Tsetseli
Tsetsere



Money doesn't bring happiness but it makes the world go round. And it makes your holiday go round. If you pay attention to a handful of tips, you'll hardly ever suffer from a financial shortfall caused by theft, unfortunate loss or questionsmarks in the eyes of a cashier facing unknown currency or credit cards. Your financial means should be composed of hardcash, traveller's cheques and credit cards likewise, because there will not alway be the possibility of either cashing a cheque, paying by Visa or withdrawing cash. Try to find out the practises and preferences of your destination and check your itinerary to that effect. In many African countries the US dollar is something like a semiofficial national currency, whereas the Euro possibly might be unknown and therefore emerge as completely useless. Traveller's cheques are accepted by banks, hotels and exchange offices as a rule, but it's not always that easy and fuss-free as you might expect. Part of your cash should consist of smaller and smallest denominations; a single 100 dollar note already might exceed the capacities (and/or the willingness) of a rural bank.

Spread your cheques, cards and cash to different parts of your body and clothing (e. g. neck pouch, money belt, waistband). Only have a necessary minimum to hand in your pocket, handbag or daypack. This increases your chance to keep at least part of your money in case of theft or assault. Always carry along several photocopies of all credit cards and the cheques' proof of purchase to keep them e. g. in your toilet bag as well as in your camera bag, backpack, sleeping bag, travel guide... Copies are better than nothing and might prove to be helpful whenever credit cards have to be cancelled, cheques have to be stopped, evidence has to be provided.

Refuse the friendly offers of "street exchangers" although you might get a bit more for your money. Sometimes these attentive one-man-banks try to spy out your financial state in order to rob you an hour later. Furthermore it might cause problems when leaving certain countries. You should be able to furnish evidence of official exchange of money - the amount should be credible. Please keep the vouchers till you are at home again.

Avoid to give insight into your financial means. This means neither to recount the freshly changed money in public but in a hidden corner of the bank or exchange office nor to pay the bill opening an obviously well-filled wallet, for example. In Africa the risk of getting filched certainly is not higher than anywhere else, but it's a poor continent and the careless presentation of (relative) wealth might entice somebody to pilfer the alleged croesus.

Poverty and comparative wealth is my next subject. Whenever tipping somebody, bargaining for souvenirs or just buying a coconut, always try to keep commensurability. The average monthly wages of some African countries might be a helpful measure: Kenya, 130 EUR/app. 160 USD; Zambia, 70 EUR/85USD; Cameroon, 60 EUR/73 USD; Malawi, 30 EUR/37 USD. These examples are illustrating YOUR status abundantly clear: your wealth is nearly unimaginable, you are rolling in money, you are expected to be able to afford almost everything, you are the perfect victim to be taken to the cleaners.

Therefore, always try to apply an adequate standard. Some examples: Most guidebooks advise to give a tip of 2 USD to a safari guide per day/tourist. This might add up to considerable sums, depending on a safaris' duration and the number of travellers. Try to check out your guides' state of employment. Does he draw an acceptable salary, does he trade for own account, does he mainly rely on tips? It's up to you how to express your appreciation as long as it doesn't go beyond the scope of adequateness. Should your satisfaction keep within limits, do not hesitate to show your displeasure by curtailing the tip. When bargaining for a souvenir always take into consideration that the object of your desire - almost certainly - has been manufactured in other African countries or more backward regions of the country for a ridiculously low price. The friendly powerseller you are bargaining with might be a usufructuary cash-raker although he is posing as the one-and-only blessed creator of the exotic splendour.

On balance, try to defy yourself to be ripped off, polite but firmely. Avoid to give tips that make the largest part of a monthly income of your safari guide, waitor, chambermaid etc., don't pay tremendous amounts for souvenirs. Otherwise you might force the destruction of a still running system, you also might support an increasing gap of the classes. Rule of the thumb: try to put yourself into the place of your vis-a-vis, always having regard to his living conditions. If you want to do something good, just do it, at the right place and with adequate means.

With this in mind, I wish you pleasant holidays. Take care for you money and present yourself to best advantage by being generous with joy, openness and respect; this goes down well with everybody.

Don't hesitate to add your own opinion nor to share your own experiences either in my visitors' book or by mail.