Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thing are looking up

After the disappointment and frustrations of starting to look at accommodation in South Africa for next year, things have taken a turn for the better.

Our original idea for accommodation in the Johannesburg area was to find a couple of serviced apartments in the central business district, and use local transport to attend the local matches, and a hire car for the out-of-town games. It's no big secret that Johannesburg has significant issues with general street crime/violence/theft, which places it high on the list of the most dangerous cities in the World to visit. For that reason we have always felt that it is very important that any accommodation in central Johannesburg must be in a safe and secure environment. As we found out last month, trying to find a safe and central long term serviced apartment, was going to be far more difficult that we originally expected, considering the ridiculous rates that some of them want to charge for the World Cup 2010 period.

The safety issue started me thinking that even if we could find a couple of reasonably priced and secure apartments in the Johannesburg CBD, we may end up getting a sense of being 'trapped' or 'imprisoned' in our apartment when not traveling to specific football matches. During the Group Stages we could potentially have a match to attend every day, but toward the end of the tournament we may have as much as a whole week without a match. What were we going to do with a week off, in a city we do not feel too comfortable or safe walking around in..?

Therefore we started to look at the problem of accommodation in a different way. Instead of trying to find a safe apartment in the middle of the city, we started to look for houses/villas/apartments/lodges outside the city in a more relaxed and generally safer areas, (similar to what we did for France 98). Considering that we will definitely need a car to get to all the possible stadiums and that we would most likely spend some time outside the city towards the end of the tournament, this opened up a lot more possibilities for us. Not only are the prices more realistic and you get more for your money outside Johannesburg, but security should be less of an issue and the surroundings will make us feel more like we are on a holiday than business trip.

Therefore we have booked 2 'chalet-style' apartments for 29 days in a countryside situation on a lodge outside Pretoria. Whilst this is still expensive, (US$200 a night), it offers us a far higher quality of accommodation away from the city, in more natural and relaxing environment. We will be able to travel into Johannesburg/Pretoria/Rustenburg for the football matches, but chill out and enjoy more of a 'African' holiday experience when there are no matches to attend.

Just for a bit of variation, we have booked us into a 2-bedroom apartment for the 10 days we spend in Cape Town. This is quite centrally located and within easy travel distance, (but foot or car), from the Green Point Stadium, as well as the main Waterfront district & City-Bowl. I am of the notion that Cape Town,. whilst not completely safe from street crime, is a whole lot better than the situation in Johannesburg, and therefore safety, whilst still a concern, is not the over-ridding factor when choosing somewhere to stay. I guess we will find out when we get there...?

We current have tickets for 8 World Cup matches, 2 in Cape Town and the remainder around Johannesburg. Although the 2nd phase of World Cup 2010 ticket sales is still open until November, virtually all the matches are sold out. We are planning to see what we can get during subsequent sales phases, but if we end up with just 8 matches to attend, we wouldn't be unhappy. We will however be trying to pick up Finals tickets if we are lucky enough to come across them.

Our proposed calendar shows that we are expecting to leave New Zealand on the 18th May next year, travel to Namibia for a couple of weeks and then travel from Windhoek to Cape Town on or around the 6th June, and be stay there for 10 nights and seeing the 2 matches there. We will transfer to the Johannesburg area on the morning of 16th June, and stay there for 29 nights, leaving on the morning of 15th July. We are also planning to do something on the way back to new Zealand from the World Cup, money & time allowing.

Next on my list is the car hire but this generally cannot be booked more than a year ahead. As there will quite a bit of driving in both Cape Town and the Johannesburg area, we are planning on booking a comfortable mid-size car for both locations. I think the most important aspect of the car booking will be to make sure that it capable of seating 4, with space for at least 4 peoples baggage in the trunk/boot. And if you have ever travelled with Yates before, you'll know how much baggage he can generate all by himself...!!

Like car hire, the flights cannot be booked more than about 350 days in advance, so the last thing on my list will be getting to South Africa from New Zealand. The current high level plan is to get return flights to Johannesburg, (possibly via Singapore or Australia), on a Star Alliance carrier, and then look to get an 'Africa Air Pass' with flights between Johannesburg, Windhoek, Cape Town, and back to Johannesburg. That should cover off all our major travel requirement.

That's about it for now, but I will update this blog next month with further details.