As a great option for those of us who are constantly on a tight travel budget, South Africa definitely offers a very unique experience. As long as you plan it out well, you won’t break the bank, and you’ll still get to see some pretty spectacular sights and have a ton of fun. Of course, in the interest of you having the best time possible on your trip, we’d like to offer you a few tips, so for anyone who’s longing to see South Africa here are some of the things to keep in mind.

image1 What a Budget Traveler Needs to Know Before Visiting South Africa

Flying to South Africa

As with any flight, the sooner you book it, the lower the prices will be. The overall cost depends on which part of the world you’re flying from, but in general, Emirates and Ethiopian air usually have pretty good deals. Landing in Cape Town or Johannesburg is a good idea, with Cape Town being the more modern of the two and good for people who want to see a beautiful landscape as soon as they land. Gaze at the Table Mountain and you’re bound to be left breathless. Johannesburg is also a great choice, but it’s a little more difficult to find your way around it and you’ll need to be careful with your possessions.

Moving around the country

For traveling around the country itself, you can always hop on a bus, but you’ll really need to keep track of their schedules. Intercity buses are a little scarce so if you miss one, you’ll have to wait for a long time, but you can also rely on the Buz Bus which is a lot more frequent. It’s a hop-on, hop-off kind of vehicle and you can buy a biweekly ticket to ride it all the time, or simply buy a one-time pass when you get on it. However, while the buses are a pretty good way to get around, the very best option is to simply rent a car. Not only is it pretty cheap, but it gives you a lot more freedom and you won’t have to worry about any schedules at all. You can drive when you like, stay at places for as long as you like, and if you’re traveling with a big group of friends, you won’t even feel the cost.

image4 What a Budget Traveler Needs to Know Before Visiting South Africa
On Safari

Where to stay

Depending on how much comfort you need, you might be looking at some pricey accommodations, but you can reduce them by simply avoiding hotels and relying on Airbnb. There are pretty great properties all around that will be nice and comfy for any budget traveler, but you can also stay at hostels for backpackers to reduce the cost even further. We would again recommend calling these places ahead of times to book your rooms – that way everything will be cheaper and nicely organized to fit your itinerary.

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What to bring

Rely on bags and backpacks more than on wheeled suitcases because there are far too many uneven surfaces and rough roads for you to just drag them smoothly. You’ll also want a way to keep all your money and documents safe because thieving can be an issue in some parts, so get a money belt and don’t leave your possessions unattended.

Digital nomads might not have an easy time in South Africa because the internet can be really slow and unreliable. The situation can be managed, but do bear in mind that you might not always be available. One thing you’ll definitely need to invest in is a good adapter for all your chargers. If you’re from America or Europe, you’ll easily find it in most electronic stores, and you’ll want to make sure your equipment can handle the 220/230 voltage of most power outlets. If you’re from Australia, brands like Go Travel have Australia to South Africa adapters that are very useful and come rather cheap. We also recommend lighter clothing that can easily be layered in case it gets cold at night – you’ll want a practical capsule wardrobe that can be easily packed.

Travel Essentials What a Budget Traveler Needs to Know Before Visiting South Africa

What to do

The best parts of your trip are the activities you can engage in, and South Africa does offer a ton of fun stuff. However, this is probably going to be the most expensive part of the trip, so be careful not to get too caught up in things and let your budget go out the window. Extreme activities tend to be the most expensive, so if you plan to go paragliding, skydiving, or diving with sharks, know that you’ll need about $100-120 for each activity. Simpler things, however, are much cheaper. You can go kayaking, surfing, sandboarding, or maybe plan a whale watching trip and enjoy yourself thoroughly. There are also a lot of free activities: spend the day on the beach or go for a long hike up the Table Mountain. Also, bear in mind that the further you go up the east coast, the cheaper things will get. Cape Town can be incredibly pricey because there are a lot of tourists, so if you want to try something that’s way out of your budget, look at the prices in other places.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Cheap eating

Food is really cheap, and it can be made even cheaper if you do your own cooking in hostels. Eating out won’t set you back by much, and drinks like beer and wine are also pretty damn affordable. Expect to spend about 15 dollars per day for food, or a little more if you plan to eat at a lot of restaurants.

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South Africa can be a real paradise of adventure and beauty. Planning a trip won’t be too hard, and you’re likely to have an amazing time and end up with really good memories.