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Time to leave.

Johannesburg, South Africa

Well, there was one more item to take care of before leaving. That, of course, being a follow-up visit to the hospital to make sure that my stitches weren’t infected. I woke up at 7:30 to hike the kilometer and a half up the hill to the clinic, where they were somewhat confused as to why I was there. I mentioned to the nurse that I was traveling to the States today and the doctor had wanted me to come today for a follow-up visit. She then asked me when I was returning – to Cape Town. I laughed and told her I didn’t know, since I, you know, live in the US. She still didn’t quite get that I wasn’t getting the stitches removed in Cape Town, but she got the doctor to come by, take a quick glance at it, and deem it ok, along with a request for the nurse to clean it with some saline. After the 5 minutes that the whole visit took, I almost got out of there with no charge at all, but since they used gauze and saline, they had to charge me about $16 for the supplies. Still, $120 for the whole ordeal is phenomenal compared to what it would’ve cost in the US.

That being finished, we ate some breakfast, packed up our bags one last time, and got our cab to the airport around 11:25am. The flight to Jo’burg was pretty uneventful, although it was an easy one, only being 2 and a half hours. We were preparing for a 4-hour layover before our next flight at 9:15pm. Naturally, there was a bit of a snag. We attempted to get a VAT refund, as South Africa allows tourists to recoup the 14% tax on goods costing more than ~$30 that are purchased while in the country. We had a few such items that we could claim, so we took them to the counter to have the receipts and goods inspected. Easy enough, right? Not quite. The officer there approved the receipts with a stamp, and told us we needed to go to another stand inside security to get the money. Ok, no problem.

We went to go check in for the flight, only to find an absolutely massive line. There seemed to be a much shorter line for people who had already checked-in online, which we hadn’t done. However, having this trusty netbook on hand allowed us to do just that. Except, of course, that the free internet was in the other terminal. Deciding that it would be faster to trudge to Terminal B than wait in the line, we headed that way to get some internet and then check in for both the flight to London as well as the flight to Chicago. After 45 minutes, we managed to pull that off, and headed back to the check-in area, which now had an even longer line. Luckily, Rocio and Ryan both had status with British Airways, so we were able to bypass most of the line and got our bags checked in quickly.

After passing through security, we went to find the place to get our VAT money. Of course, the line was out the door. There were roughly 40 people ahead of us and only 4 counters, and for some reason, what seemed to me to be a very simple task was clearly the opposite. There were a ton of Algerians in line who didn’t speak very much English, and the South African staffers were really not being very helpful, because whenever they would ask for something that the Algerians didn’t understand, they would revert to the tried-and-true solution of saying the same thing louder. It worked as well as you think it would. After nearly an hour of waiting in line amongst people who don’t understand the concept of personal space, along with some rising tensions amongst others from people perceived to be cutting in line, we finally got the money. Just kidding, no we didn’t. We got a check in Rand that was “Non-transferrable, non-negotiable” – basically funny money – minus a fee somewhere in the neighborhood of 10%, which could only be cashed at the special money-changing place conveniently located just next door.

Meanwhile, it’s now less than an hour before our flight is supposed to leave. Thankfully, the bank line is shorter, and when I got up to the agent, I asked if I could get the money in US dollars. She said, no, it’s too small an amount. Granted, I was only set to get $10 back initially, but she said it was going to be a roughly $15 fee to give out US dollars. Instead, I got money in Rand, except that I noticed she took out considerably less money than what the check read. This, of course, was because the bank took out a freaking THIRD of the money due us as a fee. So, in the end, I wasted over an hour of my time for $5. If you are ever in a country that offers this, do not waste your time unless you’re expecting to get back a few hundred dollars. Talk about a scam.

After that fiasco ended, I’m sitting here at the gate awaiting departure to London. 11 hours for this flight, and most likely very few of it coming in sleep form for me. Oh well.

permalink written by  nucappy on June 25, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged SouthAfrica and Joburg

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