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My 6 Month Africa Travel Budget

Climbing Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Three of my most frequently asked questions are:

“Is it expensive to travel in Africa?”

“How much does it cost to go backpacking in Africa?”

“How much money for will I need for travelling in Africa?”.

My honest answer. It depends!

You can travel Africa on a shoestring, absolutely – if you take local transport, self-drive (although this comes with a whole other set of costs and issues), camp or stay in dorms and eat local foods. It’s when you start adding in safaris and activities that the costs start rising – quickly.

So your Africa travel budget will really depend on what you do and how you do it. I’ve known backpackers who travelled Africa on a shoestring and they kept costs low by not doing many safaris or activities. But that’s not for me. I love going on safari!

My first trip to the continent in 2009 lasted 6 months and my itinerary included 2 different volunteering placements in Zambia and Tanzania, an epic 3-day train ride, a trek up Kilimanjaro a 2-and-a-half month overland safari through (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) and a 2 week road trip along South Africa’s Garden Route.

It’s going to vary for everyone, but I can tell you what I spent, and then hopefully, it will give you a good idea of what you might spend. Bear in mind that I am not an extreme budget traveller, but I was also travelling for a long time so I didn’t go crazy either.

The 2 things that I did spend a lot of money on was a) climbing Kilimanjaro, which is unavoidable if you want to do this and b) one of my volunteering placements, which I don’t regret at all, but there are much cheaper ways to volunteer.

Please note: Prices have been updated to reflect prices up to date as of July 2016.

Pre-Trip Costs

I won’t include these costs in my overall budget at the bottom, as these costs have lots of variables, but here they are.

Flights

Flights really depend on where you fly to/from. Flying through London, Amsterdam, Singapore or Dubai are usually good options.

The last time I flew to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from Manchester, UK, the flight cost me £525 return and with Emirates. I just did a flight comparison from the US and Australia and it wasn’t a lot extra to fly from there. But the key is to book early to get the cheapest flights! 

TOP TIP: I almost always use Skyscanner to find the best deals. They have a multi-destination option, which is useful if you are starting and ending in different countries.

Vaccinations/Medications

This will depend on what you’ve had already, and what you can get for free from your doctor. I managed to get Hep B, Hepatitis A/Typhoid, Diptheria/Tetanus/Polio all free from the doctors. I then got a prescription for Meningitis (£12), and the doctor gave me the jab for free. I paid for Rabies (£50), Yellow Fever (£58).

Clothing/Equipment

This was my first ever long-term travel, so I spent quite a lot on buying new stuff. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have spent so much. Invest in a few essentials – good shoes, good bag, good camera (doesn’t have to be a fancy one, a camera with a good zoom is all I ask) and the rest you can probably borrow, hire or do without! Just remember, the less you buy the more you can do! 

I reckon I spent around £500 on everything I bought especially for the trip.


READ MORE: What to Pack for Backpacking in Africa


Travel insurance for adventurous and hazardous activities.

Travel Insurance

I cannot stress how important it is to have travel insurance in place for your trip to Africa!

Some bank accounts include travel insurance, so check if you’re covered first. At the time, mine didn’t so I paid around £70 (pro rated down to 6 months from 9 months). Depends what cover you get – but don’t forget you may be doing a lot of adventurous activities.

TOP TIP: World Nomads has a great insurance policy for travellers.


READ MORE: How to Get Travel Insurance for High Risk Destinations & Activities


Guide Books

There weren’t that many travel blogs when I first went to Africa, so I relied on guidebooks for the information!

TOP TIP: My favourite has always been Lonely Planet or Bradt guides.

Mombasa Old Town

My Africa Travel Budget

This section includes everything that I paid for whilst I was there – food, transport, accommodation, visas etc. This includes any pre-paid tours and excursions too.

Visas – £165

Visas vary in prices, depending on where your passport is from. I visited some countries twice, so I sometimes got double entry visas which were a little bit extra. Some double or multi entry visas must be applied for before you arrive at the border. If you are travelling to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya you can apply in advance for an East African tourist visa, which is $100. This allows you to move freely between the countries over a 90-day period. My visas came to $255 (£165).

You should budget between $230 – $275 if you are travelling to all the countries I mention above. 

All visas are paid in US dollars (dated after 2004 and in good condition).

TOP TIP: Project Visa is a great resource to get information. If in doubt, contact your local embassy before you go.

The Book Bus (2)

The Book Bus, Zambia – £1,850 

I volunteered with the Book Bus in Livingstone Zambia for 4 weeks. It isn’t cheap, but it is a great project which I love. 

Livingstone is also one of the best places for adventure in Africa and there are loads of great things to do there, so you’ll want to have a bit of spending money! 

  • Volunteering: £1600 for 4 weeks approx – includes in-country support, airport transfers, food, accommodation (in tents) and project costs.
  • Food/Drink: £200 – food is included on week days and not included at weekends but there are quite a few nice places to eat and drink in and around town. Olga’s pizza is my favourite.
  • Activities: You can do all sorts from white-water rafting, jet-boating, sunset cruises, cycle tour, high tea at the Royal Livingstone, bungee jumping and even a weekend trip to Chobe. I’ll include the prices of the things I did in the activities section below. You get a few discounts as a Book Bus volunteer. 
  • Other: £50 – I had some clothes made, bought souvenirs and a local SIM etc and you may need a bit of money for taxis to and from restaurants or going to watch the football at the theatre in town.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Livingstone, Zambia


* Photo Credit: Richard Stupart

The Tazara Train, Zambia to Tanzania – £369

This is the train between Zambia and Tanzania, a wonderful, epic journey if ever there was one. I probably could have flown for a similar price… but where would the fun in that be? 

  • Bus from Livingstone to Lusaka: £13
  • Accommodation in Lusaka x 2 nights: £16
  • Bus from Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi: £7 
  • Tazara Train from Zambia – Tanzania: £33
  • Food/Drink: £20 – food and water is available on board and from the people outside the train, but I would take a stash with you! Things like jam, bread and peanut butter are good!

READ MORE: The Tazara Train – An Overland Journey from Zambia to Tanzania


Bagamoyo Volunteering Helen in Wonderlust

The Baobab Home, Tanzania – £369

I did a volunteering placement at the Baobab Home in Bagamoyo, for just over 4 weeks, running a summer club for the local kids who live in or around the home. We did things like arts and crafts, trips to the beach and sports whilst they were on their school holidays. Bagamoyo is a great place if you want to experience the non-touristy side of Africa.

This was by far the cheapest month I spent in Africa, but I didn’t do any touristy activities.

  • Mini Bus from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo: £2 (a taxi one way is £45).
  • Volunteering: £0 – there is no fee to volunteer but they appreciate donations. I raised money at a charity night and split it between the Baobab Home and the Book Bus.
  • Accommodation: £150 – I shared a house with 6 other volunteers.
  • Food/Drink: £150 – we ate rice and beans at a local container most nights, or cooked for ourselves. In the daytime I just ate chapati, samosa and bananas. These days there are a few more restaurants, and last time I went I would say I spent a little more than the first time, but it’s still really cheap. 
  • Transport: £15 – I took a dala dala into Dar es Salaam a couple of times, and got the odd piki piki (motorbike taxi) or bajaji (tuk tuk) around town but that was about it. I just walked most of the time.
  • Other: £50 – there aren’t loads of things to do in Bagamoyo, not that cost a lot of money anyway – most of our free time was spent down at the beach. A tour of Bagamoyo is approx $20. Or occasionally they have cool events on at the Bagamoyo College of Arts. There is sometimes a charge for internet, in the rare places you can find it.
  • Mini Bus from Bagamoyo to Dar es Salaam: £2.

Solo Traveller's Guide to Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – £1,348

Now this is a big money drainer for such a short time period, but it’s kind of amazing! 

  • Coach to Dar es Salaam to Arusha: £10 (30,000 TSH). 
  • Kilimanjaro Climb: £1050 – includes park entry, guide, porters, all food, water and accommodation 1 night prior to and 2 nights after the climb.
  • Tips: £162 – the split is in my Kilimanjaro Packing List & Top Tips for Success post.
  • Additional Accommodation: £50 – I’d a arrive a day or two prior, and stay on after to recover. Some people fly straight to Zanzibar – that would be very cool to do.
  • Shuttle Bus to Nairobi from Arusha: £13 ($20).
  • Food/Drink: £30 – Moshi has a few nice places to eat, and believe me, you’ll deserve a pizza or a big piece of cake!
  • Equipment Hire: £13 ($20) I just hired some walking poles and some waterproof pants.
  • Other: I think I spent about £20 on cans of coke and chocolate bars on the mountain – they charge a fortune for it but I was very sick and that’s all I wanted to eat, so it was money well spent I say. I got up that mountain fuelled by a mixture of sheer determination, Coco-Cola and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About Kilimanjaro


Absolute Africa Overland - Helen in Wonderlust

Absolute Africa Overland Safari, Nairobi to Cape Town – £3,780

One of my favourite ever trips was a 2-and-a-half overland safari with Absolute Africa, who are one of the most reasonably priced overlanding companies and one of the most economical ways to get around Africa, whilst still doing loads of sightseeing and activities.

Overlanding isn’t a ‘holiday’ as such, usually you have to muck in – cooking dinners, cleaning the truck, putting up your tents – but it is an adventure. It takes out all of the hassle out of figuring out how to get from A to B, plus you get lots of built in friends.

Over 73 days, I visited Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The trip also goes through Zimbabwe too now.

  • Trip Cost: £1645 + £1260 (local payment) – includes 57 breakfasts, 57 dinners, transport on the truck, 65 nights accommodation (mostly tents, some dorms – options to upgrade). The breakfasts/dinners not included are those when the truck is not with you and accommodation where you choose not to take part in any of the overnight excursions i.e) Okavango Delta, Zanzibar, Lake Kariba Houseboats… but trust me, do not opt out – you’ll regret it as everyone goes! When I went the trip actually cost £990, rather than £1645, so you can see how prices have risen.
  • Accommodation: £100 – prior to tour at Heron Hotel (private room), Nairobi and after the tour at Ashanti Lodge, Cape Town (dorm). There are cheaper places to stay in Nairobi, like the dorm tent at Wildebeest Eco Camp or Milimani Backpackers.
  • Visas: Covered above.
  • Activities Included: Things like…
    • Kenya: Masai Mara inc Maasai Village Tour, Matopos National Park Rhino Trekking, Nakuru National Park, Giraffe Centre, Lake Naivasha.
    • Tanzania: The Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Mikumi National Park.
    • Namibia: Etosha National Park, Fish River Canyon, Namib Naukluft National Park, The Cheetah Park, Sossusvlei Dunes, Cape Cross Seal Colony, Spitzkoppe Rock Formations.
  • Spending Money: Absolute Africa recommend between £80 – £100 per week. I’d agree with that. I spent around £850 broken down as follows.
    • Food/Drink: £500 – it’s only really lunches and a few meals out that aren’t included. Save by buying local foods, or food from the supermarket that will last a few days. Water, soft drinks and alcohol are pretty cheap, but can add up! I like a beer or two, so I probably spent quite a lot. The expensive party hot spots tend to be Nairobi, Jinja, Kendwa, Swakopmund, Vic Falls, Stellenbosch and Cape Town in my experience. You could do it for less. One of the girls on our truck never had lunch.
    • Transport: £30 – I spent small amounts on various types of transport getting to and from restaurants etc.
    • Souvenirs: £150- I’m not much of a shopper, but I bought all kinds from a chair (?!?!), paintings, t-shirts and tons of bracelets/earrings and got my hair braided. You can barter for stuff too – if you have stuff to swap, swap! I swapped an old pair of sunglasses for a t-shirt. And you can get some stuff for a pen!
    • Phone: £15 – I bought a local SIM for a couple of bucks everywhere I went and just texted home every few days to say I was safe.
    • Internet: £30 – If you want to use the internet a lot, consider getting a SIM card with data. I used internet cafes and they added up over time.
    • Tips: £50 – tipping is not compulsory, but is kind of expected for guides and in restaurants etc.

READ MORE: 25 Things That Will Happen on Your Africa Overland Tour


White Water Rafting Uganda

Activities – £1,394

There are sooo many touristy activities on offer in Africa, you’ll have a hard time fitting them all in. Which might be a good thing because even if you had the time, you might not have the money! So you have to pick and choose! Absolute Africa say you should budget between £420 and £950, but I spent quite a bit more and I thought I was quite reserved… some people did more than me!

But, sometimes it’s just nice to chill at the campsite with a beer, do your washing, or just walk into town, explore, hang out in a local bar – whatever! Often the best travel memories are the ones you make when you are least expecting them.

There are too many activities for me to mention here, so this is a list of just the things I did, in the time I was on the truck and on the Book Bus. If you need more info, Absolute Africa have a really good trip dossier that has pretty much every cost on. Please note, this is just a guide – prices fluctuate often.

Kenya

  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (Elephant Sancturary): £6
  • Nairobi Night Out: £35

Uganda

  • White Water Rafting on the White Nile (full day): £80

Rwanda

  • Gorilla Trekking: £420
  • Twa Tribe Visit: £22
  • Kigali Genocide Muemorial: £7

Tanzania

  • Zanzibar Trip (1 night in Stone Town, 3 nights in Kendwa): £175
  • Prison Island: £13
  • Sunset Cruise: £20

Malawi

  • Village meal: £5

Zambia

Please note: I did all of these activities in Zambia, but some of them take place from the Zimbabwe side now. Some of the activities I did whilst I was volunteering on the Book Bus.

  • Lake Kariba Houseboats: £90
  • Zambezi Sunset Booze Cruise: £35
  • White Water Rafting on the Zambezi (full day): £90
  • Jet Boating: £70
  • South Luangwa Safari (full day): £70 (Zambia only).
  • Afternoon Tea at the Royal Livingstone: £16 plus a cocktail (or two) and taxis, so more like £25 (Zambia only).
  • Victoria Falls: £13 x 2 (I went by day and by night to see a Lunar Rainbow). I actually went 4 times in these 6 months, but that’s a bit excessive!
  • Local Cowboy Cycle Tours: £13 (Zambia only).

Botswana

  • Chobe Game Drive: £30
  • Okavango Delta (2 nights): £80

Namibia

  • Sandboarding: £30
  • Himba Tribe Visit: £32

South Africa

  • Stellenbosch Wine Tour: £20

View of Cape Town - Helen in Wonderlust

South Africa Road Trip – £869

At the end of my trip, my boyfriend came to meet me in South Africa and we did a bit of a road trip from Cape Town, down the Garden Route to Plettenberg Bay and back, along with 3 friends from my Absolute Africa trip. We weren’t on a strict budget, and stayed in private rooms.

  • Accommodation: £200 – we mainly stayed in backpacker places, but got a double room with an en-suite bathroom.
  • Car Hire/Petrol: £175 (this was my half of the cost, we had a car and my 3 friends also had a car).
  • Food/Drink: £300 – there’s so much good food and drink in South Africa, it’s unreal. You can eat cheaply, or go to expensive restaurants. We mixed it up.
  • Activities: I haven’t included these above, as I’d left the truck at this point. As we had the car, we also did lots of free sight seeing too!
    • Robben Island: £13
    • Table Mountain Cable Car: £12
    • Cape of Good Hope: £6
    • Shark Cage Diving: £80
    • Boulders Beach: £3
    • Safari Day Trip: £80

Total for 6 months in Africa = £9,909/$12,855 (or £55/$72 per day) *

* Prices approx as of July 2016.

I know what you’re thinking – how much????

But then I remember that one safari company I contacted for my trip quoted me £2,600 for a 4-day safari in the Serengeti (not including the internal flight I would need to take between camps) and then it doesn’t seem so bad.

After all, in 6 months I travelled over 17,000 km, did 2 volunteering projects (one free, one not so free), a trek up Africa’s highest mountain, a 2 and a half month overland tour through 9 countries, an epic train journey, 11 safaris. Not to mention getting up close and personal with mountain gorillas, elephants, giraffes, sharks, cheetahs and lions. All the time making lifelong friends and a million amazing memories.

But I’ll tell you one thing for free… it was totally worth it. Now, start saving!!


READ NEXT: My Top Africa Travel Tips


Want to come on an incredible African adventure in 2018 or 2019?

If you want to go backpacking with an awesome group of likeminded travellers, then join one of my 2018 or 2019 Rock My Adventure small group tours to Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania & Zanzibar, Uganda, Rwanda & the DRC, Zambia, Botswana & Malawi and Morocco! 

I will show you a different side of Africa. Not the Africa you see in the media, but the colourful, adventurous, wild and real Africa I know and love.

Rock My Adventure tours are experiential and culturally immersive adventures, but without the hassle of having to find accommodation, working out how to get from A to B and booking all your own activities.

They are laid-back and fun, a bit like an independent backpacking trip (so it doesn’t feel like a tour) but with a group of friends built in – the best of both worlds! Plus you get comprehensive pre-departure support and advice from me!

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE!

Rock My Adventure Tours


Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I really love and trust but if you have any questions, please get in touch via email, or in the comments below. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

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56 Comments

  • Reply
    hassan
    June 12, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Hi Helen

    Interesting. This counting helps your readers. Your boyfriend from s Africa?

    • Reply
      Helen
      June 13, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks Hassan!

      No he’s English!

  • Reply
    Gilles Barbier
    June 17, 2015 at 4:25 am

    Hi Helen,

    Very interesting, as it shows that you can really travel Africa on a budget. True, it is not Southeast Asia, but 2.500 USD a month is quite cheap in Africa.
    I have myself only the experience of shorter trips there, and budgets were often much higher.

    The real challenge is that you need your wheels in Africa for almost all kinds of activities, and that is where it adds up quickly. But obviously the overland truck helped you reduce this a lot!

    I never tried them… Maybe I should 😉

    Thanks for sharing
    Gilles
    Gilles Barbier recently posted…Unexpected Highlight In The Barrio Santo DomingoMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      June 21, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      Thanks Gilles! Yes, you definitely can do Africa on a budget! I could have done it cheaper overall, but there’s so many great things to do!

      I agree, wheels are essential, especially for going to do activities. In there places I didn’t have transportation, I usually had friends who did, so I managed to get to a few places I may not have otherwise!

      Yes, try and overland. They’re good fun! 🙂

  • Reply
    Rebecka Green
    June 29, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for the great post! I’ve always limited myself to Europe travel, but Africa has always been a place I’ve been dying to go. European cultures and lifestyles aren’t much different from America, so it would be nice to experience something totally new. Honestly, I’m not sure if your budget was lower or higher than what I expected, but I like that you gave us a solid number to aim for. It may not be reasonable for a college student like myself right now, but what an amazing post-grad trip, perhaps? 🙂 All of your adventures sound great. The Absolute Africa trip seemed especially awesome.
    Nice job, Helen!

    http://thebecksfactor.com

    • Reply
      Helen
      June 29, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Rebecka,

      Thanks, glad you liked it! 🙂 I was 29 when I first went to Africa and had a pretty good job at the time, so I definitely had an advantage. But I did do lots of touristy stuff and there are definitely ways to experience Africa cheaper. If you look at the month I did in Bagamoyo – that was super cheap. But most of my time was occupied as I was working, so I had less opportunity to spend things on. But yeah, going to Africa would make the perfect post-uni trip! Start saving! 😉

      I loved every part of this trip, it’s still my favourite trip of all time. I think a lot had to do with the people I met. And the ones on the Absolute truck were some of my favourites and we are still really great friends now! Hope you get to go soon!!

      Helen

  • Reply
    Grace Blake
    July 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    It’s so great to see people writing about Africa! As an Aussie living in Botswana I LOVE coming across these articles. You’re trip sounds incredible and I can only hope to see as much of Africa as this! Happy travels 🙂

    • Reply
      Helen
      July 20, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Aw, thanks Grace – glad you liked it! Bet it’s cool living in Botswana! I loved it when I was living in Zambia for a little while! 🙂 Happy travels to you too! x

  • Reply
    Lizzie
    July 20, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Hey Helen

    Thanks for sharing your experiences – awesome!

    I am planning a trip to Africa from 30th August – 30th October. I will be starting off in Tanzania for 3 weeks, Zambia for 3 weeks and rounding things off in Cape Town for 2 weeks, which is where my brother lives, so hopefully this will the cheapest leg of my journey 🙂

    I would love to get some tips from you, maybe we can exchange some emails so that I can fire you across some questions?

    Take care

    Lizzie

    • Reply
      Helen
      July 20, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      Hey Lizzie,

      Zambia and Tanzania are my specialist countries, so feel free to shoot me some questions via the contact page on here and I will point you in the direction of any useful stuff, maybe I have a blog post on it already! If not will try to answer! 🙂

      Fire away!

      Helen x

  • Reply
    Tez Ferguson
    July 26, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Fantastic write up Helen, it is quite embarrassing I have not ventured to Zambia before considering it is so close to home, I must ask is this one of your highlights as you mention it a lot in your other posts regarding highlights.

    Are there any specific locations in Zambia you would recommend for a first timer?

    • Reply
      Helen
      July 27, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Hi Tez,

      Livingstone is my favourite place in Zambia (maybe in Africa?), however I also love South Luangwa and have had sun staying in Chipata and Ndola, not sure how much there is to do there, but I was camping and it was fun! 🙂

      Then there’s Chobe not far across the border in Botswana!

      Helen

  • Reply
    Elliott
    August 1, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Better start saving.. Do you think it would be possible to do on a smaller budget for 6 months? Also, is East Africa easy to travel on a whim? That’s my favourite way, going with the flow. Or, do you think it’s necessary to have a planned itinerary?
    Elliott recently posted…Why Everyone Should Do a Working Holiday AbroadMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      August 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      Hey Elliot! You could definitely do it on a smaller budget. As you can see, some of the things I did were expensive, like the volunteering costs for the Book Bus and Kilimanjaro. You can do it cheaper if you do less of the ‘big’ touristy things and live and travel more locally! You can travel on a whim no problem. You need to think about a few things, like having dollars for visas and a Yellow Fever certificate for certain countries, but it is pretty easy to get around most places in East Africa by public transport. There aren’t as many backpacker type places like there are in Asia, so you may have to book some accommodation in advance, but not all.

      I think it’s good to have an idea of where you want to go, but you might meet people along the way and want to change direction. I’ve made the mistake of being too planned (on my 5 week trip), but for this 6 month trip, I was happy with the way I did it – it was quite planned, but it worked out well. I would have liked to have stayed longer in some places, but then I would have missed other places. I’ve been back to some of the places that I really loved since and spent more time there. If I went again for 6 months, I wouldn’t plan as much. So if you like going with the flow, just do that. Maybe book your first few nights for somewhere, and then take it from there.

      Nice blog btw! 🙂

      Happy adventures!

  • Reply
    Fon
    August 22, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Africa overland tours and adventure experiences with Absolute Africa. Overland truck tours of Africa that have exciting and must see Africa land marks to explore.
    Fon recently posted…9 Temples day trip in Bangkok : Do like thais doMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      August 25, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Very true! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sara
    November 6, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Hey Helen, just stumbled across your blog whilst planning my Africa trip. I am going for three months so really useful to know how much you spent. I am doing a similar overland trip to yours but finishing in Livingstone. It looks great and I’ll be reading more of your posts 🙂

    • Reply
      Helen
      November 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Awesome Sara! You will have such an amazing time!! I see from your lovely bog that you’ve been to Africa before so you’ll know how wonderful it is! Southern Africa is quite different from East, so it will be a whole new experience, but there are lots of similarities. Livingstone is my favourite place, so if you get time, have a look at my Livingstone guide as there is so much cool stuff to do! 🙂 https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/2014/05/travel-guide-to-livingstone-zambia/

    • Reply
      Paula Albers
      December 30, 2015 at 4:51 am

      Hi Sara,

      When are you going and what overland tour are you doing? 🙂

  • Reply
    Cassandra Surette
    November 7, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Traveling on a budget can be a hard thing to achieve, but it is definitely possible. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Helen
      November 8, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      No worries Cassandra! I think there are a few misconceptions about Africa travel, but it can be done on a smallish budget. Even the safaris, whilst not cheap in general, can be done for a lot cheaper than the thousands and thousands that the luxury lodges charge, which are the most well advertised!

  • Reply
    Amy Trumpeter
    December 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing this budget breakdown, it seems like you have achieved a great deal in 6 months in Africa! I’m optimistic about Asia now from your comparison – I have travelled a lot in Africa, but South East Asia is still on my bucket-list. Sounds like I am going to find it extremely affordable!
    Amy Trumpeter recently posted…Manchester – 10 Things to See and Do!My Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      December 13, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      No worries, glad it was useful Amy! Enjoy SEA!

  • Reply
    Keira
    December 29, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Helen

    Love reading all about your travels through Africa! I’m also doing the Absolute Africa tour you did in a few weeks. Getting me so excited!! Quick question about money…would you recommend taking mostly cash? and in US dollars? Also, do you have any other tips or “must do’s” for this tour? So exciting, been reading through your stuff all day, definitely distracting me too much…haha. x

    • Reply
      Helen
      December 29, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Hey Keira! Thanks for reading! Great that you are going with Absolute, you’ll have a great time!!! Are you doing the full 2.5 month trip?

      I took all mine in cash, and also used ATM’s. If you are coming from USA, bring all US Dollars. If you are coming from elsewhere, I’d bring a mix of dollars and your own currency to exchange for local when you’re there. You’ll need USD for visas etc and some excursions, but there’s no point changing from your own currency, to USD then into local currency.

      I have a couple of posts that I would recommend – ’25 Things That Will Happen On Your Overland Trip’ and also ‘Top Africa Travel Tips’ ones but other than that, my best tips are:

      – Be as welcoming as possible to new members of the group. Those who join from the start bond, and it’s tough coming in later. Make them feel welcome, you’ll likely make some great new friends.
      – Make sure you pitch in your chores. It’s actually when you bond the most with your fellow travellers.
      – If you get chance in Zambia/Zimbabwe, go to the Devil’s Pool, I regret I didn’t do that.
      – Take a good zoom lens for safari and loads of SD cards. Deleting as you go can be a right pain.
      – Take some time for yourself every now and again!
      – Don’t buy too many souvenirs, it always seems like a great idea at the time.

      Let me have a think of my ‘must do’ excursions and come back to you!!

      Please tell me how your trip goes, would love to hear how you get on!!! Are you going anywhere else before/after?? Is it a career break? Gap year? What’s your story? 🙂

      Helen x

      • Reply
        Keira
        December 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm

        Hello, thank you for your reply!
        Yep, I’m doing the whole 2.5 months. Getting so close now, so exciting!!
        I’d read to take the majority of it in cash, but bit nervous about carrying so much around with me! I’m coming from Scotland, so would I be best taking a mix of dollars and Pounds?
        I’ve read the ’25 Things That Will Happen On Your Overland Trip’ and makes me so excited. Can’t wait to go and meet new people and experience it all myself. Did you do the bungee jump or any other activities like that at the Victoria Falls? I always say I’m going to do it then watch a video and change my mind…act brave on the outside but deep down I’m just a scaredy cat haha.
        I’m not, no. I’m just doing the tour. I was hoping to get a year off from work, but I was only able to get three months:( I’m just hoping the time off and new experiences will help me figure out what I’m actually wanting to do!! But I know i’ll not want to come home once it’s over..
        Keira x

        • Reply
          Helen
          December 30, 2015 at 6:11 pm

          Aw, lovely!! Wish I was doing it again!!

          Yes take a mix of dollars and GBP. Dollars for your visas definitely, dated after 2002 (the newer the better) and then you can use some for excursions too. Don’t feel nervous about taking cash. Put it in a few different places in your carry on bag. Once you get to the truck, you can put it all in the safe!

          I did white water rafting and canoeing at Victoria Falls but not the jumps. I hate heights. Maybe I’ll do one when I’m 80! 🙂 You’ll have the best time!!! Do as many activities as you can afford, but also take some time to explore local markets and go and see the real Africa away from the tourist stuff!

          3 months in Africa will be great, and you can always take another career break later on! I’ve taken 3 of between 5 weeks and a year!

          Let me know how it goes! Say hi to the Absolute Africa guys for me!

          Helen x

  • Reply
    Paula Albers
    December 30, 2015 at 4:50 am

    Hey Helen,
    This blog is so helpful.
    Just have a few questions, I hope you don’t mind answering 🙂
    In a few of your blogs you’ve mentioned that you can camp along the way, I think I read you saying for around $6 a night. I also read you saying that there are often people that are on overland tours there too. I was just wondering if this would require taking my own tent to Africa when I go? I’m going on a shoestring, but I am also going solo. I don’t think I’ll have trouble meeting people to travel with, however would you recommend doing it as more of a joint tour where everything is planned/organised/provided? that way I would meet fellow travellers? This doesn’t appeal too much to me as I might fall in love with a place and want to spend a few weeks there .. time isn’t too much of an issue for me, and being on a tour you’re restricted to a time.
    So basically in a nut shell… bring my own tent? or join a tour? (keep in mind I am going solo so might get lonely), is it easy to get from campsite to campsite (I have read your other blogs about transport). Would it be okay to completely wing it with a tent? that’s my plan so far. I obviously have a very good idea of the places I want to go to and the route I wish to take.

    Any advice would be great 🙂

    • Reply
      Helen
      December 30, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      Hey Paula,

      No worries at all! That’s what I’m here for! Was about to reply to your email!

      There are advantages and disadvantages to a tour. Like you said, if you fall in love with a place, you can’t stay. Well you could, but you’d lose a load of money! 🙂 But it’s a great way to get to the more difficult to get to places, they are economical in some ways, takes away the hassle and built in friends.

      I love both types of travel. However, from what you’ve said, I think your heart is telling you solo all the way. So go with that! If you hate it (which I doubt) you can always join on to a tour once you’re there! If you aren’t limited on time, then Africa is your oyster! Wish I was going! You may have lonely days, but you’ll most likely meet nice people where you stay. Some overland groups keep themselves to themselves, but some are very welcoming, and there are often solo or small group travellers about!

      On the tent front, if you are backpacking and using public transport, taking your own tent and cooking gear will be a bit of a pain. But lots of the campgrounds can provide tents and have dorms/rooms and bars/restaurants. Some are catered to overland travellers, but lots they can still accommodate backpackers. There will be some camp sites that are difficult to get to without your own transport and cooking facilities. And you may need to take the occasional tour if you want to get to some places, or go on safari or but who knows, maybe you’ll meet up with a fellow traveller who has a car and you can tag along with!

      Tell me where you want to go, and I can tell you the situation on camping in that area! 🙂

      • Reply
        Paula Albers
        December 31, 2015 at 4:20 am

        Hi Helen,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. That information was perfect!

        After reading all of the above, I think I should do a few weeks on a tour to get my bearings and confidence of Africa and then fly solo after that.

        Great to know about the campgrounds, and that getting there is difficult. I might try and buddy up with someone over there and share a car 🙂 I’m going to be winging it a lot. That’s how I usually prefer to travel. I most likely will have cooking gear on me as I will be coming straight from a trekking trip in Nepal (unless I send it back to Aus with my trekking buddies).

        When you say you can join onto a tour once you’re there, how hard would this be and what would be entailed?

        “Tell me where you want to go, and I can tell you the situation on camping in that area!” << You're the best!
        The basic route I wish to take is Fly into Nairobi, Kenya. Visit the Maasar Mara, make my way overland to Tanzania (somehow?), hoping to see the foothills of Kili (perhaps in Moshi), head to Dar es Salaam and then to Zanzibar. From there I want to go down and Lake Malawai (from what your blog said…. Amazing!) Zambia (Livingston.. I also want to Bovu Island after reading that other blog of yours) Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nambia (Spitakoppe, Swakomund, Naukkft desert, Sossusvlei, Fish River Canyon, The Orange River) then down to Cape Town. Alternatively, this can be done in reverse. I'm entirely flexible, whats best?.

        Its obvious I only have a vague idea of the places I want to go and things I want to see. I can Imagine getting to/from most of these places will be difficult if I'm hopping in vans/buses. I would love to book a tour, but I just know I'm going to fall in love with small little towns/people and want to stay for weeks as opposed to days.

        So now that you know the rough route I wish to follow, what do you believe is best?

        Much love! I can't wait to be in Africa and telling everyone how I knew about certain places (Helen In Wonderlust)

        xx

        • Reply
          Helen
          December 31, 2015 at 3:44 pm

          Hi Paula,

          You’ll be fine getting to almost all campgrounds, it can just be a bit of a pain to get to some outside the cities and in remote areas like national parks, but you can still get there and back! If you have your cooking gear and don’t mind carrying it, then do that. Just call up and see if places have tents/rooms and you should be fine.

          The route you have said is the well trodden backpacker trail so there are loads of places to stay.

          Nairobi I liked Milimani Backpackers and Wildebeest Camp. My mates run a backpacker place in Masai Mara – Mara Explorers Camp, give em a shout they’ll sort you out. Really easy to get to Tanzania from Kenya. Bus to Arusha or Moshi, and then another bus to Dar es Salaam. Although that is my least fave bus ride. Try and get a seat in the middle on left side. Mikadi Beach in Dar is meant to be good but out of town, so opt for a later ferry to Zanzibar. In Zanzibar I would head straight to beaches, you’ll meet people there, and then do Stone Town at the end with your new mates. Unless you meet people before that. Stone Town isn’t much of a backpacker place.

          To get to Lake Malawi I’m not sure – but you will be able to get a bus I am sure from Dar to Mbeya, then go to Kande Beach maybe, then Lilongwe and then down to Cape Maclear if you can. Then you may need to go back up to Lilongwe to get over to Zambia. Maybe go South Luangwa National Park. But if you didn’t want to do that, head towards Chipata (you go through there on way to South Luangwa from Lilongwe), then down to Lusaka, and then Livingstone. Have a look at my guide to Livingstone, loads on there.

          From Livingstone it’s really easy to get to Botswana and Zimbabwe. I’d probs go Zimbabwe, then Botswana, then Namibia. Cross over the border near Vioolsdrif (on the Orange River) and head down to Springbok, Steelenbosch and then down to Cape Town and explore SA from there. It’s not difficult to get from A – Z. There is always a way in Africa. I may need to go through some old stuff to look at the exact camps I’d recommend. And you will undoubtedly be told about some cool places on the road by fellow travellers.

          I went North to South so that’s my preference! When you are there, if you just email an overland company they can usually find you a space. Just like booking the trip from home. You may just need to make it to one of the towns they go through. A few people on my trip just called last minute and asked if there was availability. We picked one girl up in a town called Naivasha in Kenya. She’d been volunteering and fancied joining an overland, so emailed Absolute Africa and joined the trip.

          I have to head out now (NYE and all that :)), but I will reply again tomorrow!!

          Helen

          • Paula Albers
            January 1, 2016 at 5:29 am

            Hi Helen,
            Thanks you mm so much again for replying such depth and information.

            I feel so much more confident doing it on my own now that I’ve spoken to you. And like you said, if I get lonely or don’t want to plan anymore I can jump on the end of a tour. This is so good to know, I never even considered that or thought it was a thing.

            Your blog is seriously my bible for Africa. The knowledge is so relevant and answers everything. You’re amazing!! Thank you 🙂

            I think I’ve read your blog about Livingston, but will definitely be reading them all over again before I head off.

            Would love to know more about the camp sites if you get a chance, but like you said.. People are always willing to offer advice on the road.

            I can’t wait to get there!!! Xx

            Happy new year 🙂

          • Helen
            January 1, 2016 at 5:01 pm

            Happy New Year!! 🙂 You’ll have a fab time!!

            Aw, thank you!! Knowing what I write is helping people is the main reason I keep doing it, so thank you!

            I think I’l write a post on the campsites, as people are always asking me about where to stay!

            xx

          • Paula Albers
            January 2, 2016 at 12:20 am

            Hi Helen,

            I think that’s a great idea 🙂

          • Helen
            January 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

            🙂 Working on it!!

  • Reply
    Jossie
    March 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Helen,

    I thought I’d spend a minute on the internet while waiting for the kettle to boil – 1 hour later I’m still browsing your blog!! My boyfriend and I are currently planning a trip to Africa and then who knows where!, but worried I won’t be able to afford it due to buying a house etc. We are wanting to volunteer in Uganda to where I went a few summers ago (just for 2 weeks then though). It’s amazing to see what you have done!

    Will keep following your posts, I feel inspired!

    Xx

    • Reply
      Helen
      March 7, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Jossie,

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! You made my day!

      I hope you get to go to Africa this year! Did you volunteer with Soft Power? That’s where I volunteered in Uganda!! 🙂

      You only live once…

      xx

      • Reply
        JOSSIE
        March 8, 2016 at 8:06 pm

        I really am so pleased I found your blog, I can’t stop reading it!! Wish I was able to come on your Kenya trip!!
        Think we will end up going to Uganda the year after next, bit more plausible money wise.

        No, I went with a family friend who set up a charity called Fingerprints In Uganda, which set up a girls safe house (Emmanuel House) in Jinja, and supports lots of local schools. I saw lots of Soft power projects going on though, they look wonderful!

        Thanks for your reply.
        xx

        • Reply
          Helen
          March 9, 2016 at 10:53 pm

          Hey Jossie!

          Aw, would be great to have you on the Kenya trip! 🙂

          Jinja is amazing isn’t it? I love it there! The project sounds awesome, I’ll look it up! I’d love to go back to Uganda. I miss it a lot.

          Hope you get to go to Africa sooner rather than later! But buying a house is also very exciting!!! Africa will be there when you do get to go, and it will be all the better as you waited a bit longer!

          xx

  • Reply
    marsha
    March 15, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Hi,
    Your blog is great! I am starting initial planning for a month trip to Kenya and Tanzania. and was wondering if you could point me to your post that may have your itinerary for your 5-week Kenya and Tanzania trip. I’ve spent a bit of time looking but through asking might be easiest.
    Thanks!

  • Reply
    Lusea Warner
    March 17, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Hi Helen!

    thank you so much for all the info.. I love your blog!

    I am going to Cape Town in a couple of weeks (travveling alone) and I am interested in doing a one day safari, but i am on a budget. Which Safari did you go on that cost £80?

    thanks

    Lusea

    • Reply
      Helen
      March 18, 2016 at 6:10 pm

      Hi Lusea,

      I think we used http://www.aquilasafari.com/. However there are lots and lots of days trip safaris and you can book most of them there. If you’re staying in a hostel or hotel, they will be able to help you arrange!

      Thanks for reading!!

      Have a great time in South Africa!

  • Reply
    Janet
    June 22, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Great post Helen, love the detail. Just wanted to add my 2 cents for anyone reading this and feeling like they can’t ever afford to do a trip like this. I planning on travelling solo from Egypt to Cape Town later this summer and am in the planning process (budget planning especially!!) right now. I have been to East Africa 5 times already and spent a year in Southern Africa This kind of money is INSANE in my eyes. Hostels throughout East and Southern Africa should only set you back $10 a night. I have never paid to volunteer and probably never will. You can find local projects that need your skills and will provide you with a place to stay while you volunteer there. Local transport never costs more than a few dollars, bar maybe the Tazara train which I think i paid $50 for. Even South Africa, the most expensive country in Africa (bar maybe Angola!!) is pretty cheap. Meals are only about 5 or 6 dollars and even adventure activities are cheaper than anywhere else. I did Paragliding for just 40 euro, a bungee jump for 50 and surfing lessons for just 3 euro! Anyway, thanks for the honest post and breaking it all down, but I would say a trip the same time and same route could be done independently on a budget of about $6000.

    • Reply
      Helen
      June 22, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Hi Janet, thanks for reading!

      I agree, you can definitely travel Africa cheaper and on a budget if you travel independently, staying in dorms, using local transport, only eating locally etc (which I say at the beginning) and I’ve done subsequent trips cheaper than this one, but wanted lay out my costs as they were. This was my first trip to Africa in 2009 and there are definitely a few things I’d do differently now, but some I’d keep the same.

      The biggest single cost for me was the volunteering project, which did cost a lot. I’m not sure I would pay to volunteer again, however it was an amazing experience and led to me meeting some of my best friends and later a paid job with the company in Zambia and Malawi – so it kind of worked out well! 🙂 But I also volunteered for free the following month in Tanzania and also for free in Uganda in 2011 and both were also amazing experiences. Then there was Kilimanjaro, which is never cheap. It could be done a bit cheaper than I did it, but it’s still expensive. And you have to be careful on the companies you choose and how they treat their staff if they’re undercutting everyone else.

      Overlanding wasn’t cheap, but I guess there you are paying for the convenience. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to worry about where you have stay or being stuffed into the corner of a crazy bus for 12 hours or getting a dala dala from South Luangwa, to get to the nearest border town, to then get a share taxi to the actual border, then take another share taxi to the bus stand on the other side and then another dala dala back to Lilongwe. You get my drift! And it was always great having a group of mates around! Another experience I wouldn’t change for the world.

      The overlanding costs also included a gorilla trek (permits alone are $750 in Rwanda, although in Uganda they are $450 – $600 – depending on the season), white water rafting twice, 11 multi-day safaris and tons of other activities. Then at the end I did a two week Garden Route trip with my (now) husband who came out to join me, so we weren’t staying in mega cheap places.

      But yes, I definitely agree though that Africa is not as expensive as everyone thinks and you could definitely do a 6-month trip to Africa for $6000 so it’s not an exclusive destination by any means. Not sure I’d go as far as to say the costs I paid were ‘insane’ – I guess it’s all relative to your budget and your expectations. Some safaris charge £4,000 for a few days! 🙂 Now that’s crazy money! Doing it on a shoestring, the experience would probably be different than the one I had, but that’s not a bad thing and everyone’s experiences will be different anyway! I’ve travelled there super cheap and mid-range/luxury, both are great, and have their advantages and disadvantages.

      I hope you can prove me wrong on the costs! 🙂 You’ll have to let me know how you get go on your trip and how much you spent for the Nairobi to Cape Town section and if you did the same activities! Have a fab trip!!

  • Reply
    Siobhan
    August 16, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Hey! I have just been reading about your Africa trips and WOW! I am actually heading to East Africa in January & February just as a mini trip to check out a few places. Planning on Kenya and Tanzania to begin. My long term goal is to return after my current work contract ends and do up to a year. I have some serious saving up to do haha. After reading about your 6-month trip I am 100 times more excited to go. Thank you for your information and guidance.

  • Reply
    Ray
    December 7, 2016 at 1:36 am

    For the price you paid to travel around Africa for six months versus what your friend paid for travelling around Southeast Asia, I would have to agree with you that you managed to accomplish a lot with a very reasonable budget. Thanks for the tip about Overland Tours Africa! I find that local tour companies usually give you a better price and have much better tour options than Western-owned backpacking companies.
    Ray recently posted…Chicago Brews – Ten Unique Beers to Drink in ChicagoMy Profile

  • Reply
    Sarah
    February 21, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Hi Helen, thanks for putting this together. It has been really helpful for my Husband and me. We have decided to do a similar route from Cape Town to Nairobi, but we will do it independently. We are reluctant to carry too much cash on us which will mean that we need access ATMs along the way. The question is how much would be sufficient in cash or should we split our Budget on a 50/50 between currency and atm?

  • Reply
    Clarence Goagoseb
    April 6, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    It is really very cheap to travel Africa especially southern Africa.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    September 6, 2017 at 4:46 am

    Hey Helen,

    What an awesome trip!

    I spent 3 months travelling around Africa, mainly South Africa and then touched on some of Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Fell in love with it and dreamt of going back ever since. I was wondering if you thought the Absolute Africa (the price has gone up again by the looks of it £2025 + Local Payment US$1260) tour was rushed or if you felt you had a decent amount of time to really appreciate all the countries you visited along the way, as I had a similar route planned but in reverse but this tour would take a lot of hassle out of planning, but having done tours in the past and then solo travel I found tours can be quite rushed and I felt like I missed a lot out, especially in Asia. I also like the freedom of solo travel but I doubt I would be able to do this kind of trip for less than the tour price once you start adding it all up?

  • Reply
    Mark
    April 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Hi

    I was reading through for ideas because I’ve been to Tanzania before and spent a couple of days in Mombasa but I’m looking to go back for a proper trip.

    Safari isn’t really something that I’m too interested in anymore, but for those that are I know you can get a guide in Arusha for the northern circuit. Obviously it depends on how much you trust people, but it’s much cheaper and less of the money ends up back in London, New York or Joburg.

    I hope all of you who have been or intend to go find Africa as beautiful and compelling as I did.

    Helen, I’m sure you know this but your blog is fantastic, whether you’re preparing for your first adventure, browsing for inspiration or

  • Reply
    charles
    May 22, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Helen
    Have you tried visiting the famed happy valley in Kenya,it had a great colonial past ,so much history. Let me if interested

  • Reply
    Dominic
    October 5, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Thank you so much for this, it has helped me plan my east coast trip!

    • Reply
      Helen
      October 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      That’s awesome! Have an amazing time!!! 🙂

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