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South African Explorer Series: Learn the language

Any seasoned traveler will tell you how important it is to prepare for a trip abroad by learning the basics about your destination. You should be able to speak a few words in the local language, enough to respect its traditions and culture, and become familiar with its food. This is even more important in multicultural destinations like South Africa, home to 11 national languages and several ethnicities. There’s an abundance to see and do in South Africa, and knowing a few key phrases will help you fit in and make new friends as you enjoy the sights and sounds.

To help get you started speaking like a local, we’ve put together the first of a three-part blog post we’re calling our South African Explorer Series. These will offer insight into several major components of your trip: language, food, and culture. If you haven’t heard, you can also win a free trip to South Africa by entering on our Facebook page (now closed)!

Our series begins today with a list of the most common phrases and words you’ll hear when visiting South Africa. Pay close attention. Some of the words look and sound like English, but the meanings are completely different.

  1. “Sawubona!” This means hello or welcome, and is usually directed at one person. Feel free to greet anyone you meet in South Africa with this phrase. Learn how to pronounce it here. (more…)

10 adventures that can only be experienced in South Africa

In case you missed it, we just announced our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes! We’re looking forward to sending a lucky winner and guest to witness the majestic scenery and cultural richness of South Africa.

While there are literally hundreds of unique and exciting things to see and do in this amazing destination, I contributed my personal list of top 10 adventures and activities to experience in South Africa in a recent article on Huffington Post. In my opinion, our winner (and anyone else thinking of traveling to South Africa) absolutely must see each of these magnificent wonders! Read my article to get all the details.

Would you add anything to my list? Let me know in a comment below.

What it’s like to go on safari in South Africa

Today I want to share a blog post from my friend and our Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet, Judy Poliva. Judy grew up in South Africa, the destination at the center of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes. I asked her to fill us in on what makes South Africa so special and she delivered, so read on. After you’re finished, be sure to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!


When we were children growing up in the Johannesburg area, we didn’t realize how lucky we were. We lived within driving distance of the Kruger National Park!

Almost every year during our winter school holidays (July), my parents would pack up the car with supplies, and we would head off on a self-drive safari, for a week or sometimes two. As we got closer to the park, my sisters and I would start practicing game-spotting by looking at the herds of cattle.

But once we entered the park, the competition started in earnest: who could spot the first animal (this was usually an impala), the first giraffe, or a lion! This was a daily, all-day competition, and we never tired of it. On our journey home, we missed being on the constant look out, and the cattle didn’t seem so interesting anymore.

We would be ready at dawn to start out on our game drive as soon as the gate opened. At every rest stop, we listened carefully as travelers shared their stories of what they had seen, so that we could head off there as well. We also had to remember to close all the windows so that the vervet monkeys or baboons didn’t try to steal our things.

If we saw some cars in the distance, we headed in that direction. Or we drove around, hoping to get lucky. At night, we would watch wildlife films in the open-air theatre at the camp or listen to a lecture by a game ranger. We would fall asleep listening to the sounds of roaring lions not too far away, and wake to the gentle coos of the bush doves.

One of the most memorable of my childhood experiences was in the northern region of the Kruger National Park, a more remote area that had only one-lane dirt roads. There was no other car in sight. We came around a corner, and the road dipped down a sharp incline to a dry river bed and then up an equally sharp incline. As we neared the bottom of the dip, an elephant walking along the dry river bed started crossing the road. Then, another and another and another, a seemingly endless stream of these huge, majestic creatures. There must have been more than 10 elephants of all ages.

Suddenly, one of the larger elephants looked in our direction and raised its trunk, flapped its ears, and took a few steps in our direction. My father put the car in reverse and we slowly went back up the hill. My sisters and I were shrieking with a mixture of excitement and fear. The elephants eventually decided we weren’t so interesting after all. They continued their journey, and disappeared into the bush once more. Once again, we were alone on the road.

How would you Like to win a trip for two to the sweeping savannahs of South Africa?

If you dream of driving into the African bush in search of the Big Five game or gazing at open grasslands while being treated to warm, welcoming hospitality, then have I got a special treat for you.

We’re giving away a free trip for two on our Facebook page in partnership with South African Tourism and South African Airways to one of the world’s most coveted destinations: South Africa! Breathtaking and magnificent doesn’t even begin to describe the scenery and wildlife travelers experience in South Africa. And you could see it for yourself in person. Just visit our Facebook page, Like us, and enter your information to enter to win this prize, worth up to $5,400!

This prize package includes almost everything two travelers will need as they explore South Africa:

  • Round-trip, non-stop airfare from JFK or IAD to Cape Town Airport via South Africa Airways. This includes fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees.
  • Flights, ground transportation, and transfers within South Africa.
  • Six-night accommodations in a first-class hotel and game lodge.
  • Ten meals total: six breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners.
  • Professional, English-speaking guides and game rangers.
  • Sightseeing in Cape Town.
  • Four game drives at Entabeni Game Reserve.

Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? Can you already picture yourself on safari in South Africa? Well read the full itinerary of the trip and then enter to win. Don’t forget to invite your friends to enter — and make sure they bring you if they win! You also earn an extra entry for every friend that enters through your invite, increasing your chances of winning.

The sweepstakes will close at 11:59 p.m. on October 11, and we’ll announce the winner soon after. Good luck, travelers!

Why visit South Africa?

All of us who love to travel and who believe in bucket lists probably have listed South Africa among the most desired of all destinations. In survey after survey, people who love exploring the world mention South Africa as a must-see place, which makes perfect sense. Here are just a few reasons why South Africa should be on your own bucket list right now! And don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!

#1: It’s affordable.
And do we ever prove that with our all new Taste of South Africa tour, with departures starting at only $1,899 including flights, it’s hard to dispute that this bucket list destination is within the reach of most world travelers.

(more…)

10 items you don’t need when you travel internationally

I recently shared my top 10 must-haves for international travel. In that post, I mentioned that I’d follow it up with a list of items that you might think you need to pack, but aren’t worth the space they take up in your suitcase.

Here’s my list of travel leave-behinds. Keep these items at home, and save some space in your suitcase for souvenirs and travel essentials.

  1. Traveler’s checks. Traveler’s checks used to make it easy to securely travel with a large amount of money. But using traveler’s checks today can be a big, expensive hassle. Even if you don’t pay anything to get them issued, you will definitely pay a hefty service fee when you cash them. Since many establishments no longer want to deal with travelers checks, you may have to fit finding a bank into your itinerary in order to cash them. Stick with your credit/debit card and cash instead. (more…)

Why you have to see these faces of Cuba

Among the greatest joys of visiting a new place is the opportunity to get to know the locals. And after 30-plus years of traveling the world, one constant that I’ve found everywhere is that despite how different we look, live, work and play, people are essentially the same everywhere.

I shared a bit about the people of Cuba through the talented lens of award-winning photographer Jeremy Woodhouse in my latest contribution to The Huffington Post. Jeremy has given us special permission to share some of the faces of Cuba he captured on a recent trip with us, and these photos are absolutely breathtaking. Be sure to click over to see them in full.

How to stay safe when traveling during turbulent times

If you’ve arranged your international vacation months in advance, it can be difficult to know what to do if an incident, such as a protest, strike, or even riot, occurs in your destination close to your departure date. Should you go and “see what happens,” or should you cancel, despite impending penalties, because you want to err on the side of caution?

I cover this topic in my latest contribution to the Huffington Post, and offer my advice for ways to stay safe if you decide to take your trip. Would you add anything to my list? Let me know in a comment below.

Top 10 must-haves for international travel

You probably have your own personal list of travel musts-haves — items that you always want with you when going on a trip. Mine include a travel packet of wipes, moisturizer with sun screen, essential meds plus prescriptions just in case, and my international service-enabled cell phone plus charger. There are other items on my list, but these items always go into my carry-on bag first.

But there are also items that should be included on every traveler’s list, no matter who you are or where you’re going. Similarly, there are certain items that, for the most part, aren’t worth the space they take up in your suitcase.

Today I want to share my list of top 10 must-haves for international travel, and I’ll follow it up shortly with items that you can afford to leave at home.

  1. Medication. You should always carry all of your prescription medication in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. I find the containers that are marked with the days of the week to be the most helpful. Fill them up so that you have all the pills you need per day in each little container. If you need more than a week’s worth, fill up a second container. Ziplock bags make for perfect storage for these handy containers. If one of the compartments should open, the pills fall harmlessly into the plastic bag, safe and clean. Also, I recommend carrying a small assortment of other medication, including those to treat a cold, sore throat, or upset stomach. Even if you’re not sick when you leave, it’s better to have medication with you should something happen while away. (more…)

4 cities you have to see in India

Imagine it’s early morning and you find yourself walking through the streets of a busy outdoor market. As you gradually take in your surroundings, you see row upon row of colorful cloth, fragrant spices, and beautiful handmade goods. This is one of the many experiences you’ll have in India.

A spectacular destination, bustling with excitement and reverberating with new growth, India is a must-see destination. For a glimpse of what you can see and experience in India, check out this video of our Best of India and Nepal tour.

The video showcases some of the top cities and sites I recommend you see in India, and I’ve also expanded on a few of them below.

  1. Delhi, India’s capital and a city of deep contrasts, has a plethora of things to see and do. By day, temples are packed with the devout, and by night, affluent Indians enjoy hotel discos. Shopping centers and restaurants abound. Due to a growing middle class that demands to own cars and motorbikes as a national right, the streets are always overflowing, and are a sight unlike any other you’ve probably experienced!
  2. Agra is home to the world’s most magnificent building, the Taj Mahal. This awe-inspiring structure was created as a testament to love, and served as a mausoleum. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632, and took over 20 years to complete.
  3. Khajuraho, a famous temple complex discovered in 1838 and built between 950 and 1050 A.D., represents some of the finest examples of architecture in Northern India. The remote location of Khajuraho meant that the temples were unharmed by Muslin invaders, and as a result, the intricate carvings that are said to represent life in heaven are still in good condition to this day.
  4. Jaipur, known as the Pink City, is where visitors can enjoy ascending the hill to Amber Fort on the backs of colorfully decorated elephants to appreciate the sweeping panoramas of the rolling hills below.

After spending just a few days in India, you’ll get a sense of the country’s energy and distinct people and culture, palpable and impossible to miss.

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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