Trip Budget: Southern Africa
While not the cheapest region of Africa, the south had some pleasant surprises in store for our budget. The biggest being that we could do several self-drive safaris without the hefty price tag we were expecting. Overall, even with safaris, car rental, constant activities, and quite a few splurges, we still came in just about on budget.
Here’s what we spent in our two months in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland (all prices are per person):
As soon as we landed, we realised that if we were to see and do what we wanted, we would need to rent our own car. The first pleasant surprise was that cars can be rented in South Africa for as little as R100 (£5/$7) per person per day (based on two people sharing). In Lesotho and Namibia, rentals were more expensive, at roughly R170 (£8/ $11) and R200 (£9/$13) respectively.
Car rental prices were bumped up when we wanted to drop the car off in a different place to where we picked it up (as much as R200/ £9/ $13 each for a one-way fee), or when we wanted to add a second driver (this could double the price, so Adam just did all of the driving). When we only rented a car for a day or two, there was a mileage limit of 200km per day, but this limit was waived when we rented for four days or more. And when we took the car across the border from South Africa to Swaziland, there was a one time fee of R200 (£9/ $13) each. Petrol was incredibly cheap, at around R400 (£18/ $26) for a full tank.
Along the way, we picked up a few fellow backpackers who were looking to get around without renting their own car. This lowered the price of both car rental and petrol, as the costs were then split between three people instead of two. As many solo travels come to southern Africa without wanting to rent their own car, teaming up can be a great way to save costs (and make new friends!).
Check Europe Car to ensure you’re getting the best deal on car rentals in southern Africa.
We bought a very basic tent for R250 (£11/ $15), and stayed at campsites for between R60 and R150 (£3-7/ $4- 10) per person per night. These campsites are usually attached to hostels, and we had full use of the amenities such as a kitchen, bar, and wifi during our stay. When we got tired of the tent, or when it was raining heavily, we stayed in a dorm for between R130-R200 (£6- 9/ $8- 13) per person per night.
The hostels throughout southern Africa tend to be clean and well managed, and we never felt like we needed to spend more to have a more comfortable stay. The bars were usually sociable and many hostels even came with an outdoor area and pool.
Food and Drink:
We saved money by cooking for ourselves, picking up ingredients at one of the massive supermarkets located in each town. When we did feel like eating out, we rarely spent more than R100 (£5/ $7) on a main course.
Drinks were very cheap; a beer or glass of wine cost R15-30 (£0.70- £1.40/ $1-2) in a bar (around the same as a soft drink), and in a supermarket we could get beers for as little as R5 (20p/ 30c) and a bottle of wine for as just R25 (£1/ $1.40).
When we didn’t have our own car, we used shared or private taxis to get around the cities. In most cities, taxis charge a standard tariff of R35 (£1.60 /$2.20) plus R5- 10 (25-50p /35-70c) per kilometre. Shared minivans were very cheap; even a journey of several hours never cost more than R90 (£4/ $6). Those who have luggage need to pay extra for the seats that their luggage occupies.
Long distance buses are very comfy, but fairly pricey. The journey from Johannesburg to Durban (6 hrs, 500 km) cost R330 (£15/ $21), and from Cape Town to Windhoek (14 hrs, 1,478 km) cost R700 (£32/ $45).
When we were returning from Windhoek to Johannesburg, we opted for a flight, which, at R1,450 (£66/ $92), cost just a fraction more than the two buses we would have had to take otherwise.
Activities and Entrance Fees:
Aside from car rental, and basic living expenses, most of our money was spent on the incredible sights and activities that southern Africa has to offer.
We had assumed that safaris here would be guided tours costing several hundred pounds per day, but we were completely wrong. Kruger and Addo national parks charge an entry fee of just R220 (£10/ $14) per person per day, after which we were free to simply drive around the park at our leisure. We didn’t even need to splurge on a 4×4, as our teeny Chevy Spark Lite did the job perfectly!
The campsites inside Kruger cost just R160 (£7/ $10) per person per night, and food and drink cost much the same as it did throughout South Africa. Addo was small enough to camp outside, at a campsite that charged just R60 (£3/ $4) per person.
Almost all national parks in Namibia cost just N$80 (£3.50/ $5) per person per day, plus a N$10 (50p/ 70c) vehicle charge. Namib- Naukluft national park cost even less, at just N$40 (£2/ $2.80).
Activities along the Garden Route in South Africa bumped up our costs significantly. Cage diving with great white sharks was the most expensive, at R1,350 (£62/ $87). Thankfully the beaches were free!
Our total expenses in southern Africa added up to £1,270 ($1,775) each for two months (£20.50/ $28.65 per day). Our budget per month is £600, so we came in just about on budget on this leg of the trip.