Expert advice on everything you need to know before booking a getaway

The holiday season in South Africa is nearly in full swing, and so many of us can’t wait for those cherished days off over the summer. Picture: Pxabay.

The holiday season in South Africa is nearly in full swing, and so many of us can’t wait for those cherished days off over the summer. Picture: Pxabay.

Published Nov 27, 2023


For many, the holiday season comes with stress. From finding the perfect gifts, to planning the perfect getaway - there's no shortage of things to worry about.

But planning a holiday during the festive season should be an exciting time.

However, experts have urged for mindfulness as potential scams target holidaymakers.

According to Signifyd's Fraud Pressure Index, one in four people fall victim to fraud during the holiday season, with fraud rates currently at an all-time high.

An online survey conducted among 1000 US adults in August 2022 revealed that one in three American adults (34%) admitted to taking more risks during holiday shopping, than at other times of the year.

The e-commerce fraud protection platform added that a common scam involves fake accommodation listings on booking websites.

These listings often lure travellers with low or discounted prices.

However, once the payment is made, victims discover that the accommodation either doesn't exist at the listed address or that the scammers have impersonated a legitimate business with no record of the booking.

According to Help Net Security, 56% of travellers actively seek online deals, with 45% booking quickly to avoid missing out and 35% willing to try new booking websites for a bargain.

But these behaviours increase the risk of falling victim to scams.

Kruger Gate Hotel CEO Anton Gillis advised travellers to be cautious if a deal seems too good to be true. He suggested comparing hotel listings of similar properties in the area to get an idea of general pricing.

Gillis explained that scammers often use images from multiple properties in one listing, so it's important to scroll through each photo and ensure the imagery looks consistent.

Secure payments

The Kruger Gate Hotel CEO recommended being wary of listings that require payments outside of the booking platform.

He also advised being careful with agents that only communicate via WhatsApp, as well as listings with multiple spelling mistakes.

Reviews and rating

Gillis also suggested checking the reviews of your chosen hotel or bed and breakfast across different platforms.

“For example, a search for Kruger Gate Hotel reveals a 4.5 rating on Google reviews, showcasing guests' wonderful experiences on guided safaris, delicious buffets, the stunning views from the viewing deck overlooking Kruger National Park, and the friendly staff,” he said.

Fake websites

Scammers are getting smarter and creating websites that look just like the real ones you know and trust, Gillis warned.

“It's important to be able to spot the signs of a fake website to protect yourself from falling into their traps.”

He explained that one key sign to look out for is low-resolution logos.

“If the logo on the website looks blurry or pixelated, it could be a fake.”

Gillis added that spelling mistakes in the domain name or email address are also red flags. “Legitimate websites take care to ensure that everything is spelt correctly, so if you spot any errors, be cautious.”

Another important indicator is the lack of a padlock icon next to the site name. “This padlock symbolises a secure connection, so if it's missing, the website may not be trustworthy,’ he said.

“To avoid accidentally landing on a fake website, be careful when clicking on email links or website pop-ups.”

Gillis warned that scammers often send emails, offering amazing travel deals from unfamiliar companies.

“Clicking on their links can take you to a fake website that pretends to be a well-known brand.”

If you're curious about the deal, don't click on the link in the email. He advised opening a new tab and typing the trusted brand's name into your search engine.

“This way, you can be sure you're visiting the real website and not a clever imitation.”

“Whether you’re booking a stay or a flight, it’s good advice to do so via a reputable brand’s website. If you’re still unsure, call the hotel, property owner or agent directly,” said Gillis.

Verify via Google Maps

Another tip to verify a property’s legitimacy is to ask for the full address and search for it on Google Maps, Kruger Gate Hotel CEO said.

“If you are searching for accommodation via a booking platform, stay with trusted names as they will have vetting processes in place to ensure that all listings are verified and authenticated,” he said.

“Finally, when paying, make sure you’re using a secure payment system.’

Travel Insurance

Many who save up for big holidays, particularly international ones, might be hesitant to add additional expenses to their travel budget.

After covering the costs of airfare, accommodation, and budgeting for meals and activities it can seem daunting to allocate more money for travel insurance, but it can be a particularly smart investment to safeguard the non-refundable money you’ve spent for your holiday, said Gillis.

“Travel insurance is not typically recommended for short local holidays, like a few days in a bush lodge, but if you’re travelling abroad your trip would inevitably require a larger budget.”

He added that many travellers might skip travel insurance, thinking they won’t need it, but trip cancellations, lost luggage in between flights and emergency medical expenses happen when you least expect.

“It can be costly if you’re not prepared,” he warned.

Stay secure online

Once you’re on holiday, stay safe when connecting to public WiFi, especially when you’re in an airport or a hotel, Gillis advised.

“Always check the security of your connection and take heed of pop-up warnings that you may be connecting to an unsecured network.”

He also recommended looking out for network security features such as being asked to register an account or type in a password before connecting.

“If you have to use an unsecured network, avoid sharing any sensitive data or bank details that scammers could steal.”