My 6-Month Africa Travel Budget

Working out your Africa travel budget is not easy! I know this because three of my most frequently asked questions are:

  • “Is it expensive to travel in Africa?
  • “Can I travel Africa on a budget?”
  • “How much do I need to go backpacking in Africa?”

My honest reply is… it depends! But in this post, I’ll explain below what I spent in 6 months in Africa to help you work out what it is going to cost you, and how much money you might need.

Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

My 6-Month Africa Travel Budget

Horse Riding in Malawi

Is it expensive to travel in Africa?

It can be and some destinations are more expensive than others. But it doesn’t have to be.

Africa isn’t as cheap to travel to as some other parts of the world. But there are lots of options for the budget traveller. Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are some of my favourite places for budget backpacking in Africa.

The most expensive things tend to be activities (things like gorilla trekking, or multi-day trekking) and safaris. Park fees and the remote location of many national parks can increase the costs a lot too.

But, you DO NOT need to spend thousands on a 2 or 3-day safari. There are plenty of great, ethical and ecologically sound safaris that cost a fraction of what the fancier safaris cost. There are safaris for all budgets.

Often on expensive safaris, you are purely paying for the luxury/all-inclusive element, the logistics of running a remote camp/lodge, lack of infrastructure and in some instances the money will be going to support the local communities that were driven off their land to make way for said, fancy safari lodge.

Expensive does not always mean ethical or better.

Helen in Wonderlust - Tanzania

Can you travel to Africa on a budget?

Can you travel to Africa on a budget? Absolutely! Africa does NOT need to be an expensive vacation – despite what you may have heard.

If you take local transport, camp or stay in hostels, eat local foods and limit your activities/safaris you can keep costs low.

A budget-conscious traveller could probably easily travel on $30 – $50 per day – or even less. If you ate locally every day, you could spend less than $5 on food & water. Camping or staying in dorms, outside of national parks is cheap too, usually between $5 – $10 per night. Local transport is super cheap too.

But isn’t half the fun of travelling seeing and doing all the cool things on offer? it is for me anyway! However, when you start adding in safaris and activities that the costs start rising – quickly.

Helen in Wonderlust in Deadvlei Namibia

How much do I need to go backpacking in Africa?

Now I know you probably came to this post because you’d like me to give you a definite, quick and easy answer to this question.

But, 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 tiny budget.

But that’s not for me. I love going on safari, I love going white water rafting and treating myself to a meal at the best restaurant in town every now and again. But I offset those costs by getting public transport and eating locally some nights.

This gives me the best of both worlds and gives me a really well-rounded view of the countries I visit.

Going on an Africa group tour is good if you want to stick to a budget, as you can pretty much work out what your costs will be in advance. Travelling solo makes it a little bit more difficult to work out your exact costs and you could end up paying more if you don’t have people to share costs with.

It can also go the other way. Travelling alone, you can dictate exactly how you do your trip and you might get lucky and find an open space on a safari vehicle or hitch a ride with some fellow travellers, saving you money! It’s hard to predict!

Helen in Wonderlust - South Africa

My Africa Trip & Travel Style

Your trip will be different to my trip, 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 on this trip I was also travelling for a long time so I didn’t go crazy either.

These days, I spend around 6 months of the year travelling and running flashpacking tours in Africa.

But my first trip to Africa in 2009 lasted 6 months and my itinerary included 2 different volunteering placements in Zambia and Tanzania, an epic 3-day trip on the Tazara train, a trek up Kilimanjaro a 2.5-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.

The two things that I did spend a lot of money on were:

  • Climbing Kilimanjaro: This is always going to be relatively expensive (even at the cheaper end of the scale).
  • Volunteering on the Book Bus: My placement cost a lot, and there are cheaper ways to volunteer, but I don’t regret it at all because of the opportunities it opened up for me in the longterm (including working as a paid expedition leader for the company in 2012, which ultimately gave me the idea and skills to start my own tour company).

Please Note: Prices have been updated to reflect prices up to date as of April 2020.

Jinja Uganda

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’s what I spent my money on.


Flights really depend on where you are flying to and from.

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.


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 x 3 (£42.50 per shot), Yellow Fever (£60.30).

Anti-malarials vary in cost, depending on the take of tablets you take. I usually take Atovaquone/Proguanil (aka Malarone) and avoid Doxycycline and Lariam, but it is best you speak to your doctor decide which ones are right for you.

There is no difference between generic Malarone and branded GSK Malarone, except that the generic stuff is cheaper.

Malarone usually costs around £2.30 – £2.60 per tablet and is a daily tablet, which is why many people usually tend to mix it up between different types of antimalarials or skip them altogether.

 Dr Fox and Superdrug also offer convenient postal services where you do not need a prescription.

For a comprehensive view of the health precautions to take when travelling to Africa, check out the NHS, Fit for Travel website and always consult your doctor. Nomad Travel has a range of vaccinations on offer.


This was my first ever long-term backpacking trip, so I spent quite a lot on buying new stuff. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have spent so much and now I travel much lighter.

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) and the rest you can probably borrow, hire or do without! Just remember, the less you buy before you go, the more you can do when you’re there! 

You can see my full Africa Packing List here

Travel Insurance

I cannot stress how important it is to have travel insurance in place for your trip to Africa as medical care is not free. If you get injured or fall sick, you will have to pay for your medical care which could be very expensive, so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all aspects of your trip. I recommend World NomadsOutbacker, or InsureandGo.

Some bank accounts include travel insurance, so check if you’re covered first. At the time, mine didn’t so I paid around £70. Nowadays, insurance is a lot more expensive (and Americans are more expensive to insure than Europeans usually).

The cost will depend on a lot of factors but don’t forget you may be doing a lot of adventurous activities so ensure that you are covered. And if you’re taking electricals like an expensive camera or a laptop, you may need extra cover for those too.

Helen in Wonderlust with Najin, one of the last Northern White Rhinos

In-Africa Costs

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


Total = £284

Visas vary in price, depending on where your passport is from. On this trip, I visited Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia & South Africa.

The below amounts are for Single Entry visas, are in USD and for British passport holders. Other types of visas may vary.

  • Kenya: $50 (however you can get the East Africa visa for $100 which allows you to travel freely between Kenya, Uganda & Rwanda for 3 months – as long as you don’t leave those countries).
  • Uganda: $50 (as above).
  • Rwanda: $30 (as above).
  • Tanzania: $50 (for most people) & $100 for US citizens.
  • Malawi: $75.
  • Zambia: $50 (you can also get a KAZA visa if you will be entering Zimbabwe – find more info here)
  • Botswana: Free.
  • Namibia: Free.
  • South Africa: Free.

All visas are paid in US dollars and bills should be dated after 2009 and in good condition.

I went to both Tanzania and Zambia twice, so paid slightly more for those visas. My costs for visas as of today would have been $355 (£284). If I’d only been to each country once, I’d be looking at $275.

TOP TIP: Project Visa and Wikipedia are great resources to get information. If in doubt, contact your local embassy before you go. Just be aware that you need to apply in advance for some visas.

Volunteering Project 1

Total = £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. 

The Book Bus provided an extracurricular activity for school children in Zambia, therefore not taking away from local employment opportunities.

Their volunteer programme is different now, so I haven’t updated this section, but this gives you an idea of what I spent and you can also find lots of free volunteering opportunities throughout Africa. Just do your research to make sure that they are not taking away local jobs.

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 (£1,600): For 4 weeks which included in-country support, airport transfers, food, accommodation (tents) and project costs.
  • Weekend Food & Drinks (£200): Food is included on weekdays and not included at weekends but there are quite a few nice places to eat and drink in and around town.
  • 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 National Park in Botswana. I’ll include the cost for these in the activities section at the bottom. 
  • 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 etc.
Tazara Train - Zambia
Photo Credit: Richard Stupart

The Tazara Train – Zambia to Tanzania

Total = £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
  • Dorm Accommodation in Lusaka x 2 nights: £20
  • Bus from Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi: £7 
  • Tazara Train from Zambia to Tanzania: £36
  • Food/Drink: £20. A small selection of food, water, sodas and alcohol are available onboard. You can also usually buy fruit from people outside the train at various stops. Just don’t forget to change some money if you can at the border. But I would also take some food with you if you can! Things that will keep without a fridge, like jam, bread and peanut butter are good!
The Baobab Home Bagamoyo

Volunteering Project 2

Total = £763

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.

Side Note: I hardly spend anything when I was here (less than £400), but prices have gone up since then.

  • Taxi from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo: £45. A minibus is cheaper, but as I was new to Tanzania, I took a taxi. But when I left Bagamoyo, I took a minibus. 
  • Mini Bus from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo: £2 (might be slightly more now). 
  • Volunteering: £0. At the time I was there there was no fee to volunteer. Instead, I raised money through a charity night and by climbing Kilimanjaro and split it between the Baobab Home and the Book Bus. You may also need to buy a volunteer visa on top of your regular visa.
  • Volunteer Visa: £160. A volunteer visa is $200. If you are staying for longer than 2 months, you will need a Resident Permit which is $550 and lasts for 3 months each time but you can enter and leave as many times as you need.
  • Accommodation: £336. At the time I only paid £150 for the whole month and I shared a house with 6 other volunteers and shared a room with 2 other girls, but that house isn’t there now. Now you would most likely to stay at one of their recommended guesthouses or hostels which usually cost between $15 – $25 per night.  
  • 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. Occasionally we would travel to Dar es Salaam for pizza or head to one of the hotels for cheese (yes really). These days there are a few more restaurants on offer but it’s still pretty cheap. 
  • Transport: £20. I walked almost everywhere in Bagamoyo, but 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 if I was going further away, but that was about it. Now the Baobab Home has moved out of town, so you would likely spend between $4 – $10 per day on transport, unless you stayed on the property. But if you want some nightlife, stay in town.
  • 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 approximately $20. They also have cool events on at the Bagamoyo College of Arts.
Tips for Climbing Kilimanjaro - Everything You Need to Know

Mount Kilimanjaro Trek

Total = £2,227

Now, this was the biggest money drainer on my Africa trip but it was worth it. I’ve climbed Kili twice now and have lots of tips for reaching the top if you need them!

There was a reason my climb was so expensive, and that was because I climbed alone. You can save a lot by joining a group. Something I wish I’d known at the time.

  • Coach to Dar es Salaam to Arusha: £13 (36,000 TSH). If you are flying in, a taxi from Kilimanjaro Airport to Moshi is usually between $30 – $50.
  • Kilimanjaro Climb (Machame Route, 6 Days): £1,700. Included park entry, guide, porters, all food, water and accommodation 1 night prior to and 1 night after the climb. Prices for solo climbs can vary and for a 6-day trip, you’ll usually pay somewhere between £1700 and £2,000. If you do a longer climb, expect to pay more.
  • Tips: £360. You can read more in my Tipping on Kilimanjaro: Everything You Need to Know post. It’s cheaper if climbing with a group.
  • Additional Accommodation: £50.
  • Shuttle Bus to Nairobi from Moshi: £16 ($20). If you are flying in, a taxi from Kilimanjaro Airport to Moshi is usually between $30 – $50.
  • Food/Drink: £40. Moshi has a few nice places to eat, and believe me, you’ll deserve a pizza, a big piece of cake and/or a few beers at the end of your trek. 
  • Equipment Hire: £28 ($35) I just hired some walking poles and some waterproof pants.
  • Other: £20. 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.
Absolute Africa Overland - Helen in Wonderlust

Overland Safari (Nairobi to Cape Town)

Total = £4,860

As I was new to Africa, I ended up taking a 2-and-a-half month overland safari with Absolute Africa, which is one of the most reasonably priced overlanding companies.

Overlanding is a relatively economical way to get around Africa if you don’t want to travel alone – I weigh up the pros and cons in this post. I made a lot of good friends on that trip. Some people love overland tours, some people don’t. I created my Rock My Adventure tours to bridge the gap between solo travel and more traditional overland tours.

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 all of the hassles 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 I took also goes through Zimbabwe too now.

  • Trip Cost: £2,425 + $1,260 (local payment). Included breakfasts and dinners when on the truck, transport on the truck, accommodation (mostly in tents, some dorms and twin rooms in Zanzibar – options to upgrade) and some of the activities (but not all, see activity list below). 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 + $1,300, rather than £2,425 + $1,260, 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.
  • Spending Money: £1,325 (approx.) Absolute Africa recommend between $1,500 – US$1,800 for the whole safari. That would include additional food & drink, some transport, souvenirs, internet, some excursions and tips.
The Robberg Peninsula Hike

South Africa Road Trip

Total = £1,150

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: £500. We mainly stayed in backpacker hostels, but got a double room with an en-suite bathroom.
  • Car Hire/Petrol: £150. This was my half of the cost. This was an economy car, with 2 drivers, insurance and petrol. Car hire in SA is very reasonable.
  • Food/Drink: £500. 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!
Best Things to Do in Uganda


Total = £1,500

There are so many touristy activities on offer in Africa, you’ll have a hard time fitting them all in. This 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!

If you do an overland tour, you’ll have a lot of activities included. These expenses are on top of the activities that were included in the tour.

I did tons of great things on my first trip to Africa, the biggest expense of which was gorilla trekking which now costs $700 in Uganda. At the time it was $500 in Rwanda (they now charge $1,500). The other big costs are hot air ballooning (which is usually between $450 and $550).

If you are travelling on an overland truck for 2.5 months as I did, I’d budget somewhere between £800 – £1400. But just remember each overland company includes different things, so do the maths!

I spend around £1,000 whilst I was on the truck, and the rest during the other 4.5 months of my trip.

Devil's Pool Zambia

My Total 6-Month Africa Budget

So my total was…. £11,653/$14,530 (or £70/$86 per day) *

* Prices approx as of April 2020.

I know what you’re thinking – how much???? With inflation, this is quite a lot more than I actually spent in 2009, which was more like £55/$70 per day. Everything has gone up since then!

Could I have spent a lot less? Yes! If I had been purely backpacking I probably would have spent a lot less.

Could I have spent a lot more? Absolutely!

One safari company I contacted for my trip quoted me £3,000 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, a trek up Africa’s highest mountain, a 2.5-month overland tour through 9 countries, an epic train journey and 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!!

I hope this helps you with your Africa travel budget!

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  1. 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

    1. 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! 🙂

  2. 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!

    1. 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!!


  3. 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 🙂

    1. 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

  4. 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


    1. 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

  5. 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?

    1. 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!


  6. 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?

    1. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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 🙂

    1. 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! 🙂

    1. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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

    1. 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

      1. 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

        1. 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

  11. 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 🙂

    1. 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! 🙂

      1. 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)


        1. 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!!


          1. 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 🙂

          2. 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!


  12. 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!


    1. 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…


      1. 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.

        1. 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!


  13. 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.

    1. Hi Marsha,

      I haven’t written this down yet but it shouldn’t take me long to pull together! I’ll get it done over the weekend for you, with all the places I stayed and companies I used etc! 🙂


  14. 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?



    1. Hi Lusea,

      I think we used 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!

  15. 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.

    1. 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!!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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?

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. Hi Helen

    Do you have any tips for choosing responsible volunteering programs in Africa? The ones you did sound great, but I know that some can be more exploitative than beneficial, particularly those where children are involved.

    I’m thinking about volunteering as part of a longer trip to Africa so would love to hear any advice you have.

    Great work on the blog- it’s really useful!

    Many thanks


  23. Hello Helen!
    Thank you so much for this in depth description of your journeys!
    I and a friend are hoping to fly into Nairobi Kenya over summer (mid may-mid june) visit Masai Mara, Mamosa and make our way to see the victoria falls in zimbabwe. Do you have any recemndations for the means of travel within africa from kenya to zimbabwe (trains. busses. flights ect) to enhance the experience/decrease travel cost and any reccomendations of other countries to stop by along the way? As of now the round trip flights from ATL to Nairobi are well priced in mid may around $900 round trip! Ideally a 12-20 day trip

  24. Hi Helen,

    What a great round up of expenses and experiences on traveling in Africa. So much I hadn’t even thought about. A great heads up. Thank you.
    Cheers Nathan…

  25. My friends and I are planning to go to Africa later this year and I was struggling for ideas when I found your lovely blog! Your pictures are so inviting! We want to visit so many different places, but our budget is limited, so your tips definitely help to plan our journey. Thank you so much!

  26. Cost is a significant factor when considering to visit Africa. I would say Safari’s is the most interesting part of visiting Africa other than the local culture.

    Been to Africa twice, and I’d say Africa is pretty cheap compared to western countries.

    Love the blog, hope to be back 🙂

  27. Hi, I’m planning to stay in South Africa for lore or less 90 days and then move to Namibia for other 20 days and probably then Botswana. I’m booking only a one way flight to Johannesburg and then move to Windhoek by bus: di you think that I could have problem entering In SA without a return flight?
    I’ll have some month to spend in South and east Africa and I don’t want to plan everything in advance, things can change and maybe I can find other people that want to join me. But I’m a bit worryed about visas and immigration department, do you have any suggestion about it?

  28. Hi Helen thanks a lot for the insight. Am planning a trip across the entire African continent, hoping to start from Nigeria, West Africa then go North, East and South. Reading your article really helps. Quite a lot to put together lol but your article sure helps.
    I hope it wouldn’t be much of a hassle for you if I need answers to a couple of questions as I plan my trip?
    Thanks for sharing your travel experience.

  29. 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

  30. 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?

    1. Yes definitely you can – as I mention, I’m not a strict budget traveller and there are tips in here for saving money. You can do a mix of planned and unplanned, no problem! 🙂

  31. Hi Helen,

    I’m planning a 6month backpacking trip very similar to yours starting in October. My biggest question is aside from Kilimanjaro what needs to be booked in advance and what can I book while in country?

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