Border-crossing budget breaks

2013-03-15 09:59

While crossing a border for a long weekend break may be easy and reasonably cheap in Europe, things are slightly different here on the southern tip of Africa. Fuel prices and long distances make self-drive close to impossible, airfare is generally gastronomic and because of catering for a largely overseas market, accommodation and travel around a few of our neighbouring countries isn't exactly the most cost-effective option either. 

But, oh, being able to cross a border for a long weekend just sounds so grand! 

Well, we don't think it's impossible. Take a look at these four destinations beyond South Africa's borders that could be explored in a long weekend, won't break the bank and, thank goodness, don't require a visa. 

Southern part of Namibia 

Getting there

If you're located in Cape Town, a self-drive up the N7 to Namibia is a bucket list must for any adventurous soul. And, get this, it's not even as far as it sounds. In fact, the Noordoewer border post is located less than 800km from the Mother City and stays open 24 hours a day. If you're in Johannesburg or surrounds, it's a slightly longer drive (about 1 000km) to the closest border post, which would be Nakop just outside Upington. 

Air Namibia, SAA and kulula have daily flights to Windhoek, however be prepared to fork out at least R2000 for a return flight. 

Where to go: Sossusvlei, Fish River Canyon and Kolmanskop

Activities: The south of Namibia is an absolute dream for desert-tinged adventure.

Head to Sossusvlei for a day of exploring the Dali-esque landscape of majestic rust red dunes, clear blue skies, skeletal trees and cracked dry marshes.

Take the Fish River Canyon in from above at the Hobas viewing deck close to Ais Ais.

Live out your wildest photographic dreams at the deserted town of Kolmanskop, and on your way there, see if you can spot any of the famous Garub desert horses.

While all these destinations are spread out quite far apart, if you plan your trip properly, none are further than an easy morning drive. 

Where to stay: The Gondwana Collection offers a comprehensive array of accommodation options throughout Namibia, with some of their most homely and delightful lodges located in the south. We highly recommend Kalahari Farmhouse in Rietvlei, Namib Desert Lodge close to Sossusvlei and Canon Lodge in the Fish River Canyon vicinity. 

If you're keen for a camping experience, Ai-Ais, Canon Road Campsite and Sesriemvlei are good options. 

Cross border entry fees: R220

Check out our Southern Namibia adventure guide


Getting there: Since The Kingdom of Lesotho is surrounded on all sides by South Africa, we are quite spoiled for choice when it comes to entering the country. There are various border posts located along the 909km perimeter of the country, in three different provinces: the Free State, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Maseru Bridge, located just outside Ladybrand in the Free State, is the main border post and remains open 24 hours a day, it does tend to get very busy, however and locals recommend using one of the others instead. Sani Pass, in Western end of KZN, is however the chosen entry for 4x4 fanatics. 

Where to go: Maletsunyane Falls - located about 120km from Maseru, these falls drop 200m in a single plunge, making them the highest falls in Africa.

Afriski ski resort - of course this is more of a winter outing, but located right next to Lesotho's A1 highway, only 4 hours drive from Johannesburg, it's the quickest, cheapest ski holiday you will ever take! 

Dinosaur footprints - view amazingly well-preserved Lesothosaurus footprints at Ellenberger's Cave House and just outside the town of Quthing, about 170km from Maseru. 

Activities: Skiing - who wouldn't want to say that they've skied in Africa? Just note, that if you go mid-season, this could work out to be a bit more than a budget break. Check out Afriski's website for rates and details. 

Pony trekking - this is an absolutely classic Lesotho activity and an experience that you will remember forever. Maleala Lodge (about 50km from Maseru) is one of the main pony trekking operators in Lesotho and they offer a wide variety of both overnight and day treks. Day rides for groups of three people or more, cost about R200 per person per day, while overnight rides are slightly more expensive and includes overnight accommodation in village huts. 

4x4ing - The Sani Pass is a great place to set out from. 

Where to stay: Maleala Lodge for pony trekking - accommodation rates start from about R80 per person (for camping) with the most expensive being R300 per person for a rondavel. Semonkong Lodge - camping is R80 per person per night, while rooms and rondavels will cost between R330 and R464 per person per night.  


Attila JANDI /

Getting there: Swaziland is located in the northeast of our country - about 400km from Joburg and 500km from Durban - and also shares a border with Mozambique. There are seven border posts between South Africa and Swaziland, located in KZN and Mpumalanga. Check out this list to see which work best for your chosen route.  

Where to go: Ngwenya glass - marvel at the fine art of glass blowing at this factory just outside Mbabane. You can purchase personalized glassware or if that's slightly outside of your spending limits, take a perfectly plump, tiny African animal with you.

House on Fire - Located in the lush Malkerns Valley, you'll find the oriental-tinged wonderland of House on Fire - a craft shop, restaurant and theatre. It plays host to the popular Bushfire Music Festival every year, this year taking place from 31 May to 2 June.

Mantenga village and falls - Mantenga is a small protected area of 725 hectares in a secluded corner of the Ezulwini Valley, although it is only two kilometres from a major road. The Mantenga Falls are Swaziland's best-known falls, and the largest in terms of volume of water (95m high). You can explore the area by foot, bike or car and visit the cultural village to find out more abou the local way of life.

Activities: Mountain biking, rafting, caving and visiting museums are all on the itinerary if you want to experience Swaziland to the full. Check out Swazi Trails for more information on the incredible activities they offer 

Where to stay: Phophonyane Lodge and Nature Reserve in Piggs Peak - stay in the tented camp for R615 per person per night. 


Getting there: Flights to Mauritius are available direct with South African Airways and Air Mauritius from Johannesburg or with BA, SAA and Air Mauritius from Cape Town all with one stop. The best way to book a Mauritius holiday is, however, going for a holiday package deal. Booked well in advance, a package including flights, accommodation and half board can easily cost less than R10 000 per person sharing for five days.

Check out these Mauritius holiday deals 

Where to go: Grand Baie - yes, it is Mauritius' quintessential tourist village and can get very busy, but if you have never visited the archipelago before, it's worth checking out.

Le Morne Brabant peninsula - the area's main feature is an eponymous basaltic monolith with a summit 556 metres above sea level, home to an intricate network of caves and overhangs. It's also surrounded by lagoons and lush vegetation and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Chamarel Village - located in the southwestern part of the country, this small village serves as a gateway to some of Mauritius' most picturesque natural attractions, including the Seven Coloured Earths and Black River Gorges National Park. 

Activities: Well, since you're on a tropical island, there's always the option of just chilling on the beach with a cocktail in hand, wading into the clear blue water every now and then. Other than that, resorts typically offer a wide array of water-based excursions, including jet-skiing, snorkeling, sailing and scuba diving. Shopping has also become quite an attraction on the island lately, with the first ever Mauritius Shopping Fiesta last year, setting the scene for many more to come.

Check out this Mauritius quick guide for more details about the tropical destination.

Read more on:    travel international

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