Blyde River Canyon

When you look online at the articles about travelling South Africa you get the words ‘affordable’ and ‘reasonable’ and even dare I say ‘cheap’ thrown around quite a lot. But these words are written by American and European travel creators who have the powerful dollar and euro backing them up. For them travelling on our Rand, it is affordable.

For South Africans though it’s a bit of a different narrative. Look I get it. Times are tough and Travel is seen by many a South African as an unattainable luxury. But despite what many South Africans think, travelling our incredibly beautiful country doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many little tips and tricks you can use to save some money on your next holiday. I’m hoping this blog post will give you some useful info and tips about travelling South Africa on the Cheap so that travel becomes more and more of a attainable option for you and your family this year.

Travel doesn’t just have to be for the tourists!

1. Travel in The Off Seasons To Get Reduced Rates

Prices on accomadations and activities tend to spike arond the December to January holidays and the Easter Holidays in April. It makes sense, this is when the schools are are out and many people have Christmas-New Year leave. If you go away instead in the off-seasons, prices drop pretty significantly and you won’t have to deal with the overbooked accomadations that the December holidays is known for. February to May and September to November tend to be good months to visit in most provinces, with fine weather, lower prices and many areas to yourself. Exceptions to this are the Easter holidays, and big-ticket events like Cape Town’s Two Oceans Marathon in April.

 

2. Consider Accomadation Alternatives

Hotels in the major hubs (namely Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban) can be pretty pricey especially for a family. For a family of 5 you could easily get a R3000 a night cheque. Not exactly budget friendly. These high rates often mean many people can only travel for a few short days a year, if at all. There are other options though, that are way more affordable.

Both Cape Town and Johannesburg (aka Joburg) have a number of highly rated hostels (although in South Africa they are commonly reffered to as Backpackers) that go for about R200-R300 per person per night on average. Comparing to the R3000 per night mentioned above, here you are paying R1000-R1500 for a family of 5 per night, essentially shaving off R1500 to R2000 off that nightly fee. It’s not just dorm style rooms either. Many hostels offer private rooms for couples and families.

Here’s a list of some of the best hostels in Cape Town

AirBnb’s are another great option. They are bigger than hotel rooms and they offer the privacy and home amenities that a hotel does not. They are also significantly cheaper than hotels.

Wise Move did a very good article comparing prices of AirBnB’s vs Hotels in 6 of South Africa’s biggest cities. The verdict AirBnB take the cake in every instance.

Finally we have the cheapest option; Camping. Camping will give you the cheapest accomadation rates which will allow you to prolong your holiday or spend your money on fun activities to do.

Learn more here:

Lions

3. Tips For Cheaper Safaris/Game Drives

South Africa has an incredible diversity of wildlife stretched over 9 biomes. A lot of the animals are contained in Private Reserves and National Parks. Going on a safari drive should be on every South African’s bucketlist. We have Elephants, Giraffes, Lions, Leopards, Hippos, Zebra and so, so much more.  It’s truly an incredible experience. So….how do we do it on the cheap?

 

First off you want to ditch the organized tour rides and explore the parks in your own car. Most roads can be done in normal car and if you want to get really adventorous you can hit the 4×4 trails (obviously not recommended in a normal car but hey, it never stopped my dad from trying. Let’s just say that was a hazardous endeavor)

If you’re traveling as a family, or if you’re planning on spending more than a week inside the major parks, consider purchasing a SANParks Wild Card. The Wild Card gives you access to pretty much all the parks and reserves for 1 yearly fee. There are different levels you can purchase ranging from local municipalities to the national and even international level. The top level card gives you access to most of the reserves in Southern Africa. Check it out!

To trim costs even more, remember that smaller or lesser-known parks often have lower entry fees than their more famous counterparts.

4. Visit South Africa’s free and almost-free attractions

Small towns and off-beat destinations will be lower-priced than cities and tourism hot spots, but, it’s possible to save even in major hubs. In Cape Town, for example, Table Mountain can be visited less expensively if you hike up and down rather than taking the cable car. You can then relax afterwards with a swim at the Camp’s Bay tidal pool, or do some seal-spotting from the Seapoint promenade. In Durban, soak up local vibes on a stroll along the boardwalk. And, in Johannesburg, explore the city’s many free museums, finishing with a visit to the famous Apartheid Museum, with its reasonable ZAR150 entry fee.

Wander Lust Movement, a SA Blogger I like to read, said she has done a free walking tour of Cape Town that she highly recommends.

Hike, Swim, Visit Local Markets and Walk the Local Parks.

Pro tip: Cape Town and Joburg offer First Thursdays. Every first Thursday of every month most of the art galleries and museums are free to the public. 

Train

5. Getting Around: Transport

Using your own car or renting a car is probably the best way to get around. Our country is designed around our roads. However petrol prices are pretty darn high right now so if you are travelling long distances you may want some cheaper alternatives.

 

Flights:

Local flights can be pretty affordable provided you book in advance and look around for different options.

Unsurprisingly, inconvenient times and early morning flights tend to be the cheapest. As with most budget airlines the world over, checked baggage and meals onboard cost extra.

While flying is probably the cheapest option. And, when you factor in getting to and from each airport you don’t end up saving a huge amount of time if you’re just traveling a short distance.

However, if you’re on a tight schedule then flying is probably your most budget-friendly option.

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Websites like TravelStart and Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights in South Africa.

Flysafair is usually the cheapest airline, but you’ll have to pay extra for checked in luggage. If you want all-inclusive flights, I’d look at Kulala.

 

For Short Distances:

Use Uber. The run in all the major areas and they are always expanding. The drivers go through daily checks to ensure passenger safety and the rates are becoming more affordable than in previous years. 

You may be tempted to use Bolt because of the supposedly cheaper rates but I don’t recommend it. Bolt doesn’t have as high driver standards as Uber and I’ve heard numorous people complain about safety issues when riding with them. Rather be on the safe side.

The MyCiti app is a app that has a network of busses and trains in Cape Town that span the whole city even the residential arees. You can hop on and off routes and stations as you please. It’s safe, reliable, efficient and pretty affordable. It is also wheelchair, bike and baby pram accessible with special loading sections to cater for these.

Busses:

There’s a couple options when travelling by bus and the routes connect the major cities. There are several companies that run in the country including Greyhound, Intercape, and Baz Bus (which caters specifically to backpackers).

Baz Bus runs a route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town (or vice versa) with several stops along the way. You can hop on or off whenever you want and can begin your trip anywhere, but as those two cities have major airports, most people start in one or the other. The most popular Baz Bus option is the unlimited one-way hop-on/hop-off pass. It costs 3,700 ZAR and covers the 750 kilometer distance between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. You have no time limit and have unlimited travel in one direction, allowing you to have as many stops as you want. A return pass costs 4,800 ZAR.

 

I have an app on my phone called Busbud and that does a great job of comparing all the rides to find the cheapest option

Trains:

South Africa has a lot of train tracks; however, most aren’t in use as the population has increasingly come to rely on the extensive highway system. Essentially, just the major cities in South Africa are accessible by train.

Shosholoza Meyl (South African Railways) has long-distance trains that serve Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, Queenstown, and East London. They’re comfortable and safe and make various stops at smaller towns along the way.

The fares are some of the cheapest available for any mode of transport in South Africa, running as low as 330 ZAR for a sleeper berth from Johannesburg to Durban. They’re safe, comfortable, and one of the best-kept secrets of traveling South Africa.

For those who are interested in some luxury, the famous Blue Train, which runs from Pretoria to Cape Town, costs 41,380 ZAR for a luxury double berth. The trip lasts a few days and includes wine, cigars, great food, and comfortable compartments. It’s the fanciest way to see the country

Braai

6. Make Your Own Food

And lastly on this list of budget travel tips, skip the restaurants and make your own meals. Braai’s (barbeques for my international peeps) are affordable options and can feed the family for 2 or 3 days. Another option is a picnic in a local park.

Personally when I go away with the family we pretty much survive on bacon in the morning and chip rolls for lunch. Yes chip rolls! Grab a roll, rip it open and full it to the brim with chips. Don’t knock till you try it. Quick, easy and most importantly cheap.

There you have it folks! 6 South Africa Budget Travel Tips to get you travelling South Africa on the cheap. I have tried to include as many resources as I can find and I plan to update this list quite regularly with any new resources I find that can help you save money on the road. With that being said, if you know any budget travel tips or have some resources you use to save money while travelling let me know about them in the comments and if they apply to the South African context I’ll put them in this post.

That’s all for now folks! Thanks for Reading

– Chase The Adventure –

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