South Africa had been on my wishlist for longer than anywhere else in the world. It’s got a bit of everything – wildlife, beaches, wine regions. The only downside is the long journey, so it’s not exactly a weekend break. But if you can find a good flight deal, the value of the rand (with 100 rand getting you around £6/€7/US$8) makes it a really affordable place to visit right now. But how much does it really cost to visit South Africa? Here I share my trip budget for a 10-night city and safari trip to Cape Town, the Kruger and Johannesburg.
Note: these costs are based on my travel style – mid range with a touch of affordable luxury – so I keep the costs down where I can to can splash out on special experiences that are worth the extra. So there’s usually a mixture of hotels and apartment rentals, cooking and eating out, free activities and paid excursions.
Hotels in South Africa are pretty reasonable, but because we knew our safari would be a big blow-out, we tried to keep costs down in Cape Town to balance things out. So we chose this one-bedroom AirBnB apartment in Oranjezicht, right at the foot of Table Mountain. It cost 5850 ZAR/£347 for five nights (£68 a night or £34 per person per night) and had a decent kitchen so we could save money by cooking some meals, as well as access to a pool and really friendly owners who gave us lots of Cape Town tips.
The biggest expense of the trip was always going to be the safari, and there are a lot of different options – from £1000 a night luxury lodges to budget public campsites. For my first safari I wanted to try out the classic game lodge experience, so went for Naledi Bushcamp, set in the private Balule Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park. There’s a huge choice of lodges around so it’s always going to be a bit of a punt picking one, but Naledi had (justifiably) amazing reviews and a not-too-eye-watering price tag. At 17,700 ZAR/£1050 for three nights (£350 a night or £175 pppn) it’s still one of the most expensive places I’ve ever stayed, but the price did include all our meals (minus drinks) and activities while we were there.
We also spent one night sleeping on the overnight train between Cape Town and Johannesburg (included in transport costs below) and a final night in Johannesburg at the African Pride Melrose Arch for 1820 ZAR/£108 (£108 a night or £54 pppn). We didn’t have much time in Johannesburg so picked somewhere that was easy to get to, had places to eat nearby and a pool to chill out by before we flew home.
Total accommodation cost: £1505 or £752.50 per person – an average of £75 a day each.
Cape Town’s easy to get around so we did a lot of walking, though we did take a taxi from the airport to our apartment (300 ZAR/£18) and a couple of Ubers. Uber is really cheap in Cape Town so three shortish rides only cost us 145 ZAR (£9). We also used the sightseeing bus to get around to some of the places that were a bit further out, like the beach suburbs and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We hired a car for the day from Cape Town to do our road trip down to Cape Point (465 ZAR/£28) – we just booked it the night before and searched for the nearest car rental place with the lowest price, which ended up as Europcar.
We also hired a car for five days from Johannesburg to get us to and from the game reserve. This was pre-booked with Sixt before we left home and cost 1450 ZAR/£86, plus another 1400 ZAR/£86 for petrol and road tolls (we covered around 1000km altogether). To travel between Cape Town and Johannesburg we took the Premier Classe overnight train, a budget-luxury option which costs 3120 ZAR/£184 per person, including all your meals on board (and there is so much food!). And finally to get to Johannesburg airport from the train station to collect our hire car, we took the shiny new Gautrain for 151 ZAR (£9) one way.
Total transport cost (not including flights): £318 per person – an average of £32 a day each.
Most of the things we did in Cape Town were free – walking along the coast, listening to music at the V&A Waterfront, lazing in parks, visiting free museums. We did get a one-day ticket for the sightseeing bus (270 ZAR/£16) which we used to get around to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (60/£4 entry) and down the coast to Camps Bay. The only other thing we paid to do was 20 ZAR (£1.25) for entry to the Bo-Kaap Museum. But the weather was so windy the whole time we were in Cape Town that we couldn’t do two of the city’s biggest attractions – the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (255 ZAR/£16) and the boat trip to Robben Island (320 ZAR/£19) but we would’ve if we could, so I’m adding them into the budget.
We did a couple of day trips from Cape Town. The first was a wine tour to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek (995 ZAR/£58 each) and the second was a road trip to Cape Point via Muizenberg (free), Boulders Beach to see the penguins (70 ZAR/£4.50), Cape Point (135 ZAR/£8) and Chapman’s Peak Drive (a toll road which costs 42 ZAR/£2.50 per car). All our activities at the game lodge were covered, with twice-daily game drives and an afternoon walk or trip to a hide. Tips are extra though and were tough to gauge – articles I read say you should tip 200–250 ZAR per day to your guide, 100–150 to your tracker and the same to the lodge staff. We ended up going for 1000 ZAR/£60 (mainly based on how much cash we had on us at the time!). And finally we took another sightseeing bus for a quick tour of Johannesburg on our last day (170 ZAR/£10).
Total activities cost: £169 per person – an average of £17 a day each.
Food and drink
Food – and especially wine – is such good value in South Africa and we had some really great, inexpensive meals. In Cape Town we tried to keep to a budget so mixed up making our own breakfasts and dinners with lunches out. We did a couple of food shops at Woolworths and a local wine store (total 1104 ZAR/£65) and ate out for brunch at the Company’s Gardens café (200 ZAR/£12) and the V&A Waterfront food market (160 ZAR/£10). We also went out for a few cocktails in Camps Bay and Sea Point (358 ZAR/£21).
Out of the city we bought lunch at Lust Bistro on our wine tour (250 ZAR/£15) and at Cape Point (560 ZAR/£33), where there’s a surprisingly smart restaurant right on the point with amazing ocean views. All our food was included both on board the Premier Classe train and at the game lodge, but drinks were extra. We paid a bargain 170 ZAR/£10 for two bottles (!) of wine on the train and 560 ZAR/£33 for drinks at Naledi Bushcamp. Then finally we had a room service dinner in our hotel in Johannesburg as we arrived really late at night (488 ZAR/£29) and had lunch and a few drinks before flying home (447 ZAR/£26).
Total food and drink cost: £254 or £127 per person – an average of £13 per day each.
The grand total
So when you add it all up, the overall cost came to £1366 per person (£137 per day). A safari is such a bucket list trip that it’s worth splashing out on and South Africa’s affordability means that it’s not too difficult to save on other things so the overall budget doesn’t get too out of control. I absolutely loved it out there and would definitely go back and explore some more of the country next time.
Lower budget? If you want to save money, the easiest way would be to cut down safari costs by staying in one of the SANParks lodges or camps. They’re state-owned so are a bit more no-frills, but the locations are fantastic and you can either drive yourself around the park or join in their ranger tours.
Higher budget? If you want to splash out, then there are some gorgeous beachside hotels in Cape Town, as well as high-end restaurants and activities like helicopter trips over the city. You could also do a longer safari or stay in one of the luxury boutique lodges, or do a fly-safari to a few different locations.
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