So you’re looking to find a bargain when it comes to your South African safari experience?
Well good news, you’ve come to the right place if you want to get the best budget tips about how to pay less!
Unfortunately, as you may not have realised, safaris do not generally make very budget-friendly trips, but South Africa is actually one of the cheapest countries to spot wildlife in across the whole continent.
Add to this my top money-saving tips, which I’ve gleaned over several visits to this part of the world, and I’m happy to say that after reading this article you really should be armed with all the knowledge you need to enjoy a great South Africa safari for less.
So what are we waiting for?
Let’s get started…
- 55 Best Things to Do in Africa
- 3 Unforgettable Africa Travel Itineraries
- 18 Best Things to Do in Cape Town
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#1 Pay in Rand!
It’s generally acknowledged that, overall, it’s cheaper to safari in southern Africa as opposed to east Africa – a lot of which has to do with infrastructure and access.
And within southern Africa, it’s South Africa itself that generally ranks as the most affordable safari destination going.
One of the key reasons for this is that many safari tours operating in this country are run by local companies who, unlike in countries such as Kenya or Tanzania, quote their prices in South African Rand as opposed to USD.
Due to exchange rates between the Rand and many Western currencies (including USD, GBP, AUD and EUR), the price of a trip in Rand can be extremely favourable, and paying in this local currency can certainly save you a lot on your South African safari.
In some instances, I’d actually advise monitoring the exchange rate, because the worse the Rand is doing on the global markets (sorry my lovely South African friends!), the more attractive the cost of a safari quoted in that currency will be for you.
As such, my first hack is to always check if you can pay in Rand for any South African safari, and then use secure online services like Wise (rather than regular banks) to again save on transaction and processing fees when you pay for your chosen trip.
#2 Review your Flight Options
Another reason South African safaris offer some of the best value on the continent, is because tourist infrastructure and services across this country are generally very high.
This means that, even if you are paying the same amount you might to safari in another country, it’s likely the standards you’ll receive in South Africa will be better.
This is reflective of the fact that living standards are higher here than in many other destinations on the continent.
As a result of greater economic development, South Africa also has more competition when it comes to safari operators, which actually works to keep prices down, as does the fact that tourist demand here is high.
And finally, as a major tourism destination, South Africa offers some of the best international flight connections on the continent.
With a wealth of planes arriving from around the globe into its 3 major international airports, including very regular routes from the US, Australia and the UK, flights to South Africa can be cheaper than flights to elsewhere in Africa too.
As a result and, given the demand, many flight deals can be found direct to this country, which will certainly help keep the cost of your safari down.
As always, I use Skyscanner to find the best options.
It’s worth noting too, that flights into Johannesburg are often cheaper than those into Cape Town, so consider flying internationally there if you want to source the cheapest tickets.
Then check out my list of the best Johannesburg hostels if you need to stay in this city on a budget.
Otherwise, if you do need to visit Cape Town, you can then catch a domestic flight and the total cost may still be cheaper than flying direct to this city.
Check out my top Cape Town itinerary for some ideas about what to do in this amazing destination either before you start, or after you finish, your safari.
Or alternatively, you can drive, bus or train between Johannesburg and Cape Town and explore many of the other amazing things to do in South Africa along the way.
#3 Consider the Access
And linking in with this point about cheaper flight connections, it’s great to know that not only is South Africa easy to get to, but many of the parks here are very easy to access as well.
Yes South African safaris offer some of the most accessible conditions on the continent, which certainly helps to keep the cost of them down!
While, of course, there are many reserves in very remote parts of the country, especially in the north, there are also many excellent parks like Kruger and Addo that lie just a few hours’ drive from major cities along well-maintained and signposted roads.
Comparing this to the remote and sometimes hard-to-access parks in Namibia and Botswana, for example, having so many options for safaris that you can drive to in a short amount of time, is another reason the safari costs stay lower in South Africa too.
As such, it goes without saying, that heading to an easily accessible park will definitely help you find a cheaper South Africa safari.
Malaria risks are also lower in many parts of South Africa compared to other Southern African countries, so you can generally rake the price of antimalarial medication out of your safari here too.
That said, please do consult a travel doctor before your visit to this part of the world and seek professional medical advice.
#4 Don’t Discount a Self-Drive
And coming in at number 4 on this list of top South Africa safari budget hacks, it’s one that can make a huge difference to the amount you pay.
And that’s because South Africa is one of the few countries where you can actually drive yourself in a safari park.
Yup, without the need to join a group or hire a guide, self-drive is a huge way to keep the costs of your South Africa safari low.
Of course, you need to check which parks allow self-driving, and at what times of the day (i.e. dawn, afternoon or night game drives), but once you’ve established this, you’re pretty much good to go!
Self-driving also makes it very cheap to get to safari parks, essentially doing away with any need for travel agencies, tours and guides too.
Often people pick their rental car up at the airport on their arrival in South Africa and, having planned and booked their own itinerary, they then enjoy this amazing country and its wildlife at their own pace.
Of course, you need to be confident driving in foreign countries, as well as have the relevant licenses to achieve this, but once those things are sorted, South African driving can be pretty straightforward!
Just remember that in South Africa they drive on the left-hand side of the road – great if you’re from the UK, Australia or New Zealand, but less easy if you’re from mainland Europe or North America!
For more information, check out this article which contains lots of road safety advice for foreigners driving in South Africa.
#5 Don’t Rule Out Camping
And, of course, driving around in your own vehicle, also allows you to take a bit more safari stuff with you too, including camping gear!
And what this means is that you can save even more money by camping in safari destinations, rather than paying for lodges, hotels or chalets.
All part of the South Africa safari experience if you ask me, you can’t beat spending a night out under those big, star-laden skies, as the noises of this vast landscape and its animals echo around you.
If you are interested in camping, then check which parks in this country offer these facilities; otherwise, if you do want to stick to lodges or chalets, often options you can find just outside the park gates (just a short drive away) are a lot cheaper than those you’ll find with them.
Key camping components to bring with you for a South African safari on a budget include a tent, mattress, decent sleeping bag, silk liner and possibly a travel pillow.
Learn more in my complete safari gear list here.
#6 Check Government-Run Parks First
So now that we’ve covered how to get to, and how to get around the various national parks of South Africa on the cheap, my next travel hack for spending less on your safari in this country is to talk about which parks to visit.
Because, FYI, there’s a heck of a lot of them here!
Generally, the more expensive options (complete with luxury lodges etc) tend to be the private reserves, which are just what they say on the tin i.e. privately-owned stretches of land with safari businesses operating within them.
But wonderfully in South Africa, you’ve got a choice beyond these private reserves, in the form of state-owned parks, which are administered by a central government body and which have much more reasonable entrance and accommodation fees, including camping options and simple chalets.
Check out the great South Africa National Parks website for loads of information about the reserves they administer, what you can do there and where you can stay.
You can easily book direct through the website too – perfect if you’re organising your own trip.
Popular SANparks include:
- Kruger National Park
- Addo Elephant National Park
- Agulhas National Park
- Karoo National Park
- Garden Route National Park
So there’s really no excuse not to enjoy them!
#7 Organise Your South Africa Safari Independently
Which leads me nicely onto point #7 for enjoying a South Africa on a budget, because while it might sound obvious, many people forget that the more of their South Africa safari (or any safari for that matter) they organise themselves, the less it’s likely to cost them!
Quite simply, not paying an agency to do the legwork for you will significantly decrease the amount of commission (and therefore the price of what) you pay.
Researching parks, booking accommodation, arranging car hire and sorting safari entrances online is totally possible, and reading blogs to help you plan your itinerary is a great free resource too!
This does take time of course, but if you’ve got it, it’s worth it.
Alternatively, if you’d rather someone do the legwork for you, and / or if you don’t want to travel independently, then use an online tour booking site, to find your perfect tour.
This will be significantly cheaper than using a high street travel agency – why not check out these great South Africa safari trips to get some ideas.
#8 Safari in the Off-Season
And last but not least, the final tip on my list of how to pay less for your South Africa safari is to travel in the off-season.
This can be a bit of a confusing issue in South Africa, because this vast country spans a few different climates and terrains, but generally speaking, the low season here is acknowledged as being during the southern hemisphere winter months of May through October.
At this time, it’s colder and wetter in the Cape Town region, but actually drier and pleasantly cooler in the Johannesburg area where Kruger National Park lies.
Kruger is South Africa’s most popular national park and visiting here in the “off-season” can be great, as the drier conditions mean less humidity and less vegetation, which equals more visible wildlife.
You can learn more about this in my article about the best time to visit Kruger and Cape Town, otherwise, it’s worth knowing that any time outside of the South African school holidays are going to yield much cheaper prices for your safari.
Avoid school holidays like the plague… you have been warned!
Mini Travel Guide to South Africa
When to Visit?
I always think the best time to visit South Africa is during the country’s summer season from December through February.
Prices may be higher, but the weather sure makes up for it!
How Long to Spend There?
Ideally, you’ll want a trip of at least 7-10 days in South Africa.
2 weeks would be ideal and 3 weeks+ is dreamy!
Best Budget Accommodation in South Africa
Cape Town: Atlantic Point Backpackers
Johannesburg: Once in Joburg
Wild Coast: Buccaneers, Cintsa
Durban: Backpackers on the Beach
Best Budget Tours of South Africa
If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in South Africa with guides you can trust, or a self-drive trip organised by a great company, then email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!
Alternatively, I’m currently offering my readers an exclusive discount on all Absolute Africa tours, meaning you can now travel even more in the amazing country of South Africa and across the whole region of Southern Africa for even less! Simply send this top African overland tour company an email to [email protected], quoting the discount code BWSP, and start planning your incredible trip with them today!
Otherwise, if it’s strictly safari tours you’re looking for, check out these top picks.
6 Things Not to Forget to Pack…
#1 Swimwear and Sarong – One World Sarongs are always my go to and a must when you hit this beautiful beaches of South Africa.
#2 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The South Africa Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful when it comes to more travel tips, maps and recommended places to eat and drink.
#3 Insect Repellent and Anti-Malarials – I recommend a 30% DEET repellent for South Africa and anti-malarials if you’re travelling to Kruger and around – although please always consult the advice of a medical professional before any travels to this part of the world.
#4 South African Power Adapter – They have their own unique adapter in this country (only otherwise used in Esawtini, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana) so come prepared with a South Africa adapter at the ready.
#5 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, and have used it to capture the beauty of this country and beyond.
#6 Good Sandals – You’ll live in sandals in most of South Africa and I would never travel anywhere now without my trusty pair of Birkenstocks!
Learn more in my full South Africa packing list here.
Travel Insurance for South Africa
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Mobile Data in South Africa
Ever wanted to capture or even share those magical safari moments with friends or family back home? Or maybe you want a way to share them once you’re back at the hotel. For both, consider using prepaid eSIM data if your Wi-Fi connection isn’t the strongest. I recommend aloSIM.
Travel Money in South Africa
In South Africa, the currency is the South African Rand.
ATMs are plentiful and accept both Visa and Mastercard.
When it comes to paying for things here, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel to South Africa.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Grab yours here.
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST!
And there you have it, my 8 budget hacks when it comes to paying less for your South Africa safari.
Do you have any more tips to add to this list that could help other travellers?
If so, please drop them into the comments box below…