Africa On a Budget
When planning your trip to Africa, it’s important to know your experience will be as varied as the continent itself. There are certainly lavish ways to plan your journey but there are also plenty of budget-friendly approaches too. Don’t stop at your guidebook suggestions — Africa offers more than only expensive safaris and luxury resorts. For many travelers, navigating the continent and not breaking the bank proves to be a more rewarding, authentic vacation. To get you started, here’s a list of general tips and destinations to help you pinch the pennies and still see all Africa has to offer.
Tips to Stretch Your Dollar
Avoid Peak Season
Generally speaking, African climates can be narrowed into two seasons: dry and rainy, which vary depending on the country you’re in. Most tourists visit during the dry season because it’s better for safari expeditions. Water is scarce across this period so the wildlife gathers around remaining water sources, and grasses are lower — all which improves your chances of spotting animals.
Visiting during a region’s peak dry season usually means everything from flights to tours and accommodation become significantly more expensive. For example, visiting Uganda in the off-season months of April, May, or November could save you up to $150 in safari permit prices. While dry seasons carry severe heat, drought, and overcrowding, rainy seasons are often more scenic as flowers bloom and parched brush turns green. For those on a budget, visiting Africa during the off-peak season has several more positive aspects than negative ones.
One of the best ways to cut the costs of your vacation is to focus on your food expenses. The trick is to eat locally or prepare your own meals. Mom-and-pop shops or food cart vendors are way cheaper than chain restaurants, and they also offer a more authentic taste of African culture. If your accommodation has a kitchen setup, foraging for your food in local markets is a great way to eat healthy while sticking to your budget and getting an insight into local life.
Travel Under the Radar
African countries vary greatly in their infrastructure development, but when possible, take public buses rather than private charter by land or by air. International buses are pretty common across the continent and range from luxury options including air conditioning and movies, to minivans with rattling parts. If you’re more of a DIY type or traveling with a group, renting a car is also a very viable option. Set your own schedule, dodge the inflated transportation fees during peak seasons, and explore the continent the way you want to.
Make Your Own Safari
Contrary to popular belief, the iconic Jurassic Park-style scene you’re imagining with a guide in a jeep being flanked by wild animals is only one of many ways to experience an African safari. Walking safaris, camping safaris, and even self-driven safaris are more wallet-friendly and also more intimate as you get a closer look at the animals and the surrounding natural environment. When booking a tour of any kind remember to use local operators. The quintessential African adventure vacation has been long-exploited by international tour companies advertising to wealthy tourists. You can save a huge chunk of money by researching local operators or simply finding one when you arrive.
Book the Right Accommodation
After flights, finding somewhere to stay on your vacation is typically the biggest expense. Be sure to research your home-from-home well before you leave for Africa. We recommend using AllTheRooms, the one-stop shop for booking your accommodation. With the biggest range of budget-friendly options including rooms from Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and Hostelworld, you can filter your price range and preferences to bag your perfect place.
Volunteer and Travel
In the world’s most impoverished continent, a rewarding way to travel is to volunteer. Before you dive into this idea, it’s important to know there are many organizations that require donations in order to volunteer. While the idea of paying money to help may seem contradictory, the funds usually go to assist projects’ administration and helping those in need. That being said, there are many options for volunteering for free. Popular groups who offer free volunteering opportunities are likely to ask candidates to have specific skills. These include UN Volunteers, Volunteer Services Organization, Doctors Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, or Operation Smile. Small provider programs include Sudan Volunteer Programme and African Impact. You can also find a project independently through companies like The Ethical Volunteer, Volunteer Africa, Indeed, True Travellers, and Workaway.
In a region peppered with budget-friendly destinations, Kigali stands out for its mountainous terrain, national parks, and rich culture. For these reasons, Kigali appeals to both the history buff and the nature nerd. Visit the genocide memorial and thriving art scenes, taste local cuisines, and experience adrenaline-pumping adventure on less than $25 per day.
If you’re looking to book a trip to the African coast, look no further than Zanzibar. This African island getaway offers more than pristine beaches and blazing sunshine. Visit Stone Town and Prison Island to learn about the events and culture of the country’s dark past. Average daily budget is within the realm of $20.
Namibia’s capital is an interesting gem, somewhat of an African anomaly with a confused identity that welcomes shoestring-budget travelers. In Windhoek, you’ll find awkwardly-placed German castles, neo-baroque Cathedral spires, steamy cultural centers and vast national parks. Accommodation, food, and transportation are all very reasonable in this often-overlooked Southern African destination.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Frugal foodies should not miss this East African hotspot. As the continent’s fourth largest city, Addis Ababa is bursting with rich culture and even richer food. Plates are often dairy-free and meat-free, which is a rare find in Africa. Injera, the local grain-based take on bread, is an amazing finger-food dish. If you’re the type of traveler who likes to eat your way around a country, Addis Ababa is a worthwhile stop.
If you’re hovering around Southern Africa looking for an affordable place to drop your bags, Livingstone is an excellent choice. Within spitting distance of Victoria Falls, the city is cheaper than anything on the Zimbabwean side. It’s also quickly becoming a backpacking hub with cheap rooms, leaving you enough cash to splurge on bigger-ticket experiences.
Dillon is a travel-hungry outdoor enthusiast originally from Encinitas, California. He recently moved to Medellín to begin his next chapter as a content writer for AllTheRooms. Besides writing, Dillon is keen on live music, fútbol, cooking, and backpacking.