Monday, February 22, 2010

0 Mailbag Monday: February 22, 2010

I'm planning a trip to watch three soccer games for the World Cup. My itinerary goes from Minneapolis - Johannesburg (overnight) to later drive or fly to to Nelspruit, three/for days there; then back to Johannesburg (another two/three days) then to Bloemfontein for two days. Would you recommend renting a car to drive or just fly between those cities? Any other useful website that you might now regarding South Africa hotels would be greatly appreciated.
Wilmer F., Minneapolis, MN USA

Sounds like you have a great trip ahead of you--we're so jealous you'll get to attend World Cup matches! In general, renting a car for this itinerary will be more economical. You can get a rental for as low as $350 for nine days, add another $150 if you want an automatic. (Katrina had a stick shift for years, but the prospect of using her left hand to shift gears while making sure she was staying on the left side of the road was a bit too daunting.) Add about $150 for
gas and tolls for your intended route. If you fly, expect to pay an average of $300 per round trip flight plus another $200 to get to and from the airport and whatever other transport you'll need, and you are at $800 for flying instead of $500 or $650 to drive. If you have company on your travels, that will only add to your savings in renting a car.

We drove all the routes in your plan and in general, the roads are in pretty good shape. They alternate between being two-lane and four-lane highways. There is very little lighting, though, so avoid driving at night if possible. Of course during the World Cup traffic could be a huge problem, so that is something to consider. But figuring out other transport once you're in a city if you don't have a car could be a bit nightmarish.

We stayed in Formula 1 hotels in both Nelspruit and Bloemfontein and can definitely recommend them. They have the most consistent standard among budget hotels and were often the cheapest thing in town--believe us, we spent lots of time shopping around. They offer the bare bones: a double bed and single upper bunk, a TV, and a bar of soap. But it's basically everything you need.

We're airline people and have a chance to hit a few spots in Southeast Asia this October. We prefer starting in Hong Kong or Bangkok. We have fab hotel deals for Conrad Singapore and Grand Millennium KL, so thinking about doing one or both. Our other option is skip Malaysia and go to Northern Thailand, then Siem Reap. I'm a foodie, he's history, both culture. We're in our 50's and we like upscale. What to do, what to do?
Shelley, Northern Kentucky, USA

Of those countries in Southeast Asia, our favorite was Cambodia, followed by a Thailand/Malaysia tie, and Singapore in last. So we'd recommend doing the Thailand-Cambodia option. The food in Thailand is amazing; if you can stand it, order your dishes "Thai style" to try some of the spiciest dishes ever. Both Thailand and Angkor Wat should give you a great big culture and history fill. In Siem Reap, shop around for a tuk tuk driver with good English skills who can double as your tour guide--some of them are very knowledgeable and can give you a much deeper appreciation of the temples.

Malaysia is rich with interesting history and culture, but Singapore is the most western feeling spot in Southeast Asia, and a bit boring compared to the others. We will say, though, that the Singapore Conrad Centennial is a pretty amazing hotel--the nicest we've ever stayed in.

Cambodia overall is the cheapest of these destinations, so you can live pretty well during your stay. Siem Reap has a huge variety of hotels and I'm sure you could stay in a five-star place for comparable rates to the Conrad. The Pavillion d'Orient is supposed to be super nice.

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