Guide for planning a budget trip in Africa and do cheap safaris

You want to go to Africa but you don´t know where and how? 

We can help you with some TIPs about a cheap way to plan a good route in Africa
and how to discover wild life and do safaris without breaking your wallet and with freedom!

We did it, enjoyed so much Africa, without organised tour/guide, 
without spending too much money!


Here are a few questions and answers to help you. Then you can find all the details in other posts, country by country.

   1.  WHERE TO GO IN AFRICA?   

The continent is huge, many countries in Africa (52). Planning well is important to save money. 
To choose where to go, keep in mind this:

- Time and budget:
See if you have to limit yourself to one country or you can do a multiple countries route depending of your time and money.Like you aways do when planning a trip. 
The difficult thing for Africa is that you often do´n´t exactly know about costs and prices. We´ll help you with our personal experience, low-cost and independent travellers!

Anyway, before buying the airplane ticket, check with multiple destination, arriving at one city (or country) and departing from another one. Sometimes the price is similar and you save time, energy and money.
Skycanner is a good tool to use for that.
If possible, take your time, travel slowly not too get tired. Some travellers take super long bus trips (more than 24 h) from A tourist spot to B tourist spot in Africa… and get sick.

- Entry requirements:
Southern and Eastern Africa should be all right. But things change quick in Africa! Between our visit and right now (just a few months latter) things have changed: visas for Malawi now, Uganda has increased its single visa to 100$, etc. Double check before leaving and try to update!
To get an idea, here´s what we experienced with Southern&Eastern Africa visas with Spanish passport. 

Much cheaper to travel in many countries of Southern Africa as no visas needed (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland). Easy!

Travelling 8 months, we spent in visas:  
460 $ (2 people) for Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, East Africa Visa (Kenya+Rwanda+Uganda).


- Game parks and activities 

Choosing well game parks and activities will limit or increase your budget in Africa. This can be a very big amount of money, but the good thing is that prices vary a lot from country to country and there are affordable countries for wild life, yes! There are wonderful and big parks in many countries, not only Masai Mara and Serengeti!

For game parks, entrance fees are really much cheaper in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa specially, but also Zimbabwe and Zambia).
Prices for game parks entrance fees in Southern Africa are around 10-30 $/pp/day
While the famous parks in Eastern Africa cost around 50-80$/pp/day (the cheapest 30$), plus car fees! 


South Africa, Victoria Falls area, Jinja in Uganda and Zanzibar in Tanzania offer many activities but usually for 100 $ and more! Bungee jumping, rafting, tubing, snorkelling…never cheap in Africa.Climbing Kilimanjaro will be at least 1.000 €/pp (in less than a week)! Check well first! Consider your budget!


   2.  HOW TO MOVE AROUND AFRICA?   

If you are going to the south part of Southern Africa, rent a car. It´s cheap and you are free to go where you want. We paid 12€/day  for a small sedan car (Ford Fiesta), and was enought to enjoy Botswana, Namibia, Swatziland, Lesotho and South Africa (4x4 are for big adventure). We recommend RentalCars  for a cheap price, usually easy to get a car around 20 €/day in South Africa. The 3 months roadtrip was wonderful!


We did self-drive safaries with the small 2WD car. Roads are ok in dry season. And we had the freedom to enjoy wildlife, explore and see animals byourselves. Terrific!

If you are going to Eastern Africa and also Zambia and Zimbabwe, take public transport. Transport between main Africa towns is good.


You will find it on main roads and towns. Where more population, much easier. Quite cheap in average (2€/h). Country by country, very different offer and conditions. Correct, safe, never had a problem.
We travelled mainly on buses and vans, this is the most usual transport. In Zimbabwe and Zambia we took sleeping trains (quite cheap and not many still working in Africa), and we took a ferry to reach Zanzibar and on Lake Kivu (Rwanda).


   3. DO I NEED A 4WD OR A SMALL 2WD CAR TO MOVE AROUND AND DO SAFARIS?  

Reaching parks and empty places in Africa is always harder by public meanings and in many cases you will need a car, private, hired or taxi, usually a 2WD will do in dry season. Main roads in Africa are tarred now! Just for the desert or sandy places, like parks in Bostwana o very remote empty areas (Kalahari for exemple) you will need a strong 4x4 car and off road driving experience.Just get informed.

Cheap and easy to rent a car in South Africa as we did (12 €/day) and go to neighbour countries (no special documents needed and very cheap border fees). But quite expensive to rent even a small 2WD in other countries (50-100 €), specially in Eastern Africa.
Great plan for Southern Africa, roadtrip 100% recommended!


   4. HOW CAN I SAVE MONEY WITH ACCOMMODATION?   

There´s accommodation in Africa for all budgets. True, some countries have better or worse tourist infrastructure, more or less offer, more or less expensive. You will manage, you will just need to adapt if you are on a tight budget. Again, there´s a big difference between Southern and Eastern.

The cheapest way to sleep in amazing places in Southern Africa is camping. Carry your tent, to sleep close to nature, with wildlife around. There a wonderful campsites (European standards), even inside the game parks. Even with pool, kitchen, good hot showers, BBQ, electricity. We had great days camping in Southern Africa! Prices are around 15€ /2 people.
There are also backpackers lodges, but a dormitory will cost double than camping. 


 In Eastern Africa´s towns, there are plenty of cheap local lodges with no-frills correct rooms (for less than 10 €/double room). In tourist places, camps and lodges are always more expensive, and camping can be your cheapest option too. Just in remote areas or in parks with limited infrastructure, there are bush camps, super basic and really expensive (30-50 $/pp, crazy!).


You can try Couchsurfing in Africa as we did. “5 stars” hospitality in South Africa. We did it in almost all the visited countries and the experience with local people is really different. You can also try Airbnb, to get a affordable room, but not too many options, just in big cities.


   5. WHAT ABOUT WILDLIFE IN AFRICA?    Will I see animals? Is it expensive? Do I need an organised tour or an expert guide?

Animals are everywhere in Africa: WRONG! We are lucky there are still there. Hunting, poaching, wars, agriculture. Most of Africa people have never seen a lion!
Wild animals are in the Game National Parks and Reserves, public and private, some are famous cause they have the “big five” (lion+leopard+buffalo+elephant+rhino). You have to pay a fee to see them, but you don´t need a special guide or an organised tour. NO!

Self-drive entrance is allowed in almost all the game parks in Africa. Animals are not really dangerous, many game parks have no fences and villages are around (only cattle has to be protected). And there are many bush camps without fences in the middle of the wild. Just respect wild animals and they will respect you!
Danger is a false idea given often by organised safari tours, with guards and rifles and extra money to pay for security!
 
- Prices:
Africa is about outdoors and wildlife, there are activities related, many safari companies, with jeeps, but usually expensive, from 50-150 €  in average. 
For exemple a 3 days tour to Masai Mara from Nairobi will be at leasy  300 € (100€/pp/day) and from Arusha a 3 days to northern circuit parks like Ngorongoro around 400 € (130€/pp/day) and this getting the lowest price.
For a game safari drive (3 h, without fees) you can go down to 20 €/pp in South Africa, Namibia and Bostwana, but expect to pay much more in other countries. 

We visited game parks doing self-drive safaries with a rental car, in South Africa (Kruger, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Pilanesberg, Marakele, Ithala, Addo), Namibia (Etosha), Swaziland (Hlane and Mlilwane), 9 game national parks in total. Getting the Wild Card in South Africa-Swaziland is a great plan to save money, if you stay there for a while and visit a few parks! 


Considering entrance fees (always under 20 €/pp/day), car rental and petrol, accommodation and food, we did wild life exploration in all those parks for around 25 €/pp/day (total: 1000 €/2 people/20 days and 9 parks). And without a fixed schedule, driving all day long in the wild (even more than 10 h)! We saw thousand of animals! and yes, the big 5 too! Without experience! Just exploring without GPS nor radio!
In Botswana it´s not possible to go inside game parks without 4x4 car, so we did 2 unforgettable activities:  the Okavango Delta flight for 50 €/pp and Chobe NP safari-boat for 20 €/pp. Wonderful, like a dream of Africa, must do!

Compare with the 100-130 €/pp/day we would have paid for a tour in Masai Mara or the northern safari in Tanzania! And even if going with your car, only paying the fees in Eastern Africa will be a lot...

Southern Africa is super great for a cheap and independent approach to wild life in Africa! Go! Recommended 100%!


   6.  WILD LIFE FOR FREE IN AFRICA. IS IT POSSIBLE?   

Yes, it´s possible, we saw it! Usually around a protected area, but you need time, be patient and be very lucky. Very hard to see lions, leopards or cheetas outside game parks or reserves, but if there are no fences...
  • In Botswana (Nata-Kasane) and Namibia (Namib area, Twyfelfontein), empty and wild countries, you will not be disappointed when driving on some roads. Elephants, antilopes, giraffes, ostriches.
  • In Kenya, we saw wild animals from the main road Nakuru-Naivasha and in the public area of Nakuru National Park (zebras, baboons, antelopes, buffalos), birds in Lake Naivasha, and getting to remote Mararal in northern Kenya we saw even elephants, giraffes and camels. Wild life is just around!
  • In Uganda, there´s a village in Queen Elizabeth National Park area, Katunguru, on the main road, where big animals are just around Kazinga Channel (no gate!). Elephants, buffalos, hippos, baboons. And beautiful monkeys in Fort Portal Crater Lakes.Great and free! 
  • We crossed a big part of Tanzania and saw almost nothing wild (juts one monkey!). Disapointing!
All the details are in our posts See the right sidebar menu.


   7.  OUR ADVICE TO DO A BUDGET TRIP AND CHEAP SAFARIS IN AFRICA   

We loved our 3 months road-trip! South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Amazing! And our total budget there was 40 €/day/2 people!!!!

Really recommended, easy! Super good quality of accommodion (campsites for low-cost travellers). Rent a small car! Enjoy game parks!

Each country is different and all these destinations are great for a first contact with Africa.

Travelling as a backpacker in Eastern Africa, Uganda is the most complete country, cheap and easy! But wild life and activities can be expensive there (remember going to Katunguru, free to see animals!).
And Northern remote Kenya (like Maralal) was great to go back in time, in dusty roads by truck-bus, tribes, wild life… and no tourists!

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