Africa is a travel destination that can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. If you’re willing to take local transport, eat local foods, and camp, Africa is one of the cheapest places on the planet. After all, millions of people survive on the continent on less than $1 per day. On the other hand, if you want to go on safaris, take tours, and stay in decent hotels, Africa is one of the more expensive continents to travel. In this guide, I outline all of the major costs of traveling Africa on a budget.
Each section in this guide begins with a rough budget. After, I’ll break down the costs more specifically to show you where your money is going. I tend to be conservative with my travel budgets so keep that in mind. I’ll also provide some helpful money-saving tips in each section.
This guide is designed for those traveling in Africa independently. If you plan to take an overland tour, most all of your expenses will be included in the price of the tour. If you’re undecided, check out my Africa independent travel vs overland tour pros and cons list.
Table of Contents- Traveling Africa on a Budget
This is a long Article. Use the links below to help navigate the page.
- Safaris and Tours Budget
- African Visas
- Vaccines and Medicines Budget
- Airfare to and Within Africa
- Accommodation Budget in Africa
- Transportation Budget in Africa
- Food and Drink Budget
- Travel Insurance Budget
- Travel Gear and Additional Expenses
- Volunteering in Africa Budget
- Example Monthly Africa Travel Budgets
- A Note about ATMs and Money Tips in Africa
Safaris and Tours Budget in Africa
Safaris and tours are the most expensive part of your trip to Africa. Expensive tours are the reason that so many travelers complain about the high cost of travel in Africa. Permit costs are high. Some sites require that you take a guide. Often times, you’ll need to hire a vehicle. It all adds up.
Popular Tours and Safaris in Africa and Their Costs
- Serengeti National Park, Tanzania- This is probably the best and most famous safari park in Africa. It’s located in Tanzania. Expect to pay around $400-$500 for a 2 day one-night safari. This includes your guide, safari vehicle, and one night of accommodation in the park. Food may or may not be included.
- Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya- Located just across the border from the Serengeti, Maasai Mara offers a similar safari experience for around $300-$350. To reduce costs, check out my guide: How to Safari in the Maasai Mara for less than $200.
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania- Depending on route and number of days that you choose, expect to pay $1200-$2000. This includes a guide, permits, and food. If you don’t have the proper gear, you may need to rent some in Arusha or Moshi. This adds a bit of cost.
- Gorilla trekking in Uganda, DR Congo, or Rwanda- Expect to pay $800-$2000. This includes a guide, permit, and accommodation for one night. The permit for Uganda costs $600, Rwanda costs $1500, and Congo costs $400.
- Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe- Entry on the Zimbabwe side costs $30 and entry on the Zambian side costs $20. You may also wish to hire a guide to walk you across the top of the falls to visit Angel’s or Devil’s pool. Expect to pay around $50 for this service.
- Sossusvlei, Namibia- Here, you can climb some of the largest sand dunes on the planet and visit one of the most photogenic spots in Africa, Dead Vlei. Expect to pay around $300-$400 for a tour. You can save some money by self-driving. For a step-by-step guide, check out my article: How to Visit Sossusvlei, Namibia Independently and On a Budget.
- The Omo Valley of Ethiopia- Visit the tribes. Tours from Addis Ababa go for around $1000. You can visit independently for around $200-$300. Check out my guide: How to Visit the Omo Valley for more info. Also, check out my guide to Dimeka, Ethiopia.
- Cape of Good Hope, South Africa- Day tours from Cape Town start around $25.
Other activities- If you plan to bungee jump, whitewater raft, SCUBA dive, take a hot air balloon ride, etc. expect to pay $100-$200 for each activity.
How to Reduce Safari and Tour Costs
For whatever reason, Africans love pushing tours. You’ll encounter people all over the continent trying to sell their guide services. Even when a tour is completely unnecessary. In fact, most of the time it’s just a money grab. Even when guides are required.
Permits and entry tickets are also ridiculously expensive. Some are even a bit of a scam. For example, when you visit the Serengeti, you must pass through Ngorongoro National Park both when you enter and leave. Each time, you must pay the entry fee. You must pay twice even if you don’t care to see the park. That’s $150 fee that can’t be avoided.
A few ways to cut tour costs include:
- Don’t book in advance- Every tour can be booked when you’re there. If you book online in advance, you’ll end up paying a higher price every time. For example, while traveling in Uganda, a guide approached my friend and I and tried to sell us a gorilla trekking tour for around $800. My buddy had already booked his tour in advance online and paid around $1200. The same is true with safaris. You can save at least $50-$100 by booking in person once you arrive. Tours rarely sell out.
- Negotiate hard- Prices of tours are always negotiable. You can save hundreds of dollars if you’re willing to spend the time bargaining.
- Shop around- Different tour companies cater to different types of tourists. Some cater to budget tourists while others are more high end. If you’re on a budget, shop for a budget tour. You’ll enjoy the same experience with fewer comforts.
- Find a group of people to take a tour with- This can lower your cost in a couple of ways. First, you can use your group to negotiate a lower price per person with a tour company. Second, you can put together your own tour by hiring a guide, vehicle, and booking a campsite by yourself. This is how my buddy and I were able to save around $100 on our safari in Maasai Mara in Kenya.
- Do your research and know the rules- For example, if you know a guide isn’t required, you can save yourself $50 or so for a day tour. When I went to visit Sipi Falls in Uganda, several guides approached trying to sell me their services. I knew a guide wasn’t required so I didn’t hire one. I just explored on my own.
- Choose a cheaper safari park- The animals are the same. You can save a few hundred dollars by skipping Serengeti and going to Maasai Mara instead, for example. Check out my pros and cons list to see if the savings is worth it to you.
- Skip some things- Do you value a longer trip or enjoying a specific tour? Sometimes you have to choose. For example, you could travel for an extra month or two if you forego climbing Kilimanjaro or gorilla trekking. Prioritize the activities that interest you most and skip the rest.
African Visas Budget
African visas are a significant expense that you have to budget for. The price varies depending on your nationality. Most African visas cost between $50 and $100 for a single entry visa that is valid for 30-90 days. If you want multiple entries, the cost increases. If you want a visa with a longer validity, the cost increases.
Before leaving for your trip, you’ll want to do some research on visas. Check which are available at the border on arrival and which must be arranged in advance. If you need to arrange a visa in advance, check whether you can get from an embassy while you’re traveling or if it must be obtained in your country of residence.
You can obtain most African visas either on arrival or along your journey. There are a few exceptions that you must get at home before your trip.
To make a rough estimate of visa costs for your trip, assume $75 per country that you plan to visit. You’ll probably spend less but this will give you an idea of what to budget for. For example, I visited 11 countries on my trip. 11 X $75= $825. In reality, I spent about $650 on visas.
A Note about Paying for African Visas
Pretty much all African visas must be paid for in US dollars. Local currencies are not accepted. The banknotes that you pay with must be in good condition and issued after 2004. Most borders only accept large bills in denominations of $20, $50, and $100. Be sure to bring enough cash as most borders don’t have ATMs.
I tried to pay with 1s and 5s at a couple of borders to get rid of them but was turned away. They told me to go exchange them somewhere then come back. Luckily, you’ll find a currency exchange booth near most every border. You’ll also encounter independent currency exchange guys who can sometimes give you a better rate by working on the black market.
For info on African visas by country including requirements, availability, and prices, check out my Africa Visa Guide.
How to Save Money on African Visas
- Avoid multiple entries- Try to plan your itinerary in such a way that you don’t need to enter any countries twice. This way, you’ll avoid having to pay extra for a multi-entry visa or a new visa.
- Skip countries with particularity expensive visas- The most expensive visa I had to pay for on my trip was Tanzania at $100. It wasn’t worth it. This is just one of the reasons that I’ll never return to Tanzania.
- Take Advantage of the East Africa Visa- This visa allows you to travel between Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda for up to 90 days. The cost is $100. This saves you a minimum of 30 dollars and a bit of hassle. If you buy each visa separately, you’ll spend $50 for Kenya, $50 for Uganda, and $30 for Rwanda. If you need multiple entry visas, you’d be saving even more.
- Don’t get scammed- Some immigration officials are corrupt and can solicit bribes. Sometimes, you’ll encounter a scammer offering to help you with the visa. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to know the cost of the visa before you arrive at the border and have patience. For more info, check out my guide: 19 Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them.
While traveling from Ethiopia to South Africa overland, I spent about $650 on visas alone. I travel on a US passport. For most European nationalities, the cost will be about the same. I’m currently planning a West Africa trip and expect to spend over $1200 on visas and related expenses. As you can see, this expense is significant enough that you need to consider it while traveling Africa on a budget.
Vaccines and Medicines Budget for Travel in Africa
Before traveling to Africa, chances are you’ll need to get a few travel vaccines and medications to help you stay healthy during your trip. Which vaccines you need depends on where you’re planning to travel, for how long, and the activities that you plan to participate in. Some vaccines are required and some are recommended. Some you’ve probably already had. The cost of these varies greatly by country. In some places, they’re free and in some, they cost hundreds of dollars.
Recommended Travel Vaccines for Africa and their Costs
To get most travel vaccines, you must visit a travel clinic. Your regular doctor’s office usually doesn’t stock them. I recommend you visit a clinic that is operated by your city or state government. Prices will be lower than in private clinics. The staff can direct you as to which vaccines you’ll need for your specific trip. The following prices are for the US. They are generally cheaper in other parts of the world.
- Yellow Fever- This is the most important one because it’s an entry requirement for many African countries. Unfortunately, it’s often the most expensive. Expect to pay $150-$200.
- Typhoid- This one is available in oral or injection form. Expect to pay $30-$50.
- Hepatitis A- This disease is transmitted through contaminated food or water. Expect to pay around $100 for the vaccine.
- Rabies- This one is only recommended if you plan to travel in rural areas or participate in outdoor activities.
- Cholera- This one is only recommended if you plan to travel in rural areas or participate in outdoor activities.
- Meningitis (Meningococcal)- While the risk is pretty low, you should consider getting this vaccine if you plan to travel to a place where Meningitis is present. Expect to pay $100-$150.
In addition to the above, you should also make sure that all of your routine vaccines are up to date. Check your vaccine history and make sure that you didn’t miss any during childhood. Your health insurance should cover the cost of routine vaccines. Disease rates are significantly higher in Africa so you want to make sure that you’re protected.
If you don’t already have any of the above travel vaccines, budget $400-$500 to get them. It’s expensive but the good news is that most of these vaccines last for many years or even a lifetime.
How to Save Money on a Yellow Fever Vaccine
Consider waiting until you arrive in Africa to get your Yellow Fever vaccine. In some countries, you can get the vaccine at the airport when you arrive for a fraction of the price of getting it back home. You could save over $150 this way.
Before you do this, be sure to do your research. You don’t want to be denied entry because you don’t have your yellow fever vaccine which is required in some countries. Also, know that the Yellow Fever vaccine takes around 10 days to become effective. You won’t be protected during that time.
Malaria Tablet Budget for Africa
Malaria still kills hundreds of thousands of people per year. Including some tourists. While traveling in much of sub-Saharan Africa, you’ll want to take prophylaxis if you’re visiting a malaria zone. You have three options in terms of tablets. Each has its own pros and cons. Prices also vary. Options include:
- Malarone (Atovaquone/Proguanil)- This is the most expensive but has the fewest side effects. It is taken daily. Expect to pay around $5 per day.
- Doxycycline- This is the cheapest option. It is effective against most types of malaria and is taken daily. This is the malaria tablet I use. Expect to pay around $0.50 per day.
- Lariam (Mefloquine)- This is the most convenient option as you only have to take it once per week. Unfortunately, many travelers complain about side effects. Expect to pay around $0.75 per day.
As you can see, prices vary widely. To help you decide which is best for your situation, visit a travel clinic for a malaria consultation. This usually costs $30-$50. Budget around $30 per month on malaria prophylaxis if you don’t take Malarone (Atovaquone/Proguanil).
For more info, check out my traveler’s guide to malaria prevention, treatment, and tablets in Africa. Here, I discuss each type of malaria prophylaxis in-depth and give some helpful tips for avoiding malaria and seeking treatment if you think you have it.
How to Cut your Malaria Tablet Budget
Consider purchasing your malaria tablets when you arrive in Africa. I waited until I arrived in Ethiopia to purchase a 4 month supply of doxycycline for less than $10.
Airfare Budget for Travel to and Within Africa
Airfare to and around Africa is expensive. There are simply fewer travelers which means fewer flights and more expensive tickets. Your airfare will be a major chunk of your Africa travel budget.
Of course, the cost of your flight to Africa depends on where you’re starting from. Most flights to Africa originate in Europe or the Middle East. If you’re traveling from outside those regions, you’ll probably have a layover somewhere along your journey.
For a round trip ticket to Africa from the US, expect to pay $1200-$2000. Tickets from Europe and the Middle East are cheaper. Expect to pay around $500-$1000 for a round trip ticket.
Air travel within Africa is expensive for the same reason. One way fights between African capitals often run around $200-$300.
Domestic flights within larger African countries are often more affordable. Even then, the bus is always significantly cheaper.
Tips to Reduce Your Africa Airfare Budget
- Fly into a major hub in Africa- Choose a major African city to start your journey in. Flights are cheaper. Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Dakar, and Cairo are a few good cities to fly into.
- Fly from a city with a lot of flights to Africa- London, Pairs, Frankfurt, Istanbul, and Dubai are a few of the cities which offer numerous flights all over the African continent. Prices in these cities are more reasonable due to higher supply. You can save money by taking a budget flight to your nearest major hub first then catching your long haul flight to Africa.
- Fly with a low-cost or budget airline- The African airline with the most reasonable prices is probably Ethiopian Airlines. Kenyan Airways also offers some decent prices.
Keep an eye out for deals- Occasionally airlines offers specials on flights to Africa. It pays to shop around.
- Take the bus instead of flying- Once you’re in Africa, avoid flights. Just travel overland if possible. For example, I traveled from Addis Ababa to Nairobi overland* for about $40. The same flight costs around $200.
Accommodation Budget in Africa
Accommodation in Africa is expensive. Particularly when you consider the quality you get for your money. If you’re traveling alone and plan to stay in budget accommodation every night, expect to spend around $20-$30 per night on average.
In this section, I’ll outline each of your African accommodation options and their cost per night. I’ll offer some tips to lower your accommodation cost.
African Hotels Budget
I’ll start off by going on a bit of a rant. African hotels are a rip-off. A basic, run-down hotel room that hasn’t been updated since 1960 can cost $25-$50 per night. Often, that’s the cheapest option in town. Paying this much for such low quality is particularly annoying when you consider what you could get for the same price in Southeast Asia or Latin America.
You’ll encounter three types of hotels while traveling in Africa. Listed in order of cheapest to most expensive they are:
- Basic hotels- You’ll find these in small villages and rural areas. They are basically just a small room with a bed and maybe a table and chair. Bathrooms are shared. Some don’t have running water so they bring you a bucket to bathe. Expect to pay $2-$10 per night for a basic African hotel room.
- Standard budget hotels- This is your typical hotel with a private bathroom, bed, and maybe a tv. Most have hot water. You’ll find these hotels in any decent-sized city. Expect to pay $20-$40 per night for a standard budget hotel room in Africa.
- High-end hotels or lodges- Larger cities and tourist cites offer high-end accommodation options with all of the facilities you expect a hotel to have. Prices start around $150 per night and go up from there.
Tips to Save Money on African Hotels
- Don’t book in advance- Prices are significantly higher online. Most of the time, hotels don’t even check their online reservations. These places rarely fill up in Africa. You can save a nice chunk of money by just showing up.
- Negotiate hard- Hotel prices are almost always negotiable in Africa. If you’re staying multiple days, try to negotiate a price for the full stay to get yourself a lower nightly rate.
- Stay outside of the city center or in less desirable neighborhoods- Hotels in these areas are cheaper. For example, I stayed in Eastleigh in Nairobi for a couple of days for $12 per night in a room with a private bathroom and tv. That’s cheaper than a hostel dorm.
- Split the cost with another traveler- If you can share the room with someone else, it becomes more affordable. Hotels are the main reason that solo travel in Africa is so expensive.
- Shop around- Africans love to overcharge foreigners. If you ask around at a few hotels, you may find an honest one that offers you a room at a reasonable price.
Hostels in Africa
Hostels are still pretty uncommon in Africa. Having said that, most capital cities and tourist areas have at least a hostel or two. Expect to pay $10-$15 per night for a bed in a dorm room.
Overall, the facilities are fine. Most African hostels include a basic breakfast in the price. They generally have decent wifi. Most have hot water. Hospitality is excellent in Africa.
Camping in Africa
While traveling in Africa, I recommend you travel with a tent or some kind of camping shelter. You can greatly reduce your Africa travel budget and have some unforgettable experiences while camping in the bush.
Many African hotels and hostels allow you to camp in their compound for a reduced rate. For example, if a room costs $40, maybe you can camp outside for $10. This is a significant savings. In this case, you still have access to the restroom and other facilities.
While visiting a national park or going on safari, many times your only accommodation options are camping or staying in a fancy safari lodge that charges well over $100 per night. In this case, camping is almost a necessity for most budget travelers.
Most African campgrounds charge around $10-$25 per night. If you have your own tent, expect to pay toward the lower end of this range. If you need to rent a tent, prices are higher.
For those more adventurous travelers, you can also wild camp in parts of Africa. If you decide to do this, I recommend you be very careful about choosing a campsite. You don’t want to stay on someone’s land or be discovered in the night. A good alternative is to ask local villagers if they know of a spot where you can camp for the night. Usually, you’ll be given a safe spot in the village.
Some of my best memories of my trip are camping. Viewing the Milky Way while camping in the middle of the Namib Desert while visiting Sossusvlei is an unforgettable experience. I also camped in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and just outside of Maasai Mara National park in Kenya. Both nights were spectacular.
Airbnb in Africa
If you’re looking to stay in a larger city for more than a week or so, check Airbnb. Many hosts offer long term discounts. A room can end up costing less than a hotel. Plus, you’ll get access to a kitchen and other facilities. Expect to pay $10-$20 per night for a private room in an apartment. You can also find private apartments for just a bit more.
Long Term Accommodation Cost in Africa
If you want to travel in Africa on an extremely tight budget, like less than $300 per month, you can if you don’t travel around too much. By staying in long term accommodation, you can travel in Africa on a low budget.
In small villages, you can rent a basic room for as little as $20 per month. As I said earlier, millions of people survive on the continent for next to nothing. If you’re frugal and not too concerned with comfort, you can travel in Africa on very little.
In larger cities, you can find a decent studio apartment for as little as $150-$300 per month. This will probably be outside of the city center but it will be secure.
Another good place to look for long term accommodation is Airbnb. Many hosts offer major monthly discounts. Sometimes as much as 50% off the normal rate. While this is more expensive than renting, it is much easier and convenient. You can rent a room for around $200-$300 per month in many cities.
Transportation Budget in Africa
Even though transportation is pretty affordable in Africa, costs add up because the continent is so large. Traveling from one tourist destination to another can take days. Your transportation budget while traveling in Africa depends on how fast you want to travel and your desired level of comfort.
On average expect to pay $20-40 for an international bus journey between two capital cities. The price depends on the distance and the quality of the bus. For domestic journeys, assume around $1-$2 per hour of travel.
If you don’t mind squeezing into a minibus for hours or days on end, you can get around pretty cheaply. If you only have a limited amount of time to travel and you need to fly to cover some legs of your journey, costs increase significantly.
Shared Taxi or Minibus Travel Budget in Africa
This is the main mode of transport across Africa. It’s how the locals get around. Shared taxis and minibusses travel both within and between cities. They operate on set routes and just run back and forth all day. Expect to pay between 50 cents and $1.50 per hour of travel when traveling between cities. You’ll pay about the same to cross a large city.
When you travel long distance by minibus, you’ll have to make transfers. Most intercity minibuses travel back and forth between two towns that are several hours apart. Once they reach their destination, you get out and find a minibus on toward your destination. Sometimes you pay once and sometimes you must pay each driver separately. This is a hassle, but it’s the cheapest way to get around.
Money-saving tip: Minibus drivers love to overcharge foreigners. Be sure to ask the price before accepting a ride. You can also ask a fellow passenger how much the ride should cost. If the driver tries to overcharge you, negotiate hard. As a foreigner, you’ll usually end up paying a bit more than the locals.
If the driver tries to blatantly rip you off, just wait for another minibus to come by. In most situations, you’ll find one within 15 minutes. Of course, there are routes with only one bus per day. In this case, you may just have to accept that you’re overpaying.
Africa Bus Travel Budget
For many longer journeys, coach services are available. Expect to pay $1.50-$2 per hour of travel. Most long-distance coach tickets usually end up costing $20-$40. For example, a ticket from Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda usually costs about $25.
If coach service is available for your desired route, I recommend you take it instead of a minibus for several reasons. First, prices are set. This means that you don’t have to negotiate. You also get to enjoy relative comfort. Some coaches even have AC. Coaches are also safer. Africans often drive pretty fast.
For more info on coach and minibus travel including pricing and step-by-step guides to some of the most popular routes on the continent, check out my Ultimate African Bus Guide.
Train Travel Budget in Africa
Train routes around Africa are limited. Schedules are often unpredictable due to maintenance and break downs. Expect prices similar to the bus, around $1-$2 per hour of travel.
Train travel in Africa is an experience. If you have the choice on a particular route, I recommend choose the train over the bus. A few popular African train routes include:
- Victoria Falls to Bulawayo or Harare in Zimbabwe
- Iron Ore train in Mauritania
- Cairo to Aswan in Egypt
I’ve only enjoyed one African train journey so far. To read about my experience, check out my guide: How to Travel Between Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Harare by train.
Ferry Travel Budget in Africa
One ferry journey that many travelers will make in Africa is the trip to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam. A round trip ticket on the fast ferry costs about $70-$80.
Several other ferry trips are possible on Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi. If you’re traveling in West Africa, you’ll cross a number of rivers by boat or ferry. Ticket prices vary. Expect to pay anything from a dollar or two to $50 or so for longer journies.
Uber or other Rideshare Apps in Africa
Ridesharing is surprisingly popular in Africa. Uber operates in many large cities on the continent. Many cities also have their own rideshare apps which are often cheaper. Some even offer motorcycle taxi services.
Expect to pay $3-$5 for an average length ride half way across town. For a longer ride to the other side of a city, expect to pay $8-$10.
If ridesharing is available where you’re traveling, I recommend you use it over Taxis. Prices are lower, you don’t have to negotiate, and you’re less likely to encounter a scammer or shady driver. All of the drivers that I met were honest and friendly. I can’t say the same of taxi drivers.
Self Drive Cost in Africa
If you prefer to have your own wheels, you have several options in Africa. You can:
- Rent a car or 4×4 and drive yourself- Rental costs vary by location and vehicle type. For a basic economy car, expect to pay around $40-$50 per day. I rented a car in Namibia for $43 per day when I visited Sossusvlei.
- Buy a car or motorcycle and drive it through Africa- If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can buy a vehicle or ship your own to Africa and explore the continent with your own wheels. This type of travel is called Overlanding. For a trip like this, you must consider the cost of the vehicle, maintenance, gas, insurance, and all necessary documents such as a carnet de passage.
Hiring a Driver in Africa
If you want the freedom of having your own vehicle, but don’t want to actually drive yourself, you can hire a driver in Africa. Expect to pay $50-$150 per day for a car and driver.
I realize that this is a large range but the price varies greatly by country and type of vehicle required. For example, some routes require 4 wheel drive to navigate.
Bicycle Touring in Africa
Bicycle touring is becoming more and more popular. Probably because it’s just so economical. Traveling by bicycle cuts your transportation budget to almost nothing. All you need to worry about is the cost of maintenance.
Of course, there are quite a few upfront costs to bicycle touring such as buying a bike, tools, and panniers or bags. All in, you’re probably looking at around $2000 for a decent touring setup.
For my next trip to Africa, I’m considering traveling with a folding bike to cut my transportation budget. This way, I’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of bus travel for long-distance journeys and bicycle travel for local transport.
Food and Drink Budget while Traveling in Africa
Overall, food prices are very reasonable in Africa. You can maintain a healthy, filling diet on about $150-$200 per month. This includes mostly local foods with the occasional western meal.
If you only eat local foods and cook for yourself on occasion, you could get by with a food budget of $80-$100 per month. In Africa, you can enjoy a nice local meal at a small roadside restaurant for around $1-$2.
Common African foods include:
- Various stews
Check out this list of African dishes from Wikipedia for a better idea of African cuisine.
After a while, basic African foods get a bit boring in my opinion. The cuisine just isn’t that exciting. It’s nice to splurge once in a while and treat yourself to a western or Indian meal. Expect to pay $5-$10 for a decent sized portion of spaghetti, pizza, burger and fries, or a nice curry.
Drink Budget in Africa
Drinking Water Budget in Africa
Because of the heat, you will drink a lot of water while traveling in Africa. Unfortunately, tap water isn’t potable through most of the continent. Bottled water is available everywhere. Expect to pay $0.50-$1 per liter.
Water Budget Tip: Travel with a Water Filter
Assuming you drink 2 liters of water per day, you’ll spend a $30-$60 per month on drinking water alone. This is just too much. A water filter is almost an essential piece of gear while traveling in Africa. You can use your water filter to make tap water or water from a river or stream to safe to drink. A good filter will pay for itself in less than a month. I like the Sawyer Mini. It filters out bacteria, protozoa, and debris. Check out my full review of the filter here.
Alcohol Budget in Africa
The most popular alcoholic beverage in Africa is probably beer. It’s sold everywhere. Most every country has its own national brew for you to try. Expect to pay around $1-$1.5 for a beer on average.
The cheapest and best beer I found in Africa was in Ethiopia where a bottle costs only 50 cents. Beer in Kenya was the most expensive and most disappointing in terms of taste. I paid $2-$3 per beer in Nairobi.
In Uganda, you can buy 100ml bags of spirits for around $1-$2. They don’t taste that great but it’s probably the cheapest way to get a buzz.
If you decide to travel through Ethiopia, be sure to try the honey wine called tej. This sweet homemade beverage is served in small roadside stands where people congregate to drink. Expect to pay $1-$2 for a large bottle.
Coca Cola products are available seemingly everywhere in Africa. Even in the smallest villages in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Expect to pay around $0.50-1.50 for a cold glass bottle of coke or sprite.
Travel Insurance Budget
Travel insurance is optional but highly recommended. Africa is such an unpredictable place to travel with risks that other destinations just don’t have. For example, your bus could break down and leave you stranded for a day, causing you to miss a flight. You could contract a bad strain of malaria and end up in the hospital for a few days. You could get mugged. Travel insurance can save you money in the event of one of these unfortunate occurrences.
Additional Travel Gear Budget
While traveling in Africa, you should pack all of your important gear from home. Don’t expect to wait until you arrive to buy any important items. Finding quality gear in much of Africa can be a challenge. Imported items are more expensive in Africa as well due to high import costs. The only country where you can pretty easily buy whatever gear you need is South Africa.
For example, if you need a new pair of shoes, you’ll probably need to travel to a capital city to find a shop that sells name brands. Once you’re there, you’ll notice that prices are significantly higher than they are back home. It’s also hard to determine what is genuine what is a Chinese knockoff.
Most travelers already have all of the necessary gear for traveling in Africa. If you need help with packing, check out my ultralight travel packing list.
A few additional items you may need for travel in Africa include:
- A tent or other camping shelter- As mentioned earlier, camping in Africa can save you a good amount of money. Look for an ultralight option. I have the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 and am really happy with it. Check out my review here. Alternatively, check out my camping articles for more shelter ideas.
- Water filter- This small piece of gear can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a long trip.
- Mosquito net– Most hotel rooms have one but some don’t. It’ s a good idea to pack your own just in case. I like the Sea to Summit Nano. It weighs only 2.9 ounces and packs down very small.
- Extra credit and debit card- If your card is lost or stolen, you’ll want to have a backup. Getting a replacement could be a challenge as receiving mail in many African countries is expensive and time consuming. For card recommendations, check out my guide: The Beast Debit and Credit Card for International Travel.
- Spare glasses and contacts- While you can buy new glasses and contacts in Africa, it’s a hassle and expense that is best avoided. It’s best to just bring some spares. For more tips, check out my guide: Tips for Travel with Glasses and Contacts.
- Money belt- In Africa, you need to carry quite a bit of cash. You need to pay for expensive visas and sometimes ATMs aren’t very readily available. I recommend you use a money belt to keep your cash, passport, cards, and other small valuables hidden. This will reduce the risk of losing it in the event of a mugging or robbery. I like the Eagle Creek Silk Undercover money belt. For more info, check out my full review here.
Volunteering in Africa Budget
Many travelers choose to pair volunteer work with their travels in Africa. They work for a charity organization for a few weeks or months then travel independently after. I recommend skipping the volunteer work for the following reasons:
- Volunteer programs are expensive- Many of these volunteer programs charge over $1000 per month. Personally, I can’t imagine paying someone to work for them. It just seems illogical. I do understand paying a small fee of a couple of dollars per day to cover food and accommodation but anything beyond that feels like they’re taking advantage.
- Volunteer work often does more harm than good- Most volunteers are unskilled. They can’t contribute in any meaningful way. In fact, volunteer work often takes jobs that locals could preform. If you want to help, donating money to a legitimate charity is generally much more productive than volunteering. Of course, there are exceptions. Skilled volunteers like doctors and engineers can do a lot of good.
- Many African charities are scams- Corruption is so bad in Africa that finding a legitimate charity can be a challenge in itself. Much of your work and money will just go toward lining some corrupt official’s pocket. You can do more good by supporting local businesses with your tourist dollars.
Example Monthly Africa Travel Budgets
Most travelers can comfortably travel Africa on a budget of $1400-$1800 per month. This includes airfare, safaris, tours, food accommodation, and all other necessary expenses. On this budget, you’ll eat good, see most of the main sites, and travel in relative comfort. Of course, you’ll miss out on some of the more expensive or luxury activities.
Here is the breakdown of an average Africa travel budget:
- Accommodation- $20 per day equals $600 per month. On this budget, you can stay in budget hotels most nights with the occasional night couchsurfing, camping, sleeping in a hostel, or AirBnb.
- Food- $200 per month. On this budget, you’ll eat mostly local foods with the occasional higher-end or western meal. You may wish to prepare some of your own meals to balance costs if you like to eat out more.
- Drinks- $100. Enjoy a couple of beers in the evening or a soda with your meal.
- Transportation- $100 per month. On this budget, you’ll travel mostly by bus or minibus with the occasional taxi or Uber. You won’t fly within the continent on this budget.
- Visas– $100 per month. This is assuming you visit about 1-2 countries per month.
- Flight- The cost per month depends on the length of your trip. Assuming you spend $1200 on a ticket and travel for 6 months, you’ll spend $200 per month.
- Safaris and tours- Assuming you travel for 6 months and visit some of the more expensive destinations, you’ll spend $1800. That comes out to $300 per month.
- Additional travel gear- budget around $100 per month for replacement items. Sometimes things get broken, lost, or stolen. For example, if your phone gets pickpocketed, you can buy a new one out of this budget.
If you add this all up, it comes out to $1600 per month. Your monthly budget will be lower if you travel longer. The cost per month of your flight and tours decreases when you divide it between more months. If your trip is shorter, you’ll spend more per month.
Of course, it is possible to travel in Africa on a much lower budget as well. To achieve this, you’ll have to skip the expensive tours and seek cheaper accommodation. Some destinations may be inaccessible because of the high cost.
Breakdown of Costs While Traveling Africa on a Budget
- Accommodation- $10 dollars per day equals $300 per month. On this budget, you’ll be able to stay in basic hotels occasionally. To balance the cost, you’ll have to couchsurf, camp, and stay in hostels where available.
- Food- $100 per month. Your diet will mostly consist of local food with the occasional western meal. You’ll also need to prepare some of your own meals.
- Visas- $100 per month. This is assuming you visit 1-2 countries per month.
- Transportation- $50 per month. To cut your transportation budget, you’ll have to travel slower and take minibusses instead of expensive taxis.
- Flight- $1200 or $200 per month for a 6 month trip.
- Safaris and tours- $0. If you’re on a low budget, you’ll just skip these.
Additional gear- $50 per month for replacement of lost, stolen, or broken gear.
If you add this all up, it comes out to $800 per month. You can further reduce this Africa travel budget by traveling slow. By staying in one place longer, you can find significantly cheaper accommodation. For example, you could rent a basic room for less than $100 per month in many 2nd tier cities. Traveling slower also reduces your cost of transportation and visas.
It’s possible to cut your Africa travel budget to around $500 per month if you’re frugal. While you’d be living a pretty basic existence, this is still 5 times more than millions of people live on.
My Africa Travel Budget
Over the course of about 4 months, I traveled from Addis Ababa to Cape Town overland by bus. I ended up spending about $4000. This includes all food, accommodation, tours, and transportation. It does not include my airfare which I got for free through credit card points. Had I paid my own airfare, it would have cost me around $1000 round trip from Los Angeles.
During my trip, I skipped two major tours. I did not hike Mount Kilimanjaro and I did not go gorilla trekking. These are both $1200+ tours that I decided to skip to reduce my Africa travel budget.
My one regret is skipping the gorilla trekking tour. I hope to travel to DR Congo on my next trip to see the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park.
As an alternative to Kilimanjaro, I’d like to climb Mount Kenya on my next trip to East Africa. The permit price is much lower.
A Note about ATMs and Money Tips in Africa
Overall, the money situation is a bit more tricky in Africa than many other travel destinations. Credit cards aren’t as widely accepted. You need to carry cash.
Luckily, ATMs are fairly easy to come by in Africa. This makes withdrawing local currency pretty easy. All larger cities have ATMs. Many small towns surprisingly have an ATM as well. For example, I was surprised to find a working ATM in Jinka in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. I also used one in Karonga, a small town in northern Malawi.
A Few Africa Money Tips
- Carry some cash as a backup- If you find yourself in a place without a working ATM or if your debit card gets lost or stolen, you need to be able to get by until you’re able to get more cash. I recommend carrying at minimum $500 in USD in denominations of 20,50, and 100. You can exchange them anywhere for local currency. You can use these to buy visas as well.
- Plan cash withdraws ahead- If you’re traveling to a rural area, withdraw enough cash from the ATM to support yourself until you make it to another city. Small villages don’t have banks.
- Know the exchange rates- If you need to exchange money, you want to shop around or negotiate the best rate. You also need to know what things cost so you don’t overpay.
- Do your research- In some countries, it is difficult or impossible to get cash from an ATM. For example, when I arrived in Zimbabwe, I found that all of the ATMs were empty. In Sudan, you can’t use foreign cards at the ATM. You must bring enough cash to last you the duration of your stay.
- Carry backup cards- Keep them separated so if you lose one, you may not lose the other. You need to have access to your money.
Final Thoughts on Traveling Africa on a Budget
In general, Africa is one of the more expensive travel destinations. When you factor in the high price of flights and safaris, you’re paying more to travel in Africa than you would to visit Latin America, Southeast Asia, or even much of Europe.
On the other hand, if you’re traveling long term and don’t care about seeing the main tourist sites, Africa is probably the cheapest place in the world to travel. You could get by on just a few dollars per day.
Personally, I believe the experience of traveling in Africa is well worth the cost. I completely fell in love with the continent. It’s my favorite continent that I have traveled.
Are you planning to travel to Africa on a budget? Share your plans in the comments below!