Budgeting for Africa

This the third in our three part budget outline. See Part 1 – South America and Part 2 – Southeast Asia.

We’re currently planning on spending approximately three months working our way down the east coast of Africa, from Ethiopia south to South Africa.  This leg of the trip has been the most difficult to nail down a budget for.  There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, our sole experience in Africa has come from our amazing trip to Egypt in 2006. We found Egypt to be fantastically easy to navigate and very cheap, characteristics that do not seem to fit the rest of the east coast as well. The second is also entirely our fault, because it is the part of the trip furthest away. Therefore we’ve done the least planning for it, so we really don’t have a great idea of our must see places and our must do activities (more specific than … go on safari, and … see Victoria Falls, etc).

Among things that are not our fault, Africa has a less developed tourism infrastructure that well known backpacking destinations like Southeast Asia do. Overall, there seem to be two poles of tourism service, the “very low” and the “over the top”, but little of the happy medium for budget minded travelers like ourselves. This makes it difficult to predict how much we will spend on average. And finally, it seems there’s more variance between the countries we’ll be visiting than Southeast Asia or South America. But I won’t back down! We’ll give this a go.

Every Day Expenses

Food seems like it will be quite cheap on the whole, I think we’ll be quite comfortable assuming $10 a day. Accommodation seems as though it will vary quite a bit depending on what is available in a given area. I think $40 a day should be a comfortable number, we’ll be well under that enough that it will make up for the times we’ll pay substantially more. Transportation will be somewhat the same way, since while buses are cheap, they may not exist in some places we want to go and private transport or airplane is not cheap. I think we’ll be safe and budget $20 a day. For our daily activities then this comes to $70 a day.


This is also a very uncertainly defined area at the moment, there are a number of things we want to do, but they can also vary wildly in cost.

Gorilla Trekking $1000

Safari $2000

Climb Kilamanjaro $1500

Any number of other adventure outings requiring guides $priceless

Put this all together and we expect the costs for Africa to be quite substantial. 90 days at $70 a day comes out to $6300 and you add it our additional activities and the total balloons to ~$12000.

Now, as evident throughout this post, this part of our trip is thusf ar the most poorly planned and the most poorly researched. So there are bound to be inaccuracies in this, and we would love to have you correct them. Any experience in Africa? What were your expenses? How easily were you able to get around?


So to summarize our entire budget and come to one big number, our entire budget comes to $32000 for two people. This presumes our RTW flights are covered with frequent flier miles and is based off of daily projected costs in each area with costs for the additional activities we hope to do factored in as well. This number does not include pre-trip costs such as insurance, immunizations, moving, storage, gear, etc. We’ll address these issues and their costs as they come up.

12 Replies to “Budgeting for Africa”

  1. I’ll have to make sure I come to a cheaper part of the Africa part of the trip. Or just work a bit and take out a bigger loan this year to make sure I can go on that Safari.

    Yeah, that sounds better. Ha.

  2. Hi Jeff,
    I’ve been following your budgeting to see how it compares with our planned 2009 RTW trip. We agreed completely on South America at $70/day. Our SE Asia budget is a bit more generous than yours at about $50/day – I suspect though that we are going to be pleasantly surprised! We’ll be going to Turkey, India and Australia also – I’ll be interested in reading about your Africa adventures! Our hope with the budget is to be conservative so that, in reality, the numbers will all be under that and we’ll feel good about it.

    Looking forward to hearing about your journey!


  3. I just had he following conversation with myself:

    Self: Who was it that guessed 34K in the Straw Poll?
    Self: It was I.
    Self: Oh yes, that is true.
    Self: I never doubted that I know everything.
    Self: That is also true.

    …I’ll spare you the rest, only because it gets into some really intense stuff probably beyond those who guessed figures like 50K and such.

  4. Gillian – Glad to see we’re getting pretty similar figures. I mean, it really is all a guessing game till you get there, but we’re also trying to be conservative. Everyone feels better if you come in under budget!

    And Matt, thanks for saving us the rest of the details. But 34K is also not 32K. Where’s the extra 2K going, O omniscient one?

  5. I think when you’re talking in terms of the overall budget for a RTW trip, coming within 2K of “estimated cost” is pretty good. But that’s just my opinion and I realize we all have different thoughts on this matter.

  6. So I went back and checked the straw poll figures, and it appears that both Erin and Matthew are the closest to our estimate, each off by $2,000. Although it appears that some people in their estimates included the pre-trip costs that we haven’t added in while others didn’t, and some didn’t specify. If we were on Price is Right, Erin would win since she was closest without going over. But once we add in the extras (a few thousand I suppose), those closer to $35-$40k may win.

    What will be truly interesting, however, is to see whose estimate is closest not to our estimate but to our actual costs.

  7. Let me share my experiences with Kenya with you, as an example of an East African country. I do not remember the exact costs of my trip there since I booked two packages: a safari in various National Parks there, and a stay at a beach hotel near Mombasa. It was a good deal, though, and we paid only a third of the price that other people paid because we were flexible when we booked, being willing to go anywhere on a two weeks notice (just enough time to get the required shots), be it somewhere in Africa or in Asia. Someone canceled their trip, and so we got their spot in the last minute, and I was thrilled that it was Kenya, because that’s what I had hoped for. We used airplanes for getting around from spot A to spot B (little planes which only carried the handful of people who were part of the safari) since public ground transportation is extremely poor and unsafe, unless you travel in a hotel or tour bus. Even using a taxi to cover a short distance felt like we would not arrive at our destination safe and sound because the vehicles were in such bad shape, the roads barely there, and the drivers drove like hangmen. Once the sun sets, darkness surrounds you and hordes of locals line the “roads” and the entrances to hotels, beaches, and other places where tourists may be found. Some of them carry machetes. One tourist was attacked in broad daylight on the hotel beach over a pair of Nike sneakers. You will not encounter this problem during your stay in park lodges or in camp sites during a safari. Most Kenyans live in incredible poverty and are desperate in the bigger cities. You will see heartbreaking conditions and if you are like me, you cannot help but give every beggar a little something (which can add up considerably, too). I do not want to scare you, – East Africa is beautiful and well worth 5 trips there,- but you need to consider your security. Hygiene is another factor. In regards to accommodations, you get what you pay for. Anything below 4 or 5 stars is a potential risk to your health. I felt safest on the safari, wild animals and all, since there were guards watching our steps and sleep. I would not travel on my own in Kenya, but always with supervision, and that takes planning ahead so that arrangements can be made, also in regards to where you will sleep and eat. Aids and malaria are rampant and public restrooms unusable. Try to stay away from the big cities, and if you go there, a day trip, or a short visit of several hours will just do fine. After touring Mombasa, I had no desire to also tour Nairobi, and chose to attend a day tour of Nairobi National Park instead. I liked Kilimanjaro and Amboseli National Park the best. The Masai Mara was not bad either. If you plan ahead, and stay safe and in tolerable hygienic conditions, you will become addicted to East Africa. It’s that breathtaking and unique. You are in for a true treat.:) Have fun!!!!

  8. Even though you’re not including pre-trip expenses in your budget, those can definitely add up. Especially the gear and clothing (I spent about $2k prior to my trip on that type of stuff). Immunizations are expensive and add up quickly for a trip like this. A couple aren’t just the single shot variety either, so don’t wait until the last minute (i.e. Japanese Encephalitis takes 3 shots on a very strict schedule…although you probably don’t need it where you’re going in SE Asia).

    You may want to add some funds to your budget for intercontinental flights even though you’re planning to use points…just to be on the safe side. I went the points route and it turned out to be the biggest pain of my trip (which I’ve mentioned previously so I won’t go into detail here). The airlines just don’t make it easy and recently they’ve been quietly hiking up the point levels required for award flights. While I would eventually get a flight where I needed, it could take a couple days to work it out which took away from my enjoyment of wherever I was. Figure if points work smoothly for you, then you can just save that extra budget for when you return home. Just an idea.

  9. Thanks for the information Regine. Obviously, safety trumps budget, and that is something we won’t take lightly, so perhaps we’ll need to rethink a fair amount of this section. Subconsciously, I think I keep substituting our experiences in Egypt when I think about Africa (big, crazy, bustling, but most amenities and transportation available at reasonable prices and with friendly, helpful people largely living in relative comfort). Not true for a lot of Africa.

    Scott, I didn’t mean to imply in the disclaimer that we don’t expect other costs. We definitely understand there’s a lot of pre-trip expenses (we’ve been hitting against a lot of them already). I was just trying to be clear about what was included in this budget figure and what was not. We’ll probably have a run down around when we leave of all the pre-trip costs we incurred. Furthermore, lets just say I’m skeptically hopefully about the airline tickets. We’ll see where that goes. And we definitely have to get moving on the shots.

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