What does it cost? 10 days in South Africa budget breakdown

What does it cost? 10 days in South Africa budget breakdown

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 from the UK, 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 £5/€5.50/US$7) makes it a really affordable place to visit. 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 visiting Cape Town, the Kruger and Johannesburg.

Note: these costs are based on my travel style – mid-range with a touch of affordable luxury – keeping costs down where I can to can splash out on special experiences. This post was first published in 2017 but prices have been updated where possible to costs at January 2021.

Read more: Visiting Cape Town on a budget

Budget breakdown for 10 days in South Africa

Camps Bay beach in Cape Town
Camps Bay beach


Hotels in South Africa are pretty reasonable, but because we knew the safari would be a big blow-out, we tried to keep costs down in Cape Town to balance things out. So we chose a one-bedroom AirBnB apartment* in Oranjezicht, right at the foot of Table Mountain.

It cost 5850 ZAR/£281/$384 for five nights (which works out as £56/$77 a night or £28/$38 per person per night) and had a kitchen so we could save money by cooking some meals. We also had access to a pool and the really friendly owners gave us lots of Cape Town tips.

The biggest expense of the trip was always going to be the safari. There are a lot of different options for a South African safari – from £1000 a night luxury lodges to budget public campsites. For my first safari I wanted to try the classic game lodge experience, so we chose Naledi Bushcamp* in the private Balule Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park.

Swimming pool at Naledi Game Lodge in South Africa
The pool at Naledi Bushcamp

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 Bushcamp had (justifiably) amazing reviews and a not-too-eye-watering price tag. At 17,700 ZAR/£850/$1163 for three nights (£283/$388 a night or £142/$194 pppn) it’s one of the most expensive places I’ve stayed in, but the price did include all our meals (excluding 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 spent our final night in Johannesburg at the African Pride Melrose Arch* hotel which cost 1820 ZAR/£88/$120 (£44/$60 per person). We didn’t have much time in Johannesburg so picked somewhere which was easy to get to, had places to eat nearby and a pool to chill out by before we flew home.

Total accommodation cost: £1219/$1667 or £610/$834 per person – £61/$83 a day each on average.

Colourful houses in Bo Kaap, Cape Town
Colourful Cape Town


Cape Town is easy to get around so we did a lot of walking, although we did take a taxi from the airport to our apartment (costing 300 ZAR/£14/$20) and a couple of Ubers. Uber is really cheap in Cape Town, so three short rides around the city only cost 145 ZAR (£7/$10) in total. We also used the sightseeing bus (listed under activities below) to reach 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 a road trip down the Cape Peninsula to Boulders Beach (465 ZAR/£22/$31). This was just booked the night before by searching for the closest car rental place with the lowest price, which ended up being Europcar.

Sunset from the Premier Classe train between Cape Town and Johannesburg
Sunset from the Premier Classe train

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/£70/$95. Plus it cost another 1400 ZAR/£67/$92 for petrol and road tolls (we covered around 1000km/620 miles altogether).

To travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg we took the Premier Classe overnight train, a budget-luxury option which cost 3120 ZAR/£150/$205 per person, including all meals on board (and there’s so much food!). And finally, to get to Johannesburg airport from the train station to collect our hire car, we took the Gautrain for 151 ZAR (£7/$10) per person one way.

Total transport cost (excluding flights): £247/$339 per person – £25/$34 a day each on average.

Zebra in Kruger National Park
Zebra crossing in Kruger


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 (270 ZAR/£13/$18) which we used to get to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (60 ZAR/£3/$4 entry) and to travel down the coast to Camps Bay. The only other thing we paid for entry to was the Bo-Kaap Museum at 20 ZAR (£1/$1.50).

The windy weather while we were in Cape Town meant we couldn’t do two of the city’s biggest attractions – the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (255 ZAR/£12/$17) and boat trip to Robben Island (320 ZAR/£15/$21) but would’ve if we could, so I’ve added them to the budget.

Vineyards in South Africa’s Cape winelands
Exploring the Cape Winelands

We also took a couple of day trips from Cape Town. The first was a private wine tour to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek (995 ZAR/£48/$65 each) – which well worth the cost for the amount of tastings we got. The second was a self-guided road trip to Cape Point via Muizenberg (free), Boulders Beach to see the penguins (70 ZAR/£3/$5), Cape Point (135 ZAR/£6/$9) and the Chapman’s Peak Drive (a toll road costing 42 ZAR/£2/$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/$79 in total (mainly based on how much cash we had left on us at the time – remember to stock up in advance). And finally we took another sightseeing bus for a quick tour of Johannesburg on our last day (170 ZAR/£8/$11).

Total activities cost: £139/$191 per person – £14/$19 a day each on average.

Clifton beach in Cape Town
Clifton beach in Cape Town

Food and drink

Food – and especially 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 lunches out.

We did a couple of food shops at Woolworths and a local wine store (coming to a total of 1104 ZAR/£53/$72) and ate out for brunch at the Company’s Gardens café (200 ZAR/£10/$13) and the V&A Waterfront food market (160 ZAR/£8/$10).

We also went out for cocktails in Camps Bay and Sea Point (358 ZAR/£17/$23). And when we were out of the city, we bought lunch at Lust Bistro on our wine tour (250 ZAR/£12/$16) and had lunch at Cape Point (560 ZAR/£27/$37) on our road trip, where there’s a surprisingly smart restaurant with amazing ocean views right on the point.

All our food was included on board the Premier Classe train and at the game lodge, but drinks were extra. We paid a bargain 170 ZAR/£8/$11 for two bottles of wine on the train and 560 ZAR/£27/$37 for drinks over the three nights at Naledi Bushcamp.

Then finally we had a room service dinner in our hotel in Johannesburg as we arrived late at night (488 ZAR/£23/$32) and had lunch and drinks before flying home (447 ZAR/£21/$29).

Total food and drink cost: £206/$280 or £103/$140 per person – £10/$14 a day each on average.

Fruit platter at Naldei Bushcamp
Fresh fruit breakfast at the game lodge

The grand total

When you add it all up, the overall cost came to £1099/$1504 per person (£110/$156 per day). A safari’s such a bucket list trip that 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 there and would definitely go back and explore some more of the country.

Lower budget? The easiest way to save money would be to cut safari costs by staying in one of the SANParks lodges or camps. 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.

Higher budget? If you want to splash out, Cape Town has some 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 a few different locations.

Penguins on Boulders Beach, South Africa
Penguins at Boulders Beach

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  • Reply
    Sarah Dougherty
    November 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing this–this is the most helpful post I’ve seen in all of my research thus far. What time of year did you visit? We are looking to go in late June/early July and I’m a bit worried about the weather–what were your temperatures like?

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks – so glad it was useful! We went in early November so it was late spring. We had quite a mix of temps though with Cape Town sunny but very windy so it got quite chilly, and it was warm in the game reserves by day but as we started and finished late we needed warm layers too. June/July should be around 14C in Cape Town and 17C in Kruger so layers are definitely a good idea.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Hi there, I noticed the cost of flights to/from where not included (or I missed it)? Where did you fly in from? I’m pricing out my trip from NYC and its half the trip cost. Very expensive.

    • Reply
      April 20, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      Hi, I don’t normally include flight costs as they vary so much depending on where you live in the world – for me from the UK I paid around £500, but found a good deal through Secret Flying. It’s also worth setting up Google Flight alerts to track the price and signing up to airline newsletters for deals on sales.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Awesome read, loved the Activities you spoke about. Definitely going to SA now, Kruger/Cape Town and Vic Falls on first trip. Thanks for sharing your beautiful travel tips and experiences.

    • Reply
      April 30, 2018 at 10:38 am

      Hope you have an amazing time when you do!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Very helpful! Hoping to plan a trip to South Africa soon so I’ll be coming back to this post for sure… The safari is rather expensive but it’s such a once in a life time experience that splashing a bit more cash is surly worth it 🙂

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      You can definitely do a safari for a lower price, but it was really nice to be able to do the classic luxury version once in a lifetime – and luckily the rest of the trip wasn’t too expensive to counteract it a bit!

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    April 30, 2018 at 3:36 am

    This is such a helpful post Lucy. I love the way you have broken it down and even if someone might not want to do the same things as your travels, it just shows how a bit of flexibility can give you so many different options. I personally only eat one big meal a day. It saves a ton and allows splurges on other things. I like to make a bit of a menu before I go. This way I can make changes if we are delayed, or have money left over. It’s impossible to predict how all will turn out.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      One big meal a day is a really good idea to keep costs down, we often do the same and just have a snack when we’re out and about – gives you more time for exploring too!

  • Reply
    May 1, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for the great tips Lucy.Also, I loved your photographs.Especially,the close-up of lion.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Thank you – seeing the lion was such an amazing moment! We’d been out on five game drives and he made us wait right until the end of the last one when we didn’t think it was going to happen, so it was even more special.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2018 at 8:16 am

    This is a fab post – very nice to see those costs broken down. I had no idea SA was so affordable. Even with the cost of the safari it’s not a huge budget-blower. Sweet!

    • Reply
      May 2, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      It’s one of those places where you can definitely afford the odd splurge as the rest of the time it’s pretty affordable – plus so many gorgeous beaches and walks you can do for free!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Lucy. We are going in a few weeks to SA on a tour; staying for two weeks; most of our trip is all inclusive. Do you think bringing 4000 Rand is too much for two people or do I bring less? What are your thoughts? It seems like a lot but is it really? Thanks for your help and opinion!

    • Reply
      September 5, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Hi Ang – yes as Ali says below I think that should be plenty, if you don’t want to exchange too much then there are plenty of currency exchanges and banks around so you could bring some in your own currency and change extra if you need. Have a great trip!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    Hi guys, I’m not Lucy, but I’ve just did 16days in South Africa and I only spent 1000 rand, half that was tips. In Vic Falls I spent 200 USD in 4 days. 4000 rand for South Africa is more than enough. Enjoy your trip, it was a trip of a lifetime for me. I fell in love with South Africa

    • Reply
      September 5, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks Ali – definitely agree (p.s. sounds like you had an amazing trip – I loved it out there too!)

  • Reply
    September 6, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Wow, only 1000 rand? Well, if I end up having left over; what do I do with it? Any ideas?? Ha Ha
    Would the Banks in the US convert it back to me; probably not. I do know we will want to buy lots of things in the shops.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Ang, there are many things to buy of course, i didn’t ‘shop’ I only got little things for the family at some of the local markets and at the airport. You certainly can spend that much on many beautiful man made items and ship/post it home.
    Enjoy your trip

  • Reply
    September 6, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Thank you Ali so, so much!

  • Reply
    Alan Jones
    December 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    What a great article. I spent the first 40yrs of my life in SA. I have not been back in 10 years, and planning a group trip. This is very useful info. well put together. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Meadhbh S
    December 31, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Hi – I have read your post about 20 times since booking our flights to South Africa yesterday. We are so excited to experience all it has to offer. Can I ask what was the experience of driving from Johannesburg to the safari park like? We’ve looked at flights but they’re very expensive… Thanks!

    • Reply
      December 31, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      I’ve driven that road many times. It’s about a 4hr drive (depending on where you are headed). As you get to the edge of the escarpment it becomes extremely picturesque; and continues to deliver a lot of beautiful scenery as you descend from the mountains.
      One thing to be aware of is that it’s a dangerous road, South African roads can be horrible in terms of hijackings and accidents, especially high speed accidents. If you are going to drive you will be fine if you give yourself lots of time and you are very cautious. There are a couple of great stops along the way. Milly’s between Belfast and Nelspruit is a good safe stop. Hazyview and Sabie are gorgeous if you’re going that far north. It’s really important to pick the right gate if you’re going into the Kruger National Park.

    • Reply
      December 31, 2018 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks Alan for the tips. We didn’t find the drive too difficult but I’d second being cautious on the roads – we found them fairly quiet in terms of traffic but could be slow going as there are some giant potholes so you need to keep your attention focused. Hope you have a fabulous trip!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Hi! Did you fly in to Cape Town or Johannesburg? Do you recommend a round trip flight or fly into one and leave from the other?

    • Reply
      January 7, 2019 at 9:33 pm

      Hi, we flew in and out of Johannesburg as it was much cheaper than flying into Cape Town – we started our trip in Cape Town though so we just bought a cheap local flight to get us there (you can get them for around £40/$52 with airlines like Mango or Kulula).

  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Hi Lucy, Thanks so much for the great post! I’m excited to start planning my trip. Can I ask, what time of year did you do this trip?

    • Reply
      January 14, 2019 at 8:41 pm

      We did ours in November, so it was spring – pretty sunny but cool evenings and some cool winds.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    We always heard October was the time to go. We went mid-end October. Out of the 15 days there; from Capetown, to the Winery Region; we had one night/early AM of heavy rain and Thunderstorms in Entabeni. Our entire hotel was surrounded by Wildebeests. And what a treat it was to see them act in such uniform of the storm. Facing East…then West…then South….ending North…..until the storm ended. Magnificent to watch!!!! For what it’s worth since I originally questioned how much Rand to bring. We brought 3000 Rand; and we could’ve used a little more if we wanted to. So much to buy…….I Loved South Africa so much. We were there for a week; then up to Victoria Falls then to Zimbabwe. Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful~!

    • Reply
      January 17, 2019 at 9:56 am

      Sounds like you had a wonderful trip! It’s such a great country, I hope to get back to see some more someday.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Hi lucy,
    I am planning trip to arrive SA to jehannesburg and return from cape town. What would you recomand first safari…
    Can you suggest me a budget safari plan and post safari i am planning to follow the cape town visit.

    • Reply
      April 26, 2019 at 12:19 pm

      Hi, the cheapest way to do a safari is to stay in one of the SANParks lodges or camps at the Kruger – the accommodation is simple but reasonable and the locations are great. If you have a hire car you can drive yourself around the park or there are ranger-guided tours you can take part in too.

    • Reply
      Alan Jones
      April 27, 2019 at 7:10 pm

      ANIKET one of my favorte spots in the world is Ngwenya Lodge right on the south of the Kruger National Park. If you have any timeshare it may be quite affordable. Pretty accessible from major roads / airports.
      Be sure to get a river view lodge! The beauty of the lodge is that it opens up on a 180° vista of the Crocodile River looking north. There is no boundary between the lodge and the wildlife. You can spend the morning / day just watching from your porch. We’ve seen a leopard take an Impala from there, Lion, Elephant, Buffalo… If you want to drive into the park the Crocodile Bridge gate is about 20 minutes away.
      Be sure to get everyone in your crew a decent pair of binoculars.

      • Lucy
        April 27, 2019 at 9:19 pm

        Thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    April 27, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks lucy, if you can help me with the best rental car options in cape town that will be great.

    • Reply
      April 27, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      We hired a car just for a day in Cape Town and ours last minute and rang around for the best deal which ended up being Europcar, but if you’re renting for a longer period (like we did in Jo’burg) you may be better off booking in advance.

  • Reply
    Rene dussault
    July 28, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    We are planning our 30th wedding anniversary next he and my 70th birthday. This sounds very affordable thank j’s for providing such detail

    • Reply
      July 30, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      You’re welcome – and hope you have a wonderful trip!

  • Reply
    Anjali Chawla
    September 24, 2020 at 5:44 am

    Hey Lucy, South Africa seems to be much more affordable than I thought. Thanks for the practical tips! If everything goes as planned, we’ll be traveling to South Africa next year in May.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      September 28, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      Fingers crossed for you, I loved my trip to South Africa and hope to get back there someday!

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