How to Budget for your African Safari

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When someone utters the words “let’s go on a safari,” your first thoughts may be tent camps, pith hats, and bush living on the African plains.  But whatever images you dream up in your mind’s eye, “safari” means adventure.

While a Safari, by definition, doesn’t have to be in Africa, Africa is by far the most common Safari adventure destination. While many people still think of Safaris in terms of the now rather old-fashioned sense of game hunting the Big 5, most Safaris now are sight-seeing adventures instead.

A reputable Safari company will provide a tour with itineraries including big game viewing from off-roading, bush walks, and even water tour options when possible. You will have experienced guides and rangers leading your tour. A Safari truly is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

How Much Does an African Safari Cost?

With all the planning, coordinating, and adventure of a Safari, costs can add up. Using a tour company can help, by providing one price that is often nearly all-inclusive. By knowing this number, and paying installments significantly far in advance, you can plan and budget more effectively.

Keep in mind, however, that with most tours, you may still need to pay for flights, one or two nights of accommodations (usually upon arrival and departure, before and after the Safari), and, possibly a few meals along the way. In addition to the trip itself, you also have to consider vaccinations you may need, a passport, trip and medical insurance, and visas. You should also account for incidentals during the trip, such as tipping your guides, hotel staff, and in restaurants, souvenirs to take home, and, if you feel so inclined, charity.

Tipping in Africa, is for many people, the main source of income. While typically not large sums of money, these will add up and you should be sure to budget for them when planning your dream Safari adventure. Tips in Africa are typically paid in U.S. dollars, but local currency can be used, depending on the country. Make sure you bring small bills, as change for larger bills is usually hard to come by. The following is a short list of people you should remember to tip:

  • Restaurant staff-around 10-15 percent of the bill (but just as in the U.S. and other places, for large groups this may be added to the bill)
  • Hotel staff- $1 to $2 a day
  • Tour guides-$10 a day
  • Taxi drivers-10 percent of the fare, or $1 to $2

How to Manage the Cost of a Safari

While costs can add up, there are things you can do to minimize them. Using a Safari company, as mentioned above is a great way to help keep your budget in check–having a realistic idea of the total cost will take you a long way to budgeting for your Safari adventure. You can also plan to travel during the tourism off season. Going in the off season for tourists, April to September, is not just a great idea to keep costs down, it is also ideal for viewing the big game animals. This is the dry season in Africa, so the animals congregate at known watering holes and rivers.

If an amazing African Safari is in your dreams, and you want to make sure it is within your budget, make sure you keep in mind the following:

  • Use a Safari company, such as Roho Ya Chui, to plan your adventure and allow you to prepay for much of the trip.
  • Travel during the off-season (April to September) to keep airfare and other costs down.
  • Travel insurance is required for trips to Africa, including Safaris. This will cover cancelled tours, illness, lost baggage etc.
  • Airfare to and from the Safari departure point is usually not included in the tour.
  • Visas and Passports are a must for most travel; these can take both time and money.
  • Don’t forget to plan for non-included meals and snacks, and of course—souvenirs to remember your amazing Safari adventure.

An African Safari is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. So grab your pith helmet and camera, with planning and the use of a great tour operator, you can be touring the African plains in no time.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

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