Updated: 2/2/2020 | February 2nd, 2020
Africa is a continent known for its exotic animal encounters, dramatic landscapes, world-class beaches, and rich cultural traditions. It’s a continent few explore in depth, yet one that always seems to captivate anyone who visits.
Stretching over 30 million square kilometers and home to over 1.2 billion people, Africa is a vastly diverse landscape — both geographically and culturally. Most world maps end up distorting the continents true size, leading many to underestimate its size (contrary to what a Mercator map shows, Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland!).
Clearly, there is a lot to see here.
Where many countries in Africa do have their struggles, there are also many places where tourism is booming. Whether you’re looking for an intrepid budget backpacking experience or a more luxurious safari getaway, you’ll be able to find it somewhere on the continent.
But how do you get around while you’re there?
To help you plan your next adventure around Africa, I’ve compiled a list of the best ways to get around — no matter your budget!
Table of Contents
How to Travel Around Africa
Overland Africa Safari Tours
Overland safari tours are the organized package tours of Africa. They are the easiest way to see the continent, catering to more short-term travelers who want to see Africa without a hassle. If you’re a little intimidated about traveling Africa on your own, this may be your best option.
Overland tours are more expensive than doing things yourself, but food, transport, and accommodation costs are all included. You can usually find a wide variety of options as well, from basic backpacker tours to more luxurious options. Small group tours will be your cheapest option, though private tours will also be available (though much more expensive).
Seven-day all-inclusive tours start around $1,000 USD per person. Intrepid Travel is my go-to multi-day tour company. They have small groups, local guides, and are environmentally considerate.
Traveling by bus gives you an opportunity to be a part of other passengers’ everyday lives. You’ll get the opportunity to learn about how the locals get around and experience a more authentic way of traveling the continent.
It will require a bit more planning, but it’s an affordable way to get around. Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to converse with the locals. You’ll find that people will go out of their way to make sure that you, as a visitor, are comfortable and safe as possible.
Public buses will usually cost between $3–$30 USD depending on how far you’re going. More often than not, they are used for city travel or inter-city journeys where there is a good network of sealed roads. These buses are generally comfortable, safe, and spacious.
Countries or regions that have fewer or no sealed roads will usually have much older buses that frequently break down and are overcrowded. You’ll want to make sure you plan ahead and know what to expect.
Make sure you keep your valuables on your person in case your bag is opened or stolen during the trip (especially if the bags are stored above or below the bus).
How many people do you think you can fit in a minivan? Africa is the place that defines the limit to that answer. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly fit another person in, they have them stand on the windowsill outside the van.
While this may not be the most luxurious method of travel, it’s definitely a memorable one — and an affordable one, too! Minivans are an incredibly cheap way to get around and are usually taken for journeys up to six hours long within a country (or to a neighboring country). Unless you’ve pre-booked a journey with a company, most minivans don’t leave until they are full, so jump on one that looks ready to go and avoid waiting for hours until it fills up.
Like public buses, prices are cheap. Expect to pay anywhere from $1-20 USD depending on how far you are going.
The Baz Bus is a transportation company in South Africa with designated routes that generally follow the country’s popular travel trail.
It’s a hop-on, hop-off style bus that picks you up and drops you off at your hostel, making it incredibly convenient if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to explore the country. You simply choose the route you want and buy the ticket. That’s it!
You can buy a ticket for a certain number of days or a more open-ended, flexible ticket. They also offer safari tours and multi-day overland tours as well. Their 7-day travel pass will cost 3,300 ZAR ($235 USD), their 14-day pass 5,300 ZAR ($375 USD), and their 21-day pass will cost 6,600 ZAR ($470 USD).
While hitchhiking does bring some risks and challenges, it’s an easy way to get around if you’re flexible and on a budget. If you hitch from the side of the road, it’s best to wave your hand up and down instead of sticking out your thumb as sticking out your thumb is often considered rude in Africa.
Chances are you’ll get a good mix of locals and travelers picking you up. While it’s not necessary, giving your driver (if they are a local) a tip is never a bad idea. Just be sure to use common sense and take precautions if you’re hitchhiking. Generally, I’d suggest you have some hitchhiking experience before doing it in Africa.
Hiring a car will put a dent in your budget, but it will give you much more flexibility. If you’re heading out to a game reserve, make sure you know which game parks you want to go to and where the best viewing areas are so you can plan accordingly and cut down on fuel expenses.
In addition to renting a car for safaris, another popular option is to rent a car to drive the beautiful Garden Route, a popular and scenic stretch of the South African coast. Car hire from South Africa can be found for as cheap as $35-50 USD per day, especially if you book online.
If you are planning on long-term travel in Africa, you may even consider buying your own 4WD to tour the continent in. South Africa would be the best place to find a vehicle to purchase. You can also look for a departing traveler ready to sell their vehicle.
When planning your African travel adventure, carefully consider your budget, itinerary, and safety interests before making your transportation decisions. While public transport is cheap and authentic, it’s uncomfortable and less safe than other options.
Hiring or buying a car is the more expensive choice but will give you greater freedom as well as maintain an authentic experience. Overland safari tours will be expensive and less authentic but will give you an all-inclusive package and the greatest sense of safety. No matter how you get around Africa, you’ll definitely find the experience unforgettable!
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- World Nomads (most comprehensive)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.