African Safari – 11 Tips To Save You Money

By Mark Wiens 34 Comments
African Safari Budget
African Budget Safari

Taking an African wildlife safari is an adventure that will keep you fascinated and at the edge of your seat…

It is an amazing experience to take safaris, but they mainly cater to tourists who have a quick vacation for a week and then return to their high paying office jobs.

That being said, there are some ways to save money on an African safari and less expensive ways to still see wildlife in their natural habitat while in East Africa.

Note: If you have your own car, or a friend that is willing to drive, expenses will immediately be greatly reduced. This might be difficult, so I’ve focused on tips to save you money if you don’t have your own vehicle.

Here are some tips on how to save money on an African Safari!

1. Find a Group

You will usually pay for the entire vehicle (usually a van or land cruiser, 5- 8 people) if you arrange a safari, so coordinating a group is vital for saving money on transportation costs. Search around and look for other travelers in your similar situation.

2. Flexibility – Don’t Book in Advance

Booking a safari outside of the country from an internet travel agent is the most expensive way to take a safari. Having time and flexibility to work things out without booking in advance is the first and foremost way to save money on an African safari!

3. High Season / Low Season

There is quite a significant difference in price on safaris in Kenya from high to low season. Even though low season sounds good, be careful, because your chances of seeing African wildlife might decline. Possibly look at taking a safari on the edge of low season, just before high season begins.

4. Go to National Parks that are Close

If you are in Nairobi, think about going to Nairobi National Park, located right on the outskirts of town. It’s a good place to see wildlife and you won’t have to drive far or spend the night there.

You can research some of game parks at the Kenya Parks Guide or the Africa Guide.

5. Park Entrance Fees are Paid Per Day

Since you pay per day, try to make the most of a single day. Drive around for as long as possible, especially at the peak times of seeing wildlife (early morning, late afternoon).

To see the latest entry prices for National Parks have a look at these websites:

6. Stay Outside of the Park

Search for accommodation outside of the national park. Usually prices for hotels or camps inside the park are quite pricey. On top of that, you will right off the bat need to pay at least 2 days of park entrance fees. There are often cheaper accommodation options right outside the gates of the park.

African Adventure Safari
African safari

7. Go Camping

Some national parks will offer options to stay at tented camps or even pitch your own tent. This can save quite a bit of money as many of the hotels are very costly. Camping in Africa is quite an adventure too!

East Africa Flava offers a number of camping options, but there are also opportunities to do things yourself! Hells Gate National Park in Kenya is one of my favorite places to go self-service camping!

8. Eat At the Driver’s Canteen

Safari driver’s and hotel workers need to eat too, and they aren’t dining on the expensive menu of Western food and snacks at the hotels. Poke around the hotel grounds and you will surely find some great local food at local prices (usually in the back, workers quarters)!

9. Bring Your Own Food / Drinks

Food and drinks are amenities that can be quite overpriced as they are necessities and there’s not too many options while in a National Park. Some safari packages will include food, but if not, a great way to save some cash is by bringing your own.

10. Hire a Matatu (Kenya) / Dalla Dalla (Tanzania)

Yes, those rowdy public bus vans that cruise through the streets of East Africa bumping obnoxious tunes might be willing to take you on a safari! Know how much it would cost at a tour company, have a rate in mind, and have a friendly talk with a driver!
Note: Works better for close national parks. Ex: If you are in Nairobi, going to Nairobi National Park.

11. Less Famous National Park = Less Price

Everyone wants to go to the famous Maasai Mara, Serengeti, or Ngorongoro Crater. What a coincidence that these parks charge some of the steepest prices. Though they are famous for correct reasons (high concentration of wildlife, wildebeast migration), there are other parks that offer parallel wildlife spotting. Consider Tsavo West, Samburu, Meru National Park, Amboseli, or Nairobi National Park in Kenya and Mikumui, Selous, Ruaha or Tarangire in Tanzania. Do your research!

Here’s a pretty good list of National Parks and Reserves:

Male Lion in Selous National Park
Lion at Selous

If all else fails…

Become a Resident or Citizen

Not too easy, but resident and citizen prices are usually a fraction of tourist prices. If you have a job in East Africa, you might be a resident!

Elephants in Mikumi National Park
Elephants at Mikumi

African Animals are not restricted to designated national parks. Animals can be seen all over the countryside and just driving outside of the cities, you have a pretty high chance to see some wildlife. Don’t expect too many cats, but elephants, giraffes, and gazelles are common!

I wish you the best of luck on your African Safari and hope you can save some money!

If you go to Kenya be sure to look at these 101 Things to do in Nairobi.

34 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Nina Zara

    6 years ago

    With VAT increase in Tanzania last year its hard to find budget safari, prices gone up for 18 %.

  • Cheap hotels London

    13 years ago

    Yeah, great tips and advice on how to save money on an African wildlife safari, making the most of our budget. I agree with your tips.

    thanks for these very useful tips.

  • Botswana Safaris

    13 years ago

    Thanks for the advice. I also thought that a safari would be out of our price range, but maybe not after reading your post. I’ve read a bit about Botswana as a top safari destination so i’ll definately take a look into costs. Maybe going at an off-peak time would be the perfect compromise 🙂

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Giulia: Awesome that taking a safari is on my top priorities list. I hope you get to go on safari soon!

  • Giulia

    13 years ago

    I always wanted to go on a safari (it’s on my “5 things I want to do before I kick the bucket” list!) but I always thought it was very expensive. Thank you very much for these tips, I am sure they will help a lot!
    I can’t wait to experience what it feels to see the African wildlife… Must be a unique feeling:)

  • WanderingTrader

    13 years ago

    thanks man that would be great

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @WanderingTrader: Awesome, you will have a great time in East Africa!

    As for safety, there is a bit of a reputation for crime in Nairobi, however, the situation has improved recently. I think the best advice is to be alert, cautious, and not wear anything too flashy or showy. Use discretion with photography and electronic equipment too. Most of the video/pictures I take, I take with an attitude that theft is possible. If you like something soo much that you will always regret it getting stolen, don’t take it with you while wandering around.

    As for power/electricity, there are frequent outages. Some apartments/hotels have generators that kick in instantly while other don’t. Can be a hassle but something everyone has to deal with!

    I just left Tanzania and I’m now in Thailand!

    Hope this helps a little, I will write up an article soon about dealing with safety in Nairobi!

  • WanderingTrader

    13 years ago

    Im planning on going to Nairobi in July or August-ish to see the great migration and stay for 3-4 months or so and finish up most if not all of east Africa. Im really excited to be in a place where I can’t fit in (and hopefully not robbed), lol

    Is it as dangerous as they say it is? Obviously a big city you have to be careful in but above and beyond dangerous?
    I dunno if I have asked you before but whats the power situation there? Does it go our really really often?
    Where are you now a days?

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Leslie: Yes, I agree with you fully, if you have the time, you can make some of these tips work…but it does take a little spare time and a little effort! I also love arriving in a new place and finding things out!

    @Sofia: Great, thanks!

    @Joel: Thanks bro.

    @Laurel: Thanks, I hope it will work out for you to go to Africa soon! Let me know if you need any other tips/advice!

    @Adam: Thanks Adam!

  • Adam

    13 years ago

    Great tips! An African safari is definitely high on our bucket list, and these tips will come in very handy for when we do decide to do it. Thanks a bunch, I’ll have to bookmark this for sure.

  • Laurel

    13 years ago

    Great advice! I’m dying to do an An African safari, but the cost has held me back, but good to know how to save money. I really like your tip about just going before the high season starts when you’re still likely to see wildlife but save money.

  • Joel Bruner

    13 years ago

    Cool shots homie!

  • Sofia

    13 years ago

    Very useful tips, great!
    Better bookmark this in case we decide to go to Africa some time soon 😉

  • LeslieTravel

    13 years ago

    Great tips! I went on Safari in Botswana but it was on the high end. This advice will come in handy for backpackers, expats and round the world travelers who have a bit more time in Africa to find the best deals. I think most tourists opt for the all inclusive or higher end safaris for the convenience, especially if they are on short 1 or 2 week vacations. When I was on my RTW trip I enjoyed finding lodging and activities after I arrived in a new city– it was part of the adventure 🙂

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @WanderingTrader: Great! Hope these tips can help you out! Will you be living in Nairobi? What plans do you have?

  • WanderingTrader

    13 years ago

    These are PHENOMENAL tips! Im going to be living in kenya next year and def going to be using these tips

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Ayngelina: Yeah, Africa is still developing as a budget destination. In many ways it still is expensive to do substantial backpacking style travel. I’d say a good low season time to visit is either in March / April or October / November.

    @Robin: Thanks!

    @Inka: Haha, I’ve had a few close calls!!!

    @Jade: Great, hope this can help a bit!

    @Matt: Great!

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Walter: That’s also a great and comfortable way to take a Safari! Nice photos!

  • Matt Hope

    13 years ago

    good tips! This is pretty far down on my to do list, but it is definitely on there!

  • Jade

    13 years ago

    Bookmarked. We REALLY want to get to Africa asap and do this!

  • inka

    13 years ago

    Camping??? Are you kidding? I don’t want to be devoured by a lion in the dead of night or have to fend off a snake.

  • robin

    13 years ago

    These sound like genuinely useful tips!

  • ayngelina

    13 years ago

    Great post Mark, for some reason I always dismiss Africa because I think it will be too expensive. When is low season?

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Andrew: Thanks Andrew!

    @Jeremy: Yes, some of these tips also work elsewhere. Hope you are able to go on a safari sometime!

    @Jack and Jill: You’re welcome!

    @Jamie: Sometimes all the hype and the crowds take away from the original purpose and the lesser known options are the true gems! Hope you guys can make it to Africa soon!

  • jamie – cloud people adventures

    13 years ago

    great advice mark. i like the point 11 with the less famous park. i think this can be true for many places you visit. and just because its more famous doesnt necessarily make it better. now, to get to africa!

  • Walter

    13 years ago

    Thanks for the tips!

    I have to admit that I’m one of those ‘office jobs’ guys and therefore usually choose the ‘comfortable’ way 😉

    But I always thought that value for money was excellent; be it on safari in Kenya or in South Africa. Wildlife is amazing and the lodges are highly impressive!

    My latest safari was near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. We happened to see mating lions. What a roar 😉 I posted some photos on my blog

  • Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World

    13 years ago

    Jack and I would love to go on safaris during our RTW trip and can def use some of these tips to cut cost. thx for sharing.

  • Jeremy B

    13 years ago

    Great tips! Definitely ones I will keep in mind if I go. I do many of these tips (bring my own food) when I travel to other places so this is a great list for saving money!

  • Andrew Murray

    13 years ago

    Great money saving advice there Mark. I really want to take my camera on African safari but for some reason Laura is dead set against the idea.