past two years of news articles before deciding to go there, depending on your comfort level of risk.
posted by thewalrus at 7:35 AM on July 13, 2009


I got only a few--but very helpful--replies to this question I posted about Kruger. Worth a look. I don't think a tripod would be much use for truck/car safaris, and might be a pain if you do any walking. I do think you'd enjoy having your longest carry-able lens and perhaps a monopod or one of those travel pods that can grip things or slide over a car window.
Since you live in Manhattan you are hopefully fairly sane about the twin problems of crime and paranoia, but you will encounter both in SA. I met much more paranoia and had to consciously check myself about how it was affecting me--anyone, white or black, with anything to loose seemed really security-obsessed. Reasonable caution, of course.
I thought all the "struggle tourism" stuff in SA was really worth it, especially the apartheid museum and the Hector Peterson Museum in Soweto.
posted by Mngo at 11:19 AM on July 13, 2009


Clothing: I was in Johannesburg last week and it was bitterly cold the entire time (I wore a coat and boots) it's better this week but still it's cold, especially mornings and nights, it warms up considerably during the day however, so wear layers.

Tripod: Leave it behind, the conditions probably won't be right for it.

Medicine:malaria shouldn't be a problem in Kruger because it's winter, but your doctor may recommend malaria pills anyway. Also, you should be able to find a suitable substitute for any OTC stuff you usually use.

Sounds like you have an awesome trip planned. Enjoy.
posted by rochi at 12:57 PM on July 13, 2009


Don't have a clue about Frankfurt. Never been there.

Check the SA weather online. I never thought winter there was terribly uncomfortable, but it does get chilly and close to freezing. Combine that with rain and it's not much fun.

Rough analogy: Cape Town is San Francisco and Johannesburg is Chicago.

Rent a car and drive from Cape Town down to the Cape. Heed the warnings about the baboons. On the way, follow Chapman's Peak Drive, a stunning cliffside and seaside route.

Many fine wineries are located in and around the Stellenbosch region near Cape Town. The scenery is beautiful, the people are nice, and the wine is really good.

Kruger Park is as big as Connecticut. You'll either drive or join some kind of tour. I'd recommend the latter, since they know where to go. Overnight accomodations, some pretty nice, are available at the park. Book well ahead.

Phone and internet connectvity should be decent in the cities. In the countryside, probably not.

Victoria Falls: Zimbabwe is a failed state. I assume they treat tourists at the Falls with kid gloves because they want the money. (Showing up with a wad of American dollars might be rather prudent.) But, I would check current reports from travelers and contact the State Dept (if you're American) or your foreign ministry to see what they say about travel to Victoria Falls.

Cameras: You'll need a tripod for shots that vibration might impact, typically low-light and/or slow shutter speed shots. If you plan on many such photos, bring the tripod. If not, give yourself a break and leave it at home. Or, look online for the small tripod alternatives that might do the trick. Airport security officials are going to notice your tripod. Collapsed tripods in luggage are rumored to look like weaponry when viewed by the scanner.

South Africa is a fantastic place. I'm envious.

Film will be available in Cape Town and Jo'burg. I have no idea what it costs, but it might be fairly costly given that it's imported.

DO NOT put film in any checked luggage. Those scanners will fry your unprocessed film. Film below 800 ISO is generally not visibly affected by scanners of carryon bags. However, the x-rays are accumuative. More than 5 exposures are not recommended. If that happens, ask for your film to be hand checkd. Read this for all the gory details.

I'm assuming you're flying between Cape Town and Johannesburg. If memeory serves, it's about a two-hour flight.
posted by justcorbly at 4:59 PM on July 13, 2009


The only time I've been hassled (and I mean really hassled) by security in any airport or public place is when I've been transporting or using a tripod. Otherwise my 3–5 bodies, lenses, film bags, etc. have been dismissed by saying "I'm a photographer."

My advice is to leave it at home unless you're certain that you'll need it, and just do the following:
-generally shoot at a shutter speed that is faster (larger number) than the focal length of your lens
-similarly, prefer a wider aperture (lower f/stop). if you have primes and zooms, the primes will generally be faster. You can often get a 50/1.8 (or similar) for your system for less than $100, if you don't have one already.

I typically bring print film in 400iso colour, and 400 and 800 in b&w. I recommend Fuji NPH/Pro 400H, and Ilford Delta.
posted by a halcyon day at 5:22 PM on July 13, 2009


Frankfurt - English only? No problem. It is not, however, the most exciting place in Europe, or even Germany. BUT since it is the height of summer, I do recommend the fake beach made out on the river. The internet, or some German here, could help with the name.

YANMD - Here is your official CDC health information for South Africa. Before going, none of my group had any unusual pre-trip needs, and the worst we needed during the stay was TUMS and Tylenol.

Clothing - It gets damn cold in South Africa at night during the winter (I was in Cape Town). Make sure your warm clothing includes sweatshirts and a windbreaker. The weather forecast is deceiving; while the high may indeed be 24C, that temperature will be reached only from noon to 2pm, and at night it may be 12-15C. Brrrr.

Wine - Seconding the Stellenbosch area. You can get day trips or do your own. Cannot recommend anything specific.

Other - my goodness, do beware of the baboons. I am sure you are snickering on reading it but they are really quite greedy and aggressive little creatures.
posted by whatzit at 5:47 AM on July 14, 2009


-How much cash is necessary in Victoria Falls? I'm well aware of the state of the local currency. Any personal experiences would be helpful.

Just bring US dollars or ZA rand or even Zambian Kwacha, but the first 2 will be preferable - either one will get you by. Bring enough for your whole time there, ATMs won't get you anything useful and you'll have to go all the way back to Livingston (not *that* far) if you run out of cash. Don't get involved with or talk to anyone trying to change into Zim dollars for you, that will just be trouble and at best you'll get badly scammed. Also, be careful with your camera. Vic Falls isn't much of a problem, I took a few pictures there, but its better if you have a local showing you around when you do it - there's potential to attract attention from the secret police, especially if you do this anywhere in Zim that *isnt'* Vic Falls.

-YANMD, but any advice on medication, over-the-counter products you wish you had, etc. would be very helpful.

Have the Malaria meds if you're going to Kruger and VF. Its just not worth not taking it for such a short trip. Also have some advil/tylenol/your choice of pain reliever, some pepto bysmol, and whatever prescription your doc/travel clinic gives you for really bad intestinal probs (there's some standard one, I can't remember the name). Also consider a smallish first-aid kit. If traveling a good deal by road, it might be smart to bring along a few new syringes (travel clinics / docs can prescribe these as well) in case you get in an accident and end up in a local hospital.

-VirtualLeash: I have international roaming for my Blackberry (ugh) and my little netbook for checking in with the office periodically. Any advice related to working on the road in these places would be appreciated.

Nthing check your roaming rates. I have international roaming for my BB too and in most African countries its $4 USD / min for just the roaming, plus the local network airtime fees.

-Wine: my dad is a wine nut, specifically a collector of French and California wines. Any South African wine advice would also be appreciated.

Franshoeck. Cabriere Winery. Take the tour and if there's a lady in your party make sure she volunteers to help the old dude open the bubbly bottle with a sabre. Buy a case of the Pinot Noir Blanc - they can ship to JFK for you and you have to pick it up at the airport. Thank me later (maybe save me a bottle for when I'm back in NYC???).

-Clothing: it's winter in South Africa, most literature has us dressing for the summer. We're packing some warm clothes, however local advice on weather would be helpful.

Inland won't be too bad (comparing Joburg to Chicago is not at all accurate after having spent a year in both, IMHO). It will be cool but not anything dipping into say the 40's unless there's inclement weather. By the coast will be a good deal cooler. Think late fall in the US - cold enough to warrant a decent fleece and perhaps just a tad more.

Ditch the tripod. Get one of those photographer's bean bags (the ones that fit in your open palm). Just toss it on whatever stationary surface you're near - the side or hood of the safari truck, handrail on the bridge, etc.. It will be easier and overall less hassle.

Also, if the water's low enough at Vic Falls, Devil's Pool might make for a refreshing dip.

Best travel advice I ever got was that when you're going somewhere that you'll likely never be again in your life, don't skimp. Home and work will always be waiting for you to make up the deficit when you return. To that end, I'd highly highly HIGHLY recommend looking into the lodges situated in the private reserve in the southern end of the park, particularly Camp Shonga or its sister Camp Shawu if the former doesn't have availability. Their guides are second to none, and whilst inside the private reserve, you will be competing with no one but the other guest vehicles (2-3 at the most) for some pretty pristine animal viewing. Cheapest way to book them is usually through mtbeds.co.za. SO worth it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:12 AM on July 14, 2009


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