My African Safari Tour: Travel Africa On A Budget

by Guest Blogger on December 22, 2009

This guest post is from David L., who visited Nairobi, Kenya in Africa earlier this year, on a dime. He’s decided to share his experience and talk about how he was able to travel on a budget.

Want to save on travel and go beyond the usual Expedia deals that promote the standard traveling spots around the world? Here’s something that may be a little more adventurous!

Africa budget travel

Africa: the “Dark Continent” holds a mysterious pull for even the most worldly of travelers. But how do you see all that Africa has to offer without breaking the bank, arriving back on familiar shores with only a backpack to your name? Traveling overland is the way forward (and across, and through and up and down…)

Once the realm of the true adventure-seeker, the overland route is now one of the most cost-effective ways to see all the sought-after destinations Africa has to offer. And it was something I tried out myself when I decided to visit Africa some months ago.

My African Safari Tour: Travel Africa On A Budget

With great distances and sometimes hard-to-reach destinations, getting around Africa can be a huge expense. But I did my research and I found out that there were ways to get by on a slim budget. I decided to work with a budget overland operator called African Trails, which runs trucks all over Africa on trips ranging from 6 to 43 weeks. When you deal with these economical travel operators — the longer the trip you sign up for, the more cost effective it becomes. And, once you are there, you’re already covered for the usual big ticket travel items (transport, accommodation and most meals) so you can sit back and enjoy the journey knowing that your basic costs are covered.

From my experience, a “budget” price-tag for an overland trip doesn’t mean less value. Overland routes cover most “must-see” destinations; they gave me the flexibility to choose from a range of optional activities, giving me the freedom to pick and choose what I spent my dollars on.

Traveling overland is about the journey, not just the destination. I was able to immerse myself in the sights, sounds and smells, without spending a fortune every step of the way. Along the way I discovered that some of the best things in Africa cost absolutely nothing! I enjoyed spotting shooting stars, the colours of an African sunset, lush rainforests, bone-dry deserts, and the endless savannah plains. By traveling overland, I was able to experience million dollar views without a million dollar price tag. I’m surprised that not more people try this out! Well the next point may give us a hint why.

What About Creature Comforts?

Some people are worried about giving up their creature comforts, but overlanding doesn’t mean discomfort. The trucks I rode on were equipped with all the necessities for traveling Africa overland, and provided ample storage for me and all my gear. They were designed to give me a premium view of the road ahead, no matter where I was seated. And while bush camping, building fires, haggling at a local market for dinner, or digging out the truck aren’t the realm of a 4-star traveler, they are experiences money can’t buy, and you’ll find (as I have) that they are also some of the most rewarding. Sometimes, a little adjustment of the mindset means a lot less adjustment to the bank balance.

The other great thing about overlanding is that I was able to share my adventure with other like-minded people. I was able to make life-long friends from all over the world, who also enjoyed traveling light and on a lean budget.

So whether it’s splitting shillings or divvying up dollars, sharing costs with your fellow travelers can be a great way to keep within your budget. You’d be surprised by how much the power of group bargaining can save you. This was one of many benefits I certainly enjoyed during my trip.

Another great cost-saver is meeting the locals. Not only did I get to absorb the real culture of a place I visited, but I was also able to receive rewarding and memorable moments that I felt made me richer for the experience. It may sound cheesy but this was something I was glad I experienced during my travels. You’ll also find that the generosity of the people you meet means that you might find yourself offered a meal or a place to stay for free, and all it cost you is a little of your time.

So if you’re budget-bound and want to see Africa for all its worth, travel overland!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stuart December 22, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Sounds like a very exciting trip. I would love to plan a trip to clime Mount Kilimanjaro, but I suppose getting the time off is a bigger obstacle than the expense. Any areas that you recommend people stay away from?


2 Alex B. December 22, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Nice post, David. This sounds like the right way to travel Africa.

I did the Kilimanjaro thing, Stuart, and unless it’s important to you to be able to say, “I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro”, I’d recommend doing something more like what David did, to really see Africa. I’m sure you can find a mountain closer to home to climb, and you won’t have to do it with hundreds of other people at the same time.

3 African Safari Vacations December 22, 2009 at 10:31 pm

A good article for the ones who are planning for a holiday in Africa without hitting the wallet. Having a memorable trip on a small budget is a dream for most but this certainly seems to live up to it.

4 David L. December 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Hi Stuart,

Yes, it was a great trip. The important thing to keep in mind is to keep in mind the size of the African continent. Some people try to do too much, in too little time.

If you only have two weeks then don’t try to cram in seeing the gorillas, Masai Mara, Serengeiti, Zanzibar and Victoria Falls all at once. You just can’t do it.

Plan it carefully and with your budget in mind. Realistically a Kilimanjaro climb will take you 7 – 8 days including transfers, which doesn’t give you much time to see much else in two weeks.

That’s why an overland tour is a good option if you have the time. You will still see everything that someone can pay tens of thousands for but much more economically. After all, a lion is still a lion no matter what you pay.

The African Trails site gives you a good idea of what you can do in a given time and also has some great pointers in it, as well.

5 Len Penzo December 23, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Hey David,

It sounds like you had a fantastic trip! Congratulations and thanks for the terrific tips.


Len Penzo dot Com

6 Evelyn January 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Amazing! I always thought it would be cool to travel to Africa in just that way but, uh, safely. 🙂

This is going to sound dumb but I have to ask — is that a photo or a painting? If it’s a photo, there is no way you took that yourself?!? I think I would fall over, OMG!

It’s not real, right?

7 The Smarter Wallet January 3, 2010 at 2:10 am

This is not a photo I took, I just found it somewhere. 🙂 I think it’s real though!

8 Francis February 26, 2010 at 6:11 am

That is such a great experience and vacation! Many guests and tourists don’t know that if they organize a trip or holiday in Africa they can probably save money by making direct contacts rather than dealing with the big tour operation companies, which can be more costly. I recommend that if you wish to have a good experience at Mt Kili or Safari tours, you should contact ordinary people instead of a tour company which will give you a high price with normal service or sometime poor services.

9 Safari Vacation May 24, 2010 at 4:42 am

Africa has been always surrounded by mystery and considered a dangerous land where wild animals roam. Hence it’s called “The Dark Continent”. Still, today Africa is a mixture of modern cities and areas with splendid nature and rich wildlife, so no wonder that travel agencies sell a lot of African safari vacation packages and more and more African countries are visited. Why not spend extremely interesting vacations and cultural tours here?

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