How to Budget for a Safari in Africa
Tips | 25.12.2019
There's an allure to hearing the rumble of the engine on a custom built 4x4 come to a stop as your guide switches off the ignition and gestures a few meters off to the left of the bonnet. Under the thorn-bush you catch the movement, moments later a rhino emerges from the bush.
Your heart is racing and you're floored with awe as the engine starts up again and the guide turns round with a knowing smile before making his way along the dusty dirt road again.
These spectacular moments on a safari in Africa leave you with a deep sense of connection. To yourself. Your surroundings, and your place in this world.

So you have your heart set on a safari adventure?
Great, but what now? With so much to think about and plan, you may be a little thrown by how to budget for a safari.
Let Michelle from African Overland Tours fill you in on all the tips and considerations to make budgeting for your safari, a breeze.

Choose your Destination in Africa Wisely
Africa is much larger in size than most first time travellers realise. Travelling from one country to the next can be costly when flying and time consuming when traveling on often poorly maintained roads. For this reason you should plan to visit a specific region in Africa and travel between 2-3 countries max if you have around 1-2 weeks.

The region you choose will be based on seasonality and budget. Southern Africa is more affordable than East Africa.
A budget safari in South Africa is around 150 euro a day while a budget safari in Botswana is slightly more at 260 euros. Whereas visiting Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda can set you back between 250 and 540 euros a day (including accommodation/transport and food).
The peak season in most safari destinations is July to October, so expect to pay a premium for your safari when travelling in this period. However, there are safari parks which are great to visit all year round such as Kruger National Park in South Africa and travelling in the months just before or after the peak season can offer great value.
Match your Accommodation Style to your Budget
Your preference of accommodation will also have a large impact on your budget. These can generally fall into 3 categories:

  • Basic or camping
  • 3 Star traditional rustic accommodation
  • Luxury lodge
Prices per person per night can range dramatically, from as little as 140 euros per day for assisted camping, to 250 euros per day for rustic African guest houses to 600 euros per day in exclusive safari lodges.
Budget for Safari Game Drives
Game drives are the cornerstone of every safari holiday, so ensuring you budget for these, is critical. Some lodges will include daytime 4x4 game drives in your accommodation price and you will only have to budget for additional night drives.

You should also budget for specialized game viewing such as water based (popular in Botswana on Chobe river) or aerial game viewing such as a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta or a hot air balloon flight over the Serengeti. These experiences are what make an authentic safari trip as they offer the opportunity to see the Big Five or the wildebeest migration in a unique way.

That said, they are certainly not cheap. A game drive in a national park in Africa can cost anything from 35-135 euros, for half or full day safari. While a night drive in a 4x4 is around 45-70 euros but you will get to see wildlife not easily seen during the day and not to mention the potential of a lion feasting on its prey.
Cruises on the Chobe River in Botswana or the Zambezi in Victoria Falls will set you back between 60-70 euros. Expect to see crocodiles lying on the river banks and hippos popping up from the water, or spot an elephant coming down to the river's edge.

No trip to the Okavango Delta would be complete without a traditional canoe trip or "mokoro" ride, as your local poler guides you through the reeds and you lay back with your fingertips gliding along the surface of the water while gazing at the birds above. This experience is priced at 100 euros or 1000 euros for a 3-night excursion, but certainly a once in a lifetime experience.
Another wildlife experience to budget for if heading to East Africa is your Gorilla Trekking adventure. You will need to get a gorilla permit which will set you back 1360 euros in Rwanda or 660 euros in Uganda at Bwindi National Park. These are limited so if you are set on seeing mountain gorillas, rather prepay or pre-book your permit so that you are guaranteed a spot for this memorable and humbling encounter.
Hidden Costs to Budget for on Safari
As with any holiday in a foreign country, you will have some unexpected expenses, however it is possible with some forethought to budget for these.

1. Tipping
Tipping is often overlooked when budgeting for a safari in Africa. Although at your own discretion, tipping is still expected in most cases so you will need to set aside some cash for this.
You will likely tip your safari guide, hotel or lodge staff and local cultural experiences in the villages may prompt you to tip. This can be anything between 10-15 USD per person per day, so be sure to be prepared. Tipping 10-15% on your restaurant bill for meals is also the norm so make room in your budget for these too.
Tips are usually paid USD so be prepared and bring along some small change.

2. Adventure travel insurance
Another consideration is travel insurance when planning your safari trip. The standard insurance provided by your credit card is not sufficient coverage for an adventure safari if you plan on taking part in game drives and other activities so you should budget for adventure travel insurance too. This can cost between 50 and 150 USD for a 14-day trip. I recommend World Nomads travel insurance who has comprehensive cover for this type of travel.
3. Transport in Africa
Getting around is complex, without reliable or safe public transport options which are the norm in the US and Europe, you should be mindful when budgeting for getting around in Africa.
Uber is only available in populated cities such as Cape Town, Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. Private transfers can be pricey for long distance trips and car hire can add up quickly too. Local flights within South Africa are more affordable however flights in the rest of Africa are very expensive in comparison to the low cost carriers popular throughout Europe.

Limit your need to travel between countries if you are travelling on a tight budget or you can elect to travel on a group tour. This is the ultimate budget safari in Africa for small groups of 6 or larger groups up to 24 pax and will save you tons of money as the cost of transport is spread across the group. You will travel in fully equipped vehicles fit for any terrain and the operators take care of accommodation and food too, saving your budget while still allowing you to experience amazing African highlights.
An overland tour of 2 weeks will cost you 1200 euros for camping or 2800 euros for an accommodated option in Southern Africa or 1500 euros for camping and 3500 euros for accommodated in East Africa. This cost will usually include most meals, national park fees and some 4x4 game drives along with other activities en-route.

Car hire for the same period of time will be around 1800 euros and you will still need to add your car insurance, petrol, cross border fees, park/conservation fees, accommodation, food and activity budget for a true comparison.
4. Shopping in Africa.
While you may not be packing your suitcase full of your latest fashion purchases or technology on this trip, you may want to leave room in your budget for some local African crafts. Trending in home decor, a beautifully carved wooden curios or hand painted artwork, even an intricately beaded memento - these will be the items taking up room in your suitcase and safari budget.

5. Visas for African countries
Don't forget visa fees which apply to most nationalities and the price varies based on the country of entry but can be anywhere between 25 and 45 euros each. I recommend you check visa requirements before you travel on ivisa.com.

6. Credit card fees
Last, but not least, consider the credit card fees for international purchases. These can be up to 8% in some instances and will add up rather quickly. Compounded by the fact that ATM's and credit card machines are not readily available in Africa to draw cash or make purchases, especially in the middle of the bush, you should consider carrying cash instead.
Top tips for How to Budget for a Safari
  • Travel in the low season to take advantage of well-priced flights, accommodation or tours.
  • Make sure your budget allows for activities, game drives and experiences - these are the special memories of Africa which make your safari unique
  • Travel with a group, this way you can minimise travel costs and share expenses between you to stretch your budget further
  • Look for inclusive packages with transfers, game drives, accommodation and activities included as navigating these from a planning perspective can we complex and costly in Africa
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