Its wildlife, wine and beautiful landscapes make it a real wish-list destination. But how much does it cost to visit South Africa? This budget breaks down the costs of 10 nights in the Cape and Kruger.
* This site contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission from purchases at no extra cost to you.
South Africa had been on my wishlist for longer than anywhere else in the world. It’s got a bit of everything – wildlife, beaches, mountains, wine regions. The only downside is the long journey from the UK. But if you can find a good flight deal, the value of the rand (with 100 rand getting you £4.80/$5.50/€5.60) makes it an affordable place to visit.
But how much does it really cost to visit South Africa? Here’s my budget breakdown for a 10-night trip to Cape Town, the Kruger and Johannesburg, breaking down the costs for accommodation, transport, activities and food to help you plan your own trip.
Note: these costs are based on my mid-range travel style – keeping costs down where I can to splash out on special experiences. This post was first published in 2018 but prices have been updated where possible to costs as of October 2023.
What does accommodation in South Africa cost?
Accommodation in South Africa is generally fairly reasonable, though hotels in Cape Town can be quite expensive, coming in at an average of 3000 ZAR (£146/$166/€170) a night for a double room in a four- or three-star hotel in a central location.
Since we knew the safari would be a big blow-out, we tried to keep costs down in Cape Town to balance things out. Apartment rental is generally much better value than a hotel, so we chose a one-bedroom apartment in Oranjezicht, at the foot of Table Mountain.
It was secure and quiet, with a full kitchen so we could save money by cooking some meals, access to a swimming pool and terrace, and the friendly owners gave us lots of Cape Town tips. It cost 5730 ZAR (£280/$317/€324) for two people for five nights in November (including the AirBnB fees), which works out at £56/$63/€65 per night.
The trip’s biggest expense was always going to be the safari. There are lots of different options for a South African safari – from £1000-a-night luxury lodges to budget campsites. For my first safari I wanted to try the classic game lodge experience, so we chose Naledi Game Lodge in the private Balule Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park.
There’s a huge choice of safari lodges in the Kruger area so it’s always going to be a bit of a punt choosing one over the others. But Naledi had (justifiably) amazing reviews and a not-too-eye-watering price tag. We stayed in the Marula Suite in the Bush Camp, which has two bedrooms with a private deck, en-suite bathroom and air conditioning.
At a cost of 30,780 ZAR (£1502/$1704/€1742) for three nights it’s the most expensive place I’ve ever stayed at, working out at £501/$567/€581 per night for two people. But the price does include all meals (excluding drinks), game drives and other activities.
We also spent one night sleeping on the Premier Classe overnight train between Cape Town and Johannesburg, which is included in transport costs below.
And we spent our final night in Johannesburg at the African Pride Melrose Arch* hotel, which cost 2460 ZAR (£120/$136/€139. As we didn’t have much time in Johannesburg and we flying out the next evening, we picked somewhere which was easy to get to, had places to eat nearby and a pool to chill out by before we headed home.
Accommodation total: £951/$1079/€1103 per person – £95/$108/€110 a night each.
How much is transport in South Africa?
Central Cape Town is easy to get around on foot so we did a lot of walking, although we did take a taxi from the airport to our apartment in Oranjezicht which cost 300 ZAR (£15/$17/€17). We also took a couple of trips using Ubers. Uber is really cheap in Cape Town, so three short rides around the city only cost 145 ZAR (£7/$8/€8) in total.
We also used the sightseeing bus (included under activities) to reach some of the places a bit further out, like the beach suburbs and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
We hired a car for one day in Cape Town to do a road trip down the Cape Peninsula to Muizenberg and Boulders Beach. This was only booked the night before by searching for the closest car rental office which had the lowest prices. That ended up being Europcar, where a day’s car hire and petrol cost us 465 ZAR (£23/$26/€26).
We also hired a car for five days from Johannesburg to get us to and from the game reserve – picked up and returned to the airport. This was pre-booked in advance with Sixt before we left home and cost 1450 ZAR (£71/$80/€82. It cost another 1400 ZAR (£68/$78/€79 for petrol and road tolls (we covered 1000km/620 miles altogether).
To travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg we took the Premier Classe, a budget-luxury overnight train trip which cost 3120 ZAR (£152/$171/€177), including all meals on board. The Premier Classe has been suspended since 2020 and it’s not sure when services will restart, but a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg costs around £65/€74/€76.
And finally, we took the Gautrain to Johannesburg airport from the train station to collect our hire car, which costs 191 ZAR (£9/$11/€11) per person one way.
Transport total (excl flights): £253/$287/€294 per person – £25/$29/€29 a night each.
What’s the price of activities in South Africa?
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 pay for a one-day ticket for the sightseeing bus for 275 ZAR (£13/$15/€16) which we used to travel down the coast to Camps Bay and get to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where entry costs 210 ZAR (£10/$12/€12). The only other thing we paid for entry to in Cape Town was the Bo-Kaap Museum at 20 ZAR (£1/$1/€1).
Because the weather was really windy when we were in Cape Town, we couldn’t do two of the city’s biggest attractions – the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (395 ZAR/£19/$22/€22 for a return trip) and the boat trip to Robben Island (600 ZAR/£29/$33/€34). But we would’ve done them both if we could, so I’ve added them to the budget totals.
We also took a couple of day trips from Cape Town. The first was a private wine tour to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek for 1650 ZAR (£80/$91/€93). It included visits to four wineries, and was well worth the cost for the amount of tasting samples.
The second was a self-guided road trip to Cape Point via Muizenberg (free), Boulders Beach to see the penguins (160 ZAR/£8/$9/€9 per person), Cape Point (360 ZAR/£17/$20/€20 per person) and Chapman’s Peak Drive (a toll road costing 57 ZAR/£3/$3/€3 per car).
All activities at the game lodge were included in the price, with twice-daily game drives plus an afternoon walk or trip to a hide. Tips are extra though – articles I read say you should tip 200–250 ZAR per day to your guide, 100–150 ZAR to your tracker and lodge staff.
We ended up tipping 1200 ZAR (£58/$66/€68) in total (mainly based on how much cash we had left on us at the time – remember to stock up). And finally we took another sightseeing bus for a quick tour of Johannesburg on our last day (275 ZAR/£13/$15/€16).
Activities total: £221/$253/€259 per person – £22/$25/€26 a night each.
What does food and drink cost in South Africa?
Food and drink – especially local wine – is really good value in South Africa, and we had some great, inexpensive meals. In Cape Town we tried to keep to a budget so we mixed up making our own breakfasts and dinners with eating out at lunchtime.
We did a couple of food shops at Woolworths and a local wine store, which came to a total of 1150 ZAR (£59/$64/€65). And we ate out at the Company’s Gardens café (245 ZAR/£12/$14/€14) and the V&A Waterfront food market (180 ZAR/£9/$10/€10).
We also went out for cocktails in Camps Bay and Sea Point (358 ZAR/£17/$20/€20). And on the days we were out of the city, we bought lunch at Lust Bistro during our wine tour (260 ZAR/£17/$20/€20) and had lunch at the (now closed) Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point (560 ZAR/£27/$31/€32) on our Cape Peninsula road trip.
All our food was included on board the Premier Classe train and at the game lodge, but drinks were extra. We paid a bargain 180 ZAR (£9/$10/€10) for two bottles of wine on the train, and 560 ZAR (£27/$31/€32) for drinks over three nights at Naledi Bushcamp.
Finally, we had a room service dinner in our hotel in Johannesburg as we arrived there late at night (498 ZAR/£24/$28/€28). And we had lunch and drinks at a restaurant in Johannesburg before flying home (457 ZAR/£22/$25/€26).
Food and drink total: £112/$127/€129 per person – £11/$13/€13 a night each.
The grand total
So how much does it cost to visit South Africa? The overall cost for our 10-night South Africa trip came in at £1537/$1746/€1785 per person, excluding flights (which were around £500 return from the UK). This works out at £154/$175/€179 per person per night.
A safari’s such a bucket list trip it’s worth splashing out on and South Africa’s affordability means you can save on other things so the overall budget doesn’t get too out of control. I loved it and would definitely go back and explore more of the country.
Lower budget? The easiest way to save money would be to cut safari costs by staying in a SANParks lodge or camp. They’re state-owned so are more no-frills, but the locations are fantastic and you can either drive yourself around the park or join their ranger tours. You could also cook more and cut out pricier activities like the wine tour or Robben Island.
Higher budget? If you want to splash out, Cape Town has gorgeous beachside hotels*, as well as high-end restaurants and activities like helicopter trips over the city. You could also do a longer safari, stay in a luxury lodge, or do a fly-safari to multiple locations.