Two of my most frequently asked questions are:
- “Is it expensive to travel in Africa?”
- “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 my honest reply is… it depends! And I’ll explain below how you can work out what it is going to cost you and how much money you really need.
First things first. Can you travel Africa on a shoestring? Absolutely! Africa does NOT need to be an expensive vacation – despite what you may have heard.
If you take local transport, self-drive (although this comes with a whole other set of costs and issues to consider), camp or stay in dorms and eat local foods.
A budget-conscious traveller could probably easily travel on $30 – $50 per day. However, when you start adding in safaris and activities that the costs start rising – quickly.
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 and they kept costs low by not doing many safaris or activities. 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.
But let me tell you that 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.
READ MORE: Tips for Travelling Africa on a Budget
My Africa Trip & Travel Style
These days, I spend around 6 months of the year travelling and running 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.
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, I’m what you would call a ‘flashpacker’, but I was also travelling for a long time so I didn’t go crazy either.
Could I have spent a lot less? Yes! Could I have spent a lot more? Absolutely!
The two things that I did spend a lot of money on were:
- Climbing Kilimanjaro: Which is always going to be relatively expensive (even at the cheaper end of the scale).
- Volunteering on the Book Bus: It was quite expensive, but I don’t regret at all because of the opportunities it opened up for me in the longterm (including working as a tour guide, which ultimately gave me the idea and skills to start my own tour company), but there are much cheaper ways to volunteer.
Please note: Prices have been updated to reflect prices up to date as of April 2020.
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 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.
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.
Asda is usually the cheapest place to buy generic Malarone over the counter in the UK, but you will need a prescription from your doctor. 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.
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 Nomads, Outbacker, 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.
There weren’t really any travel blogs when I first went to Africa, so I relied on guidebooks for the information!
My favourites have always been Lonely Planet or Bradt guides. I really like the format of Lonely Planet, but the Bradt books are more detailed and they have fantastic guides to more of the off-the-beaten-path destinations, such as Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Benin.
But nowadays, there are tons of free online resources, like my blog where you can get tons of information! 😉
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.
Visas vary in prices, 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 visa 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.
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.
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 (£1600): 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.
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
- 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, Tanzania (£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.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (£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): £1700. 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 £2000. 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 Safari, Nairobi to Cape Town (£4,860)
As I was new to Africa, I ended up taking a 2-and-a-half overland safari with Absolute Africa, who are 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 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 I took also goes through Zimbabwe too now.
- Trip Cost: £2425 + $1260 (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 + $1300, rather than £2425 + $1260, 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: £1325 (approx.) Absolute Africa recommend between $1500 – US$1800 for the whole safari. That would include additional food & drink, some transport, souvenirs, internet, some excursions and tips.
South Africa Road Trip (£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!
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!
If you do an overland tour, you’ll have a lot of activities included. These expenses are on top of that.
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 $1500). 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 like 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 £1000 whilst I was on the truck, and the rest during the other 4.5 months of my trip.
My Total for 6 months in Africa = £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.
But then I remember that 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!!
READ MORE: Tips for Travelling Africa on a Budget
Read More About Africa…
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