Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

What Does It Cost To Travel In South Africa? A Budget Guide


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Elana Parisi



Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean compromising on the quality of your experience. In fact, with careful planning and smart choices, you can enjoy a fantastic trip without breaking the bank. South Africa, with its diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich cultural heritage, is a destination that offers incredible value for money. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, wildlife enthusiast, or simply looking to soak up the sun on beautiful beaches, South Africa has something for everyone, regardless of your budget.


Before embarking on your journey, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the costs involved. This budget guide to traveling in South Africa will equip you with valuable insights to help you plan and make the most of your trip without overspending. From accommodation and transportation to food, sightseeing, and miscellaneous expenses, we’ll cover all the key aspects to consider when budgeting for your adventure in South Africa.


South Africa offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget. From luxurious hotels and boutique guesthouses to budget-friendly hostels and self-catering apartments, you can find accommodations that fit your preferences and wallet. Prices will vary based on the location, amenities, and time of year, so it’s advisable to research and compare options before making a booking.


Transportation cost is another significant factor to consider while traversing South Africa. The country has a well-developed transportation network, including domestic flights, long-distance buses, and trains. Depending on your itinerary, you can choose the most cost-effective mode of transport. Public transportation is generally cheaper, but if you prefer more flexibility or are traveling in a group, renting a car might be a better option.


When it comes to food and drinks, South Africa offers an array of options to suit all budgets. You can indulge in gourmet dining at upscale restaurants, explore local flavors at street food stalls, or shop at supermarkets to prepare your meals. The key is to strike a balance between dining out and self-catering to control expenses while savoring the local cuisine.


South Africa is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, offering an abundance of sightseeing opportunities. From visiting iconic national parks and wildlife reserves to exploring historical landmarks and vibrant cities, there are endless attractions to discover. Planning your sightseeing activities in advance will not only help you make the most of your time but also enable you to budget accordingly.


In addition to the main expenses, it’s essential to factor in miscellaneous costs such as visa fees, travel insurance, and tipping. These smaller expenses can add up, so it’s important to include them in your overall budget to avoid any surprises.


As you embark on your budget travel adventure in South Africa, keep in mind that it’s not just about saving money but also making smart choices that will enhance your experience and create lasting memories. By being mindful of your expenses, researching and planning in advance, and embracing the cultural diversity of this beautiful country, you can enjoy a fantastic journey without breaking the bank. So pack your bags, don’t forget your camera, and get ready to explore the wonders of South Africa on a budget.


Accommodation Costs

Accommodation costs can vary significantly in South Africa depending on the type of lodging and the location you choose. With a wide range of options available, there is something to suit every budget and preference.


If you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodation, hostels and guesthouses are a great choice. These options offer clean and comfortable rooms at affordable prices, making them popular among backpackers and budget travelers. Prices for hostel dormitories typically range from $10 to $25 per night, while private rooms in guesthouses can start from $30 to $60 per night.


If you prefer more privacy and amenities, mid-range hotels and self-catering apartments are available at reasonable rates. Prices for mid-range hotels can vary from $50 to $100 per night, depending on factors such as location, facilities, and seasonality. Alternatively, self-catering apartments offer the convenience of a kitchenette, allowing you to prepare your meals and save on dining costs. These apartments generally start from $60 to $120 per night.


For those seeking a luxury experience, there are numerous upscale hotels and resorts to choose from. These accommodations offer top-notch facilities, stunning views, and exceptional service. Prices for luxury hotels can range from $150 to $500 per night or even higher, depending on the level of luxury and exclusivity you’re looking for.


Keep in mind that accommodation prices may vary significantly based on the location within South Africa. Major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg tend to have higher rates compared to smaller towns or rural areas. Additionally, prices can also be influenced by the seasonality of your visit, with peak tourist seasons generally being more expensive.


To get the best deals on accommodation, it’s advisable to book in advance and compare prices online. Websites like Booking.com, Airbnb, and Hostelworld offer a wide range of options and often provide discounted rates for early bookings. Additionally, consider flexibility with your travel dates to take advantage of any promotions or off-peak discounts.


Lastly, don’t forget to consider the amenities and services included in the price when choosing accommodation. Some properties offer complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, and access to facilities like swimming pools or fitness centers, which can add value to your stay and help you save on additional expenses.


By being thoughtful and strategic in selecting your accommodation, you can find a comfortable and affordable place to stay in South Africa that suits your budget, allowing you to allocate your funds towards other aspects of your trip.


Transportation Costs

Getting around in South Africa can be an adventure in itself, with a variety of transportation options available to suit different budgets and travel preferences. Understanding the transportation costs is crucial for planning your budget and maximizing your travel experience.


If you’re traveling long distances between cities or exploring different regions of the country, domestic flights are a convenient and time-saving option. South Africa has several airlines that offer competitive fares, especially if you book in advance or take advantage of promotional deals. Depending on the distance and the time of booking, prices for domestic flights typically range from $50 to $200 one-way.


For shorter distances or when you want to explore the landscape at a leisurely pace, long-distance buses are a popular choice. Companies like Intercape and Greyhound provide comfortable buses with various amenities such as onboard Wi-Fi and air conditioning. Prices for long-distance bus tickets can start from as low as $10 for shorter journeys and can go up to $50 or more for longer routes.


Alternatively, if you prefer a more scenic and relaxed way of traveling, trains can be a great option. South Africa’s rail network, operated by Shosholoza Meyl, offers affordable sleeper-class and tourist-class options. Prices for train tickets can vary depending on the distance and the type of class you choose, ranging from $20 for shorter journeys to around $100 for longer routes.


Within cities, public transportation options such as buses and minibusses, commonly known as “taxis,” are available. These are typically the most affordable mode of transportation, with fares starting from as low as $0.50 for short distances. However, it’s important to note that the local minibus taxis may not adhere to fixed schedules or routes, so it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the local transportation system or consider alternative options like app-based ride-hailing services.


If you prefer more freedom and flexibility, renting a car can be a convenient choice, especially if you plan on exploring remote areas or embarking on a road trip. Rental car prices vary depending on the type of vehicle, duration, and additional services. On average, daily rental costs for a standard car can range from $20 to $50, excluding fuel.


It’s important to note that fuel costs in South Africa should be factored into your transportation budget. The price of fuel fluctuates, but as of the time of writing this article, gasoline can cost around $1 per liter. Knowing the distance you’ll be traveling and estimating the fuel consumption can help you determine the approximate cost of fuel for your trip.


Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that there may be additional transportation costs for activities such as organized tours or airport transfers. These costs can vary depending on the specific service and location, so it’s advisable to research and budget accordingly.


By carefully considering your transportation options and including these costs in your budget, you can choose the most suitable mode of transport for your South African adventure, whether it’s flying between cities, taking scenic train journeys, or exploring the streets on local buses.


Food and Drink Costs

Exploring the diverse culinary scene in South Africa is a delightful part of any trip, and it’s essential to budget accordingly for food and drink expenses. The cost of dining out can vary depending on the type of establishment and the location you choose.


If you’re looking to save money on meals, street food and local markets are fantastic options. You can find delicious and affordable street food like boerewors (sausage), bunny chow (a hollowed-out bread filled with curry), and samoosas (fried triangular pastries filled with savory fillings). Prices for street food items generally range from $2 to $5 per portion, making it an affordable and authentic culinary experience.


For a casual dining experience, there are plenty of cafes, bistros, and mid-range restaurants that offer a variety of cuisines at reasonable prices. Prices for a main course in these establishments typically range from $8 to $15, depending on the location and the type of cuisine.


If you’re a food enthusiast and want to indulge in fine dining experiences, South Africa has many acclaimed restaurants to tempt your taste buds. These upscale establishments offer gourmet creations and exquisite wine pairings. Prices for fine dining can start from $25 for a set menu, but they can go up to $100 or more per person, depending on the restaurant and the level of luxury.


When it comes to drinks, South Africa is known for its world-class wines. The prices of local wines vary depending on the brand and the type of wine, but you can find excellent quality wines at affordable prices of $5 to $15 per bottle. If you prefer beer, local brands like Castle Lager and Windhoek Lager are popular choices, with prices ranging from $1 to $3 per bottle, depending on the location and type of establishment.


If you’re looking to save on your beverage costs, supermarkets and bottle stores offer a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at lower prices compared to restaurants or bars. Be sure to check if there are any restrictions on consuming alcoholic beverages in public spaces, as some cities may have specific laws in place.


It’s worth mentioning that it’s not essential to dine out for every meal. If you’re staying in accommodations with kitchen facilities, you can save money by buying groceries and cooking your meals. Supermarkets in South Africa offer a variety of fresh produce, meats, and pantry items at reasonable prices. Consider exploring local markets for fresh fruits, vegetables, and other specialty products.


Remember to budget a portion of your food and drink costs for gratuities. While tipping is not compulsory in South Africa, it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip for good service.


By combining a mixture of street food, casual dining, and occasional splurges on fine dining experiences, you can savor the flavors of South Africa and control your food and drink expenses within your budget.


Sightseeing Costs

South Africa is a treasure trove of captivating sights and experiences. From stunning natural landscapes to intriguing historical sites and vibrant cultural attractions, there is something for everyone to explore and enjoy. Understanding the potential sightseeing costs will help you plan and make the most of your itinerary.


One of the most iconic attractions in South Africa is its national parks and wildlife reserves. Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park, and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park are just a few examples of the incredible natural habitats that offer the opportunity to spot the Big Five and other wildlife. The entrance fees to these parks may vary, but on average, you can expect to pay around $20 to $30 per person for a day visit.


When visiting cultural and historical sites, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Robben Island or the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, admission fees are typically around $10 to $20 per person. These immersive experiences provide insights into South Africa’s rich history and cultural heritage.


One of the absolute must-see attractions in South Africa is Table Mountain in Cape Town. To reach the summit, you can either hike or take the rotating cableway. The cableway ticket prices range from $15 to $30 depending on the time of year and whether you opt for a single or return trip. Hiking up Table Mountain is free, but it requires physical fitness and proper preparation.


Another popular destination is the Cape Winelands, known for its picturesque vineyards and wine estates. Wine tastings and cellar tours are available at various wineries, with prices typically ranging from $5 to $10 per person. Some wineries also offer guided tours and gourmet experiences at higher prices.


In major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, exploring landmarks such as the V&A Waterfront or the bustling neighborhoods of Maboneng and Newtown is generally free of charge. However, entrance fees may apply for certain attractions, museums, or exhibitions within these areas.


If you’re interested in outdoor activities and adventure sports, South Africa offers a range of options such as shark cage diving, bungee jumping, and zip-lining. Prices for these activities can vary, with shark cage diving costing around $100 to $150 per person, bungee jumping ranging from $70 to $120 per jump, and zip-lining costing around $30 to $60 per person.


It’s worth noting that some accommodations and tour operators offer package deals or discounted rates for combined activities or multiple attractions. Before booking individual tickets, consider checking if any bundled offers are available to save money.


Lastly, don’t forget to include transportation costs, such as entrance fees and guided tours, when planning to visit attractions that require additional transportation, such as the scenic drives along the Garden Route or the panoramic Route 62.


By researching and planning your sightseeing activities in advance, you can budget accordingly and make the most of your time in South Africa, immersing yourself in its natural wonders, cultural landmarks, and thrilling adventures.


Miscellaneous Costs

When budgeting for your trip to South Africa, it’s important to consider the miscellaneous costs that may arise during your travels. These additional expenses, while not always significant, can contribute to the overall budget for your trip.


One of the key miscellaneous costs to consider is visa fees. Depending on your nationality and the purpose and duration of your visit, you may need to apply for a visa before traveling to South Africa. Visa costs can vary, so it’s important to check the requirements and fees specific to your country of residence. Remember to factor in any processing fees or charges associated with the visa application process.


Travel insurance is another essential expense to consider. It’s highly recommended to have suitable travel insurance that provides coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellation or interruption, lost luggage, and personal liability. The cost of travel insurance will depend on several factors, including your age, trip duration, and coverage requirements. Be sure to shop around and compare quotes from different insurance providers to find a policy that suits your needs and budget.


Transportation to and from the airport is another miscellaneous cost to consider. Whether you’re taking a taxi, using ride-hailing services, or opting for public transportation, there may be fees associated with getting to and from the airport. It’s advisable to research the transportation options available at your destination and allocate a portion of your budget for these costs.


When it comes to shopping and souvenirs, South Africa offers a wide range of unique and locally crafted items. Whether you’re interested in African art, traditional crafts, or stylish fashion, there are numerous markets and shopping districts to explore. It’s important to set a budget for shopping and be mindful of the prices, as certain items can be quite expensive. Remember to bargain and negotiate for better deals, especially in markets where haggling is customary.


Tipping is a common practice in South Africa to show appreciation for good service. While not mandatory, it is customary to leave a tip at restaurants, cafes, and for certain services, such as guided tours or hotel staff. A general guideline is to leave around 10-15% of the bill as a tip. Be sure to have some small denominations of local currency on hand for tipping purposes.


Lastly, it’s a good idea to have some extra cash or a backup payment method for unexpected expenses or emergencies. This can include situations such as medical emergencies, unexpected transportation delays, or unforeseen activity fees. Having a contingency fund will provide peace of mind and ensure that you’re prepared for any unplanned occurrences.


By factoring in these miscellaneous costs and including them in your budget, you can ensure that you’re adequately prepared to handle any unexpected expenses and have a stress-free and enjoyable trip to South Africa.



Traveling on a budget in South Africa is not only possible but also a rewarding experience. By carefully considering accommodation costs, transportation options, food and drink expenses, sightseeing fees, and miscellaneous costs, you can plan and manage your budget effectively. South Africa offers a wide range of affordable accommodations, transportation modes, and dining options, allowing you to tailor your trip to fit your budget while still enjoying all that this beautiful country has to offer.


Remember to research and compare prices, book in advance, and take advantage of any discounts or promotions available. Be flexible with your travel dates and consider off-peak seasons to save money on accommodations and transportation. Embrace local street food, explore markets, and consider self-catering options to further control your food and drink costs.


Planning your itinerary in advance and allocating a budget for each activity and attraction will help you make the most of your trip. Prioritize the sights and experiences that are most important to you and allocate funds accordingly. Consider bundled offers or package deals for attractions and activities to save money.


Lastly, always have a contingency fund for unexpected expenses and adhere to responsible spending habits during your trip. With proper planning, budgeting, and a sense of adventure, you can explore the diverse landscapes, wildlife, culture, and history of South Africa on a budget without compromising on the quality of your experience.


So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to embark on a memorable journey while keeping your budget intact. South Africa awaits you with open arms and an abundance of affordable and awe-inspiring experiences.