Travelling around Africa can be a rich and fulfilling experience. There is so much to be done. You can be on safari one day and explore the Giza pyramid complex the next day. You can lounge on the beach today and go gorilla trekking the next. A common complaint however, is that travelling within the continent is expensive. While travelling the continent can rack up the bills there are certainly ways to explore the continent and not break the bank. With an open mind, travel on the continent becomes more accessible. Check out our top tips for African budget travel.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
You may have your heart set on a certain location and activities but can’t make the budget work. Chances are there is a cheaper location that can fulfill your wants. You may be set on that safari experience in the Masai Mara in Kenya but also within East Africa, Uganda offers spectacular safari experiences at a lower price. Similarly, there are many Zambian safari experiences on offer that will not cost as much.
Perhaps you would like to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda. This is an unforgettable experience, if you can afford it. For those who cannot there is gorilla trekking in neighbouring DR Congo for about half the price and the experience is just as amazing. A luxury travel adventure to the island nation of Mauritius may not be within your reach but Zanzibar can offer an unforgettable island experience at a fraction of the cost. Lesser publicised towns and cities along the coast of West Africa also offer cheaper beach destinations you may not have considered. Point being, there are always alternatives available to you.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
One of the easiest ways to travel for less is to target low season when costs go down. Travelling at peak season can mean higher costs for accommodation, safaris and related activities and flights. In low season you will get the same wonderful experience, spend less and avoid the crowds. Be flexible with your dates and you could find yourself travelling more often.
Visa applications are a tedious and often unavoidable task. They can also make a dent in your travel budget so it’s always good to factor in visa costs ahead of time. Prices can range anywhere from $10 to $200 depending on the length of your stay and whether you opt for single or multiple entry. Visa applications can eat into a smaller budget and add up to a lot over time, especially when you’re travelling to several countries. Consider multiple country visa schemes. The KAZA UniVisa, for instance, allows access to Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as Botswana (through the Kazungula border) at a cost of $50. $100 can get you the East African visa, which comes with access to Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. Some African countries such as Seychelles have scrapped visa requirements for nationals of most countries. You can avoid visa fees all together in some cases. Look into the countries that allow visa-free entry with your passport and you may find the options are a lot more than you realised.
TECH SAVVY SAVINGS
Getting from point A to point B within your chosen destination can be costly. While figuring out public transport in a new place can be daunting, using local buses and trains rather than taxis can save you a lot of money. Also consider ride-sharing options such as Uber, which now operates in a number of African countries including Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania and South Africa. In certain cities Uber and similar local options (for example, Ulendo in Zambia) you can get around more easily and for less than you would have to pay with taxis.
Beyond Uber, the Internet and various apps can come handy in other ways. It used to be that your best bet for lower priced accommodation was to stay in a hostel. Couchsurfing connects travellers to hosts who will allow people to stay in their homes for free. Airbnb can connect you to hosts who invite you into their homes also; while it comes at a cost, it is often be cheaper than other paid options.
KEEP IT LOCAL
It’s no secret that many facilities targeting tourists provide goods and services at inflated prices. As much as possible eat and shop where locals go. Also, as much as possible visit hangout spots frequented by locals. The more you mingle with locals, the more insights you’ll gain into how you can avoid tourists traps and the extra costs that come with them. Speaking from experience, making local friends can save you some bucks. For instance, they can steer you away from cheesy, overpriced tourist joints and at the local markets they can haggle on your behalf better than you ever could.
INSIGHTS FROM A “WANDERING” ZAMBIAN
Petra Chikasa is a leading Zambian travel blogger of the Girl Can Wander blog. She has always had a curiosity about the world outside of her own environment. Petra has travelled Zambia extensively and several other African countries. Her ultimate goal is to travel to every African country.
Petra assumed that travelling was extremely expensive and virtually impossible for a young Zambian like herself. But she has learnt that this is not necessarily always the case. Her top tip is to do adequate research when you intend to travel to a place. This way you’ll find ‘loopholes’ that can allow you to travel for less. In Zambia “most locations have packages for residents. Always ask about the option to camp or stay in a dorm. If you’re travelling during the day, Zambia and sub-Saharan Africa are relatively safe places to hitchhike. Most drivers will ask for pay but it won’t be nearly as much as you would pay for other modes of transport.”
In Petra’s experience Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania are among the best African countries for budget travel. Uber Eats, Couchsurfer and Airbnb are the apps that have enhanced her travel experiences the most. Besides the latter two apps, another way she saves on accommodation is by regularly opting to camp or stay in a dorm room. This has helped her to have safari experiences on a limited budget. “Many lodges that offer access to national parks have packages that allow you to have two or three game drives and stay in a dorm room or camp.”