South Africa seems to have abounded the global standards of carrying a passport. And internationally it is not regarded as safe. Whereas other countries constantly improve the security features of its passports, SA seems to have given up completely.
The entire drama started in July 2009, when suddenly the United Kingdom required South Africans to apply for visas, mostly as a result of terrorism fears. Most importantly, that terrorists could obtain passports which allow them to travel into Europe.
And there are 2 elements to it, the passport itself as well as the control over its production system. Apparently many blank passports simply disappeared at the government printers.
Things have since improved, but not yet to the extend that South Africans can travel without having to apply for a visa in order to enter the UK and Europe. Effectively a visa is another (upfront) passport verification process.
There are however two other, rather embarrassing issues devaluating a South African passport. Home Affairs decided that child trafficking is the biggest concern. Fully agreed to by everyone in principle, it was the way Home Affairs went about it, which upset the world.
Anybody entering or leaving South Africa has for the last 3 years to present an unabridged birth certificate, which shows the names of the parents. The silly thing about this is that this is the very same document which is required in order to apply for a passport.
In fact, both parents need to appear in front of Home Affairs in person when applying for a passport. Certainly the national population database should enable a boarder official to verify on the spot, if a child is indeed travelling with its rightful parent. So why does a passport holder require a further document to proof that the contents of the passport is indeed correct?
And we are experiencing the same with Permanent Residents (PR) in South Africa. Let’s remember, obtaining PR is currently a very comprehensive, two year process of verifying a foreigners application to stay in South Africa. It results with a PR certificate and an ID book. Both are carrying reference numbers and are contained in the national population data-base. Until early 2014, Home Affairs used to issue a PR sticker into the passport, which worked perfectly fine.
Needless to say, in order to apply for PR, an ID book and a SA driving license, the applicant’s fingerprints are captured. Each time!
But for no apparent reason, Home Affairs has abolished those stickers (we suspect that there was a lot of fraud) and now demands that PR holders present their original PR certificate and their ID books when entering or leaving SA! So one has been waiting for 2 years for a PR certificate, if this document get’s lost or damaged, Home Affairs is unwilling to replace it but yet one needs to carry it on trips overseas or into Africa? Nobody understands this, clearly a passport is the correct document to identify a traveller and the passport by international standards also contains the relevant visa or residence permit, which allows entry and stay in any country.
Let’s hope the Department of Home Affairs will soon focus on the quality, safety and value of its passports again and improve the experience to come to South Africa.
10 REASONS A TRAVEL AGENT IS BETTER THAN THE INTERNET
Not only can they do things the Internet can't, but they also still collect a lot of their fees from vendors, which means... best part, they don’t even charge you! Which is why we've compiled these 10 reasons you might want to go old-school and let a travel agent plan your next trip.
1. They know whether you’re actually getting a good deal Since 90% of the airline tickets you buy are for a domestic flight to see your parents, your knowledge of the relative value of a flight to London is, how shall we say, limited. A travel agent, however, books, like, 74 of those a day and will know immediately if the $600 whatever website told you is a “smoldering price” is actually reasonable.
2. Travel agents know where to go in a city, or know someone who does If you don’t happen to be headed to one of Thrillist's 30 cities, it helps to have a reputable resource available who knows the best restaurants, dive bars, or cockfighting arenas without having to sift through a thousand ridiculous reviews about how the waitress didn't bring the table enough bread. Since they book trips all the time, Travel Agent's know this stuff like the back of their hands. And if they don’t, they’re one call away from getting you an answer.
3. They've got your back when it comes to flight delays/cancellations Try calling a website when your flight gets cancelled and the line to re-book stretches through the terminal. Even if you get through to the airline directly, they still don’t have a clue who you are. Call your travel agent, though, and they'll get you squared away on another flight while you get squared away at the airport bar.
4. They can actually get you seats together, on the same flight, for the same price Rather than spend a week on a group text trying to coordinate your big Splashin' Safari Water Park Summer vacation, only to book your flights separately online and find you're all sitting next to different people who clip their toenails (and paid different fares), a travel agent can get your entire group the same ticket price, with seats together, on the same flight.
5. They can get you VIP status without being a VIP Restaurant supposedly booked for months? Yeah, that’s no issue for a travel agent. Need a table at the hottest club in Sioux Falls? They’ve got more promoters on speed dial than a South Beach swimsuit model. Thanks to the relationships they maintain across the tourism industry, they can also score you tickets to special tours, private tastings, and other events the Internet doesn't even know about. Or, if it does, has hidden so deep it'll take you hours to find out about them.
6. And speaking of hours on the Internet, Travel Agent's do all the research for you Websites don’t seem to understand that when you say “search nearby airports”, it doesn't mean “I’m totally fine with being the guy who asks my roommate for a ride to an airport 75 miles away so I can save $45”. Travel Agents know your airport preferences, and won’t tease you with cheap flights that involve leaving and returning to airports that're in different states. Unless you want them to.
7. They get better prices, first That $49 one-way flight your email update indicated was a “fresh new deal” was actually available to your travel agent last week, because they have better relationships with airlines and wholesalers. Which also means their prices are… ready for this... usually BETTER than online. Especially for complicated or premium fares.
8. They do more than book flights That African safari looks like a great time, but you do realize it requires a lot more legwork than just pressing “Buy Now” on the roundtrip ticket to Kinshasa, right? In addition to visas, you'll likely require a series of semi-crippling inoculations before you go, too. Unsure where to go for either visas or shots? Well, lo and behold, guess who can set both of those up for you?
9. They have Southwest’s prices too Fun as it is planning your flight, calculating baggage, seat selection, and water fees, then repeating the whole process on Southwest.com to seeing if it's cheaper, a travel agent can do the comparison shopping for you. And he or she can do it with any other airline that doesn't play the online search engine game.
10. No-hassle 24-hour changes “Non-refundable” on your online reservation -- be it a flight, hotel reservation, Duck Tour, whatever -- usually means you have 24 hours to make changes without penalty. Most people don't realize this. Yes, even a “non-refundable” airline ticket can be changed. The only catch, you have to actually call and deal directly with the airline. Or, instead of spending hours on hold listening to "all agents are currently busy", you can let your travel agent happily fix the ticket. Your call.