May 28, 2014

Perfect Marketplace for Expats:

I've told you my story about buying a car in South Africa, in all its glorious (and sometimes embarrassing) detail. I've also told you my story about selling the car again, taking place almost three years later, and it provided another welcome opportunity to let you learn from my successes and (as more often than not) mistakes.

But what might have saved me a great many words (and almost certainly some money) is a simpler approach: I could have used Gumtree.

And no, by that I do not mean that I should have trekked to the village square where business is conducted under a large tree and where goods change hands, although when I first heard of Gumtree I thought that it must have derived its name from exactly such a scenario.

What is Gumtree? is a classifieds website, much like Craigslist in the United States. I've since learned that the name was a brainchild of the original founders, who launched the site in 2000 and were looking for a name that might appeal to their target audiences in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and connect them in some way. Even though Australian and South African gum trees, to my knowledge, are very different species, the name was chosen and has stuck.

The only reason I didn't buy or sell my car on Gumtree was that I simply didn't think of it as a trading site for cars. However, I've been told that Cars for Sale is Gumtree's biggest category by far, with almost 800,000 monthly ads. I learned this when I was recently approached by Gumtree to inquire about advertising on my blog. Since I've been wanting to write about them for quite some time, we agreed for me to write a sponsored post (which this is, just to be upfront about it). Here are some other interesting facts I learned about Gumtree:

  • It is South Africa’s #1 classifieds site, and the 6th largest site overall in SA
  • It was purchased by eBay in 2005
  • It first started out in Cape Town, and was subsequently launched in Joburg and Durban in 2009
  • Most of Gumtree's visitors come from Gauteng
  • About 2.5 million ads are posted on each month
I was surprised to hear Gumtree is owned by eBay. Somehow that gives it a mantle of respectability that (at least in my mind) its American cousin Craigslist lacks. I'm not surprised, however, that most of Gumtree's visitors come from Gauteng. Most of everything that happens in South Africa seems to be happening in Johannesburg and surroundings (i.e. Gauteng Province), which is why Gumtree is such a must-visit location for all Joburg expats.

A recent screenshot from the Gumtree cars for sale listing in Johannesburg

I can't quite believe that I navigated through three years of expat life in South Africa without ever conducting a Gumtree transaction, which I would have loved to report to you. However, my blogger friend 2Summers did just that, and you can read about her experience here (it went smoothly and to everyone's satisfaction). Based on this and other feedback I've received, I'm confident that I can wholeheartedly endorse Gumtree.

How to Use Gumtree

So, whether you are a newly-arrived expat, perhaps still in your home country nervously surfing the Internet researching car prices, or whether you're looking to trade in your car for something else, give Gumtree Used Cars a try. If you're looking for bargains, you might want to specifically look for repossessed cars. Or perhaps you're looking at the other end of the spectrum for that nice BMW you've always wanted to have? Or go completely South African and get yourself a bakkie - once you've completed your South African language lesson about bakkies, lekker, takkies and such.

Of course you'll find a host of other categories on Gumtree besides cars, such as properties/rentals, household goods, electronics, all sorts of services, and even jobs.

If you're at the tail end of your expat days, you'll undoubtedly need to shed a few possessions before the arrival of that moving truck, and Gumtree is a great way to put up your car and household goods for sale, while saving those costly advertising fees you'd have to pay on another website. Posting a free ad is as easy as pie - you choose your location, pick the category, and enter all the details - voila, you are ready to sit back and wait for the calls that are sure to come.

As easy as 1-2-3: Posting a free ad on Gumtree

Safety Advice

One worry you might have is how safe a Gumtree transaction might be. As with everything else in South Africa, safety is always a concern. And as with all other situations you might encounter, I'd say you just have to be sensible about it, as I'm sure every South African will tell you.

Being sensible means to take some common-sense precautions when conducting a Gumtree transaction. Make sure you only correspond with a buyer/seller via the contact data officially sanctioned by Gumtree, and when you set up a meeting, do it in a neutral/populated place like a coffee shop or garage (SA speak for gas station), or if it has to be in your home, make sure you are not alone (most estate security guards will be happy to show up for a small tip). It's really the same as anywhere else.

On the plus side, you'll save some money, earn some extra cash, and perhaps meet some colorful characters along the way, which always makes for a good story to tell! But just in case you still have concerns, Gumtree has put together a safety guide for its users that addresses a list of various concerns.

Go ahead, give Gumtree a try by signing up here. And please let me know how it goes.

May 26, 2014

Travel in Namibia

You may remember that our family made an almost epic road trip through Namibia in August of 2012. It was meant to be the last hurrah of our African adventure. Just weeks earlier we had found out we'd be moving back to the U.S. by the end of that year (with Noisette actually having to start his new job September 1), so we started scouring travel websites and calling travel agents like crazy, all in an effort to not let a place we'd had on our radar for so long slip through our hands at the last minute. It all worked out, we got a trip booked in more or less a week (saving months and months of time we would normally have poured into such a venture), and we had one of the most fantastic experiences of our lives (though our kids still may have to come to that conclusion sometime in the future).

The only tidbit I ever shared about Namibia on this blog was a collection of some spectacular (or so I think) pictures, mostly of landscapes, because the landscapes are Namibia's most spectacular feature. Click here if you'd like to take a look. The reason I shared nothing else is that I'd made the conscious choice not to blog extensively about Namibia. I was going to write a book instead, you see. Except the book I actually DID write was of the trip immediately following our Namibia adventure, which of course was Kilimanjaro Diaries. Leave it to Kilimanjaro to put everything else in its shadow. 

I don't have any regrets about this course of events, but many of my readers do. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not on the radar of every expat in South Africa, but going to Namibia apparently is. Ever since we got back I was badgered by many to write more about it. I did patiently answer all the questions emailed to me, and I did have some tips to dish out, but none of it ever made it into another blog post.

Which is why I'm very excited to break my 21-month Namibia silence to share some tips from someone traveling in my footsteps. My friend Natalie just returned from her family's own Namibia trip, and wanted to make sure future travelers can learn from her mistakes.

Natalie's #1 Tip for Traveling in Namibia:

Here is a tip I would like to share about Namibia. If you are flying to Windhoek, book your rental car first before you book your flight. You must get a 4x4 vehicle. Back into your flight after you book your car.

Here is the back story. In January, I booked our flight for 7 from Johannesburg to Windhoek. I then tried to book a rental car online but ran into problems with my American passport etc. So, I went to the Avis office in person in Rosebank. I have rented many cars there before and I am on a first name basis with the manager, Gina. She could not find anything available online so she called the Avis office in Windhoek. They were totally out of automatic 4x4's for April but we could get 2 Toyota Corollas. I explained where we would be driving them to see if a sedan would be ok - Windhoek, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei, Windhoek - and they said no problem. (I am now guessing the person at Avis has never driven on a gravel road in a sedan). I have never, ever driven a manual car. I made it very clear the cars had to be automatic.  No problem. I was starting to freak out a bit that I had just spent R30,000 on airplane tickets and might not be able to get a rental car so I jumped at anything and was happy to have confirmation of two cars.

When we landed in Windhoek, I had my printed confirmation sheet for 2 automatic cars and headed to the Avis office. I was told they had a slight problem and that they did not have any automatic cars. The great thing about living in South Africa is that while this did upset me, I knew they "would have to make a plan". So after going over and over different options, it was finally decided the 7 of us would squeeze into a Toyota Fortuner and our luggage would follow in another car to Swakopmund. When we would get to Swakopmund, 2 automatic cars would be waiting for us. Perfect!

So, that is exactly what happened. But, as you know, you really, really need a 4x4 car in Namibia. We totally managed in sedans but must have had a guardian angel looking out for us. We had no flat tires and no cracked windshields. Amazing!

Interestingly enough, Avis in Windhoek is really not Avis. They are Oshana Transfers and Toursand we could have booked directly with them. Their number is 00264 61 22 4834. 

Just for good measure, I'll now add my #1 tip for traveling in Namibia, and it is very brief. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Sine's #1 Tip for Traveling in Namibia:

Make sure your car has 4 new tires on it, plus 2 spares in the trunk. Actually, make that 3.

Our car troubles started on the way to Damaraland. Our GPS had
failed us and we were lost. We were afraid we'd never find our
lodge, and that only years later somebody...
...would discover the remains of our car.
The first time, it was charming and a welcome lunch break
The second time, the boys became experts at changing tires
The third time, I started checking the surroundings for possible
camp sites.
When the spare also started hissing, we were overjoyed to come
across this dump, a veritable heaven of spare parts and friendly
(though a bit Deliverance-type) mechanics. This was the only
habitation within hundreds of miles.
At least our  "Day of Changing Tires" made for a great photo
book entry afterwards!

That's it for now. I hope it will be less than another 21 months before I tell you more about Namibia. You might be happy to know that I have, indeed, started on the book. I even already know the title. Keep your eyes open for Double-Buckled in the Middle of Nowhere in early 2015.

Have you traveled in Namibia? Which tips would you give?

May 20, 2014

Memoirs of an Exchange Student: I'm Leeeeeeeaving, on a Jet Plane...

Have I told you I love Bill Bryson? Probably on more than one occasion. Anyway, I was reading The Lost Continent some time ago, and came across this gem of a passage, where he talks about how Americans are convinced their country must be the best.

"Countries just don't come any better. So why anyone would want to live anywhere else is practically incomprehensible," he says. He then mentions the Dutch exchange student he once knew in High School who was veritably distraught that everybody should will him to like the United States better than Holland. Then he goes on to say: "...And funny enough, in the end he decided he did [want to live in America].  The last I heard he was a successful realtor in Florida, driving a Porsche, wearing wraparound sunglasses and saying 'Hey, what's happening?' which of course is a considerable improvement on wearing wooden shoes, carrying pails of milk on a yoke over your shoulder and being invaded by Germany every couple of generations."

This passage reminded me that I had been an exchange student myself, what seemed like a hundred years ago, and that it would make good material for an expat blog. I went on to write about some of it in Culture Shock Circa 1983: They Have Phones Without Cords in America!

But what I haven't shared with you yet is the story of how I got there.

It was my first trip outside of Europe. We had traveled quite a bit throughout Europe as children but the day my 16-year old self said good-bye to my parents in Frankfurt, Germany, not to set eyes on them for the next entire year, was the first time I would leave Europe. It was also the very first time I would travel on an airplane, an absolute novelty. My own kids, who have sat (and fought over the window seat) on more airplanes they can remember, starting at about 4 months of age, are utterly astonished when I tell them that part of the story.

I don't have any pictures of my first time on a plane, of Luxemburg, or Reykiavik, a grave oversight,
so instead I'm offering up a collage of shots taken during my exchange year in the USA.

You might be surprised to hear that my plane didn't actually leave from Frankfurt. No siree, my "Year in America" was booked via some budget exchange organization that some shady woman in Munich ran out of her home, and the absolute cheapest flight she was able to find was On-Icelandair-from-Luxemburg-via-Reykjavik-to-New-York. Have you ever heard of Icelandair? In hindsight I cannot believe my parents sent off their only daughter in such a fashion, but then again they had never flown on an airplane themselves either, and probably had no idea that in the Year of Our Lord 1983 you could get to the New World by a more direct route than Iceland.

Things, of course, didn't go smoothly. After all, this was Icelandair. Which didn't fly out of Frankfurt. I was ferried by bus to Luxembourg, where I arrived with a hundred or so equally wide-eyed soon-to-be-exchange-student teenagers, who nevertheless looked terrifyingly worldly to me. Then we learned that our flight would be delayed by seven hours.

It seems like this story will take more than one blog post to tell. Stay tuned!

May 15, 2014

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse culture shock upon repatriation is far worse than any culture shock I've experienced before. And I"ve experienced my fair share.

Before, there was the excitement about living in a new country, coupled with the benevolence you feel towards a people you don't completely understand. You give them the benefit of the doubt. They might seem a little quirky and weird, and you might not understand all they're saying, but they smile at you and they're interesting. Plus, the sun is shining and someone is ironing your laundry at the house, and that someone is not you.

Then you return "home", and you feel like you understand everyone far too well, and you don't like what you think you know about their psyche. They're all too shallow, too pampered, too full of their First World Problems, you think, and there can't possibly be anything in it for you by getting to know them. You pine for the friends you left behind in the country you left behind, and nothing seems like it will ever be quite so fascinating and exciting again in your life as it once was. 

The reason it was fascinating and exciting was mostly because it was so unpredictable. You didn't know anybody when you first arrived in your last place, and invariably you started meeting new people, whether you wanted to or not. You couldn't be picky, so you met people from the most diverse backgrounds (also helped by the fact that most expat communities are, by definition, pretty diverse affairs).

Now, on the other end of the journey, everything is very predictable. You know where to buy your groceries because you've lived here before. Or, this being America, you don't have to have lived in the exact place before to still know pretty much everything there is to know, because it is the same mostly everywhere.You know that you'll have to start pumping your own gas again, or if you've temporarily forgotten, you'll re-learn it quickly after standing forlornly at the gas station with no attendant instantly materializing by your side. If you're moving back to the place you came from, you already have friends, your children already know the school, and nothing has changed but you.

Of course it's not really like this. This is just the silent conversation you have in your head. What it really is like is the same as everywhere: You have to allow some time to settle in. Which will be made much easier if, in the words of I Was An Expat Wife (aka Maria Foley), you treat your home country like any other expat location - with curiosity, an open mind and heart, and a willingness to adapt.

You have to overcome your own snobbishness to realize there are wonderful people everywhere in the world, and only then can you form new friendships and move on with your life. You might play bocce and beer pong with your new friends instead of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but it'll be fun nonetheless.

Cimbing Mount Kilimanjaro with friends

Playing ping-pong (later beer pong, of which there are thankfully no pictures) with friends

At least that's how it's been for me.

How about you?

May 12, 2014

Baby Killer

Our neighborhood may be up in arms about the recent coyote scare and the supposed threat to our very own children, but we've had a more private and yet not lesser wildlife-related drama unfold at our house over the past week.

It started with me opening the back door when our cat, Findus, was meowing, wanting to be let in. Right in front of him, between his paws, was a baby bunny. Not more than three or four inches long. Here we go again, I thought, and began to turn to get the dust pan to clean it up, when I realized that the bunny was breathing and had its eyes open, sitting perfectly still awaiting its fate. Naturally, I picked it up, and saw that it was completely unharmed. I was on my way to collect someone from school and didn't have time to make a plan, so I embarked on what seemed the best course of action: I took the bunny up to some trees where I'd seen the grown ones hang out, and I banned Findus to the house. Surely, a cat-free day out there would give the rabbit enough time to make its escape.

If you want to stop reading now, you still can.

The next morning, Findus was chomping at the bit to be let out. Not thinking about it very much (and also not wanting him to use a corner in our house as his litter box, as he'd done once before when deprived too long of the flowerbed), I let him out.

Not 30 minutes later he showed up with another baby bunny. Presumably the same one from the day before, though I can't be sure. He got smarter too this time around. Instead of presenting a live one to me, he'd already killed it. Another 5 minutes later, it was all gone - skin, bones, everything. At least no need for the dust pan.

It pains me to tell you this, but the next day it was the same story. Another dead bunny at our back door, another feast, and a cat laying under the patio table all day, panting because he was so full. I wanted to yell at him: "Moles are okay, M-O-L-E-S, you hear? Bunnies are F-O-R-B-I-D-D-E-N! Although I do realize there is hypocrisy in that.

How many bunnies are in that nest, I wondered? How many more days would we have to put the kids through this? And why the hell couldn't these rabbits run away faster? Would I have to make an indoor cat of Findus while the rabbits were breeding? How long were they breeding?

This morning started out like the others. We were rushed for time leaving the house, it was raining cats and dogs (or, in the event, bunnies), and Findus was somewhere out there. When I came back and settled at the kitchen table with my tea, I suddenly heard a thump. I got up and looked out the door, and there was Findus running circles on the deck in the midst of the downpour, chasing yet another baby bunny, bedraggled and drenched but very much alive. The thump must have been from him crashing into the door trying to turn a corner. So naturally, I opened the door to yell at Findus or do whatever else might temporarily stop him, and the bunny, sensing an opening, ran right inside the house, Findus hot on his heels.

That's how I found myself with two dripping furballs sprinting around the center island.

It's now a few hours later. Findus is sleeping on the chair next to me, and on the counter is his cat carrier holding the baby bunny. Neither of them is moving. I'd been able to snatch up the bunny before Findus did, because he had stopped his chase for a few precious seconds, shaking off all the water like a retriever coming out of the pond. He is part dog, that cat, I swear. He likes nothing more than rolling on his back and letting you scratch his belly for hours, and sleeping at the foot of our youngest child's bed.

I've been busy. I've already watched on YouTube how to feed a blind 3-day old baby bunny with a syringe, and I've Googled what to feed a two-week old (as ours seems to be). I've made a rehydration solution according to a vet's instructions to help the bunny over his shock. I'm just waiting for the rain to stop so I can find some clover and dandelion. I'm hoping the lettuce and carrot and apple will tide him over, but so far he has refused all of it.

And I sent off a text message to my husband.

He sent this in reply: "OK. This is now the worst of both worlds. I don't like pets. Cat kills baby rabbits. We must save last survivor, and now we have two (2) pets!

I sent another text message to a friend, extolling the virtues of a pet bunny for their daughters.

Her reply: We are not taking a pet bunny. We already warded off the snake and the gecko, thank you very much.

So I tried her husband, thinking it never hurts to ask. His reply: "Aaaaaeeeiiiii! No way! You are forbidden from saying anything to a child of mine. I will personally feed it [the bunny, presumably] to Findus if necessary."

Somehow, the people around me are less than enthusiastic about baby bunnies. Have they not seen the pictures? Have they not felt the oh so soft fur?

In the meantime, we wait with bated breath each day to see what Findus might show up with at the door. Or we wait with plugged ears while he is meowing away in the basement, incensed that we won't let him outside. I hope the killing has come to an end. If our new pet bunny doesn't start eating soon, I'll have to put him back outside. In someone else's yard.

My consolation is this: If Findus hadn't gotten any of the baby bunnies, the Coyote surely would have.

May 9, 2014

Expat Alert: Beautiful Johannesburg House for Rent!

*** Update: This house is no longer available for rent. ***

I'm not usually in the business of playing realtor (or estate agent, as they are called in South Africa) and advertising homes for rent, but I'm making an exception for this particular one. It's in the Beverley subdivision in Lonehill, a place I know fairly well as I took Sunshine to numerous playdates in the same neighborhood during our Johannesburg years.

785 Castello river Estates on Mulbarton Road

I'm not telling you about it because it's beautiful, although it clearly is. I'm also not telling you about it because it comes with a full-time 5-day housekeeper, although, hello!

The reason I'm telling you about it is because I was asked to post something on my Facebook page by a woman (a single mother, in fact) who can use the help. I don't want to go into details as I'm not sure she'd be comfortable with them paraded online, but it has to do with personal loss of a loved one, sorrow, and, as a result of medical bills, money. Instead of a quick-forgotten post on my Facebook page, I decided to make it a full-fledged blog post instead.

What are you waiting for? If you're an expat planning a move to South Africa and the greater Johannesburg area, you should definitely take a look. It's immediately available, comes fully furnished, and has some nice amenities (including the aforementioned domestic help - a real bonus if you think about the work involved in hiring domestic help). It's about 2 minutes away from the Dainfern area, meaning you'll be close to an excellent South African prep school (pre-K to 12) and not too far from the American International School, and live in an area very popular among expats. It's right next to the Lonehill Koppies, a nature reserve which, I've been told, offers some of the best bird watching in Johannesburg. The home has been rented out to expats for the last three years, and the owner is looking for another corporate rental.

I'll now let you browse some more beautiful pictures and look at all the details of the home as given to me by the owner, with her contact details at the bottom. I so hope that in the end I can help two people - the landlady looking for a tenant, and an expat wanting to get "find home" checked off their really long moving checklist!
785 Castello River Estates
Mulbarton Road

Truly beautiful and inspiring. Executive, immaculate, modern, fully furnished 5 bedroom home. The ultimate in stylish living and entertainment.

  • Entrance hall 
  • DSTV 
  • Entertainer’s patio 
  • Formal lounge 
  • Gourmet’s chef kitchen 
  • Family room
  • 3 automated garages
  • Gas fireplace 
  • Dining room x 2 
  • Scullery 
  • Staff suite
  • Wine cellar 
  • 5 bedrooms all en suite 
  • Guest cloakroom 
  • 5 bathrooms 
  • House size: +- 530sq mts 
  • Stand size : +- 752sq mts

Special Features:
  • Pool
  • All bedrooms are air conditioned (hot and cold)
  • Landscaped garden 
  • Under floor heating in the whole house
  • Automated irrigation 
  • TV in every bedroom
  • Full alarm system 

Inclusive in Rental:

  • Garden & pool service
  • Live in house keeper (5 days a week)
  • Fully alarmed and paramedic response
  • Full bouquet of DSTV
  • Levy [note by editor: this is your monthly/annual fee to the estate for security, landscaping etc.].

Amenities in the surrounding area (within 2 kms):

1. Lonehill shopping centre
2. Leaping Frog shopping centre
3. Pineslopes shopping centre
4. Fourways Crossing shopping centre
5. Doctors, dentists, hairdressers, Veterinary, beauticians, health clinic and much more.
6. Builders Warehouse
7. Fire brigade
8. Lonehill parks
9. Crawford College – Primary and secondary
10. Dainfern College
11. St Peters school
12. Churches – Various denomination
13. Restaurants

The Beverley area falls within the greater Lonehill security system as set up by the Residents Association which maintains the highest standard of security, maintenance of pavements, parks and gardens. The security system is responsible for employing a full time security company which patrols the whole greater area of Lonehill and Beverley area 24hours a day, by foot patrol, motorcycles, and patrol cars. The Lonehill community centre is an integral part of the suburb as many events and functions are held there. A church is situated in this centre. The Lonehill Kopje is set within a nature reserve which opens in summer for residents to enjoy and climb. Just outside the Reserve is the Lonehill park and lake which is a source of great joy for joggers, walkers (and their children and dogs). There is also a safely fenced children’s park with slides, swing and climbing frames. Although this home is positioned in the most quiet and peaceful environment, with beautiful bird life, it is also close by, to all shopping centres, schools, and entertainment facilities.

Property rental per month: R. 45,000

Directions: From William Nicol off ramp coming from Rivonia turn right into William Nicol road, drive past the Monte Casino towards the Indaba hotel. At Leaping frog shopping centre, turn right in Mulbarton road, continue to circle and yield left. Drive to the end of the road, at dead end, the complex on the right side, named “43 Castello River Estates.”

Martine Rambert Wood
+27 83 452 7906

May 7, 2014

Ode to South Africa

I was recently asked to contribute an article to the aptly-named The International Wanderer, a blog/website targeted at anyone who wants to live, work, study, or volunteer abroad. The following is an excerpt from that guest post, which turned out to be an ode to the life of fun and adventure we led while living in South Africa from 2010 to 2013.

Most memories are rose-tinted, so perhaps you'll forgive me for the veritable gush of love I've poured onto the page, but I think most expats who've ever lived in South Africa, or anywhere in Africa for that matter, would mostly agree with me.

Image 1 (see captions below)

Our Life of Adventure in South Africa

by Sine Thieme
One thing I loved about living in South Africa was that our lives suddenly seemed to be filled with adventure. In the space of little more than a year we became scuba certified and went on several diving trips, watched our teenage son hurl himself into the void off the world’s highest bungee jumping bridge, swam with great white sharks, rode on elephants, battled a bush fire, went on several safaris, one of them from a balloon, and paddled on the Zambezi river above Victoria Falls (being careful to stay above the falls).

Image 2
This could be due to the fact that you always try to live more intensely when you’re an expat, knowing that your assignment will end all too soon, and wanting to explore as much as you can while given the chance. But I think South Africa has something special. South Africans love their country, they love spending time outdoors, and they love sharing their joy with others. From the day we set foot there we got swept up in this spirit of exploration and we didn’t slow down the entire time we lived there.

Image 3
When we arrived in March 2010, in the midst of preparations for Africa’s first ever Soccer World Cup, I was very determined to methodically check off the typical post-move stuff before exploring the new world around us: open bank account, get phone, internet, sign school forms, find doctors, buy a car...

Continued on The International Wanderer's website...

  • Image 1: The vast and open landscapes of Southern Africa are what we fell in love with (though in that particular instance we were stopped because of several - yes several - flat tires and would have welcomed a slightly less vast and deserted landscape around us) - Namibia 2012
  • Image 2: Also taken in Namibia, I love this picture as it shows the extent of our travels far off of our life's path up until that point.
  • Image 3: Just outside the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg, the lovely mountain range of the Magaliesberg in all its wintery beauty. 

Where have your international wanderings taken you? What memories color your lenses?

May 2, 2014

What Expats in Joburg are Saying About Their Internet Providers

I recently posted the following on my Facebook page, which I had received from a newly arrived expat:

I have an update for internet.

We went with Afrihost CAPPED, at 100 GB. I've got my Netflix up and running and they don't shape your data!!! We are going to get them to change our line out so we can get 10MB. I'm happy with it! I also have iBurst as a back up (I depend on the internet to work).

Please comment if you have anything to add to this. (We also had Afrihost and were very happy with them).

This post received a long list of replies, and I decided to add all of them into this blog post for those of you who are still looking for, if not perfect, at least better internet. Afrihost seems to take home First Prize, with Neotel as the Runner-Up, but there seem to be some issues with inconsistent speed. I should mention, however, that the line speed (at least I believe this is true) depends on whatever Telkom line goes to your house. So if Afrihost is slow, it's because the Telkom line only goes up to 4 Mbps, as was the case for us. If you're lucky, you have a 10 Mbps line and all is dandy.

Speeds you can probably only dream of in South Africa. Although I don't wish Comcast on anyone!

Here are all the responses:

Excellent! My husband and I have mtn and it is absolute crap. Totally unreliable plus they made is sign a contract. They are pressuring us to sign up again but based on this and other posts from your page we are going w afrihost. I signed up for unotelly as well which works beautifully. Netflix, radio etc from home (canada) is all available. Your blog is a gold mine for us! Thank you so much. Keep writing....we need you!
I am on a Durban Estate which only allows Atec service provider. I most certainly DO NOT recommend ATEC. While i have found that the connection is certainly reliable, but we have had many issues in the past (which remain unresolved) where we were billed for data we did not use, discrepancies between usage and billing, and at one stage our historical data usage was changing each time I looked at my account online! It was brought to their attention with head office - they denied it was possible, but after much to- and fro- ing, meeting with their MD and Head Developer and providing them with screenshots of changing historical records they conceded that it was happening!! It remains unresolved. Frustrating thing for us is that our estate allows no other option.
We are on a 4MB line with Afrihost. They have exceeded all my expectations. They also manage my line which is awesome - so if my adsl is not working I do not have to call Telkom and wait forever! Afrihost sort it out! Recently we also got a dongle from them that is extremely useful as it is portable it comes with 3GB data and 2GB data free. The kids can take it with and tether their tablets or phones to it and it is much cheaper than the Mtn data! Top ups on this device are very easy from the Client Zone. The other fantastic thing is that there are no contracts with Afrihost and everything is on a month to month basis!
Thank you... information logged in anticipation of a move to Cape Town in November. I have found your blog sooooo helpful. Thank you!
I have found that Afrihost is really inconsistent in their speed though...we are going to try Neotel!

What's been YOUR experience? Please leave a comment - a future expat will be extremely grateful!