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South Africa Budget Safari Tours

South Africa offers excellent value for money budget tours and safaris. It is a country that offers relatively low-cost accommodation, dining out and other travel facilities at very high quality. South Africa is also a wonderfully diverse country to explore on a budget. The 2,700km/1,680mi coastline is varied and consistently scenic. Wildlife-viewing opportunities range from the classic Big Five territory of Kruger and Pilanesberg to the whale-calving grounds of the Western Cape. For those who like culture, Cape Town combines historic museums with art galleries and music venues. Prehistoric highlights include the hominid fossils of the Cradle of Humankind and the mysterious rock art of the Drakensberg mountains.

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1-20 of 101 cheap tours, packages and holidays to South Africa

7 Questions About South Africa Budget Safari Tours

Answered by Philip Briggs

Why should I choose South Africa for a budget trip?

“South Africa is exceptionally well-priced by any standards. Its network of 19 national parks and numerous lesser wildlife and nature reserves offers endless opportunities for affordable yet rewarding wildlife viewing, hiking and exploring. The 19,485km²/7,523mi² Kruger National Park is unique among Africa’s top safari destinations for being the continent’s best destination for budget safaris, including self-drive. This includes 21 affordable rest camps and campsites and a network of sealed roads suited to a 2WD. Other wildlife reserves well-suited to do-it-yourself or other budget safaris include Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, Pilanesberg and Addo Elephant. Outside the national parks and reserves, the country supports many backpacker hostels, campsites and other affordable good-quality accommodation.”


What is included in a budget South Africa safari?

“If you book an organized budget safari package, most costs will usually be included in the price quoted. That means all road transport between reserves, as well as game drives and guides and park fees. Meals should also be included in the price, along with tea, coffee and, possibly, drinking water. Other types of drinks, including alcohol, are excluded. Tips are also excluded, so check what is expected with your operator before you leave and carry enough cash to cover it.”


How do I avoid the crowds in the parks?

“It is easy to get away from the crowds in South Africa, especially if you self-drive. Even in Kruger, the popular southern half of the park has many little-used dirt roads suited to adventurous travelers. The unfashionable half of the park north of the Letaba River has a wilderness feel that will appeal greatly to travelers who want to get away from it all. Elsewhere, the country has a wealth of minor reserves. You will feel like you have these to yourself. It helps to travel during the southern hemisphere winter (May to September), especially if a safari is your first priority. This is the low season but also the best time of year for wildlife viewing in most Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) reserves.”


What are the pros and cons of a self-drive budget safari in South Africa?

“Aside from traveling around by bus, a self-drive trip is the most affordable way to see South Africa. It allows total flexibility in terms of day-to-day itinerary planning, especially if you carry a tent (you won’t need to book accommodation far in advance). My partner and I opt to self-drive in wildlife reserves where possible because it allows us to explore at our own pace, to have control over how far we drive each day, and to take our time at animal sightings. We feel closer to nature and to the wildlife without the presence of a guide. For some, the presence of air-con and heating in a closed car might also be an advantage over the more exposed nature of the open vehicles used on most guided safaris. There are some downsides to a self-drive safari. You will need to deal with any car repairs yourself. You are probably less likely to spot lions, leopards and other well-camouflaged animals than experienced guides with sharp bush eyes.”


Can you describe a typical day on a budget trip in South Africa?

“The typical routine is to rise with the sun and grab a quick cup of coffee or tea. Then you head out on an early morning game drive and return to camp for a late breakfast or lunch. Afternoon game drives start at around 3 PM and continue until sunset. This routine may change on days when you travel from one campsite to another. Either way, the day usually ends with a few beers around the campfire, a simple bush dinner, and an early night for the dawn start. Game drives usually focus on the first two and last two hours of daylight. These cooler times of the day provide the best chance of seeing lions, leopards and other predators on the move. These times also offer the best light for photography.”


What type of accommodation can I expect?

“Budget accommodation within national parks and reserves typically comprises one or more rest camps that offer a selection of clean, simple and affordable huts and chalets, as well as camping facilities for those with their own tent. These amenities are partially aimed at the budget-conscious local market and are priced accordingly. Camping is usually the cheapest and most flexible option. If you book a cheap South Africa safari with an operator, they will most likely supply tents and bedding. Self-drivers would need to bring their own. Almost without exception, campsites in South Africa’s parks and reserves are equipped with self-catering kitchens (bring your own cooking implements). There are also barbecues, and clean ablution blocks with hot water and flush toilets. Huts and chalets usually have en suite bathrooms and toilets. They will also have private barbecue facilities and in most cases a kitchenette and fridge. Many rest camps also have restaurants and/or small grocery shops, but this should be checked in advance. Other budget options include private guesthouses, B&Bs and backpacker hostels, but these are usually located outside national parks and reserves.”


How much will this safari cost?

“With a bit of care, a couple could probably get by on less than US$100 per person per day on a self-drive safari. A South Africa budget safari booked through an operator will be somewhat more expensive and prices typically start at around US$150 per person sharing per day. A relatively affordable option for travelers wanting to see a few parks and reserves is to join an overland truck tour that covers South Africa and neighboring countries such as Namibia and Botswana.”


South Africa Reviews

4.6/5 1031 Reviews
Lizzie Williams  –  
South Africa ZA

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

South Africa is rightly celebrated for its magnificent natural beauty and excellent choice of parks

South Africa has a wonderful range of landscapes, a near-perfect climate, and the choice of destinations, activities and itineraries is virtually inexhaustible. Aside from its beautiful coastline and cosmopolitan cities – both of which I...

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Anthony Ham  –  
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

South Africa: World-class Safaris

South Africa is one of my favourite places to go on safari, with all the necessary ingredients for a wildlife experience that will begin your enduring love affair with the continent. Primary among these ingredients is the wildlife....

Full Review

Nittaya  –  
Thailand TH
Reviewed: May 17, 2024
Nice View, Various Tourist Attraction and Mostly Nice People

I was told before visiting South Africa that it is a dangerous country. But after visiting for 10 days, I would say it's not true. As long as you always alert, not taking only photos, you will find South Africa is a nice country that you...

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Douglas Ash  –  
Canada CA
Reviewed: May 16, 2024
Ivory Wilderness was Wonderful

We spent 4 days at Ivory Wilderness camp on the Klaserie River - just south of Kruger I have been on safari many times and this was as good as it gets. Animals everywhere. Lions, leopards, elephants, Rhinos, buffalo, hippo, wild dogs,...

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Lisa L  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: May 16, 2024
Amazing trip

We are truly devastated that we have had to return to the UK. Our stay at Greenfire lodge was absolutely fantastic and we can't wait to return. Everything from the collect at Johannesburg Airport to our return was 100%. Lavender at...

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Geraldine Cotte  –  
Canada CA
Reviewed: May 14, 2024
It was a dream!

It was the most stunning beautiful trip and our first Safari but not the last for sure. We dreamt the eyes wide open.
Thank you a million for all your assistance and advises.
Looking for the next safari in Botswana maybe this time.

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