About Self-catering Accommodation
|About Self-catering Accommodation
When looking for accommodation in Stellenbosch or elsewhere, it is important to choose the type of accommodation that would make your stay most
pleasant and comfortable. The type of accommodation that is best for you depends on your situation, on your accommodation budget and - to a large
extent - on your personality and accommodation preferences. The term self-catering accommodation refers to an accommodation establishment
where no meals are served, and where the accommodation premises are equipped to enable guests to cook their own meals.
Accommodation types in South Africa contrasted
The main benefit of self-catering accommodation is the high level of privacy one usually experiences in this type of accommodation. However, more
privacy means fewer interruptions and therefore less personal service - the guest has to be more independent. Self-catering accommodation is the
right option for you if you are a fairly self-sufficient traveller who would like to enjoy Stellenbosch or your particular destination according to your
own preferences. The difference between self-catering accommodation and other popular accommodation forms becomes clear when the types of
accommodation are contrasted as follows:
Hotel accommodation: When staying at a hotel guests can usually combine the benefit of the availability of service (because there is a reception
desk to which queries can be directed), with a relatively high level of accommodation privacy (although there may be some interruptions). Room
service for meals and other small items, and a daily cleaning service add to the convenience. Many hotels have a restaurant on the premises,
although the cost of meals is usually not included in the nightly accommodation rate. The one exception is breakfast, which is sometimes included in
the accommodation rate (guests should specifically enquire at the time of reservation). Hotels may also offer supplementary services, such as spa
treatments, a pool, games rooms, etc. In Stellenbosch and the rest of South Africa the cost of a hotel room typically includes parking for your car - it
is unusual in Stellenbosch or the rest of South Africa to pay extra for parking at an accommodation establishment. It is also not customary in
Stellenbosch or the rest of South Africa to leave a tip for hotel cleaning staff. A benefit of hotel accommodation is that it is usually easy to book
online, as hotels tend to have efficient websites. However, hotel accommodation tends to be expensive compared to other accommodation types.
Safari accommodation: In Stellenbosch and in South Africa, as in the rest of Africa, safaris are a popular. The term usually refers to viewing wildlife
(such as elephants, leopards, lions, rhino and hippopotamus) in their natural habitat while travelling in an open four-wheel drive vehicle in the
company of a professional safari guide. Safari packages often include accommodation in a safari lodge on the game farm or in the nature reserve -
sometimes in well-equipped tented accommodation camps. The accommodation is usually luxurious and specifically caters for overseas visitors.
Meals, drinks, spa treatments and other activities are frequently included in the price. Safari accommodation packages are usually quite costly, and
other accommodation types may cater more for travellers on a tight accommodation budget.
Bed and breakfast accommodation: There is a large number of breakfast accommodation establishments in Stellenbosch and in South Africa. The
term usually refers to accommodation in a residential-type setting where guests are allocated a room to sleep in with a private bathroom, and where
breakfast is included in the nightly accommodation rate. Because there are so many such accommodation establishments, service and privacy levels
as well as accommodation standards vary widely. Prospective guests are encouraged to research the accommodation establishment before
finalising a reservation in order to ensure that the accommodation experience is in line with expectations. Some bed and breakfast accommodation
establishments operate very much like small hotels, while others may have guests sleeping in the house where the owners live and may afford little
privacy. Rooms are usually serviced daily, and some bed and breakfast accommodation establishments may even offer a room service or restaurant
for meals other than breakfast. Many of these accommodation establishments offer a pool, and in Stellenbosch and the rest of South Africa parking
is usually included in the nightly accommodation rate. Some bed and breakfast accommodation establishments also offer self-catering
accommodation on request. Prospective guests should confirm in advance whether such accommodation units are indeed fully equipped to enable
the preparation of self-catered meals.
Guest house accommodation: The term 'guest house' is often used by accommodation establishments that consider themselves to be more
upmarket, or to offer more services than mere 'bed and breakfast' accommodation. However, the distinction is blurred and these accommodation
terms are often used interchangeably.
Self-catering accommodation: Self-catering accommodation comes in many forms. The most important distinction is between accommodation
establishments that offer self-catering accommodation at the premises where the owners reside (such as a room in the house with a separate
entrance), and private self-catering properties (such as a freestanding house or a private apartment). Self-catering accommodation means guests
are required to cook their own meals (facilities are provided) or to eat in nearby restaurants. Self-catering accommodation premises are not
necessarily serviced daily - guests should research the policy of the accommodation establishment before finalising a reservation. In many cases
self-catering accommodation establishments do not have a formal reception desk on the premises - it is therefore important to know the contact
details of the owners or managers of the self-catering accommodation in case the need arises to contact them. Although self-catering
accommodation is usually the most affordable accommodation option, some self-catering accommodation establishments may be poorly administered.
What to expect from self-catering accommodation in Stellenbosch and the rest of South Africa
Self-catering accommodation should ideally allow for privacy (unless the guest is specifically looking to feel part of the family), such as that afforded
by freestanding self-catering homes or private self-catering apartments. A self-catering accommodation unit should allow for the preparation of
meals, and should therefore at least have a fully-equipped kitchen with an oven, stove, microwave oven, fridge, freezer facility, crockery, cutlery,
pots, pans and other utensils. It is important for prospective guests to know the distance from a self-catering accommodation unit to the nearest
supermarket and/or restaurants, as food is not available on the premises.
Many self-catering units have a washing machine, which is useful for extended stays. In Stellenbosch - as in most of South Africa - air-conditioning
is important in the summer months (and also useful for heating up the unit in winter). Self-catering accommodation units are usually equipped with an
ironing board and an iron. Like hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses, self-catering accommodation units vary in their bathroom
configurations. Guest should enquire as to whether a bath and shower, or only one of the two is available. As in all accommodation establishments,
self-catering units often have a shower facility inside the bath, in stead of a separate shower. A number of years ago it was not uncommon for
self-catering accommodation establishments to expect guests to bring along their own bath towels and bed linen. This practice has, however,
become less customary and most self-catering accommodation units now offer all the standard features one would expect in other types of
accommodation establishments, such as a hairdryer, basic toiletries, etc.
An important aspect to consider before making a reservation for a self-catering accommodation unit, is the exact location of the accommodation.
Keep in mind that bed and breakfast accommodation establishments and self-catering accommodation units that are located on the same premises as
the owners' home, are likely to be situated in the suburbs rather than in the centre of town. This could be a disadvantage to guests who were
hoping to explore a city or town on foot.
Tourist safety in self-catering accommodation units
Guests considering self-catering accommodation should enquire about the availability of a safe to lock away valuables, especially in accommodation
units that are serviced daily. As with any accommodation establishment in any part of the world, some consideration should be given as to whether
the accommodation is located in a safe part of town - especially if guests prefer to walk to nearby attractions. Some self-catering accommodation
units may be equipped with useful safety features such as an alarm, burglar bars on the windows or security gates surrounding the premises.
Self-catering accommodation units are often more likely than other accommodation types to offer these features. The safety of one's vehicle should
also be considered - prospective guests should enquire as to whether secure parking, or parking on the side of the street will be available while
renting the accommodation.
Quality of self-catering accommodation
Self-catering accommodation is a popular form of accommodation in South Africa, although a limited number of units are available in Stellenbosch.
The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has a special self-catering category in which self-catering accommodation establishments can be
awarded an accommodation star grading. Local tourism bureaus often also grade establishments in the self-catering accommodation category if they
are members of the organisation. The standards in self-catering accommodation units vary widely - from very luxurious to basic accommodation.
One of the best ways to establish whether a self-catering accommodation unit meets your needs, is to study the establishment's website carefully,
and to e-mail the self-catering accommodation establishment with any remaining questions that you may have.
Self-catering accommodation is usually an affordable, and often a very good alternative to other types of accommodation. The independent traveller
may often enjoy self-catering accommodation more than any of the other accommodation options, as long as a properly equipped and reputable
self-catering accommodation establishment is chosen.
A note to those searching for self-catering accommodation online
When searching on the Internet for self-catering accommodation in Stellenbosch or elsewhere, note that different search terms may yield different
results. For example, the term 'Stellenbosch self-catering accommodation' yields a different result from 'Stellenbosch self catering accommodation' or
'Stellenbosch selfcatering accommodation', simply because the term 'self catering' was spelt differently. Furthermore, guests should be on the
lookout for self-catering accommodation units that offer real-time online booking facilities - a number of accommodation establishments (including
some self-catering accommodation establishments) offer this facility.
Compiled by Squirrel & Vine self-catering apartment, Stellenbosch, South Africa (http://www.squirrelaccommodation.com)