One of my biggest concerns about an Africa Overland Tour was how much it would *actually* cost. In 2023, I joined Intrepid’s “Africa Encompassed Northbound” Africa overland tour spanning 64 days, travelling overland from Cape Town to Nairobi through 9 countries (or 10 if you take the optional day trip to Rwanda)! When reading through Intrepid‘s about the tour, I found it difficult to ascertain how much I could end up spending on top of the cost of the tour, this article will dive into the nitty gritty of exactly how much I spent and how you can save money in comparison to me.
Packing for an Africa overland trip is a logistical nightmare before you even begin to factor in currency! Here’s everything I wish I knew before my tour.
Having a stash of USD cash with you will be extremely helpful because:
Please note that many establishments can be fussy as to the quality of the USD that they accept. You should try to obtain USD notes that were issued after 2017 (or 2013 at the earliest) and ensure that they are in mint condition. Try to keep the notes as crisp as possible and avoid folding the notes in your wallet.
I brought 550 USD to Africa with me and I wish I’d brought far more. I ended up borrowing 250 USD from fellow travellers and withdrawing an additional 200 USD while in Zimbabwe (where USD is the most widely used currency, so you can top up here from ATMs). Therefore, I spent 1,000 USD in cash while travelling and should have taken at least that amount with me from the UK for ease from the offset.
Because I didn’t have sufficient cash with me from the offset of the trip, I opted to pay by card wherever possible (approximately 80% of my spending was done by card).
Whatever amount you think you need in USD, consider taking more. The worst that happens is you take it home with you and exchange it back to your local currency.
If you complete the same Intrepid “Africa Encompassed Northbound” Africa overland tour as me, you’ll encounter the following currencies:
South Africa – South African Rand (ZAR)
I didn’t have time to get any ZAR before I left the UK but I knew it wouldn’t an issue given my first stop was Cape Town which has an abundance of ATMs.
Namibia – Namibian Dollars (NAD)
NAD and ZAR are equal and everywhere in Namibia accepts ZAR, so it doesn’t matter if you accidentally withdraw too much money in South Africa. You’ll be spending a few days in Swakopmund where you’ll be able to easily withdraw money if you need a top-up. While you will stay in some remote areas, your guides will be sure to stop in towns with ATMs along the way too.
Botswana – Botswanan Pula (BWP)
It’s unlikely that you’ll need to withdraw any BWP on this tour. All of the optional activities can be paid in USD or by card and you will only be in Botswana for a few days.
I withdrew an extremely small amount of BWP from an ATM as I went souvenir shopping in the small town just outside the Chobe National Park campsite. I also like to keep one small note from each country as a souvenir.
Zimbabwe – US Dollars (USD) & Zimbabwe Dollars (ZWD)
The national currency of Zimbabwe is currently USD. This is also the best place to top-up your reserve of USD if you’re running low. The ATMs in Zimbabwe distribute USD rather than ZWD.
ZWD is extremely seldom used as it’s such a volatile currency – you definitely shouldn’t try to get your hands on any. However, in a supermarket I was owed change of approximately $0.25 USD and they gave it to me in ZWD rather than USD (seemingly, Zimbabwe only deals with whole USD, not cents). I ended up with an absolutely huge stack of ZWD for such a small value!
You may also see people selling ZWD with extremely high numerical values on the street – 1 billion, 1 trillion etc.) for a profit. These are just tourist souvenirs rather than useful currency.
Zambia – Zambian Kwacha (ZMW)
Our guide had a “fixer” meet us at the border to exchange our leftover other currencies or small amounts of USD to ZMW; we also stopped at a shopping centre just outside Lusaka which had plenty of ATMs. I found that most of the ATMs in Zambia only accepted Visa, not MasterCard which left me in a little bit of a pickle but thankfully I could borrow from a friend.
Malawi – Malawian Kwacha (MWK)
Again, a fixer met us at the border to exchange our leftover ZMW (or small amounts of USD) to MWK. We were only in Malawi for a few days, so didn’t need much cash. However, we were staying in relatively remote locations with no access to ATMs, so needed to make sure we had enough money for our short time in Malawi.
Tanzania – Tanzanian Shilling (TZS)
Again, we had a fixer meet us at the border and made an ATM stop shortly after the border. We were in Tanzania for around 2 weeks, so needed a more substantial amount of cash than the other countries.
We found that most ATMs in Tanzania had extortionate withdrawal fees. You should do some research before you arrive to determine where your cards can be used for free/low fees or consider exchanging some of your USD for TZS.
Kenya – Kenyan Shilling (KSH)
On our first border crossing into Kenya, we had a fixer meet us at the border and we stopped at an ATM just past the border.
On our second crossing into Kenya, we had a different guide who didn’t organise a fixer, but an ATM was available later in the day. This meant that I was left with a bit more leftover USH than I anticipated as I couldn’t change it to KSH.
Uganda – Ugandan Shilling (USH)
When crossing into Uganda, we were with our 2nd guide who didn’t organise a fixer but an ATM was available later in the day. It wasn’t an issue that we had leftover KSH (which hadn’t been exchanged with a fixer) as we knew we would be returning to Kenya shortly and could use it then.
Rwanda – Rwandan Franc (RWF)
If you choose to take a day trip to Rwanda from Uganda, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to withdraw any RWF. The only expenditure you will have throughout the day is as follows:
The moment of truth… On this 9 week Africa overland tour, I spent £12,791 (circa £196 per day, across 65 days) including the cost of the tour itself, flights to/from Africa and all pre-arrival expenses such as vaccinations and malaria tablets. While that is definitely a big number (it makes me wince slightly just looking at it), it was absolutely worth it and I am grateful to be in a privileged enough position to be able to afford such a trip.
A few things should be considered when considering whether this budget works for you:
RELATED: Travelling to Africa independently (i.e. not with a tour group) will be cheaper. If you’re interested in a budget safari, you should read my article outlining how to plan a budget friendly trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa here!
If you are booking an Africa overland tour with Intrepid, without a doubt the largest expense you will face is the cost of the tour itself. Intrepid includes a lot within it’s upfront cost, for example:
Intrepid‘s tours have become more expensive following COVID-19. The base price for the 64 day “Africa Encompassed Northbound” tour normally hovers between £9,500 and £11,000. However, they have incredible sales throughout the year (particularly on Black Friday and post Christmas/in January). Tours can also reduce in price if there are still last minute spaces available. I booked in January and received 30% off the tour price, meaning I paid £7,876!
Intrepid’s customer service when it comes to tour prices is great. We had a number of people on our tour who had locked in their tour at the “pre-COVID price” when their original booking got cancelled due to the pandemic. Another person had booked her tour and then saw that it had gone into the sale a few days later, as she was still within her free cancellation period, Intrepid agreed to refund her the difference so she didn’t have to go tough the hassle of cancelling and then re-booking the tour in the sale.
Some other Africa overland companies don’t include as much within the upfront tour cost – therefore, if you book with a another company, you might pay less upfront but more while you are on the trip (for food, optional activities etc.)
A cheaper tour may also lead to lower standards. For example, we bumped into an Oasis Overland truck along the way a few times. The travellers within that group were lovely, so I know I would have enjoyed the tour overall, but I am glad that I booked with Intrepid (despite the higher upfront cost) for two main reasons:
RELATED: If you’re unsure as to whether an Intrepid trip is right for you, you should read this article where I explain what sort of person would love or hate an Intrepid Africa overland tour!
I am an absolute sucker for activities and experiences. While the price of Intrepid‘s tours includes some activities (including pricey experiences such as various safaris and the gorilla trek), there are tonnes of optional activities along the way which I found it extremely difficult to say no to.
Of my total optional activity spending (£1,999), approximately 64% (£1,288) was spent on 5 big ticket items which you could definitely skip if you were on a budget:
The next most expensive optional activity on my Africa overland tour was the rhino walk in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) at $100 USD / £80 (GBP) – please don’t skip this! I’m surprised it’s not included within Intrepid‘s tour price as I’m pretty sure that everyone opts to do this (there isn’t an alternative activity to do at the same time) and it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
All other activities cost less than £60. I paid for 23 other experiences with an average price of £27 per activity.
My flights from London to Cape Town and Nairobi to London dominate this category at a whopping £813. I booked my flights relatively last minute, so hopefully you’d be able to find a better deal than me! I flew direct to/from London but indirect routes are available at lower prices. It’s extremely rare that you will find an Africa overland tour which includes transport to/from the start and end points of the tour within the tour price.
The remaining £33 was incurred outside of the tour – e.g. getting a taxi from Cape Town airport into the city before the tour started and getting around Nairobi after the tour finished.
While tips certainly aren’t mandatory, there are a number of occasions where you will be “expected” to tip during the course of the tour.
While I’ve calculated that I spent £616 on tips, this amount will be lower than my actual spending as I was extremely poor at tracking every tip (you give them out frequently!), and half the time I didn’t have small change so ended up in mini tipping kitties with my tent-mate where she would cover my tips if I covered food/drink for her etc.
Intrepid‘s guidance suggests $3-5 USD for each activity and $3-5 USD each per day for your tour leader, driver and chef.
My food and drink spending can be broken down into the following:
There are a number of occasions along the course of the overland tour where you are required to buy your own lunch or dinner (your tour itinerary will state how many meals are included). The cost of the 27 meals I purchased totaled £251 (i.e. less than £10 per meal). I never really shopped around for the cheapest option and instead ate at the most convenient location (we usually had limited time to get our food).
I definitely didn’t need to spend as much on snacks as I did (£91) – every time we stopped at a supermarket/service station, I somehow found another packet of biscuits and many chocolate bars in my bag. I can’t explain why or how. I’d hate to know how much of this money was wasted on really rubbish crisps and chocolate.
The “drinks” category (£78) is a mixture of soft drinks (water is provided to you by Intrepid, but is very rarely cold, so I found myself buying cold soft drinks at most opportunities) and a small amount of alcohol – if you enjoy a cheeky alcoholic beverage, your spending might be considerably higher than mine in this area! Although in most places, the local beer was almost the same price as a Coca Cola, so it’s a shame I don’t like beer!
The majority of my £375 spent on “necessities and medication” is made up by pre-arrival medication and vaccines.
My malaria tablets cost £210 – I opted for Malarone as I’d taken these before and knew that I didn’t suffer from any nasty side-affects when taking them. I was extremely averse to risk as I’d be taking the tablets for over 9 weeks and I didn’t want to ruin my trip – Doxycycline would have been significantly cheaper (£60) and most other people on my tour took this medication with no issues. You should consult your doctor before embarking on an Africa overland tour.
Other notable costs include:
The remainder relates small necessary purchases along the way such as toiletries etc.
Visa prices differ depending on your nationality, but at the time of travel I (a UK resident and national) needed to purchase visas for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe which totalled £290. Therefore the start of our trip (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia) was extremely cheap for me in terms of visa!
Because I took a day trip to Rwanda while only having a single entry Uganda visa, I ended up having to pay for the Uganda visa twice (50 USD / 41 GBP each).
The only accommodation I was required to pay for was a hotel room in Nairobi after the tour ended (£65). I arrived in Cape Town on the day the tour started (which I regret as I LOVE Cape Town and it would have been amazing to have extra time here!), so I didn’t need to pay for a hotel before the tour started.
All other costs (£165) were optional upgrades. My tent mate and I chose to upgrade a few times when we needed a break from camping – either when it was pouring down with rain and we didn’t fancy putting our tent up or if we were staying in one location for a few days and it was nice to have extra space to chill out/spread out our clothes to do laundry and repack our bags. In total, we upgraded for 9 nights, so an average of £18 per night.
There were some extremely pricey upgrades along the way which didn’t appeal to us. But if you’re looking to flash the cash and have a few nights of luxury, you can upgrade to BEAUTIFUL lodges in both Etosha National Park in Namibia (which overlooks a watering hole where we saw 8 rhinos, 10 giraffe and 1 elephant!) and South Luwanga National Park in Zambia (which overlooks a river – our fellow travellers had both a hippo and an elephant pass right by their lodge).
Along the way, there will be plenty of opportunities to buy souvenirs! I resisted temptation on most occasions other than:
The rest of the money was spent on a pair of earrings for a friend’s birthday present from Helen’s Place in the Masai Mara (Kenya) and a post card and stamp from every country for her mum who collects stamps from around the world!
If you are joining a shorter Africa overland tour with Intrepid, you might be wondering what the cost of each country looks like. The countries that I visited (in chronological order) are shown below. Any remaining expenditure not mentioned is small insignificant items such as drinks, tips, presents for friends, snacks etc.
There are whole bunch of items which don’t relate to one specific country, such as the cost of the tour itself, my flights, vaccinations, malaria tablets, tips for our crew etc. More information on these can be found in the above sections.
There’s nothing too exciting to report within my South Africa spending. I got talked into taking a “proper taxi” from Cape Town airport to the hotel for 420 ZAR (£19) rather than an Uber which would have been considerably cheaper.
I also stocked up on toiletries on arrival (namely my fave brand of insect repellent!) which bumped up the spending.
The only activity was a wine tasting at Highlands Campsite for a bargain 162 ZAR (£7) which is absolutely worthwhile and a great way to meet mingle with your new travel mates.
Namibia can be an expensive stop on an Intrepid Africa overland tour, namely because you’re given a few days in Swakopmund to do whatever you please. There is a whole array of activities to choose from and you need to purchase your own lunch and dinner for these days.
I paid for 3 activities in Swakopmund – a Township tour (750 NAD = £31), a quadbiking and sandboarding tour in the dunes (950 NAD = £40), a cruise spotting dolphins and seals (1,100 NAD = £46). Then 1 further activity at Rainbow River Lodge – a cruise on the Okavango River spotting hippos for 25 USD (£20). All of the activities were definitely worthwhile, although if your’re travelling the full 9 week route, you could skip the boat cruise as you’re going to see tonnes of hippos along the way!
Given the number of meals I needed to purchase in Namibia and the amount of downtime we had in Swakopmund, I spent more on food and drink in Namibia than some other countries (2,138 NAD = £96).
The majority of my Botswana spending was on a helicopter ride over the Okavango Delta (2,078 BWP = £123) which was incredible and definitely worthwhile! The only other optional activity was a 350 BWP (£21) cruise in the Okavango River to spot hippos (like in Namibia – you could just opt to do one of these, but I get FOMO)! We also opted to have a group fancy dinner at Chobe Safari Lodge which cost me 379 BWP (£22).
Zimbabwe was the first country where I had to purchase a visa – my visa (as a British resident, citizen and national) cost me 50 USD (£40).
All of the optional activities in Zimbabwe were pretty pricey:
As mentioned above, the additional safari was great (we had a super close sighting of rhinos) but not necessary if you are travelling for the full 9 weeks – you’ll be going on plenty of safaris that are included within the price of your tour.
Zimbabwe was also the first place my tent-mate and I decided to upgrade – we upgraded to a cabin in Victoria Falls for 3 nights for 111 USD (£90 total). We then upgraded in Harare for 15 USD (£12) as we had to be up at the crack of dawn the next day and wanted an extra 45 minutes in bed while everyone else took their tent down in the morning!
Despite the fact that we had to buy all of our own lunches and dinners during the 3 days in Victoria Falls, I only spent 62.50 USD (£50) on meals during this time and it was some of the best meals we ate throughout the whole 9 week trip – I particularly loved The Three Monkeys!
Victoria Falls is also where you’ll find iconic souvenir tour t-shirts for 25 USD (£20).
Our tour only spent a few days in Zambia and half of them were long driving days (which means buying lots of snacks).
During our time in Zimbabwe, we also crossed over onto the Zambian side of Victoria Falls for the day – entry to the National Park on the Zambian side is far cheaper (360 ZMW = £15) than that of the Zimbabwean side. I also took part in a jewellery making class at Mulberry Mongoose just outside of South Luwanga National Park for (380 ZMW = £31).
In South Luwanga National Park, we upgraded to tented accommodation for 2 nights for 45 USD (£36 each) as we got scared at the warnings that hippos and elephants trample through the campsite…. In hindsight, we probably should have gone bigger and upgraded to the lodges (90 USD per person for 2 nights) as they were extremely luxurious!
Another country, another visa. This visa cost me 52 USD (£42) and the only other sizable expenses were two paintings purchased at the end of a walking tour of the village in Kande. You need to be a good negotiator when going into that conversation – they originally wanted 120 USD for both paintings but we settled on 70 USD (£56) which is still extremely expensive for the paintings purchased.
In terms of activities, the village walk in Kande cost 10 USD (£8) and was well worth it. The stories told by the locals were extremely interesting and the village is beautifully framed by farmland and mountains. On the other hand, a trip to the local witch doctor in Chitimba is absolutely not worth it (although our tour leader had a long conversation with the man who organised the trip to the witch doctor, so hopefully the experience will improve). I had been to a witch doctor in Bolivia and it was an extremely interesting experience – we learnt so much about the local beliefs and history of the practice of witch doctors. In Malawi, we were given no information and instead were led on a 30 minute walk in the blistering heat (we were told it was 5 minutes away and 2 of the girls had foot injuries) before being called into a hut one-by-one to be told the same “fortune”.
More than half of my spending for the entire 2 weeks in Tanzania was an hour-long hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti National Park (£535). As already mentioned, hot air balloon rides in East Africa are seemingly extremely expensive. I booked in advance via Intrepid and paid far more than two travellers paid to sign up in person the day before the balloon launch. Of course, you run the risk of the balloons being fully sold-out, but if you’re not travelling in high season, I recommend waiting until you’re in Tanzania to book this, you could save a lot of money!
In Zanzibar, we were given full 3 days of freedom where we could do whatever we wanted – I signed up to 4 activities:
Be careful, the restaurant in Nungwi (Zanzibar) has an incredible happy hour and it’s very easy to spend a lot of money…. And the long island ice teas are extremely strong (as a few members of our group found out)! I will not be disclosing the amount I spent for my own sanity.
Even though we had to pay for all lunches and dinners on Zanzibar, the total of my meals in Tanzania only came to 125,650 TZS (£42).
Unfortunately, a few boring necessities were paid for while I was in Tanzania – a 100 USD (£81) visa, laundry for a whopping 23 USD (£18)! And an emergency trip to a local dentist, including prescription medicine and transport to/from the dentist (95,000 TZS = £33).
My visa situation for Uganda is pricer than normal. I had a single-entry visa (50 USD = £40) so when I took a day-trip to Rwanda whilst staying in Kisoro, I had to buy another visa to re-enter Uganda, bringing my total Ugandan visa costs to 100 USD (£80).
In terms of activities, the gorilla trek is the big ticket item but thankfully this is already included within the cost of Intrepid’s tours (permits cost 800+ USD). I did however pay for a porter for the trek (20 USD = £16).
In terms of optional activities, I paid for:
In Jinja I upgraded to a dorm room (which was surprisingly nice!) for 74,000 USH (£15) total for two nights.
Rwanda isn’t actually included on the “Africa Encompassed Northbound” overland tour, it’s an optional day trip from Kisoro in Uganda (hence we were only there for 1 day, no nights).
The price for transport and guides for the day trip depends on how many travellers are on the trip. The total cost is 500 USD and can be split between up to 7 travellers. We thankfully had 7 people on our tour, so I only paid 71 USD (£57) which was very much worthwhile as this was one of my favourite days of the entire 9-week trip.
Entry to the Genocide Memorial Museum is free, but it’s highly recommended that you purchase an audio tour (20,000 RWF = £13). The museum is so interesting, but extremely harrowing. We then had lunch at “Hotel Rwanda” (from the namesake film) which was delicious and cost me 21,000 RWF (£14). As we were only in Rwanda for 1 day, we didn’t get any cash out as both the museum and the hotel accepted card payments. I then tipped our guide 40,000 USH (£8).
Oops, I booked another hot air balloon! While the hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara was expensive (450 USD = £355), it’s significantly cheaper than that of the Serengeti. All other activities within Kenya were included within Intrepid’s tour price. However, I spent 1 day in Nairobi after the tour ended and visited both the Giraffe Centre (3,000 KSH = £16 for 2 people) and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage (20 USD = £16 for 1 person).
Because of bad weather, I upgraded to a triple room in Eldoret with 2 other girls (we paid 15 USD = £12 each). I then paid for a hotel room in Nairobi after the tour ended (85 USD = £65).
My single-entry visa to Kenya cost 50 USD (£44). At the time of our trip, single entry visas *should* have given us re-entry into Kenya as long as we stayed within “East Africa” (i.e., Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) per the guidance on the Kenyan authority’s website and Intrepid. However, when we tried to re-enter Kenya from Uganda, we had a very stubborn border officer who told us this was incorrect and told us that we would all have to buy new visas – after much protest (including a call from a senior member of staff at Intrepid), he “discounted” the “cost of the visa” to 25 USD (£20).
In short, yes I absolutely think an Africa overland tour is worth the price. While it would be cheaper to travel independently, this isn’t wise as a solo female traveller in some destinations and the local knowledge given by our guides and crew was fantastic. I made friends for life and had some of the most incredible experiences which I will always treasure.
If you’re considering booking an Africa overland tour, you should read my other posts too (especially if you’re looking to book with Intrepid!):
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