How to Plan a Cairo to Cape Town Trip

by wheretheroadforks

Planning a trip from Cairo to Cape Town can seem overwhelming at first. Hours of thought and planning go into a trip like this to make a reality. You must consider visas, your route, your budget, transportation and on and on. It is a massive undertaking. This guide is designed to give you an overview of what to expect and an outline to follow for planning your own Cairo to Cape Town trip. It also includes tips and advice to make your journey a little easier and safer.

This short video outlines the main points of this article.

Table of Contents- How to Plan a Cairo to Cape Town Trip

When to Go

Ideally, you would time this trip so that you would cross the Sahara outside of the hot summer months. Starting in Cairo in February-April would work well if you are traveling south. Temperatures in the desert will be hot but slightly more tolerable during these months. This timing also lines up nicely with your arrival in East Africa. Assuming your trip takes 6-8 months, you will arrive in June or July. This is perfect for catching the Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti or Maasai Mara. You’ll also arrive in Cape Town in the Spring which is a beautiful time of year in South Africa.

This trip can, however, be done any time of year. Roads are passable year-round. Because you will be traveling through so many degrees of latitude, you will experience all types of weather conditions no matter when you start. Africa is a huge continent with a diverse climate.

Which Direction Should I Travel? North or South

You can choose to start in either Cairo or Cape Town. I recommend you do the trip from North to South. There are 2 reasons for this.

  1. You will travel through the more difficult places first- The heat of the Sahara will take its toll no matter what time of year you pass through. Ethiopia is just a taxing experience in general. Travel is incredibly slow and uncomfortable. The people are very friendly but sometimes a bit too friendly. There are also fewer travelers in Sudan and Ethiopia. It is best to go through this section when you are fresh and have more patience. 
  2. Visas will be slightly easier- I am not sure if it is possible to get the Sudan visa in Ethiopia. I have heard reports both ways. It is fairly easy to get in Egypt. More on that in a bit.

How Long Does a Cairo to Cape Town Trip Take?

A Cairo to Cape Town trip can be completed in as little 4 months but time will be tight. Things move slowly in Africa. Sometimes problems arise like a broken-down bus or an unexpected visa issue that takes time to resolve. It is best to take your time and go with the flow in Africa.

This can be a fairly stressful journey so having time to stop for a week or two along the way to relax will make for a much more pleasant trip. 6-8 months is an ideal amount of time for the trip. More time would be great but any less and you will be rushing through some sections.

Remember that Africa is massive. You will be traveling over 10,000 kilometers across a continent during this trip. Infrastructure and transportation options are lacking in many places so travel time between major cities can be multiple days in some cases. For example, it took me 4 days on buses to travel from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

Visas for Cairo to Cape Town Travel

I have put together a guide of Africa visa information for all of the countries in Africa that I have visited. 

Ethiopia

The only visa that you will need to arrange before leaving home is Ethiopia. The visa is not available at the border. If you are unable to arrange this visa before your trip, you may be able to get it at the consulate in Khartoum or Nairobi. I have read reports of people being denied visas here so it is best to get it before you arrive in Africa.

Worst case, if you are unable to get the visa before you leave and you are denied at the embassy you can just fly in. Ethiopia offers visa on arrival when you fly into Addis Ababa airport. The cost is $50 for a 30-day single entry visa and slightly more for a longer-term visa. Multi-entry visas are not available on arrival at the airport. 

Sudan

The only other visa that is a bit of a hassle is Sudan. European, Canadian, Australian, and most Asian passport holders can get the visa in Aswan, Egypt at the Sudanese consulate. You will need to bring 2 passport photos and a photocopy of your passport and Egyptian visa. They will supply you with the visa form. The visa takes between a couple of days and a week to process. The cost is $50 for a one-month single entry.

Sudan Visa for Americans

Americans can get the visa in Aswan as well but an extra step is required. You must have a contact in Sudan to submit your visa application in Khartoum for you. Most likely you will also need a letter of invitation and hotel reservation. The easiest way to do all of this is through a travel agency. You can also use a fixer if you can find one. You will be required to mail the application, your passport photos, and possibly your passport to Khartoum. They may ask you to book a tour as well if you go through a travel agency. Once the application is approved, they will send a confirmation to the consulate in Aswan. You can then go to the consulate to get your visa once your documents are returned.

The cost for the visa is $50-$100 plus whatever the travel agency or fixer charges plus the cost of a tour. All in, this will probably end up costing $200-300. I know, this is a major hassle and expense and will require you waiting in Aswan for up to a couple of weeks.

Other Visas

All other visas that you will need are either available on arrival at the border or can be arranged along the way. Visas are expensive in Africa. Costs vary slightly depending on nationality but usually run $50-$100 per country on average. Budget about $600-$700 for visas minimum. More if you are making side trips to neighboring countries along the way. You’ll usually have to pay again if you want to backtrack and re-enter a country. 

Vaccinations for Travel in Africa

The only vaccination that is required is Yellow Fever. You will be asked to show your certificate at most border crossings. Recommended vaccinations include typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Polio, and influenza. Other vaccinations are available such as rabies and cholera. It is up to you whether you think you will need these. I chose not to bother. 

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Malaria in Africa

After you cross the Sahara, you will be in a malaria zone for the rest of the trip with a couple of exceptions in Ethiopia and southern Africa. You will need to take malaria tablets and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

I have written an extensive guide on malaria treatment, prevention, and tablets for travel in Africa. Here, I outline the pros and cons of each of the most popular malaria prophylaxis. I also talk about avoiding bites and getting treatment if you believe that you have malaria. 

Money

The currency of choice for this part of the world is the US dollar. All of the visas must be paid in US dollars. Only bring bills in denominations of 20, 50, or 100 that are new (later than 2004) and in good condition. Fives and ones are generally not accepted and are more expensive to exchange to local currency if you need to.

In general, ATMs can be found pretty much everywhere so it is easy to get local currency. I even found working ATMs in the small town of Jinka in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia.

One place that your debit card won’t work is Sudan. International withdrawals are not permitted at this time. You’ll need to bring enough cash to support yourself for your stay. If you run out of cash, a friend or family member can send you money through Western Union. 

Americans can read my article The Best Debit card and credit card for international travel for my recommendation on the best cards to bring.

Safari truck in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Safari truck in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Points of Interest Between Cairo and Cape Town

The main sites that you don’t want to miss when traveling from Cairo to Cape Town are:

  • Pyramids of Giza in Egypt- This one is obvious. It is on everyone’s bucket list.
  • Omo Valley in southwestern Ethiopia- Visit the tribal people before their culture disappears. You can read my guide about how to travel to the Omo Valley Independently.
  • Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya- This is a safari park in southwestern Kenya. You can read my guide: How to go on a Safari in the Maasai Mara for $200
  • Nairobi- This is my favorite African City. To find out why, check out my article: Why Nairobi is The Best African City. For some Nairobi recommendations, check out my guide: 13 Best Things to Do in Nairobi.
  • Mountain gorillas in either Uganda, Rwanda, or DR Congo- I, unfortunately, missed out on this. I didn’t want to spend the money at the time as the permit is quite expensive. The gorillas are a must see. I will return to see the mountain gorillas. Most likely I will do this in DR Congo. For more info on Uganda, check out my article: 5 Incredible Things to do in Uganda.
  • Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania- You will see both of these parks on a safari tour. You must pass through Ngorongoro park to get to the Serengeti. If you are having trouble deciding where you want to go on safari, check out my guide, Maasai Mara Vs. Serengeti: Where is the Better Safari?
  • Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania- Many travelers choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the African continent.
  • Zanzibar island in Tanzania- This is a beautiful tropical island off the coast of Tanzania where you can sit by the beach, swim, and relax after climbing Kilimanjaro.
  • Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe- Breathtaking waterfall. This is one of the three great waterfalls in the world. The other two are Iguazu in Argentina and Brazil, and Niagara in the United States and Canada. Some consider Victoria Falls to be the best.
  • Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, and Dead Vlei in Namibia- This is the worlds oldest desert. It is one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. Don’t miss it. To read my step-by-step guide, check out my article: How to Visit Sossusvlei, Namibia Independently and on a Budget
  • Cape of Good Hope and Table Mountain in South Africa- These are nice day trips around Cape Town that you can enjoy at the end of your trip.
Deadvlei, Namibia

Deadvlei, Namibia

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The Great Lakes of the Rift Valley

African cities can be stressful. Head out to the lake to relax. The best lakes to visit in Africa include:

  • Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. My favorite African lake.
  • Lake Victoria in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The largest of the Great Lakes of the Rift Valley.
  • Lake Kivu in Rwanda and DR Congo. Another one of Africas Great Lakes of the Rift Valley.
  • Lake Malawi in Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. The southernmost Great Lake of Africa.
Beautiful Lake Kivu, Rwanda

Beautiful Lake Kivu, Rwanda

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

Route Options from Cairo to Cape Town

The most popular route starts in Cairo and passes through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa and then ends in Cape Town. This route passes through all of the main tourist sites and makes a loop around Lake Victoria. Major cities and towns you will pass through include:

Cairo – Luxor – Aswan – Khartoum – Gondar – Addis Ababa – Nairobi – Kampala – Kigali – Arusha – Dar es Salaam – Zanzibar – Lilongwe – Lusaka – Victoria Falls – Bulawayo – Maun -Windhoek – Cape Town

If You Are Short on Time

  • Cut out Uganda and Rwanda- This will save you a trip around Lake Victoria. You can just travel from Nairobi to Arusha rather than heading West to Kampala. I recommend you avoid this if at all possible as Uganda, in particular, was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is a beautiful country. For more info, check out my list of 5 incredible things to do in Uganda
  • Cut out Botswana and Namibia- This can be done one of two ways. You can travel through Mozambique to South Africa. You could also travel from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to South Africa. Namibia was another highlight for me which would be a shame to miss.
  • You can fly and skip parts- There are several sections that require 3-4 days on buses between cities. You could save some time by flying. An example of this would be from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. This will add to the cost as flights in Africa are fairly expensive.
Maasai People, Kenya

Maasai People, Kenya

Accommodation in Africa

There are very few backpacker hostels in Africa outside of major cities. Most nights you will be staying in hotels. Budget hotels range anywhere from $5-$30 per night. Expect to pay toward the higher end in cities and toward the lower end in small villages. Hostels, when available, cost $10-$15 per night for a dorm bed. Generally, southern Africa is more expensive than east and northern Africa.

I recommend you don’t make hotel reservations for budget hotels in Africa. I found that most hotels either don’t or can’t check them. Most of the time, we’d show up and explain that we had a reservation. Reception wouldn’t know anything about it. You can get a better deal by just showing up and negotiating a rate.

If you prefer to plan ahead, I found that Booking.com has the most options and best prices for hotels in Africa. If you’re staying in a hostel, Airbnb, or higher-end hotel, you’ll want to make a reservation. 

Whenever you check into a new room, you should check for bed bugs. They are pretty common. For help, check out my guide: How to Avoid Bed Bugs While Traveling.

Accommodation Tip:

I highly recommend you bring a tent with you to Africa. This can save you a lot of money. Some hotels offer space for camping for a much lower rate than a room. You can also use it if you go on a budget safari. Wild camping is also possible in many places if you have the nerve for it.

Another good option is Couchsurfing. to save some money in the more expensive capital cities. You probably won’t find hosts in smaller towns and villages.

If you are on a higher budget, the sky is the limit. There is luxury accommodation available across the continent in the form of high-end lodges. Luxury hotels are available in all capital cities.

Food and Drinks in Africa

Tibs with injera in Ethiopia

Tibs with injera in Ethiopia

In general, food in Africa isn’t very exciting in my opinion. I ate a lot of rice and beans. Chicken is another common meal. The best food, by far, was in Ethiopia. It’s different from anything else I’ve had. All across the continent, you can eat meals in small local restaurants for just a dollar or two.

When I travel, I like to shop at grocery stores and cook my own food as much as possible. This saves money and can be healthier. Grocery store quality varies greatly in Africa. In Ethiopia and Uganda, they are fairly sparse without a lot of product choice while in southern Africa they are the same or better than back home.

I enjoyed buying fruits and vegetables from street vendors or small markets. They are cheap and of excellent quality. For example, you can get 3 large avocados or a dozen bananas for about $1 in many markets.

Some examples of foods that I would buy at grocery stores and prepare for myself are canned tuna, bread, peanut butter, bananas, avocado, pasta, rice, tomatoes, onions, canned beans, canned spaghetti, chocolate, pastries, etc.

Restaurants

Western foods like pizza and burgers are available but are generally quite expensive for the quality. Fast food chains like Domino’s and KFC exist in many capital cities. There are several South African fast food companies that serve some decent pizza, fried chicken, and meat pies.

These kinds of meals are nice for a treat once in a while. A lot of restaurants also serve spaghetti bolognese. As much as I like eating the local food, it is nice to enjoy a familiar meal once in a while. You can get a decent western meal in a restaurant for $5-10.

Street Food in Africa

This was a letdown to me. I’m a big street food fan. The best street food I tried was Rolex in Uganda. This is basically an omelet with tomato and onion wrapped up in a chapati. They cost around 40-70 cents. Other street foods include eggs, sausages, and fries. 

Rolex in Uganda

Rolex in Uganda

Drinks

Bottled water and soft drinks are available everywhere. When buying a bottle of water, always check that the seal is still intact. Occasionally someone will refill bottles with tap water and try to resell them. Many restaurants serve water in pitchers with your meal. I don’t know where this water comes from or if it is purified or not. I drank it and never got sick. Your results may vary.

When I travel, I like to bring a water filter. I use the Sawyer Mini. It allows you to filter tap water or water from lakes and streams and turn it into safe drinking water. This cuts down on plastic bottle waste and saves you money. You can read my review of the Sawyer Mini here.

Alcohol

Surprisingly, Africa offers some pretty decent beers. My favorites were in Ethiopia and Tanzania. You can get a beer for around $1-$1.50 in most countries. The cheapest beer was in Ethiopia where I paid around 50 cents per bottle. Kenya was the most expensive. I paid around $2.50 per bottle.

In Uganda, you can buy 100ml bags of local whiskey, vodka, and rum. Watch out for this stuff. It’s pretty strong. While in Ethiopia, I recommend you try the honey wine.

Kilimanjaro beer in Tanzania

Tanzanian beer

Getting Around: Transportation Between Cairo and Cape Town

Transportation options in Africa are limited. Unless you bring your own vehicle or bicycle, you will spend a lot of time on coaches and minibusses.

Bus Travel

Traveling by bus in Africa is exhausting. They are hot, rarely stop, and are packed full of people. There are two types of bus you will encounter: coaches and minibusses. I recommend you take the coach if it is available for the route you are traveling. They offer much more comfortable seating and will not be packed nearly as tightly as minibusses. 

To make the bus ride a bit more pleasant, pack some snacks for the road. Food options are limited along the way. I would usually bring a few packets of cookies, some fruit, tuna, and bread along. That way, I could make myself a healthy meal during stops. 

I also recommend you don’t drink too much liquid while riding the bus. Drivers often go 6 or more hours without stopping for a bathroom break. When they do it will sometimes just be on the side of the road where the bush is your toilet. Expect to pay $1-$2 per hour of travel for bus tickets.

The Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

The Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

African Minibusses

African minibusses are pretty much torture but are necessary for some sections of the trip. These small buses and vans operate short routes between towns usually. They are cramped and hot. Occasionally you will need to take 4 or 5 minibusses to get to where you are going.

These buses leave when they are full, not on a schedule. You may have to wait a few hours or more before the minibus leaves. You can also just flag them down if they are going in your direction. They don’t have regular stops. You just tell the driver when you want off and they will stop. Expect to pay around $1 per hour. Minibus operators will often try to scam tourists by charging them a higher rate. Keep an eye out for this.

Also, watch your pockets on minibusses. My phone was pickpocketed while I was getting off a minibus in Tanzania. Luckily I got it back.

Check out The Ultimate African Bus Guide for more info on bus travel in Africa

My Step-by-Step Africa Bus Guides

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya by Bus

Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda by Bus

Kampala, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda by Bus

Kigali, Rwanda to Arusha or Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by Bus

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Lilongwe, Malawi by Bus

Lilongwe, Malawi to Lusaka, Zambia by Bus

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Bulawayo or Harare, Zimbabwe by Train

Maun, Botswana to Windhoek, Namibia by Bus

Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town, South Africa by Bus

The bus from Moyale to Nairobi

The bus from Moyale to Nairobi

Train

There are a few train routes that you can take on the Cairo to Cape Town route. The first one will be through Egypt from Cairo to Luxor and on to Aswan. A new train line recently opened in Kenya from Nairobi to Mombasa if you decide to take a side trip to the beach town. Another optional train journey is in Zimbabwe. The train operates from Victoria falls to both Bulawayo and Harare.

For more information, check out my step-by-step guide to train travel in Zimbabwe.

Driving Your Own Car or Motorcycle

Make sure you carry enough spare parts and tools required to make repairs and do maintenance along the way. Repair shops may not have the tools, parts, or know how to fix modern equipment. In fact, some parts you simply will not be able to get without flying to Europe or North America. You will require a carnet for most of the countries you will pass through with your own vehicle. 

Traveling by Bicycle

Bicycle Touring is becoming an increasingly popular method of travel. I hope to do my next trip to Africa by bicycle in 2020. If you are cycling in Africa, make sure you are carrying plenty of spare parts and tools to maintain and fix your bike. Getting spares will be a challenge in most of the continent. 26-inch wheels will be best for tire and tube availability here.

Hitchhiking

This is another good way to get around. Africans are really friendly and helpful in general so you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a ride. You may be asked to pay a small amount for the ride. My buddy and I hitchhiked in a semi-truck fom the Botswana/Namibia border to Windhoek. 

Flying

Some sections of this trip require several days on transport between cities. In this case, you may choose to fly to save time and avoid the discomfort of spending days on the bus.

Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda

Getting Around Within African Cities

Walking

In smaller towns and villages most people get around on foot. I love to walk so I spent a lot of time just wandering around and exploring everywhere I went. Walking is the best way to get to know a city. Oftentimes I would walk 10 or more miles per day while exploring Africa.

Minibus

Minibusses operate as shared taxis around all big cities. They have different names in different countries. For example, in Kenya they are called Matatu. Minibusses all operate the same way. They are generally not well organized so it can be confusing and difficult to find the right bus. You’ll just have to tell a driver where you want to go and he’ll point you in the right direction. When you get on a minibus, you may want to ask a passenger where the bus is going. Some drivers will tell you that they are going where you want to go just to get the fare. The cost is usually a dollar or two to cross town.

Motorcycle

In many countries, motorcycles operate as taxis. In Uganda, these are called Boda Boda. Be careful with these as some of the drivers are maniacs. They weave through traffic at high speeds leaving only inches between your knees and cars. You can get where you are going faster this way but it is more dangerous. It will cost a dollar or two to cross the city this way. These can haul up to 2 people on the back.

Taxi

Taxis in Africa can be expensive. They usually don’t have a meter so you must negotiate hard to get a reasonable rate. Drivers try especially hard to overcharge tourists. Sometimes I would just offer what I was willing to pay and go through 5 or more taxi drivers until I found one that wanted the fare.

The most expensive taxi fares are usually between the city and the airport. Expect to pay $15-$25 depending on where you are. This price is usually fixed so negotiating won’t help. You should be able to negotiate a taxi ride across a city for $5-$10.

Uber

Uber is a great way to get around many African capitals. It is not available everywhere but I used it in Nairobi many times and also in Dar es Salaam. It is safe, reliable, cheaper than a taxi, and best of all, you don’t have to negotiate the fare.

Staying Safe While Traveling From Cairo to Cape Town

When you tell your family and friends that you’re going to travel from Cairo to Cape Town, the first thing they will probably ask after telling you that you are out of your mind is “isn’t that dangerous?” My answer is no. It’s not dangerous if you take the proper precautions. I felt perfectly safe everywhere I traveled in Africa. While walking around major cities by myself including Nairobi, Cape Town, and Addis Ababa, I never felt in any danger. I even walked around at night. The biggest danger in Africa is not the people. Disease and Transportation pose a much bigger risk to your health and well being.

For my more extensive article on safety, check out my guide: Is Travel in Africa Safe? Avoiding Crime, Disease, Injury, and Scams in Africa

Minibus station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Minibus station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sickness and Disease in Africa

The risk of malaria is higher in Africa than anywhere else in the world. This is a disease that kills over half a million people per year including some tourists. Make sure you are taking your malaria tablets religiously. For more information, you can read my article about the best malaria tablets.

Other than malaria, you may be exposed to, yellow fever, food poisoning, tuberculosis, meningitis, HIV/AIDS, and various other parasites, viruses, and diseases. Even polio still exists in Africa. Before you go, make sure all of your routine vaccinations and booster shots are up to date. When having sex, always use condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.

Traffic

I would say that this is your biggest risk of injury while traveling from Cairo to Cape Town. People drive with absolutely no regard for human life. For example, I was traveling in a minibus when the driver’s friend, another minibus driver, sped past. Our driver decided this meant that he wanted to race.

For the next hour, we were in a road race. We quickly stopped to drop off and pick up passengers then accelerated away to catch up and pass the other driver, only to be overtaken again minutes later. While it was funny, it was also extremely dangerous and an unnecessary risk that the driver took.

Bus drivers will speed across washed out roads not even making an attempt to avoid foot-deep potholes. Motorcycle riders will weave through traffic at high speeds and overtake on blind corners without a care in the world.

At one point while traveling across Zanzibar, I was riding in a truck that had so much weight piled on the roof, I thought it was going to collapse. I got off and hitchhiked to my destination. If you feel unsafe, you can always get out and find another way to get to where you are going. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up and tell the driver to slow down.

Violent Crime in Africa

Overall, violent crime against tourists is low. The place you will travel during this trip with the highest possibility of becoming the victim of a violent crime is probably South Africa. Muggings are known to happen in big South African cities, especially Johannesburg. It is recommended that you take a taxi or other transport from place to place rather than walking. Nairobi is said to be dangerous, but it felt safe enough to me.

Terrorist attacks do occasionally happen in parts of northern Kenya and around the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. At this time, things are relatively peaceful in this part of the world but occasionally there is still an attack.

Tip: Carry a money belt to avoid falling victim to muggers and pickpockets. You can hide your passport, cash, and credit cards where they’ll be much less likely to find them. Some travelers carry a decoy wallet and filled with a few dollars and some expired cards to hand over in case they’re robbed. I bought the Eagle Creek Silk money belt about 8 years ago and have been really happy with it. Check out my full review here.

Scams in Africa

I only encountered one real scam while traveling in Africa. I was buying a bus ticket from Konso, Ethiopia to Moyale, Ethiopia and a guy sold me a fake ticket. It looked completely legit with the name and logo of the bus company and everything. We were standing in front of the bus when he sold it to me. He just didn’t fill out the bus number. Evidently, he had stolen a ticket book or something. He conned me out of about $10.

Other than that, pretty much everyone will try to overcharge you for everything. This includes taxis, minibusses, restaurants, and street vendors. Try to pay attention to what the locals are paying. Always negotiate hard. If someone was obviously trying to rip me off and I had another option like just choosing another taxi or another person selling the same thing, I would just walk away.

To read my complete, extensive guide to scams, check out my article: 19 Common Travel Scams, How they Work, and How to Avoid Them.

Meskel Square, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Meskel Square, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Travel Insurance for Travel in Africa

Travel in Africa is unpredictable. Problems arise unexpectedly and disrupt your plans. For example, you could get food poisoning or malaria and have to visit a clinic for treatment. Your bus could break down causing you to miss a flight. You just never know in Africa. Because of this unpredictability, it is a good idea to purchase travel insurance for this trip. I like World Nomads. I have purchased their insurance for almost all of my trips and have had good luck with them. For more info and to get a free quote, check out my travel insurance page.

Traveling Independently Vs. Overland Tour

To me, going with a tour company was never a consideration. I wouldn’t want to be herded across a continent in a bus full of other tourists. During my travels, I occasionally stayed in campsites where overland tours stayed. Based on what I saw:

  • They all stayed in their group and did everything together.
  • Everyone went to bed early didn’t seem to be much fun.
  • They never interacted with real Africans outside of the tourism industry.
  • They always ate in tourist restaurants and never got to experience public transportation.
  • Nearly every night they camped, rarely getting to enjoy a proper bed in a hotel room.

In my opinion, they missed out on some of the best parts of traveling in Africa. And to top it all off, they ended up paying more for it than if they had traveled independently.

By far the most major drawback to traveling in a tour group is that there is no flexibility. If you decide that you want to spend an extra week on the beach, you can’t. If you want to visit a nearby village that isn’t part of the tour itinerary, you can’t.

When you are traveling independently, it is your trip and you can do what you want. One of the best parts of travel is the freedom. You just don’t get that with an organized tour.

Sipi Falls, Uganda

Sipi Falls, Uganda

Benefits to Traveling on a Tour

There are, however, a few benefits to traveling in a tour group.

  • It is probably safer- Particularly for women. You will be surrounded by your tour group for the duration of your stay. There is safety in numbers.
  • Less risk of being involved in an auto accident- They hire professional drivers and you are always being transported in a truck that is properly maintained.
  • It is less stressful than traveling interdependently- For example, you don’t have to deal with finding accommodation, preparing meals, or figuring out transportation. Everything is done for you.

In the end, it really depends on what type of person you are and personal preference. I know that I could never handle traveling in a tour group for an extended period of time. For my complete breakdown, check out my article, Africa Overland Tour Vs. Independent Travel: My Pros and Cons List.

People in Africa: Locals and Other Tourists

Meeting and making friends with local people is one of the best parts of traveling to Africa. I met people on my trip that I will never forget as long as I live. Africans are incredibly friendly and hospitality is great.

With that being said, meeting people can also be exhausting. Many of the places you will travel through see very few tourists. People can tell from a mile away that you are not from around there because of the color of your skin. Because of this, they will want to come to talk to you or just stare at you. Mostly they are harmless and are just curious about the foreigner in their town.

Many times someone will approach trying to sell you something like a tour or souvenir or ask for money. These are the annoying ones. Children will also follow you asking for money or presents. This quickly gets annoying as well. If you find yourself running out of patience when someone is clearly just talking to you because they think they can get something out of it, it is fine to just ignore them or politely tell them that you don’t want to be bothered.

Hamar woman in the Omo Valley

Hamar woman in the Omo Valley

Other Travelers in Africa

Tourism is low to non-existent in some of the countries that you pass through. For example, you may not see a single other tourist for weeks at a time while traveling in Sudan and Ethiopia. You will meet the most tourists in Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. Generally, the fellow travelers that you meet in Africa will be older and more well-traveled than backpackers you encounter in Europe or Southeast Asia. There are also quite a few couples traveling together in Africa. 

Nationality-wise, I met a lot of Americans, Germans, Irish, and a few Scandinavians. You will also encounter a lot of high school and college-age people who go to Africa to volunteer for a few weeks or months then stay and travel around a bit.

How Much Does a Cairo to Cape Town Trip Cost?

This is going to be an expensive trip. The biggest expenses will be tours, visas, and accommodation, and airfare.

  • Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater budget safari – $400-$500
  • Maasai Mara safari – $300 If you follow my guide, you can do it for $200.
  • Mountain gorilla safari – $800-$1600
  • Climbing Kilimanjaro – $1200-$1500
  • Visas – $600-$800
  • Airfare – $1500 round trip depending on where you live.
  • Average accommodation cost – $15-25 per day on average. Could be lower if you camp a lot.
  • Average food cost – $5-20 per day depending on your appetite and if you are willing to cook or not.
  • Transportation cost – $1000 for buses, taxis, minibusses, Uber, etc. More if you fly any sections.

Total cost comes to around $8,000-$15,000 for a 6-month trip. The cost will vary depending on which activities you choose to do. The prices listed above are for budget or backpacker style options. If you wish to do a week-long safari or stay in a luxury lodge for example, then your costs increase considerably.

You can also cut down your budget quite a bit if you book things as you go and rough it once in a while. I was able to save a lot by waiting until I arrived to make reservations and doing as much as I could independently. I also camped where possible. Another area that I saved a lot of money was on my airfare which I got for free with rewards miles from my credit card.

For help reducing your budget further, check out my Guide to Ultra Low Budget Travel.

Final Thoughts on Planning a Cairo to Cape Town Trip

This guide was designed to give you an overview of the Cairo to Cape town route and help you start to plan a tour of your own. I am working on a full country-by-country travel guide that you can bring with you to help you out along your way from Cairo to Cape Town. It will include specific information on all bus and train routes, hotel and restaurant recommendations, as well as more location-specific information about safety, scams, and additional points of interest. To receive an email update when the eBook is available, you can subscribe for updates here.

Have you traveled from Cairo to Cape Town? Share your experience in the comments below to help fellow travelers plan their trips!

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6 comments

Cat July 25, 2019 - 5:47 pm

Wow this post in fantastic. Thank you really. I’ve been thinking of doing this, and by this I mean the hole Africa thing, for a while now, I don’t know what is it but there’s something about this continent that makes me want to desperately go. What are your thoughts on women traveling solo? As I’m writing this it does sound delusional but maybe it’s not a big deal. Should I get a friend to come with me? I’m 23 now so for obvious reasons I believe I should wait a couple of years but as I see you’ve had your fare share of traveling around you may be able to give me an honest opinion.
Thank you again for this post!

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wheretheroadforks July 25, 2019 - 6:32 pm

Thanks for reading. I’m glad you found the info useful. Anyway, the trip is definitely doable. There are plenty of women traveling solo in Africa. It’s not delusional. Travel in northern Africa may be a bit more challenging for a woman traveling alone due to the culture. Once you cross the Sahara it’s more relaxed. I’m sure you’ll be approached often as a solo female. The people can be pretty intense.

Honestly, you’ll probably have a better time if you have someone to travel with. This is just because you can go for long stretches without meeting another tourist so it can get lonely. It’s nice to have someone to talk to during day long bus rides. Africa probably isn’t the best destination for an inexperienced traveler. It’s kind of like jumping into the deep end. Even then, it’s still manageable. It just depends on your personality and the kind of trip you want to take. I was 24 when I first visited Africa but I had traveled quite a bit before that.

I’ve written quite a bit about travel in Africa on this site including bus guides, safety info, and guides to some of the main sites. Maybe you’ve already read through them but here is a link to my Africa category

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Jia August 13, 2019 - 7:05 am

This is by far the most helpful and informative article featuring Cairo to Cape trip. I would like to ride a motorcycle from Cairo to Cape in December. I shall up date the route if I encounter anything new. Thank you and wish you good luck on your travels. Jia

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wheretheroadforks August 13, 2019 - 10:15 am

Thanks Jia. It’s an incredible journey. Traveling by motorcycle would be a great way to see the continent. I met a few people making the ride while I was there. Have a great trip and let me know how it goes

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Andrea July 18, 2020 - 4:34 am

This trip looks insane! I would love to maybe take a year off and do something like this over a year. As an enthusiast photographer, I think it would be the trip of a lifetime.

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wheretheroadforks July 18, 2020 - 5:00 pm

It is definitely a trip of a lifetime. The national parks are beautiful. Africa is probably the best place in the world for wildlife photography.

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