One week in Johannesburg

Sawubona everyone!

I’m back to our paradise island after spending a wonderful week in Johannesburg, one of the biggest cities of South Africa. Known as the “City of Gold” after the discovery of the precious metal in the 1880s, the city seems to be a great country to live in, with loads of places to discover and many things to learn about the history of its people.

In case you are wondering the language used to greet you, it is called Zulu, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. And yes, it is important to mention that black & white people live altogether peacefully thanks to their hero, Nelson Mandela who fought against apartheid / racism. As far as I witnessed, your skin color does not matter. Also, worth mentioning : I noticed loads of people of Indian origin with huge resemblance to Mauritians.

A bit more about the travel & stay

After spending endless minutes (in fact, nearly 2 hours) in our airport and 4 hours flight time in Air Mauritius’ new A350, named Le Morne Brabant, I landed in Joburg which has a 2 hours’ time zone difference from Mauritius. Again spent another 2 hours in the OR Tambo International airport before riding to the my final destination.

My first impressions : Sometimes it is difficult to grasp what some people there say because I’m not used to the accent. However, most people are nice and welcoming. Travelling around the country is great during weekends but however, there are considerable traffic jams during working days. Unlike in Mauritius, you can have 5 lanes going in the same direction, without any emergency or crawler lane. Despite those 5 lanes, traffic jams are a normal thing. Also, maximum speed limits on some highways are 120km/hr and from what I understood, there’s a minimum speed limit of 60km/hr on some roads.

I can say that I’ve been pretty busy there with sightseeing during the weekend, work during office hours and wandering in the huge malls late every evening. With a booking of 7 nights in a guest house on a bed and breakfast package, I enjoyed my stay in the one of the wealthiest regions, known as Sandton. On top of being a secure area, most shopping malls are easily accessible within less than 30 minutes’ drive while the office was only 5 minutes’ drive.

Situated at around 1,700m above sea level, the temperature is quite good in this region of the world. For the month of February, it is roughly 26 degrees during the day and the temperature can drop down to around 16 degrees at night. Very comfortable climate in Johannesburg right now but however, important to mention that there’s a severe drought in Cape Town right now. So severe that people need to live with under 50L of water per day (for every possible usage – bathing, toilet, cooking, drinking etc) as the city is running out of water supplies.

Currency

The currency used is in the South African Rand, often abbreviated by ZAR or R.

For indicative purposes :

  • 1 rand is approximately 3 Mauritian rupees
  • 1 US dollar is approximately 11 rands

The open-top bus tour

Still remember the big bus tour I mentioned in my Dubai’s post? Well, the open-top bus tour has the same concept whereby you buy your ticket valid for the whole day and you can hop in and out of the red bus any number of times you want. However, if you really want to visit each place along the bus route, I will advise you to book for a 2-days ticket. It can also be a tiring journey, so be fully prepared and careful with small kids.

For less than R200 (roughly MUR600), you get to visit the best tourist attractions of Joburg in one day. You might also need to pay keep some additional cash to pay for entrances at some attractions along the bus routes.

A few places to visit absolutely

The open bus tour allowed me to get to several places along their route but I chose to get off at the few mentioned places only because of lack of time:

Johannesburg Zoo

The first time ever I saw an impressive real gorilla of 1m80 and an elephant.

Carlton Center

Being the tallest building in Africa, Carlton Center is a skyscraper of 50 storeys also known as “Top of Africa”. From the 50th floor, you can have a panoramic bird’s eye view of Johannesburg

Gold Reef City

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw the video of the “Tower of Terror” I uploaded a few days back. I still feel goose bumps when I think about the wagon plunging 90degrees downwards from a height of 50m! With several other rides in the park, you can easily spend the whole day there with you family and the prices are very affordable. So, to the left below is a photo of the entrance of Gold Reef City and to the right, a selfie in one of the glamorous toilet of the Gold Reef City 🙂

Additionally, you might want to visit an ancient gold mine and go to Level 2, found 75m deep into the earth. It was an enriching visit, especially when you think that people might not have the same opportunity as water is flooding the old gold mine.

Some years back, visitors were able to go even deeper, but they had to close the access because of natural water flooding. During the visit, you also get to hold a pure 12.5 kg gold bar! And to the right of the picture below, you can find an indication of the depth of the mine.

Downtown Joburg

A place to avoid as a tourist, especially if you are alone but however, you are quite safe if you are driving through the region in the bus tour. Here, you can find shops, small snacks and etc., just like you will find in Port Louis or other towns of Mauritius.

SAB World of Beer

It is some sort of museum for beer. Yeah, the first part of the visit consists of videos showing the history of beer, how it is made etc. You also get to taste “Sorghum”, the traditional beer made by women in the Zulu culture. As per their culture, the “Sorghum” is drank in a special vessel pictured below. Very different from the commercial beer we all know; beer lovers would probably have never be fans of beer if the taste was kept the same lol.

During the visit, you also get a can of chocolate flavored beer along with 2 vouchers for tap beer in their bar. So, at the end of the visit, you are nearly drunk! So, please make sure that this place is last in your list!

Monte Casino

I also loved my visit to Monte Casino. If I had to describe it : It is a large mall building in which there is practically a village built inside, with fake streets, fake rivers, fake sky ceiling and an enormous open-air casino in the center. Everything is so real inside that you might think that you are actually walking on real streets and entering real shops found outside on the streets :

My first experience with Uber

For those who don’t know, Uber is a service whereby you can request a car to travel to your destination using the Uber application on your smartphone. Available in over 600 countries around the world, Uber has a large network of vehicles whereby practically anyone can become an Uber driver and earn a living. Using the mobile application, you just choose your destination and request a ride to the first Uber driver responding to your request. The mobile app also shows the position of Uber drivers in real time, as pictured in the left picture below. On the right side, you can see the estimated fare for the chosen destination :

Here in Johannesburg (and in many other countries), you can add your credit card to your Uber account. From there, you don’t even need to bother about payments. The moment you get off the vehicle, your credit card is charged accordingly automatically! You also get to rate your driver from 1 to 5 stars.

Other means of transport in Johannesburg include

  • GauTrain
    It is a rapid rail service covering over 80km and stopping at around 10 main stations in the city.
  • Uber
    As explained above, Uber remains a very convenient method of travel at a fairly good rate
  • Taxi
    More expensive than Uber rides, taxis operate differently from Uber as they normally require special license etc. just like in any other country. Because of the competition with Uber, sometimes taxi drivers might not appreciate if Uber drivers pick passengers near their taxi stands etc.
  • Taxi vans/minibus
    Available throughout the country and easily recognizable by the thin yellow reflective bands around the vehicles, the 15-seater vans offer a very convenient and cheap way for locals to commute around the country or to their place of work. One interesting thing about these taxi vans; The drivers and passengers communicate through hand signs to indicate where they are going or need to go as the destination is not written on the van itself.

Security

 

Although the first concern of people at the mere mention of “Johannesburg” or “South Africa” is insecurity, I have not felt being in danger at any time, but you need to be careful, especially when you realize that every house or building in regions with the high-income population are protected by electric fences and armed security services ready to intervene anytime. When you drive in regions whereby you can’t find any of these fences or security signs, you know that you are in less wealthy regions inhabited by the middle-class and even low-class population. You can also find slums in regions far away from the main wealthy regions.

Some basic rules are

  • Avoid travelling alone in unknown regions or roads
  • Avoid wearing jewelries or walking around with big cameras
  • DO NOT VENTURE in markets you might find in some regions.

As you can notice, these rules are applicable to any other country (exceptions do exist) but the rate of criminality in Johannesburg (as well as other cities in South Africa) is very high, hence the need to be careful and avoid taking any risks.

To give you another example, it is not advisable for tourists to be on their own in downtown Johannesburg whereby you can find shops and probably very good deals. However, shopping malls are generally safe but as you can guess, prices are quite high because you will find mainly big brands out there.

Shopping

There are tons of shopping malls around Joburg, easily reachable by the vast road network. And in some of these malls, you can find craft markets where you can grab good deals while enjoying a safe and sound environment. For example, I’ve been to Rosebank’s Art & Craft market to buy souvenirs but remember, always bargain!

 

 

I have been constantly comparing prices in Mauritius / Johannesburg and I can say that there isn’t a huge difference whether you are buying food, drinks, clothes or even petrol.

Poverty

Like in any other country, the society is divided into different classes depending on your income and social status. Joburg has beggars too unfortunately. You can see them around shopping malls or near traffic lights. While some of them carry a garbage bag so that you can throw your rubbish into them when you are at traffic lights, others might do some show to entertain you. The reason behind is to get some money from you while they entertain you or help you to get rid of your unwanted stuffs.

Summing up

If I need to come to Joburg again, I will gladly do so. Additionally, I even feel ready to hire a car and drive around here as I have been able to look around and observe the behavior of people in general. Vehicles are right-hand driven, just like in Mauritius. Roads are also in very good conditions and drivers are courteous in general. People don’t drive aggressively or don’t horn unnecessarily. Affordable to live in as a tourist, Joburg seems to be a good place for sight-seeing with your family as long as you don’t take any risks. The only unpleasant surprise I got here is that I had to pay a 10% gratuity fee (tip) of my total bill to the waiter in one of the restaurants. Well, it seems that this is the normal percentage to pay here in the region. I need to read more about my destination before flying next time!

A last thing : Some extra kilos are expected to show up because for the past week, whatever I ate was very bad for health : Oily, fatty food. And beer practically every single day!

Ngiyabonga (Thank you in Zulu language) for keeping tuned to the blog!

Take care!

 

Things to know if you are pregnant or planning to.

Back in September 2012, I wrote an article to share my knowledge about important information related to getting married in Mauritius, in an aim of helping other Mauritians to find answers to their questions. Earlier this morning, I had the thought of extending this idea into a series of  “Parenthood” blog posts. So, let’s see how it goes on!

Placing the order

Since our childhood, we were all told of the stork story in which storks (‘Cigognes’ flying over roof tops to deliver babies, wrapped in a white cloth). Let me re-assure you. Nothing has changed. In fact, things got even easier.

When Dhaneesha complained about getting tired because of her heavy workload more than a year ago, we found it normal at the start, even though she showed other visible signs of her fatigue as days went on. For example, her feet started to get swollen. At no moment, we felt that good news were on the way until one of my childhood friends (who is now a doctor) advised me to make her do a pregnancy test.

pregnancy test

As revealed in one of my posts, we learnt about the good news on my birthday. One of the best gifts ever! She immediately did a blood test and upon confirmation of the good news, we then paid a visit to a gynecologist. However, we kept this a secret for at least two months to three months before announcing to anyone.

Being first-time to-be-parents, we learnt quite a lot of things from our numerous visits to the gynecologist. For example, many couples often get the services of a gynecologist to help the lady to get pregnant. I’m not talking about advanced treatment for fertilization or insemination techniques to get pregnant but rather simple capsules to help her regulate her menstruation to increase the chances of being pregnant. But if attempts to get pregnant remain unsuccessful, it might also be advisable for the man to pay a visit to a specialized doctor in order to do find any problems through the necessary tests.

Before moving to the next chapter, let me remind my readers that if she gets pregnant before 16 years old, it is an offense punishable by law. And if she is between 16 to 18, it might be acceptable and an agreement found if both parties get married. Unfortunately, only he needs to face justice, even if both parties agreed to have an intercourse. Finally, abortion is illegal in Mauritius except for a few cases (For example, in cases of abuse or when the mother’s life is in danger). We had a lengthy discussion on this topic here.

Tracking the shipment

pregnancy babycenter

Once the order is placed and confirmed, there’s a long journey ahead, both for the parents and the baby, whose sex is unknown until the 4-5th month milestone. Advances in technology has not only enabled the medical science to provide more ways to monitor the growth of the fetus but also, to detect any issues with the pregnancy. I’m not talking about personalized mailing lists which send you regular mails to give you an idea of how her pregnancy is going on in terms of picture and videos or the to-do and not-to-do things. However, I must admit that we did subscribed to BabyCenter.com.

Today, some gynecologist use modern equipment to display colored visualizations of the future baby as well as estimated size and weight. They compare the actual size of the foetus with established measurements to keep an eye on its growth progress. The frequency of visits might vary but it is usually a visit monthly and perhaps more regularly when the delivery date gets nearer or when the pregnancy requires special attention. I still remember that as the delivery date got closer, we were even able to get an idea of the baby’s nose and it’s shape!

pregnancy equipment

In the first visits, the gynecologist will determine the estimated delivery date from data obtained from the blood test but also, from the last mens date. And then, for each of the future visits during the pregnancy, the gynecologist will use the actual measurements of the foetus to determine the delivery date again. As long as these delivery dates coincide with the initial delivery date, it is a good sign that the future baby is growing well. But however, if the delivery date determined during each of the monthly visit is further away from the initial delivery date, it might be signs that the baby is not growing as expected. Reasons might vary but just to give you some examples, there might not be enough amniotic fluid (water) or an excessive loss in proteins through the mum deprives the baby from the necessary proteins to ensure its growth. The foetus can also be affected by high blood pressure or sudden diabetes condition of the mum during the pregnancy. These non-fatal situations are quite common and fortunately, they can be treated if monitored closely.

Handle with care

pregnancy care

Now, coming to the mother, she must be very careful during the whole duration of her pregnancy. To strengthen her body and provide her with the necessary nutrients to aid the baby to grow, the doctors will usually prescribed drugs and supplements, for example Folic acid. It is very important for the future-mother to note any unusual changes in her health and report them to her doctor. In cases where high blood pressure is noted, the doctor can recommend complete bed rest and issue an health report for the employer to allow the mum to go on pre-maternity leave. It is interesting to note that the current government will be presenting a bill in the national assembly to increase this maternity leave from the current 12 weeks to 14 weeks, if I’m not mistaken.

While some future-mothers might have nausea only a few couple of times, others might have to bear with this inconvenience for months, I’m hereby talking about up to the 5 to 6th month.

Something very important :

Never compare pregnancies. Each pregnancy might be different.

pregnancy food carvings

As for food carvings, it all depends on pregnancies. Some mothers can complain of being unable to eat what they wish for because of nausea and later on, they are compelled to follow a strict diet because of high blood pressure or pregnancy diabetes.

The delivery center

When the pregnancy reaches around 6 months, some mothers might already feel something moving in their womb. While these movements might be rare, more regular kicks can be felt later at around 7 months. The weight gain will be highly visible on some mothers while you will barely notice it in some other mums. Pregnancy signs such as swollen legs can appear again.

pregnancy maternity

These pregnancy signs might probably show that it is time for the new parents to choose where they want their special item to be delivered. For those who opt to go in a private clinic, they can already visit those clinics to see what they offer. Normally, gynecologists have their own medical team which comprises of several members including an anesthetics and a pediatrician. So, it is good to see with your private gynecologist do practice in the chosen clinic.

Other facilities and services to inquire when choosing a private clinic are :

  • Different packages available
  • Number of days of the stay
    Normally 1 night or 2 for a normal delivery and up to 4 days for a CS.
  • Whether the clinic offers an extra bed free of charge.
  • Visiting hours
  • Clinic policy
  • Food and beverages (Is it an all-inclusive, like hotels? :P)

Just to give you an idea, for indicative purposes:

  • A normal delivery can cost around Rs50, 000 while a cesarean section is around Rs80,000. Price of the gynecologist is usually included in the clinic package and his fees are usually in the range of Rs20,000 to Rs30,000.
  • Practically all private rooms in Apollo Bramwell have a sofa bed, free of charge, which can be used by the patient’s family member during the stay.pregnancy sofa bed
  • According to Apollo Bramwell’s policy, natural flowers are not allowed inside, so don’t be surprised if they kindly ask your visitors to keep the flowers at the reception or in your vehicle.

Special delivery

pregnancy nicu

It is good to know that in case of ultimate emergency, some gynecologists might go for a cesarean section (often referred as cs)  as from the 5th month of pregnancy. As you can guess, the baby will need to be given special care in highly modern equipment for quite some time. Some private clinics and hospitals are fully equipped, for example, Apollo Bramwell or Victoria Hospital (Candos). However, doctors will do their maximum to maximize the delivery date to enable the baby to grow inside the womb and put on some weight.

Again for indicative purposes, a baby delivered at around 6 months can weight around 700 to 800 grams and a baby delivered at its 8th month can weight from 1kg to 1.5 kgs. Just to give you an idea, the new princess born ( that of Kate Middleton and Prince William) through normal delivery weights around 3.5 kgs

In case your future baby needs special care, your doctor will already inform you and ask you to choose whether you will have the delivery in a private clinic or a public hospital. The mother can also deliver in a private clinic and then transfer the baby to a public hospital for financial reasons. Again, for indicative purposes, a stay in Apollo Bramwell’s Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can cost up to Rs 125,000 for a 10 day stay, depending on the various equipment used and tests performed.

Medical insurance covers

pregnancy medical expense

If you are covered by a medical insurance (Read this), then you should make the most of it. The majority of medical insurance policies cover pregnancies but however, you must inquire with the insurance company to make sure about the policy applicable to you.  Most insurance policies will cover the totality of the delivery charges. Some medical policies also allow you to book an insurance cover for your future baby in advance so that he / she is automatically covered upon birth.

In this case, you should also ask your doctor a medical notice in which he / she gives a short report of the pregnancy and also, the expected delivery date and location. You should then forward this notice to your medical insurance so that they take the necessary actions to inform the private clinic of your insurance cover.

If you are planning to subscribe to a new medical insurance policy, please read the terms and conditions well. For new subscriptions, insurance companies sometimes do not cover existing pregnancy or pregnancies up to 9 months from the date of subscription. However, let’s say that your company decides to subscribe everyone to a new medical scheme, the insurance company can decide to take charge of everyone, even for existing pregnancies.

Some last words…

I hope that my lengthy article does provide some useful information regarding pregnancies, especially for those couples having a first child. However, I advise everyone to consult their doctor for more precise details because as I said earlier, each pregnancy is unique. After all, I’m not a doctor, just a blogger writing about our first experience as a couple.

Any suggestions and additional information are the most welcomed. Also, if you find any information above incorrect, please let me know.

Good luck to future parents and keep tuned to the blog for the next post on the “Parenthood” series 🙂

[Online shopping] – Existing ICTA regulations more strictly enforced henceforth

Most online shopping addicts have been surprised by the ICTA’s Communique published yesterday. I must admit that I was confused too and I immediately mailed ICTA so that I could get in touch with someone before I post anything on my blog. Without getting any reply to my mail, I gave them a call today…

If you are new here, rest reassured : You are not on ICTA’s web site. I know that it can get pretty confusing when you notice that the last two articles of this blog talk only about ICTA. lol 

News update ( May 2014) : No Type Approval Certificate / Permit is required when importing mobile phones for personal use. Read this post for more details.

News update ( Febuary 2015) : Great! I just called the customs at the central parcels office. The polite officer informed me that any device (whether using wifi, bluetooth etc) imported in REASONABLE quantity for PERSONAL use DOES NOT REQUIRE any ICTA permits. Read Facebook post here.

*end update*

Most online shopping addicts must have been surprised by the ICTA’s Communique published yesterday. I must admit that I was confused and I immediately mailed ICTA early yesterday morning so that I could get in touch with someone before I post any update on my blog.

Here’s the official communique (click to enlarge) on the newspaper :

icta-comm

Confused lexpress readers

And today’s article on l’express confused the readers (including me) even more, especially when they mentioned, I quote: ” […] l’autorité interdit même l’importation individuelle de ces produits, c’est à dire ceux achetés à l’étranger […]” and when they mixed up things while writing about the gray market and the impact on the local stores :

icta-lexpress-comm

At the end of the article, you can read : “[…]Aucun préposé, ni porte-parole n’était joignable pour des éclaircissements au sujet de cette mesure.

Since I was without any reply to my mail, I gave ICTA a call today and thankfully, the officer on the line was very helpful 🙂

Enforcing existing regulations

As I guessed, there’s nothing new.

In fact, existing regulations are now being put in practice and enforced at the customs. Similar to the requirement for an ICTA permit for radio-enabled devices as from June 2011, the ICTA and Customs are now going to be strict on the imports of ALL devices using radio communications. As you probably know if you read my blog, the same ICTA permit was required mostly for routers previously. Other devices such as mobile phones or tablets could be cleared out of customs without any permit.

However, as from now, ALL devices with radio/wireless communications will require this approval letter from ICTA.

Why you should not worry…

After my talk with the officer, I was pretty much relieved because most of us won’t probably need to go through any hassle. If you are thinking to import a mobile phone or tablet already commercialized in Mauritius (by registered and recognized stores), this model of device is probably already approved by the ICTA. This means, the model already has its TAC (Type Approval Certificate).

The list of approved devices are available on ICTA’s web site. For example, a search on iPhone gives the following approved devices:

icta-phone

Update ( 10 March 2013 ) : A few days after I wrote this article, I noticed that the ICTA list of devices now contains exactly 2,363 items.

They regularly update this list as new devices are approved and as from now, it is essential to make sure that your device is listed there. Please note that the list contains exact technical model number of devices approved, so you will need to look for yours first.

When should you contact the ICTA?

No need for your device to reach Mauritius to get your letter of approval or your TAC.

Whenever you are sure to import the device, you need to send ICTA a mail on icta@intnet.mu or send them a letter to request them to send you an approval letter or to apply for a Type Approval Certificate (TAC) so that you can clear the device out of the customs. And the approval letter or TAC is free of charge.

You will need to provide

  • the exact brand and model number of your device.
  • The reference number of the device from ICTA’s web site
  • It is also preferable to include the technical brochures (from the manufacturer’s web site) in your mail or letter.

According to the officer who talked to me, it should not be long, perhaps it might take just a couple of days depending on their workload.

Getting the “permit” for an un-approved device

However, if the device is something that has just been announced and released on the market, then there’s a large probability that nobody imported it yet (through legal means) and thus, the ICTA does not recognize it yet. In these cases, you need to fill in an application for Type Approval (download from here) and attach the necessary documents specified in the form ( for example, you will need documents certifying that the device follows EU standards etc).

icta-form

After filling in the form and attaching your documents, you can mail them on icta@intnet.mu or post them to ICTA. It can take up to 2 weeks for them to process your application and give you a TAC. Of course, if you have submitted all required documents.

Summing up

parcel

News update ( May 2014) No Type Approval Certificate / Permit is required when importing mobile phones for personal use. Read this post for more details.

No need to get alarmed. We will still be able to buy our stuffs online without any extra charges. We will only need to make sure that we go through this additional paper stuff ideally before getting the item delivered to Mauritius or much before, by making sure that you can get the necessary documents required for its TAC approval. Finally, I just hope that ICTA will process the requests in a reasonable amount of time without penalizing Mauritians.

I hope that this article clears any doubts about the communique. And in case you are still new to online shopping, you can always have a look at my series of articles on the blog :

Take care and keep tuned to the blog!

Bon weekend!

Someone with a bad breath?

I was kindda reluctant to post this guest topic, sent to me anonymously through mail a few days back. But since I believe it is a blog post like any others and that it will hopefully be of some use, here we go!

Hello everyone!

I was kindda reluctant to post this guest topic, sent to me anonymously through mail a few days back. But since I believe it is a blog post like any others and that it will hopefully be of some use, here we go!

The story sent to me is as follows :

“One of my friends has an incredibly stale breath (mauvaise haleine). However, I have the impression that he is ok with that. Perhaps he might not be aware and I hesitate to tell him anything about this subject. Till now, I have been trying to either hold my breath or stay away from him as much as possible.

How can I tackle this ‘issue’? What would you do if you were in such situation?”

And now, a completely different thing before leaving.
For those who play to the loto, you can try this web site : www.mauritiusloto.com.

The site will mail you the official results as well as any combinations that you have played right. Give it a try, even though the site has not been launched officially yet.

Wish all of you a nice weekend and don’t forget to give any piece of advice to our guy above!