๐Ÿ’ฐ My 2024 South Africa Trip Cost: A Budget Breakdown

A person standing on a beach next to a penguin resting on a boulder.

South Africa, a country famous for its safaris and natural beauty, can be visited with a budget of $60 to $180 a day.

My two-week trip to South Africa cost a total of $3,997. In this post, I share:

  • ๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected travel costs
  • ๐Ÿ’ก Budgeting tips
  • ๐Ÿ’ต How much cash to bring
  • โœˆ๏ธ My trip’s costs by category
  • ๐Ÿ“ My trip’s costs by destination

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Is South Africa Expensive To Travel To?

South Africa ranks as one of the most expensive destinations in Africa. It is known for high-end safaris, dining, and accommodations. The country is also large (the 25th biggest in the world), so flights and vehicle transportation add up.

Along with Botswana and Namibia, South Africa is among the five priciest African countries for travelers.

However, with advanced planning and the willingness to forego certain experiences, South Africa can be visited on a tighter budget.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Trip Daily Budget for Expensive Destinations

For comparison, here are the top five most expensive destinations I’ve visited so far:

DestinationDaily Budget
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland$306
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ท Costa Rica$233
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Hawaii$209
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฟ Belize $207
๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ South Africa$200
Daily Travel Budget for Expensive Destinations

See all my daily budget for each destination I’ve visited.

How Much Is a Trip to South Africa?

This section covers estimated trip costs depending on your travel style. I share my actual travel expenses further below.

๐ŸŽ’ Budget Traveler โ€“ South Africa Trip Cost

Budget travelers can expect to spend approximately $60 per day or $420 for one week of travel in South Africa, excluding flights.

Here’s what a budget traveler’s cost breakdown can look like:

CategoryCost per Day
๐Ÿ  Accommodation$15
๐Ÿ— Food$20
๐Ÿš™ Transportation$10
๐Ÿฆ Entertainment$15
South Africa Daily Budget for a Budget Traveler

Traveling South Africa on a Budget

To travel to South Africa on a budget, here are some things youโ€™ll need to do:

  • ๐Ÿ  Accommodations โ€“ In big cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, you can stay at a dorm-style hostel for $15 a night.
  • ๐Ÿš™ Transportation โ€“ For short-distance travel in South Africa, Uber is a great option as it’s both safe and affordable. For long-distance travel (e.g., from Cape Town to Kruger National Park), drive a rental car or take a bus (e.g., Bazbus) instead of booking domestic flights to save money.

South Africans drive on the left side of the road, which is something to consider if you’re used to driving on the right side.

  • ๐Ÿฒ Food โ€“ Food in South Africa is affordable and priced at great value. Fine-dining restaurants can charge as little as $20 a meal. For less than $10 meals, shop at grocery stores like Checkers and ask your concierge for their favorite local spots.

Tap water in major cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban is safe to drink. Bring a reusable water bottle like I did, so you don’t have to buy bottled water.

A plate of brunch food in a brightly-lit restaurant decorated with plants.
Great value food in Cape Town.
  • ๐Ÿฆ Entertainment โ€“ Guided safaris account for the highest expenses on a typical South Africa trip. To travel on a budget, prioritize free and low-cost attractions, such as hiking Table Mountain, enjoying the beautiful beaches, walking around promenades and waterfronts, and swimming in tidal pools.
  • โ˜€๏ธ Travel Season โ€“ Avoid visiting South Africa during the peak season from December to January. Accommodations and guided safaris are more expensive during those months.

The best time to visit South Africa for the best deals is during the low season, which runs from May to September. This is the winter season when the temperature can drop to 50 ยฐF.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Mid-Range Budget Traveler โ€“ South Africa Trip Cost

A mid-range budget traveler like myself can expect to spend approximately $180 per day or $1,260 for one week of travel in South Africa, excluding flights. I break down my trip expenses by travel category below.

About My South Africa Trip

To give context to the expenses below, here’s what you need to know about my trip:

  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Two weeks โ€“ I spent two weeks in South Africa, visiting four places:
    • Cape Town: 7 days
    • Klaserie Reserve: 3 days
    • Drakensberg: 2 days
    • Durban: 2 days

Klaserie is a private game reserve that shares an unfenced border with the famous Kruger National Park.

  • โ˜€๏ธ High season โ€“ I visited South Africa in February, which is part of the high season.

South Africa’s high season overlaps with its summer season from November to March.

  • โœŒ๏ธ Group travel โ€“ I traveled with two other friends, so we were able to split some costs, such as housing.
  • ๐Ÿ’ฐ Mid-range budget โ€“ I consider myself a mid-range budget traveler, and these expenses reflect that. I donโ€™t aim to travel on a budget, but Iโ€™m thoughtful about how and where I spend.
  • ๐Ÿ€ Self-funded โ€“ My trips areย self-funded,ย so I paid for everything listed below. None of my excursions or experiences are sponsored.
  • ๐Ÿ’ต US dollars โ€“ All costs listed in this post are per person and in US dollars, which have been converted from South Africa’s local currency, the South African rand.

The exchange rate was $1 USD = R19 at the time of writing.

A group of people standing in front of an open vehicle with a safari guide holding a rifle for precaution.
Safari guide in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve.

South Africa Trip’s Total Cost: $3,997

My two-week trip to South Africa cost a total of $3,997, including flights.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Cost Breakdown for South Africa

Here’s a quick overview of my expenses by travel category:

CategoryCost% of TotalDaily Budget
โœˆ๏ธ Flights$1,19430%
๐Ÿ  Accommodation$48812%$35
๐Ÿ— Food$3228%$23
๐Ÿš™ Transportation$55314%$40
๐Ÿฆ Entertainment$1,43936%$103
South Africa Trip’s Cost Breakdown

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Daily Budget in South Africa: $200

My South Africa trip cost $200 per day, excluding my round-trip flights from and to the United States.

Daily Budget
Excluding flights$200
Including flights$285
South Africa Trip’s Cost Per Day

A mid-range budget traveler can expect to spend about $180 per day in South Africa. This generally means staying at accommodations that cost about $60 per night, relying on a mix of Uber and plane transportation, and going on several South Africa tours.

โœˆ๏ธ Flight Cost to South Africa: $1,194

My round-trip flight from the West Coast of the United States to Cape Town International Airport was $1,194.

My friends flew direct flights from the East Coast, and each paid about $1,200 for round-trip tickets.

A round-trip flight between the US and South Africa that costs under $900 is considered cheap. Flying into Johannesburg is also generally more affordable than flying into Cape Town.

Interior of an airport featuring wooden elephant statues.
Cape Town International Airport.

๐Ÿ  Accommodation Cost in South Africa: $488

My average cost of accommodation in South Africa was $35 per day. I was able to split accommodations with one or two other people at all times.

(This total doesn’t include overnight stays at the guided safari and hiking tours; those are included in the tour price under entertainment.)

Here are the accommodations I stayed at and how much I paid for each:

AccommodationTotal CostCost per Night
Cape Town hotel$396$66
Durban hotel$92$46
South Africa Trip’s Accommodation Costs

Accommodation prices in South Africa vary by type and location, but they’re often a good value. In major cities like Cape Town, luxury hotels start at around $300 per night, and budget hotels will average $40 per night.

A street with four-story buildings and some shops.
Cape Town street near accommodation.

๐Ÿ— Food Cost in South Africa: $322

My average cost of food in South Africa was $23 per day.

(This total doesn’t include meals provided by the safari and hiking tours; those are included in the tour price under entertainment.)

A mid-range budget traveler can expect to spend about $30 per day on food in South Africa.

Cheapest Meals in South Africa

Here are the most affordable meals I ate during my trip:

Fast food burger with friesSteers (Drakensberg)$6
Avocado toast with a smoothieThe Talkhouse Cafe (Durban)$8
Fresh fish and chipsSnoekies Hout Bay (Cape Town)$9
Cheapest Meals in South Africa
A plate with fried fish, fries, and squid.
Snoekies fish and chips.

Food in South Africa is reasonably priced. If you’re on a budget, you can have $10 meals by buying groceries at Checkers, eating at fast food places (they’re better than the ones in the United States), and dining at local restaurants. A cup of coffee is less than $2, and a good glass of wine can be as cheap as $3.

Most Expensive Meals in South Africa

Here are the most expensive meals I ate during my trip:

Pasta with wine and appetizersAriel Modern Italian (Cape Town)$27
Ostrich and venison meatKaribu (Cape Town)$20
Sushi rolls, roses, and hand rollsChef Chen Sushi Bar (Cape Town)$19
Most Expensive Meals in South Africa
Three plates containing pasta with red sauce, pasta with mushroom, and cheese with tomato.
Ariel Italian in Cape Town. (Photo by my friend, Tracey Zhai.)

South Africa is known for its large selection of fine dining at very reasonable prices. Cape Town is a great place to splurge on food. Many of the $15 to $20 meals I had in the city’s high-end restaurants would cost $30 to $50 in the United States.

๐Ÿš™ Transportation Cost in South Africa: $553

My average cost of transportation in South Africa was $40 per day.

(This total doesn’t include transportation provided by the safari and hiking tours; those are included in the tour price under entertainment.)

Here are the transportation methods I took and how much I paid for each:

TransportationTotal Cost
Domestic flight (Cape Town โ†’ Kruger Park)$200
Domestic flight (Kruger Park โ†’ Durban)$209
Domestic flight (Durban โ†’ Cape Town)$63
Uber rides$81
South Africa Trip’s Transportation Costs
A woman holding a luggage walking towards a regular-sized plane outside.
Hoedspruit Airport near Kruger National Park.

Uber is the best way to travel around South Africa for short distances. A 30-minute Uber ride in Cape Town typically costs $11 to $13.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can take Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus; a 20-minute ride typically costs less than $1. Otherwise, public transportation is generally not tourist-friendly or safe.

๐Ÿฆ Entertainment Cost in South Africa: $1,439

My average cost of entertainment in South Africa was $103 per day. My entertainment costs are on the higher end because I booked a private Drakensberg hiking tour and a nicer safari that’s between mid-range and luxury.

A typical mid-range traveler in South Africa can keep their entertainment costs closer to $60 a day.

Here are all the activities and attractions I paid for and how much each cost:

3-day guided safari (Klaserie Private Nature Reserve) $658
Tips for safari staff and game drive guides$36
2-day guided hiking tour (Drakensberg)$516
Tip for tour guide and driver$50
60-min massage (Klaserie Private Nature Reserve) $54
Cape Peninsula tour (Cape Town)$49
Table Mountain National Park entrance fee (Cape Town)$21
Boulders Beach entrance fee (Cape Town)$10
Franschhoek Wine Tram (Cape Winelands)$16
Wine tasting (Cape Winelands)$13
Table Mountain cable car (Cape Town)$13
Greenmarket Square souvenir (Cape Town)$3
South Africa Trip’s Entertainment Costs
A woman sitting at the edge of a mountain cliff overlooking a lush valley with clouds in the horizon.
Drakensberg epic hike.
Two women laughing with wine and nougats pairing in front of them.
Franschhoek wine and nougat pairing.

Budgeting Tips for Entertainment in South Africa

Here are my budgeting tips and things to note regarding entertainment in South Africa:

  • Save money by going on a road trip โ€“ Renting a rental car is generally cheaper than hiring a driver or tour guide. The Garden Route, Cape Peninsula, and Drakensberg can all be self-driven. I’m not comfortable driving on the left side, so I chose not to drive.

Many safari destinations also offer self-driving, which is cheaper than hiring game drive guides. However, you’ll need to know the routes and find wildlife on your own.

  • South African safari costs have a wide price range โ€“ A budget safari where you stay in tents can cost as little as $60 per day, while a luxury safari can cost as much as $500 per day.

Some tour operators focus exclusively on game drives and invest little in the game lodge, food, and other services. These types of safaris usually cost between a budget and a mid-range experience.

  • Ask for the full cost โ€“ When booking tours, ask about any toll roads or entrance fees for national parks, attractions, and private beaches that are not included. Not all tour operators proactively provide these. For example, I didn’t know that Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope were inside a national park with a $21 entrance fee until the guide brought me to the entrance.
A woman hunching over a stone ledge overlooking a blue ocean.
Cape Point viewpoint.
  • It’s worth visiting a Nelson Mandela attraction โ€“ Nelson Mandela is South Africa’s hero, and you will have opportunities to learn about his legacy. Robben Island (where Mandela was held prisoner) costs $21, and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site has a $5 entrance fee. I didn’t do the former because I couldn’t handle the 45-minute ferry ride and didn’t pass through the area where the capture site is located, but I’ve heard they’re great.

Free Things To Do in South Africa

South Africa is known for its natural beauty, so there are many free outdoor activities and attractions available.

Here are the attractions and activities I did in South Africa that were free:

  • Hike the beautiful trails โ€“ Cape Town offers stunning trails with no entrance fee. I enjoyed my hikes at Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak, Kloof Corner, and India Venster on Table Mountain.
  • Chill at the beaches โ€“ Cape Town boasts several public beaches. I visited all four Clifton Beaches and the picturesque Camps Bay. Durban also has a big beach that’s not as pretty, but the water is much warmer.
A sandby beach next to mountains with a blue sky background.
Camps Bay in Cape Town.
  • Walk around the promenades and waterfront โ€“ Durban has the Golden Mile, and Cape Town has the V&A Waterfront, both of which are free. I spent about an hour at each.
  • Explore the city center โ€“ Cape Town’s colorful and historic Bo-Kaap neighborhood is famous, and you can spend an hour walking around without paying a cent.
A set of colorful buildings with a mountain in the background.
Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. (Photo by my friend, Meghan Bartlett.)

Cost Breakdown by Destination in South Africa

Below are my trip expense breakdowns for Cape Town and Durban/Drakensberg. These two major locations are often featured in first-timers’ travel itineraries.

โ›ฐ๏ธ Cape Town Trip’s Total Cost: $1,019

During my seven-day trip to Cape Town, I averaged $146 in daily travel expenses.

While in Cape Town, I stayed in Sea Point, one of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, and ate at several high-end restaurants. I also did many free activities like hiking and enjoying the beaches and booked a wine tasting and Cape Peninsula tour.

CategoryTotal CostDaily Budget
๐Ÿ  Accommodation$488$70
๐Ÿ— Food$268$38
๐Ÿš™ Transportation (Uber)$75$11
โœˆ๏ธ Transportation (Flight)$63
๐Ÿท Entertainment$124$18
Cape Town Trip’s Costs by Category
Two women standing on a rock near the edge of a mountain cliff overlooking a city.
Lion’s Head summit.

Cape Town is famous for its stunning landscape and is one of the most expensive cities to visit in South Africa. However, if you primarily hike Table Mountain, eat at local restaurants, and stay at a hostel, your daily budget can be closer to $60.

๐Ÿ–๏ธ Durban & Drakensberg Trip’s Total Cost: $924

During my four-day trip to Durban and Drakensberg, I averaged $231 in daily travel expenses.

Most of my expenses in Durban came from my two-day hiking tour in Drakensberg. While in Durban, I spent a full day at the beach and missed going to uShaka Marine World because it was closed due to protests when I visited.

CategoryTotal CostDaily Budget
๐Ÿ  Accommodation (Durban)$92$23
๐Ÿ— Food (Durban)$52$13
๐Ÿš™ Transportation (Uber)$5$1
โœˆ๏ธ Transportation (Flight)$209
โ›ฐ๏ธ Entertainment (Drakensberg)$567$142
Durban and Drakensberg Trip’s Costs by Category
A soft, sandy beach with tall buildings in the horizon.
Durban’s warm, soft sand beach.

Many visitors go to Durban to access the stunning mountains of Drakensberg. You can visit Drakensberg on a budget by driving a rental car and hiking on your own instead of hiring a hiking guide and driver like I did.

Do You Need Cash in South Africa?

South Africa has an excellent credit card infrastructure in major cities, so you’ll only need to carry a bit of cash.

Below are tips on bringing and using cash in South Africa.

๐Ÿ’ด 1. Withdraw cash in South African rand.

South Africa’s currency is the South African rand (ZAR), and the US dollar is not widely accepted.

ATMs are readily available at the airports and in the cities of South Africa, but you might have trouble finding them elsewhere. For example, it wasn’t obvious to me where I could find ATMs around the Cape Peninsula.

Several orange bills with Nelson Mandela's face on it.
South African rand.

๐Ÿ’ต 2. Carry about $50 to $100 worth of cash, mostly to tip guides.

Everywhere I went in South Africa accepted credit cards, with some exceptions. The only times I needed cash were to tip and buy souvenirs at a local market.

At many safaris, you can tip the staff, driver, and game drive guide using a credit card when you’re checking out. However, if you want to ensure the tip goes to the right person, you can tip with cash, which is what I did.

On my South Africa trip, I spent a total of $98 (about $8 per day) in cash. Here’s a breakdown of how I used my cash:

ExpenseTotal Cash
Tip for hiking guide (Drakensberg)$50
Tips for safari staff and guides (Klaserie Private Nature Reserve) $36
Tip for masseuse (Klaserie Private Nature Reserve) $5
Tip for Cape Peninsula guide (Cape Town)$4
Greenmarket Square souvenir (Cape Town)$3
Amount of Cash by Category for South Africa Trip

I keep my cash in my crossbody bag, but if you want extra protection against pickpocketing, carry it in a hidden money belt instead.

๐Ÿ’ฐ 3. Tipping is customary in South Africa.

In South Africa, a 10% tip is customary and standard. You can also tip 15% for exceptional service.

I tipped drivers (including Uber drivers), masseuses, servers, and tour guides.

When using your credit card to tip in South Africa, make sure to round the tip to a whole number (e.g., tip R95 instead of R95.40 on the bill). The decimals are worth less than a penny, so it can be considered rude.

๐Ÿ’ณ 4. You should not be handing your credit card to anyone.

Every business, restaurant, and bar I interacted with in South Africa used a portable credit card scanner.

An employee will always bring the scanner to you, so you shouldn’t encounter a situation where you hand your credit card to someone and they take it away where you can no longer see it.

See all my daily budget for each destination I’ve visited.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

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