Plan your Wild Trip to Africa, On a Budget
So when we graduate university or are ready to embark on the ‘adventure of a lifetime’ we usually think of the everyday places everyone dreams about; Europe, Bali, Hawaii and maybe even Thailand. Since you have already clicked on this link you must be interested in potentially venturing into the unknown territories of ‘Africa’. We have all watched The Lion King countless times throughout our childhoods but Africa has so much more to offer. Africa is a huge continent filled with countless languages spanning over 52 countries. It is an amazingly diverse continent filled with so much history and adventure, you could spend your life there and always experience something new and exciting in the Motherland.
Listed below are 6 points to think about when planning your wild adventure to Mama Africa. You’ll need to plan ahead to stay on budget and make your adventure the most meaningful experience possible.
With over 3,000 languages in this rich continent and the land spanning between oceans, you’ll need to pin point exactly where you would like to visit. For this list I’m going to focus on Southern Africa. It includes lush bushlands like Botswana and a biodiverse, culturally diverse and technologically strong South Africa. Southern Africa is hugged on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other by the warm Indian Ocean. Do some research and decide what you would like to see and which countries would be best suited for you. Beginning in South Africa is a great idea as it will be a comfortable start to a culturally rich endeavor where you will submerge yourself into a lifestyle you’re unfamiliar with. Here’s a starting point to your research.
Climb Cape Town’s Table Mountain
Party up on Long Street, Cape Town
Swim in Durban’s warm Indian Ocean
Experience Splashy Fen Music Festival April 17-21, KwaZulu-Natal
Release your inner artist at the National Arts Festival, July 3-13
Party on a cruise with Africa's favorite DJ's Oh Ship, April 4-7
Dress to impress and test your luck with a gamble at Vodacom Durban July
Watch as the worlds best showoff their skill in our prestigious surfing competition Mr Price Pro Balito, July 1-4
Take a Trip to experience the 4th LARGEST River in Africa
Check out the Strab Music Festival May 21-25
Experience life in the bush as you escape the concrete jungle to become one with nature.
Travel to Victoria Falls and witness the majestic waterfall that separates two countries.
Kick back and relax like an islander as you experience the beautiful pearl beaches
Dive into the marine life as you submerge yourself into another world that would rival Atlantis.
Depending on the amount of time you have you can see a plethora of sights and visit many different countries. This depends on time and your budget which I’ll speak about in a bit. Calculate how much time you can get off work or how long your school break will be. Make sure you also calculate how long it will take you to get from point A to point B. If you’re coming from New York to Johannesburg, it will take a direct flight about 17-19 hours to get there and since you’re travelling on a budget you probably won’t get that lucky. Expect the potential 23+ hour flight with stops and layovers. This is massively important because you have to dedicate 2 weeks or more to this trip or it’s not worth your time and money. I’d suggest block out 3 weeks, a month or more if you can. Give yourself time to recuperate from jetlag so you’re not backpacking in a fog.
Second point to this is the season. If you’re anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere you have to take into consideration that the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are opposite. If you’re planning for Cape Town, South Africa in July you’ll have to prepare yourself for 50 degrees Fahrenheit, rain and wind which might be better than your typical Winter but it still won’t be beach weather.
On the other hand, you’ll still be able to enjoy fun in the sun in Durban, South Africa and Mozambique which are always blessed with beautiful weather. Winter in Africa can be beautiful but only if you have planned accordingly. Pick your season and your location wisely and think about a Winter getaway. Escape the snow and experience Christmas in the summer sunshine.
When travelling on a budget, think ‘backpackers’. Ideally your accommodation will be clean and comfy but prepare yourself for the worst. Once you have decided on where you would like to go and for how many days you can look online. My favorite resource is www.hostelworld.com. There are many other resources online, but this one has helped me out when traveling all over the world, especially in South Africa. Make sure you take notice of the scores of the backpackers and also comments and reviews; these are your biggest clues on what to expect of your potential accommodation. For a dormitory, you’re most likely to spend between R100 to R400 per night ($10-$40 Dollars American) but if you're a little thrifty you may find better rates than that. Also check out bed and breakfasts throughout South Africa as it may cut down on cost as it includes one of your meals.
You will most likely be flying into Africa, but what then? Do you rent a car, nah too pricey? In some cases, depending on where you would like to travel, renting a car is your best option. For those needs check out www.avis.co.za and www.aroundaboutcars.com. If you’re in South Africa, you have unlimited resources to public transportation and my favorite being BazBus. What's great about this company is that they offer a door to door service so you don’t have to worry about getting to your accommodation once you have arrived at your destination. They are super safe and also have trips and routes allowing you to jump on and off at different points. With BazBus you can also travel to Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique while meeting travelers from all over the world.
When traveling between cities and countries try using http://www.flymango.com/ and http://www.kulula.com/ instead of the larger and, most likely, more expensive airlines. They usually run specials offering you a great flight at an equally great price.
Is your trip affordable on your estimated budget? Truth be told, traveling to Africa will be pricey but the experience is worth more than any currency. Budget $2,000 Dollars American for a flight; check out www.studentuniverse.com and www.statravel.com to find the best deal. Also fly out of and into international airports. Those flights usually seem to be more economical. You can often find flights from JFK to JHB between $1,200 and $1,500 but keep looking frequently and you’ll get lucky.
Your day to day budgeting should range between R800 and R1000, that’s about $80 to $100. You’ll be spending on accommodation, 3 meals a day, transportation, entry into museums or tickets for experiences and the inevitable shopping.
Approximately R50-R150 per entre
Approximately R15-R70 per drink
Approximately R40-R80 per person
Bus Tickets (in-between cities)
Approximately R100-R1000 per person
You’ll also need to budget for your Visa. For all European, Latin American and American citizens you’ll receive a 90 day tourism Visa upon arrival in South Africa without charge. For Mozambique, American tourist must pay an $82 one-entry visa upon arrival. Check out the countries webpage and do a quick Google search for what to expect regarding Visas.
Also download XE Currency Converter’s app for your phone. You’ll thank me.
Attention over-packers, you know if you’re guilty! Think wisely about the trip you are planning #1, you’re a traveler on a budget so no need for expensive clothing or 15 pairs of shoes.
#2, if you’re planning on visiting more than one country and plan on moving around pick a piece of luggage that is easy to pack and won’t be a hassle to lug around. These are some good examples:
Keep in mind your weight allowance. Make sure you look up the maximum weight allowance for your international flight and any domestic flights you’ll be taking. The worst scenario is when you have to pay extra fees because your luggage exceeded the weight restriction.
Keep in mind what country you’re coming from as well as your destination. If you try to wedge your flat iron plug into the incorrect electricity socket you won’t get a warm response from the hostel staff. The voltage in South Africa is 220/230 volt/50 hertz. If you’re coming from the States, this will be a problem because you run on 110 volt/60 hertz. Plug in anything that doesn't already have a built-in transformer or you’ll get a shock. Many electronics like your computer and cellular phone already have an adapter, but for your appliances that don’t, check out the graphic attached.
*Type D seems to be the most used in Southern Africa but make sure you do a bit of research and bring a voltage converter if you have any doubts about what you are plugging in.
Take into consideration that some countries in South Africa require proof of a yellow fever vaccination.
Last Minute Tips
(1) Repeat after me, “It’s all part of the adventure”. There will come a time with every international experience where you question why you decided to embark on such a crazy adventure. There will also be times where you may think about never returning home. When you are stuck in the mud, wishing for a warm bed just remember you’ll be laughing at these memories with friends.
(2) Do your research. This is not the time to be spontaneous and wing it. Keep your trip economical, safe and fun by reading and researching before you embark on your adventure. Further your research by checking out these great Tips and Trips to traveling abroad.
(3) Zip plastic bags are your best friend. The pressure on your flight may cause your toiletries to explode and ensuring that they are in a sealed plastic bag eliminates the chances of messy luggage.
(4) Make friends and be adventurous. Don’t follow an itinerary exactly. Sometimes when we are tunnel-visioned and following a detailed plan, we miss exciting and new experiences. If you’re asked to go wine tasting in the Stellenbosch vineyards with some attractive South Africans, Go!
(5) It’s the African sun, need I say more. Lather your skin with a good sun screen.
(6) Leave a certified copy of your passport, important contact numbers and itinerary somewhere safe. You never know what will happen.
(7) Call your phone’s provider and request the unlock code. This usually takes three weeks to receive and will make your phone usable in any country. Once in a foreign country buy a sim card and purchase data so you can use your smart phone’s internet without ridiculous charges which in some cases can be roughly $15 a megabit.
There is so much to say on the topic of traveling to Africa but I’ll leave you here. This list barely touches the surface of all your questions and concerns; the rest will have to be left for the Comment area. Get excited and start planning the trip of a life time. Whether you’re a daredevil, environmentalist or just want a calming getaway, Africa will be a magical place for you to discover, learn and be captivated. Bon Voyage!
- The Jetstream Team