With 2023 drawing to a close and the December holidays fast approaching, many South Africans may be considering treating themselves to a last-minute escape.
But travelling overseas requires planning and a fair bit of time spent on booking flights, deciding on an itinerary and getting all the required travel documents in order.
And while it might seem too late to plan an overseas trip, it’s not. With the right approach and some simple steps, you can plan a quick getaway without breaking the bank or compromising on having the best experience possible.
According to Sadudee Sangnil, the director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for the UK, Ireland and South Africa, there are some important factors to consider when planning a last-minute trip overseas.
Here are some practical tips from Sangnil for travellers on how to make the most of a spontaneous travel experience.
Be spontaneous but keep it seamless
Sangnil explained that the most important aspect to consider relates to ease of access to the country you have in mind, as well as any administrative issues that might need to be tackled before going ahead with formal planning.
“This is because some of the most common bugbears that stand in the way of a seamless travel experience involves regulations and requirements such as visas,” she said.
Sangnil added that it’s easy to understand why visa free destinations are the holy grail of last-minute holidays.
The good news is that South African citizens are allowed to stay in Thailand for up to 30 days if they are entering the country via an international airport.
“Before making any bookings however, travellers need to check that their current passport is valid for at least six months following their intended departure date.”
She added that South African travellers should also have proof of their ability to cover their living expenses for the duration of stay in Thailand i.e. traveller’s cheque or cash equivalent to 20,000 baht per person (about R10487) and 40,000 baht (about R20 974) per family.
“This may be checked at the respective port of entry upon arrival in Thailand.”
Flexible and budget-friendly
The travel expert said that next on the list of priorities is flexibility.
“Booking flights and accommodation as far ahead as possible is highly recommended, but when you don’t have the luxury of time, there are a few simple hacks that could help you save on some spontaneous time off,” she said.
Sangnil recommended being as flexible as possible around the dates of departure and arrival and highlighted flight bookings made on the weekend typically cost far more than trips booked on weekdays.
In addition, she said that making a booking for a flight that leaves during off-peak hours can also shave a few rands off your flight booking.
“Another way to save on the cost of your flights is to be flexible around your first point of arrival. You may find when booking a flight to Thailand for example, that flying to a major city like Bangkok may work out cheaper than flying to an airport in an outlying area.
“Once you’ve found the most cost-effective airport to land at, you’ll be able to plan your activities from that point onwards,” she said.
How to keep your adventure affordable
Sangnil warned that short notice getaways can prove to be expensive, especially when it comes to planning an itinerary. She said that one way to avoid spending too much money on activities, is to book special promotional packages that offer bundle deals or pre-arranged itineraries.
“This will allow you to have the most fun-filled experience without paying a higher rate,” advised Sangnil.
She added that some of these can be easily found on travel websites as well as platforms tailored for South African travellers such as “Fan Club Thailand”.
“There are several tour operators in South Africa who have explored the country extensively and can offer packaged travel experiences that capture all the best sights and sounds, while keeping the individual costs from adding up,” she said.
Sangnil added that if you’re planning a trip to Thailand, some of the package deals to look out for include travelling through urban areas in a tuk-tuk, participating in an authentic Thai cooking class, visiting some of the country’s most popular national parks and seeing Thailand’s biggest temples and snorkelling.
“Opting for tour packages that can tick a few of these boxes at once, could save you quite a bit on your activity budget, so you can have the most memorable experience while managing the cost,” said Sangnil.