Money Matters: How to Budget for Your African Safari [FAQs]
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You’ve finally decided to go on the adventure of a lifetime and cross an African safari off of your travel bucket list. Now, all that’s left to do is to think about the one aspect that stumps even the most thorough planner among us: money.
How much does it cost to take a trip to Africa? This golden question may seem quite perplexing as the cost of travels may differ from one end to another.
To ease your travel planning, we’ve answered a series of commonly asked questions to do with money that will help you budget for your upcoming African adventure!
1. Do I need a Visa in Africa? How much does it cost?
Depending on where you go in Africa, you may need to obtain visas beforehand. It is paramount that you check prior to booking your flights to find out whether or not you require a visa to enter.
Some countries like South Africa, Botswana and Rwanda don’t require a visa from US passport holders.
However, most African nations enforce visa requirements that are usually priced between USD 50 to 200.
Here is a breakdown of the cost of visas for popular safari destinations in Africa*:
If you’re planning on going on a safari in Uganda, you’d need to obtain a visa online or on arrival at the country’s exit /entry stations.
– A single entry tourist e-visa will cost 50 USD and is valid for three months from the date of issue.
– Multiple entry e-visas will cost 100 USD and are valid for up to 12 months from the date of issue.
When traveling to Kenya, you need to have at least two blank pages on your passport, proof of yellow fever vaccinations, and a valid visa.
Although you can obtain a visa on arrival, the embassy highly recommends using their online system as Kenyan Immigration plans to end visas upon arrival in the near future.
– A single entry visa costs 51 USD
Planning a safari in Tanzania? If you wish to obtain a visa on arrival, you’ll need proof of your yellow fever vaccine if traveling from or stopping over at a yellow fever endemic country, as well as your flight itinerary.
– US citizens will need to apply for a multi-entry visa which costs 100 USD and is valid for one year, 90 days at a time.
– Non-US citizens require a single entry visa which costs 50 USD and is valid for 90 days.
When traveling to Zimbabwe, you can get on your arrival at the Airport or get an e-visa in advance.
– Single entry visas cost 30 USD and are valid for 90 days.
If you are planning a multi-country safari in Africa, you can also opt to obtain the East Africa Tourist visa for US$100. This visa will grant you entry to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda for 90 days.
2. How Much Does an African Safari Cost?
Traveling to Africa without going on a Big Five safari is unthinkable. But, there is a common misconception that all safari tours are expensive.
While they may be pricier than other activities in Africa, there are varying safari options – ranging from very affordable to luxuriously pricey.
Budget safaris in Kenya, for example, can range from 47 USD to 280 USD per night, while Kenyan luxury safaris can run you upwards of 1264 USD per night.
Note that prices of safaris also differ from country to country, with the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya known to be the most affordable option. Botswana, on the other hand, is known for its luxury safaris that come with a hefty price tag – going as high as US$2400 per night.
Here’ s a breakdown of the most ‘common’ safari types:
- Budget Safaris
There are plenty of budget-friendly safaris that cost as little as 104 USD and are big on adventure. It comes down to personal preference, but the cost of the trip is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the experience. If you’ re the kind of person who likes traveling in groups and camping under the stars, then a budget safari will be perfect for you!
Keep in mind, that some of budget-safaris don’t come with all the little extras such as inclusive meals and airport transfers, so make sure you double check the offered itinerary and plan accordingly.
- Luxury Safaris
If you want to experience a wildlife holiday but don't wish to compromise on your comfort, then you’ll love a luxury safari getaway.
Even though you’ll be in the lap of luxury you won’t miss out on any of the action! Luxury safari options usually place restrictions on the number of people and cars allowed in the area. That means you can actually pull up alongside a pack of lions homing in on a kill or wake up to a group of elephants taking a drink of water and not have to compete for a view.
The good news is that you won't have to mortgage your house to afford an experience like this. There are actually some luxury safari holidays that start from 290 USD and come complete with all your meals, airport transfers, and smaller group game drives!
3. Flights and Transport Costs
This is where the bulk of your travel budget is likely to be spent but the key tip here is to plan well ahead and keep the seasons in mind.
Like with any other holiday destination, the low season generally sees a drop in travel costs which means you’re more likely to find cheap flights to Africa’s most popular safari destinations!
If you don’t have fixed travel dates it’s worth flying in the out-of-peak season as there are a few other benefits such as higher animal activity and fewer tourists.
Top tip: When comparing and booking flights also watch out for ‘excluded’ costs which can range from taxes to excess baggage and even food.
Local Flights and Transport
The lands of Africa are vast and widespread, with towns often being miles away from each other. A concern that many may have about traveling in Africa is transportation and how much it will cost to get around.
Flights within Africa are notoriously expensive but there are plenty of budget African airlines which fly locally and to neighboring countries.
If you wish to stay on the ground, there are plenty of other transportation options in Africa, depending on your sense of adventure. For those traveling in South Africa, there is the option of Baz Bus – a hop on hop off bus that makes a stop in over 40 towns in South Africa between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Prices range between US$175 to US$500.
If you are feeling really adventurous, why not hire a car and drive yourself around Africa? Car rentals range from US$30 to US$100 a day, depending on the type of vehicle you hire. Bear in mind that some African countries have more gravel roads than paved ones, making it necessary to hire a 4WD, which will cost more than a sedan car.
4. What Currency Should I Bring?
The US Dollar and the European Euro are by far the most common and accessible currencies in African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Where possible, it is highly recommended that you split your cash between the local currency and either the US$ or the Euro.
Many countries in the continent charge airport fees in US dollars while some national parks accept only US dollars, so having some readily available will come in handy.
In some countries, you will find many individuals on the street offering money-changing services. While it is understandably tempting to use these services to avoid service fees, do take caution, as this is an illegal practice. The last thing you’d want to happen on your African trip is to end up in jail. Always have your ATM/Debit card with you in case you run low on cash.
5. Do I Need to Tip?
While tipping is not compulsory in Africa, it is generally a great practice to have since many locals earn below the minimum wage. For safari guides and drivers, the tips that they receive typically make up a large percentage of their salary. Always carry small change for tipping purposes and tip either in the local currency or in US Dollars.
For meals and drinks in Africa, tipping between 10 – 15% of your bill is generally acceptable. When tipping safari guides and trackers, it is worth noting that most lodges have a communal tipping box where the contents of the box will be shared evenly among the staff. Where this is not present, feel free to tip the guides directly. Guides are roughly given tips between US$ 8 and US$20, but it is ultimately your call on how much to give.
Want a safari that has all the trimmings but at a cheaper cost? Go on a safari in Etosha National Park, Namibia!
*This information is correct up until the time of this article’s publication. For more accurate information, please consult the countries’ embassies.