Where to Look
Visitors touring South Africa by car may be worried by the distances that separate cities and towns. Fortunately hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, motels and self-catering cottages are fond in event the remotest villages. Farm accommodation is also plentiful.
South Africa's cities offer a great variety of places to stay, whether you want family, luxury or business accommodation. In well-visited country and resort areas, there is also accommodation to suit every taste and pocket: many game parks, for example, offer luxurious lodges as well as basic camp sites, while most coastal resorts offer hotels, camp sites, B&B's and guest houses. Enquire at the local tourist information office (usually well signposted) or contact on of the many umbrella associations such as the AA Travel Information Centre. If you are travelling through the smaller towns without having made prior arrangements, ask at the post office, one of the local stores or police stations for accommodation advice.
If you are seeking quiet surroundings, try the smaller and more simple hostelries inland or away from the obvious attractions on the coast. Most private game reserves offer superb safari lodges.
Prices tend to be per room rather than per person, but may be advertised as “per person sharing”. Taxes (and sometimes gratuities) are usually included in the the rates, but tips are appreciated. Ten to 15 per cent of the cost or value of goods or service received is the norm.
Where rates are stated as “dinner, bed and breakfast” or “bed and breakfast”,you are likely to be charged for these meals whether or not you take them. If you advise the host in time, it may be possible to avoid payment for the advertised meals that are not taken. Also notify the hosts in advance if you are vegetarian for example. “Special offers” are seldom further negotiable.
Rooms with a shower are usually cheaper than those with a bath, and those with views are more expensive.
Prices vary slightly, outside of high season (Nov-Feb, Easter weekend and the mid-year school holidays). But do ask your travel agent about possible special offers made by hotel groups, or contact them directly. Hotels do not close during winter (May – Aug).
South African hotels are classified by a number of organizations, such as Satour, the national tourism authority, the Portfolio of Places. Satour divides hotels into five categories, indicated by a plaque carrying from one to five stars.
A typical five-star hotel is luxurious, offering suites as well as rooms and a wide range of services, such as hair dressing, dry cleaning and room service. In a country town, a one-star hotel may prove to be comfortable and entirely satisfactory, while in a city it may be little more than a liquor outlet or a noisy local rendezvous spot.
Many charming hotels have lower ratings, and some hotels with higher ratings – although they boast more than the required minimum of facilities and service – turn out to be impersonal business warrens.
Some self catering cottages and guest houses are also accredited by Satour.
Facilities vary according to location and grading. Parking is usually available, but is not always under cover or supervised by a guard. Some hotels offer a daily car-wash, and may also have courtesy vehicles for hire, either with or without a driver.
Most hotels provide a telephone in the bedroom, but it is usually cheaper to use a public telephone. Television sets in rooms (without cable channels) are fairly common, and there is almost always a guests' lounge.
Central heating in winter is not the norm, although most places of accommodation do provide portable heaters. Many self-catering cottages, particularly those on farms, have indoor fireplaces.
Some more upmarket small guest houses and B&B's offer an “honesty bar” with cold beers, wine, soft drinks and mineral water.
In country towns, the hotel frontage may be on the main street. If there is no bypass road, the noise level may be uncomfortable, especially at night. Before asking to be moved to a room at the back, however, check that there are no large cooling units tucked away, as those are likely to be even more disturbing.
Hotels usually have a locked and secure safe where guests can deposit valuables.
Many of the better class hotels are controlled by one of the national hotel chains, offering incentives or package deals that include lower family rates or out-of-season tariffs. Some, however, are graded lower than others, so have a different rate structure.
Don't presume that your venue of choice will cater for children. Many upmarket hotels, guest houses and safari lodges do not accept children under the age of ten. Where children are accepted, families may be able to share a room at little extra cost, as tariffs are “per room” rather than “per person”.
If possible, confirm a telephone booking in writing or by fax. It is likely that a deposit will be required, which you will forfeit if you cancel your booking at short notice.
The hotel is legally obliged to inform you if there has been a tariff increase since you made your booking. Even if you have reserved a specific room, ask to see it before you sign the register. And if you require special arrangements, first ensure that these are satisfactory.
Unless otherwise stated, the occupation period generally extends from noon to noon.
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