Tag Archives: Currency Exchange

Africa so far

I got to Africa with an unexpected entry port on Tuesday as my flight that obviously got delayed (see previous post) missed the connection in Adis Ababa (Ethiopia). I think I must have written about this already…ultimately I was set up there for a night before heading to Johannesburg the next day. Flight to Joburg was amazing, way more leg space, amazing curried chicken lunch, arrived, talked to forex pre Customs who said it would all be fine to get money, got my bag, got through all the check points seemlessly then got to the ATM…

I went to ABSA and was able to take out 6000Rand (650 ish USD) then went to another 3 banks that there were in the airport as it won’t let you do a second transaction. 2 wouldn’t work and one would only allow a 2000 Rand (ZAR) withdrawal…which didn’t seem worth it with a 5 dollar fee from RBC every time I take out cash. Because VISA never told me I had a cash advance limit I tried to take more than the (standard) 500USD amount first time and the card locked. SO I had a meeting for my tour with Acacia at 6pm that night, (thank god I booked a day early), and spent 3 hours looking for atms and currency exchange in joburg….because, surprise…you can only exchange money you brought in to the country, and you can only get a currency other than Zar if you leave that day… GRRR. I might add that my free airport pick up from MoAfrika was amazing, I was truly impressed at how he tried to help me. Anyway, I arrived and my guides agreed to help me out and accept the kitty in Rand in the end.

Also, I needed a sleeping bag, but didn’t have time to get one. Thankfully I met a guywho had just finished his tour and got a hole in his that donated it to me willingly and then I had me pre trip meeting.

MoAfrika Lodge was amazing. The food was great, beds comfy and warm in FREEZING winter in Joburg, HOT shower with amazing pressure plus unreal staff.

So far Acacia Africa has been great. Our guides are amazing, so fun, laidback and knowledgable. We went on a safari of kruger today and saw 4 of the big 5, food is INCREDIBLE….lamb stew for dinner yesterday blew my mind….and the small group of 8 of us is a perfect size for sociability and personal space.

Not so much time as we are camping….soon to be in a camp where digging our own toilets is required, so I shall be off to soak in the shower…but I will do my best to keep posted, if not expect the same joyous backlog as I provided in INdia.

The non-neon kind of full moon

In order to pay my kitty for Africa I needed to dig into some investments…ones I thought I’d have to touch months ago, but the terrible rates made me move my budget around to avoid it. Now that it was time I spent every hour looking at what day/time of month to withdraw… I read in one post either the day before or 3 days after a full moon, so I checked when July’s full moon was. Or should I say is…today.

When I read that I forgot about investments and started re-researching the safety standards for Ethiopian Airlines. All checked out, I spent yesterday at the Phoenix Marketplace in Andeheri, Mumbai waiting to go to the airport. The airports in India only let you in 4 hours before flights…5 if you bat your foreign eyelashes.

I called Thomas Cook a few days before enquiring about Foreign Exchange…here’s a few facts for you. Non Indian nationals can only legally exchange money at the airport. And most places at the airport will only exchange 10000Rs in Value (about 200 CAD). The airport is 7 percent higher than the city rate even if they say its the same. They also say its no charge for credit cards but its actually 15.5 percent plus an additional 10 percent service charge on the transaction itself.

So because they told me that I could use my credit card free of fees and without extra commission at the city rate I passed up my awesome hotelier who may have eluded to “having a guy, because it’s Mumbai…so of course he has a guy, but its not legal, obviously because its Mumbai, and he’s a guy’. Who would have done 1 percent on city rate no commission and not giving a shit that I’m foreign…because he’s a ‘guy’.

So in the end my stubborn ass refused to use the forex and pay a third in commmission never mind the exchange lost in the CAD conversion. Oh, additionally the ONE Atm within the International departures terminal which you cant leave wouldn’t accept foreign cards (CITI BANK WTF) and for locals would only dispense 2000rs increments anyway.

So we go to check in. That’s a treat. When the guy tells me to go to lane 32 and so I go to lane 32 to have a man yell, “Missy who do you think you are, this is for business class, move”…needless to say at 3am I as not pleased with the likely correct tone of voice you have applied to his statement. He hovered as I checked in at the next counter then asked for my proof of onward travel from Johannesburg. I showed him my itinerary flying out of Cape Town with Emirates and my Itinerary and receipt with date of departure for my tour. He told me that wasn’t enough proof of onward travel with a slimy grin. After I said, yes it is, and showed him a statement saying what was required as ‘proof’ he began to tell me that ‘this’ was why women shouldn’t haver rights and travel, and why the belong in the kitchen. He sent some boy to check if my flight was ‘real’ for 20 minutes while asking me questions about my plans that were irrelevant to him which he claimed he had right to know. I questioned why he had to check on the Emirates flight seeing as how I brought it up live with my name on it from email with the free wifi (which requires a mobile, and they say you can go to the info booth if you dont have one…but nobody works the info booth). He started to yell and ask why I was being uncooperative in a tone more chauvinistic and condescending than I actually knew existed.

I then asked what was going to happen with my connection because the flight was running an hour late and I only had 50 minutes to make the connection anyway. He said ” I assure you, there are sciences higher than your understanding that explain how you will get there” I said, “really, like what the other plane is still on schedule on the Adis Ababa and Johannesburg airport websites” his response “tail winds, higher knowledge”.

That was it.

I may have pulled a “Ok, I get that you were really great at weighing bags so now somebody let you put your name on a business card. But let me tell you something, in the land where goats don’t shit where you eat your breakfast women are equal beings. Not only are women in general just as smart, capable, and ambitious as men, but in this particular situation I’m going to tell you that I probably know more about airports than you. I also have taken more physics and math classes than you, and I’m telling you that that connection isn’t going to happen. You are going to treat me and this ticket like you would if I were an Indian MAN. You are going to give me my laptop and passport back because you know I have proof of continuing my journey andyou no longer have a need for my passport, your lovely employee has already checked me in and tagged my luggage. And now, because you are so confident about me making my plane, you are going to draft up a list of all the things I will get if I don’t make it. Got it?”

His manager came, made me a lovely list of hotel, food, transfers, and visa that I gladly took with me on my way.

Luckily customs was delightful, then I went to have one last briyani and everywhere was sold out, then my computer died, then it took an hour to board the plane…then I got on the plane, where my knees jammed into the back of the seat in front of me…and I’m five foot three. I dozed, woke for a ‘non veg’ breakfast…which was an omelet… I need clarification of what ‘veg’ is…they eat cheese but no egg? Anyway, we arrive in Adis Ababa and surely, maam, come here please, Johannesburg flight left 10 minutes ago.

So then they tried to just give me a hotel…ha! Out came my letter, so now I lay in Ethiopia, where I’ve seen nobody running, and people actually aren’t that skinny…but the view from my 4 star hotel with English cable and hot water is still huts made of rust and garbage bags, and children trying to sell stickers for bread.

I am panicked as hell about my foreign exchange, but in some odd way fine with it, because I feel like it has to work out, and if I pay a boat load of fees, I’d rather pay 30% to Africa than India.

So far the people here are amazing, so helpful, kind, and always smiling. They see you as a foreigner but just as different, not an opportunity. I met a girl from Somalia doing Med school in Khartoum while I was waiting for my reservations. She asked me about what I do for work and if I had a boyfriend, where I was travelling to, what was home…but not in a traveller sense just as in an airport small talk sense. I haven’t felt so normal in a place yet, and I’m in AFRICA.

I really want to come back here actually! And I have 10 years…at least until my yellow fever is up. Poor Indians, half had to stay overnight at the airport because they didn’t have yellow fever vaccination cards. Word to the wise…if you are flying to/over anywhere in Africa, just get the vaccination, you never know…oh and book the flights arriving early, couldn’t be more glad I gave myself an extra day.

Also, foreign cards do not work in Ethiopia, not debit, not visa, not Mastercard…so bring cash in. Their rates are actually super reasonable for exchange.

500 tomorrow morning it all begins again…Joburg attempt 2.0…but for now I’m still sitting on my balcony going WOW I’m in Africa…SHIT my Malaria pills are in my checked luggage at the airport, ouch I just got bit on my face, wow it is really effing cold here, I think I need lotion…is this what happens when you aren’t sweating 24/7, whoa I have fast enough internet to stream tae bo, I dnt have a change of clothes, then again if the flight smelled like it did today i’d still be fresh, by the way duty free shouldn’t allow samples, everyone is about to sit in a confined space of air, I hope i didn’t get any DVT during that flight, I wonder what ethiopian food is, shit another mossie bite, I hope I don’t get malaria, I still need a sleeping bag, it is seriously freezing, maybe two…emirates lets you bring 2 bags, I could just get two, how much money will I have left to blow at Jcrew when I get home if I get ripped off at currency exchange badly…really badly…not so badly…. Naptime.