Africa has a terrible reputation when it comes to its general perception around the world. This is largely due to frequent media coverage regarding corruption, lethal viruses and acts of warfare. In reality, these are very rare occurrences on one of the largest landmasses in the world. For the most part, Africa is a very safe place to travel.
Unfortunately, the lack of tourists lining up to visit the dark continent does not mean it’s any less expensive to get there and, in this sense, the airfare is usually a significant investment. However, it’s most certainly one worth making and by taking note of the following pieces of advice, it really is possible to travel Africa on a budget.
Eat & sleep local
Although a third world continent, there’s always something to spend or blow your hard-earned cash on in Africa. If you want five-star lodges with Egyptian cotton sheets and Kudu steaks barbecued by the local celebrity chef, then there are usually a few options for you to indulge in.
Alternatively, if you see more value in traveling for a longer period and enabling your spending money to go further, then the solution is always to eat and sleep locally.
Every city, town and village in Africa has a local market, or at the very least some local food stalls. The taste of food can vary from one place to another but the quality is perfectly safe, not to mention the fact that it always costs a small fraction of what you normally pay in a restaurant.
Likewise, the local guesthouses or family-run hotels are a bargain compared to the larger hotels in town. The difference in this cost weekly will help you save money for other activities such as taking safaris.
Buy crafts or souvenirs
Africa is one of the richest places in the world when it comes to arts and crafts. The quality of paintings you’ll see belong in a collector’s gallery. And it’s not just paintings, but also woodcarvings, jewelry, clothing and other pieces.
By all means, everyone should pick up souvenirs. Even more so when they are as unique or high quality as you are likely to find, but always make sure you purchase them directly from the locals.
Buying directly from the locals is obviously making sure that they are properly rewarded for their work, which is a problem you might encounter elsewhere. It also means you’re likely to pay a lot less than if you were to go to a shopfront or store in the local area.
You could literally spend hundreds on fascinating memorabilia from your travels to Africa but making an effort to search out the actual creator of these items will be the most rewarding.
Book your safari right
This is likely to be the biggest money-saving piece of advice you will receive for planning a trip to Africa; when booking a safari, don’t book it online.
Yes, we’re living in an age when everything is pre-arranged on smartphones but unless you want to pay twice the cost of what the same safari is advertised as on location, don’t book it on the Internet. For some reason, online safaris in Africa are always grossly overpriced in comparison to what you find on the ground when you arrive.
The best method for getting the tour you require is to arrive in the nearest town to the National Park and then negotiate a suitable price with your operator of choice. In many places, the local towns will have an endless stream of safari operation and they will gladly reduce their asking price if it means not missing out on your custom.
Choose transport wisely
The option of traveling entirely by local transport will save you hundreds at the very least. It might not be most comfortable or the least amount of hassle but it’s definitely the most cost-effective.
That being said, if you’re not entirely comfortable taking on the task of traveling Africa on local transport, another excellent budget option is to take an Overland tour.
Although not for everyone, an Overland tour is a great opportunity to meet new people with whom you travel with and share new experiences. Of course, a lot of the inconvenience is taken out of your itinerary when you take a tour but really the shared cost of a trip like this is often what makes it the best way to travel through Africa on a budget. Many Overland tours include two meals a day, park entry fees, optional excursions and the services of an experienced guide making it a great option for anyone who doesn’t mind traveling as part of a group.
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