2010 Soccer World Cup

Are you already making travel arrangements for the Soccer World Cup?  South African cities slated to host games in the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Johannesburg (Joburg), Cape Town, Durban (Durbs),

Bloomfontein, Nelspruit, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane, and Rustenburg

The stadiums in Joburg, Cape Town, and Durbs have the largest seating capacity of all of the stadiums that are being built/refurbished.  I don’t mind flying into Durban and being in the city can be pleasant.  There is a nice beach front and some really great antique stores and galleries.  One of my favorite art collectives is there, the African Art Centre.  A lot of the residential construction in the older parts of town remind me of San Francisco.  There are some nice tourist markets that occur in parks on Sundays in Durbs.

The International Airport in Joburg recently had an embarrassing episode which I was unfortunate enough to witness: water mains burst above the check-in areas.  We stood in lines for 3 ½ hours and were checked in manually.  Amazingly, all of our luggage eventually arrived back in Austin.  This airport has a reputation for being rough so keep your eyes on your bags. (Traveler’s tip: wear comfortable shoes when traveling in SA.)

Port Elizabeth is in the southern part of the country, and is the closest of all of the other cities to Cape Town.  PE is a lovely city on the coast.  If you are able to, schedule your international flights in and out of Cape Town.  These cities will be cold and windy in June-July but still worth visiting.  Hardcore diving enthusiasts won’t want to miss the white shark trips that regularly go out to Seal Island.  (Where 99% of all of the air jaws footage has been shot.)  This area also has some excellent wineries worth visiting.  Just as in the States, these wineries open their grounds for special occasions like weddings, just in case you’re up for planning something really special. (Traveler’s tip:  when flying within South Africa make sure to be within the maximum weight allowance for domestic carriers. There is a surprising difference between the weight allowance for international and domestic travel – you’ll pay through the nose if your bags are too heavy.)

Johann and I drove from Joburg (“Egoli” in Zulu) to Nelspruit and on into Kruger National Park for my first game lodge experience.  It was an amazing drive but not one for the faint of heart.   (Traveler’s tip: have cash when you drive in case you need to pay a “fine” for speeding in the boonies.) Fly into Nelspruit (say “nels-prey”) or have a van pick you up in Joburg for the drive.  Game lodges in the Kruger can help you sort that out.  A word about game lodges:  you can hunt or you can take pictures.  Accommodations can vary.  You can go 5 star (Singita is amazing) or spend all of your money on a nice camera lens and hit Gomo Gomo.  Johann and I were fortunate enough to see the rarest mammals in Africa when we followed a pack of hunting wild dogs.  The game lodges don’t have fences – the animals roam around where they please.  Everyone sees the same animals – it’s the accommodations that differ.  (True story:  I once outran a stampeding bull elephant while on a “leisurely” walk in the bush.  The guide pointed, screamed and started to run.  I thought he was joking until I saw villagers pointing behind me and scrambling up trees.  Traveler’s tip: make sure that you are in good shape for your trip to the African bush.)

One thing to remember about South Africa when you are planning your trip to the 2010 FIFA World Cup is that our summer is their winter.  You’ll be there in June-July and depending on where you are, it can be very cold.  The winter months can be great months to visit game lodges as it is easier to see animals with less vegetation in the way.

Another great thing to do in SA is – I hate to admit it – shop.  The malls are quite fun as you’ll see an absolute rainbow of people.  One of Durban’s malls has a store where some of the country’s best young designers are featured.  Great place for affordable and unique clothes, shoes and jewelry. When shopping, you’ll be able to have a smoothie, buy African tribal masks and sculptures (reproductions), diamonds, saris, and your favorite team’s soccer jersey to wear to the matches.  (Traveler’s tip:  let the South African ladies wear their best jewelry – leave yours at home.  Also, wandering around at night is discouraged.)

The majority of South Africans are multilingual.  English speakers will occasionally pepper in Afrikaans or Zulu phrases.  If someone says “How’s it, China?” just translate that to “S’up, man?”.  “Lekker” (“good”) might be an appropriate response.  (Traveler’s tip:  you will see a lot of American television shows in South Africa.  Definitely watch the long running Safa show “Egoli” in which actors go from Zulu to English and Afrikaans and back again all in the same conversation.)

There is a lot of speculation as to whether or not the World Cup will actually be held in SA in 2010.  When I asked the Safas (shorthand for South African like “Yank” or “Yankee” is for an American) about the Cup they would just shake their heads.  “Never happen” they would say.  At the moment the country is plagued with rolling power outages and a shortage of skilled labor.  Public transportation is non-existent.  Should the 2010 World Cup be moved to a country that has a better infrastructure to support it, TicketCity will work with our clients to provide tickets for the new venues.  Or we will refund all orders 100%. Stadium construction aside, South Africa is such an amazing country and I’d encourage everyone to visit.  (Traveler’s tip:  Don’t measure other countries against your own, just appreciate the idiosyncrasies and go with the flow.)

If you are interested in doing some of your own online research about SA, here’s a tip that will help – type “co.za” after your search items and that will take you directly into South African cyberspace.  Also, catch-up on South African news and happenings with News24 and Carte Blanche.