11 Ways to travel around Africa on a budget.
Africa is one continent that is known for the wild animal encounters, exotic cultures, stunning beaches and dramatic landscapes. It is the travel experience that can creep within your skin, making you to return once again. But, traveling over Africa is a bit daunting and difficult experience for the travelers. Most popular backpacking route starting in Cape Town and finally ending in Cairo.
Choosing Your Itinerary
For a lot of first time visitors, Africa will prove a bit intimidating. Even the seasoned travelers are thrown by the frustrating public transportation, poor quality and overpriced hotels and lack of infrastructure. Lots of visitors head to Africa just as a part of the overland tour. There’re a lot of companies that give packaged trips, which are targeted at the backpacker crowd. It is far from being essential, but suppose you are looking for some adventure and want to have flexibility in your schedule. Then selecting the right itinerary can be very important since there’re a lot of regional differences within the vast continent.
Highlights and Activities
Safaris: One most popular reason of visiting Africa is doing the safari. Tanzania, South Africa and Kenya are the most famous countries to see the wildlife. Masai Mara Park of Kenya is the most affordable option, and depending on the season, you are better off visiting Serengeti in Tanzania and Kruger National Park in South Africa. Whereas these are some popular countries to go for safaris, there’re some excellent options in the countries that are more off beaten track.
Tribal Experiences: Lots of people travel Africa for experiencing their culture. Life still continues in certain areas untouched by the modern technology. In Ethiopia you will get the glance of how life was once. Traditions and ceremonies stay in place in spite of the changing world outside. Mali in West Africa, you may trek through Dogon Country and notice women walking far to the well just to collect water. In order, to get to an off beaten path you might need the guide or hired car. If you are planning ahead then you may coordinate with travelers & split the cost.
Beaches: Some of the African countries have got world renowned beaches, whereas this might not be a first image that comes into your mind if you think about an African holiday, it is the best way to relax and unwind after your African adventure. Some places like Zanzibar in Tanzania are called as the backpacker havens, whereas Cape Town in South Africa also appeals to the higher end crowd. There’re some amazing places to dive in Red Sea off the coast of Egypt, also there are a few surprising beachfront resorts at different countries with the coastline.
Mountain Climbing: To climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak of Africa, is the lifelong goal for a lot of people. It is one wonderful trek, which needs high patience and preparation, but the reward is worth everything. Alternatively, you can look at some lesser known peaks of Africa like Mount Kenya. The routes are as rewarding and less challenging.
Camel Treks: If you are looking for the truly exotic adventure, then camel trek can get you off your beaten track and see the landscape and Bedouin culture. You can sleep under stars than you have imagined and meet amazing people. This is the unique experience, no matter whether you want to do this in Egypt or Morocco.
One question many travelers ask is “How can I get around?” Here given are 11 tips to travel around Africa and get different choices:
Agree Prices Before Time
This can be obvious, but it is important for the budget traveler to Africa –ensure you clear the price straight up. Don’t get in the taxi, don’t go on the tour, and don’t stay somewhere until you know what you’re expected to pay. You need to be straightforward and clear. You need to know what will you pay and agreeing the amount beforehand can sure save you from nasty surprises at the end.
Understand Basic Numbers
It is one very important point for the budget travel in the African countries and where English isn’t their national language or widely understood. So, learning basic phrase like “How Much?” or basic numbers, so that you will be able to understand reaction to your question, can ensure you know what the rate is! It can give you bargaining power. Key examples where it is used are in the Amharic speaking Ethiopia, Portuguese-speaking Mozambique and Arabic-speaking Morocco.
Always take the Receipt
If you think you’re being ripped off in any point during the budget travels to Africa, asking for the receipt or ticket is the best way you can ensure you will not be. It is mainly true at the border crossings and official entry points, such as museums and more. It will work in another way as well. Yes, the budget travelers, suppose you do not like the sound of the official price, then at times reiterating you do not need receipts will help you to swing good discount!
It is good to know that everything is negotiable in Africa and haggling is one way of life for many countries. The best rule is asking the price and dividing this by 3 and start your negotiations right from there!
Use the Taxi Apps
With the increasing rise in the smart phone users over Africa, the apps are getting very common. The best one for the travelers are the taxi apps, like Uber, or equivalents that are the fantastic tool for the budget travel to Africa. With use of such apps, you will ensure you are paying the right amount, as, let us be honest, the taxi drivers are a kind of rip-off merchants over. Some examples include Uber in Cairo, Tirhal in Sudan, and finally Mondo Ride in Kenya. With the guaranteed prices given, these are amazing resources to ensure that you pay out local, and not the tourist, rates.
Know Visa Prices
Knowing visa prices that are very clearly defined on the internet through your government’s foreign office can be the most important piece of information that you will know, and budget, before time. However, always be very careful, they are not cheap in Africa!! Come prepared & allocate appropriate funds in advance. Presenting the correct amount of money on the border can also decrease the chances of getting ripped off, as it can make you look as if you know all the rules!
It may appear obvious, but the local places for your stay will be much cheaper than owned spots. They are a little rougher around edges, and are a key way of keeping your cost down if you are on the budget travel to Africa!
In East and Southern Africa, supermarkets are targeted at the ex-pats and filled with imported goods. When you look at their prices you will get shocked! Avoid supermarkets at any costs, and prices are similar to one in the west –bad for the budget traveler to Africa. Same thing goes for the malls! But buy from locals in the smaller and independent shops, cafes, stalls, or markets.
Look for Tuk Tuks
Amazingly, the tuk-tuks in Africa are as big as in Asia but are the best way to get over on the small distance journeys and at a very less cost. (In Ethiopia, they are called Bajaj.) They are quite common in Tanzania and Kenya and called as Ditto boda bodas. Both the options are way cheaper than the taxis, thus enjoy your rattling ride!
Take the Train
You will discover that there’re a few amazing train journeys seen on this continent. It is one best news for the budget travel to Africa, as often they are safe and cheap … if not grubby!
Go for Safaris
Definitely safaris aren’t very cheap in Africa –actually they are likely to be your biggest expenses, really, why will you come and not enjoy safari? One best way to score good safari is teaming up with other travelers and present as the group –that way you form ready-made tour, and earning yourself serious buying power. On the other hand, you can stay in hostels or make them do group assembling.
Cheap African Destinations
Whereas Africa might prove to be a very expensive place than you would have expected, but you can save money by choosing some right destinations. If you like to do scuba diving in Red Sea, go to Dahab than Sharm Sheikh. Leave out South Africa and go to Botswana, and try something unique and visit Ethiopia, the best destination for the budget conscience. Select places where the independent travel is practical so that you will avoid the expense of hiring the car. In West of Africa, consider Mali that is simpler to navigate than Senegal.
When you are in the country, you also can save money by visiting some towns and cities. The capital cities have many more hotels accessible so there’s the broader diversity in the cost and the comfort level. The smaller towns might have 1 or 2 budget hotels, and they might have just one expensive hotel. So, know what you can expect before you come and your budget can last you longer. So, wherever you go, always remember, you need to stay flexible and enjoy. In Africa things will arise that are just unexpected.
Buses, Trains and Taxis
The transportation in Africa is expensive. The flights in Africa are quite expensive due to weak demand. The trains are very slow and challenging, and buses are highly crowded and uncomfortable, and break down. If you are on the tight schedule then your best bet will be to hire the car. Suppose time is not a factor, but money is, select the route, find bus, try to settle in and enjoy your ride. In certain countries rates are set, but it is generally the best bet to negotiate, mainly when baggage fee appears. Stay fair and assertive whenever you negotiate.
Things to Avoid When Traveling During the Peak Season
Before planning your trip to Africa, you need to do some research about the destination that you’re traveling to and know when the peak season is. If you are traveling during the peak season then everything becomes very expensive. Prices may rise not just for the fights or accommodation, but for popular activities also like safari tours or culinary adventures. There’re generally 2 seasons in Africa –dry and rainy season. In majority of the cases, the dry season is a peak season as this is when the safari sightings are very successful, and the off-peak is the rainy season.
Suppose going on the safari is something that brings you closer to Africa, then it is good to take a note that the rain in Africa often is intermittent, and leaving you a lot of hours of sunshine. When sightings of precocious animals can be challenging, but expert African guides can help you to track down other African species that includes big five and many varieties of birds. To give you the general idea, here’s the basic overview:
East Africa – East side is a home to many popular safari destinations like Maasai Mara of Kenya and Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The dry season in Africa generally lasts from July – September and arguably is one best time you can visit East Africa. But, one still can visit the East Africa during the wetter seasons and get mesmerized by the wildlife there.
West Africa –If you’re traveling to the countries in western area, including Gabon, Ghana, and Mali, dry season generally last from November – April.
And Southwest Africa experience the rainy season right from April – July and September – October and Northwest Africa has just 1 rainy season that starts from July – September.
Southern Africa –Southern area of the Sub Saharan Africa generally experiences the dry season that starts from April – October where mornings are quite sunny and nights are very cool. The rainy season starts from November – March. The rainy season is a good time you can visit Botswana for the avid birdwatchers as country’s Okavango Delta then transforms in the lush greenery, which attracts a wide range of the bird species.
Click for more tips.