A Guide to Budget Travel in South Africa

view of cape town from above

Traveling South Africa on a budget means experiencing burning sunrises, mountains that will swallow you whole, and the most powerful animals in the world…all on the cheap!  Is South Africa cheap to visit? Well, it depends. It turns out that you can actually see and experience a LOT while traveling South Africa on a budget. Don’t let your finances stop you!

Cape Town, South Africa
Pay less than $5 for conservation and hike Table Mountain in Cape Town!

To name a few of the many activities you’ll want to count on in your South Africa travel cost, here are the basics: surfing, wine tasting, experiencing safaris, shark diving, dancing till morning on Long Street, and hiking beautiful mountains.

There are endless activities, sights, adrenaline rushes, views, and so much to experience when traveling South Africa on a budget. Most of what South Africa is known for is its natural beauty, which is, of course, free! To complement this, logistical travel costs can be extremely cheap depending on your preference.

Is South Africa cheap to visit?

Yes, budget travel in South Africa is possible! You’ll find many unique resources catered towards affordable travel. Traveling South Africa on a budget is easy and you can do and see things that you might not have been able to afford in other places.

For example, when traveling to pricier destinations like Europe, simple expenses feel like unwarranted indulgences. However, in South Africa, you can choose what you want to indulge in because basic expenses are affordable. If you want to budget more on food or accommodation, there are plenty of options. This means you can spend more on activities or experiences.

[Related: How Much Does a Gap Year Cost?]

Traveling South Africa on a budget 

South Africa
When you budget travel to South Africa, you can stay longer and experience more!

1. Where should I go?

South Africa is a travel-friendly country with a famous route located down the coast that hits many of the country’s beautiful offerings called the Garden Route.

The Garden Route is well-known to locals and foreigners for its beautiful sites and activities. It’s 300km and can be traveled from anywhere between four to 14 days. Keep in mind that the more time you have, the more you can see and experience!

Along the Garden Route, some of the most popular destinations include:

  • Hermanus
  • Mossel Bay
  • Oudtshoorn
  • Plettenberg Bay
  • Stormsriver/Tsitsikamma
  • Addo National Elephant Park.

This might seem like quite a few destinations and you might be thinking, how is South Africa cheap to visit? But these destinations are close together and this is a typical. The Garden Route is made for staying, experiencing, then packing up and moving to the next city. This is so well-known that there are tons of resources and itineraries for how to conquer the route. In fact, South Africa is probably one of the very few countries where you can afford bouncing from city to city. 

2. What can I do?

Check out any of the following activities if you’re on a shoestring budget, and you’ll find surprisingly affordable options (but DON’T sacrifice your safety just to save a few $$$!):

  • Shark cage diving in Hermanus
  • Surfing in Mossel Bay
  • Exploring caves and ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn
  • Hiking, whale watching, snorkeling, canopy tours, and diving with seals in Plettenberg Bay, Monkeyland, and Birds of Eden
  • Kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, bungee jumping in Tsitsikamma National Park located in Stormsriver
  • Take a safari in Addo national elephant park and see hundreds of elephants in the wild along with other animals—including lions if you’re lucky
mary alice haas south africa elephant safari
Budget travel to South Africa is unique because you can save easily and choose what you indulge on!

3. How should I get around?

  • By car. The best way to travel the garden route is by car. Renting a car with a few friends is cheap and the most efficient way to complete the Garden Route. You will maximize your time and get to choose where you want to go and how much time you want to spend at each stop. 
  • By bus. The Bazz Bus caters to those traveling all throughout South Africa and specifically Garden Route travelers. It’s definitely worth looking into if you can’t afford to rent a car or are solo traveling and want a cheap option. It’s a hop on/hop off bus that is linked to hundreds of accommodation options throughout South Africa and in cities along the Garden Route. 
  • By hostel. The Garden Route is known for its unique hostels. Because this route is popular in South Africa, hostels are catered towards the convenience of Garden Route travelers. They’re also themed, have diverse excursion options, and offer affordable and delicious food. Staying at hostels is part of the Garden Route experience and you can find the cheapest accommodation by lodging in hostels along the way.

4. What other costs are there to consider?

Depending on if you’re volunteering, studying, interning, working, or adventure traveling, costs to consider will obviously vary. However, traveling the Garden Route is an affordable and crucial trip that you should consider no matter what reason brings you to South Africa. 

Addo Elephant National Park
A safari in Addo Elephant National Park costs nothing but a $6 entrance fee.

Other South Africa travel costs to consider, especially along the Garden Route, are entrance fees, the cost for excursions, and other small expenses.

Here are a few examples of the prices of each: 

  • The entrance fee to both Monkeyland and Birds of Eden is 360 rand, which is about $11 for each sanctuary 
  • The entrance fee for Etosha National Park is around $6
  • Tsitsikamma’s entrance fee is $15; hiking is free but other excursions like kayaking to explore the deep pools and caves is $40

Other small fees to keep in mind:

  • Car fees for entering national parks 
  • Cash withdrawal fees 
  • Tipping in restaurants is 10-15%, and don’t forget about tipping car guards, petrol employees, and caretakers at your accommodation

[Related: How to Save Money for Travel as a Student]

Defer your South Africa trip cost with FMT

If traveling in South Africa isn’t within your budget, you can also fundraise for your trip expenses using FundMyTravel. FMT was started to give travelers an individual platform for raising money to travel. You can budget for your trip, incentivize donors to contribute, and request offline support. It’s a great resource to fundraise for your next trip! 

If you’re interested in volunteering in South Africa, FundMyTravel is used by many travelers to share more about a particular nonprofit or line of volunteer work. This allows potential donors to learn more about what they’re donating to and it helps them understand more personally the cause that they’re contributing to.

Go see South Africa on a budget!

South Africa
With the amount South Africa has to offer, you won’t feel like you’re budgeting. Besides—the best travel experiences are free!

When traveling through South Africa, sticking to a budget doesn’t mean you can’t see as much or won’t have comfortable accommodation. Traveling is encouraged locally and internationally, so staying in hostels, eating in more affordable locations, and doing as much as possible is a part of the Garden Route culture!

Whether you’re studying, interning, adventuring, working, or volunteering, you’ll be able to experience multiple cities, excursions, and beautiful nature economically. South Africa has so much to offer that can be seen and done while sticking to a budget.

Visit FundMyTravel and Create Your Campaign NOW!

This article was written by Mary Alice Haas. Mary Alice graduated in May 2019 with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in women’s studies. She spent five months in South Africa attending Stellenbosch University while working as a digital communications intern for University Studies Abroad Consortium. Shortly after, she left for Bengaluru, India where she spent four months attending Christ University studying women’s issues. She currently lives in Tacloban, Philippines working as a content marketing intern for GoAbroad.com.

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