"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The 2020 Africa Journals

 Chapter Two:

                   Two Lessons of the Expensive Kind

 Tricks of the Trade:

"Would you like to pay in Euros or Dollars?" asked the hotel clerk as I checked out of my room in Amsterdam.

My Capital One Master Card doesn't charge for foreign transactions, so I opted for dollars after checking that the bill was correct. The clerk quickly offered to help me with my baggage to the airport shuttle bus, which was a half block away by a round-about route.

When I later checked the credit card receipt, I saw the exchange rate not only wasn't favorable, but there was an added 3% currency exchange charge that upped the bill another five bucks.   There was a notation on the receipt:   "I accept that I have been offered a choice of currencies for payment and that this choice is final."

Lesson: Always pay in the local currency if your credit card doesn't charge for foreign transactions.


Kenya charges fifty US dollars for an entry visa, payable only in cash and with a new or like-new bill.   No folds, tears, or marks are allowed.   Done.

However, this unsophisticated traveler didn’t know there was such a thing as a “transit” visa, which was only $20.  We were staying in Nairobi for only for about eight hours. 

My route to Nairobi, Kenya, on KLM.

Airplane food.   The chicken was pretty good,

A sweet touch.   A chocolate heart for Valentine's Day.

Breakfast:   egg, potatoes, muffin.

Flowers in the lobby of Crowne Plaza, Nairobi, where we stayed for four hours after an interminable check-in process.

We would be in this nice hotel for only a few hours, but after a long flight it was worth it for the shower and a couple hours sleep.   But first, we met downstairs in the lounge to celebrate our arrival in Africa with Amarula on the rocks.

O'Dark-Thirty.   It was nice to find a 24-hour coffee shop off the hotel lobby.   Mary's bargaining for something here.

Then we were to fly to Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe where we would be picked up and driven to Pangolin Hotel in Botswana for a five-day stay.

We would be in Zimbabwe for less than two hours.   The entry visa was $45 for US citizens.

Everywhere we went there were people with thermal sensors pointed at our foreheads.

In the Zimbabwe airport:    They need a better taxidermist.

Marg and leopard

Me with leopard.

Mary with lion and impala.

When we returned to Zimbabwe after our stay in Botswana, I again paid $45 for an entry visa.   This time, we were flying back to Nairobi, stayed only at the airport, and the time was less than three hours.

Our driver, left, at passport control between Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Mary stepping in a tray of decontaminating fluid

I was going to take a photo of the border control gate but thought better of it.   It was basic--several pieces of pipe of various diameters stuck together and with a large chunk of irregular concrete attached to one end.   When you were allowed passage, a man released a rope from one end of the pipe, the concrete weight pulled the pipe down and the rope end up.   Simple, basic, and inexpensive.

Flowering tree at the border.

 Once arriving in Nairobi, I again paid the $50 entry visa.   I was not told there was a transit visa for $20 the first time.   Marg was.

However, as a Canadian, Marg had to pay $75 TWICE for the two entries into Zimbabwe.   She could have used her valid British passport and paid much less.

The visa fees are reciprocal.  Canadians charge those from Zimbabwe the same amount.  Likewise, the US charges Kenyans $50 and Zimbabweans $30.

Lesson:   Always ask about transit visas if you’re just passing through.

And now, we are finally in Botswana at the beautiful Pangolin hotel.   I hope you were able to keep track of the story with all the verb tense changes in this story.

Marg and Mary celebrating our arrival in Pangolin in Botswana with, of course, a double Amarula on the rocks.   Mine is waiting for me.   See you later.




  1. It looks like they get you coming and going. Makes you appreciate traveling the States with no fees or passport requirements. Nice photos and information.

  2. All of my credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees honor that statement. Odd that your Capital One Master Card did not honor their claim of no foreign transaction fees. You can't out think or outwit these foreign countries as to entrance and transit visas etc et al. For one thing you're usually exhausted and unable to think clearly. Some very nice looking rooms. Smiles, Cap . . . From Patti: Nice to be tuned into your travels again. Looking forward to more posts/pictures!! Hugs, Patti

    1. The foreign transaction fee was charged by the hotel, not the credit card company.

  3. Always like to read about your travels but no longer envy them. Photos are now enough to satisfy the travel function in my brain.