How much does a trip to South Africa cost?

Our summer trip to the Rainbow Nation was a real beauty, filled with lush scenery and wildlife but how much does a trip to South Africa cost? We spent over three weeks travelling from Cape Town along the idyllic Garden Route to Addo Elephant National Park, where we enjoyed a self-drive safari. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how much our 23-day South Africa trip cost, including prices for accommodation, food, transport and activities.

View of Lion's Head and the 12 Apostles Mountain Range in Cape Town

A few notes about our trip: we travelled to South Africa from London in July, which means prices were slightly lower as it was winter. Bear in mind that we’ve rounded some figures and that exchange rates fluctuate according to the market, this is based on a trip in July 2019. Want to learn more about how much it costs to travel the world? We record all of our trip costs, here are some popular posts:

Accommodation costs for South Africa

We found the cost of hotels in South Africa started at as little as £15 per night, which is pretty affordable. These days we prefer to rent apartments when we travel though, so that we can cook vegan meals at home and I have space to work.  All of our accommodation in South Africa was in self-catering apartments or studios with cooking facilities, averaging £31 per night. Cape town accommodation prices were the most expensive at £40 per night, whereas our Colchester studio cost just £22.

Beach in South Africa on the Garden Route

We booked all of of our accommodation via Airbnb (get £25 off your first stay by using our discount code) and Booking.com. Here’s a list of where we stayed and price per night:

Expense Total Per Person Per Day
Accommodation£710£355£31

Food prices in South Africa  

We were amazed by how little we spent on food in South Africa, just £16.50 per day for two people. As vegans, we were happy to discover that Cape Town has a thriving vegan scene and we ate out there most days, our favourite restaurant picks were Kind Kitchen (check out the vegan French toast below!) and Lekker Vegan. We also found a few restaurants with vegan options along the Garden Route, including The Table in Plettenberg Bay and Kindred Kitchen in Port Elizabeth.

Vegan French toast at Kind Kitchen in Cape Town

Eating out in South Africa is very affordable, our restaurant meals cost as little as £12 for two people. Our most expensive meal out was at Kind Kitchen, where we spent £27 on drinks, mains, a side, deserts and vegan croissants for the next day.  If you’re able to cook, food prices in South Africa are pretty cheap. We would buy a load of fruit, veg, cereal and frozen vegan products (Fry’s does some great pies!) for around £10-£15. Woolworths is a fancier supermarket, while cheaper options include Checkers and Pick n Pay.

Expense Total Per Person Per Day
Food£378£189£16.50

Transport costs in South Africa

We haven’t included our flight prices to South Africa in this breakdown because we recognise that these will vary depending on where you fly from and when. In case you’re wondering though, our London to South Africa return flights cost £1,202 for two people. We rented a car for our entire trip with Bidvest, picking up and dropping off from Cape Town International Airport. Compared to renting in other countries like the USA, Australia and Europe, we found the cost of car hire in South Africa very cheap, just £7.50 per day. Altogether, we drove 3,520 kilometres in a loop from Cape Town along the Garden Route (read our Garden Route itinerary here) to Addo Elephant National Park and back.

Our rental car in South Africa, driving along the coast near Cape Town

Fuel turned out to be pretty affordable, costing around R15 (£0.85) per litre when we visited. You won’t find many parking metres in South Africa, except in multi-stories in the cities, but there are usually attendants in high-vis vests who’ll keep an eye on your car in return for a tip. We also tipped the fuel pumpers who’d always wash our windscreen. Most roads were toll-free, save for a couple of scenic stretches like Chapman’s Peak and the Tsitsikamma road. While in Cape Town, we left our car at home a couple of times and walked around, using Uber for longer distances, which cost just a couple of pounds per ride.

Expense Total Per Person Per Day
Car hire£175£87.50£7.50
Fuel£213£106.50£9.25
Parking & tips£9£4.50£0.40
Tolls£18£9£0.80
Uber (2 trips)£7£3.50£0.30
Total £422£211£18.25

Entertainment and activities

We spent a lot of time in South Africa just sightseeing, wandering around tiny seaside villages and Cape Town, hiking in National Parks and along beaches. This was cheap, aside from having to pay the daily Garden Route National Park entrance fee. It cost less to enter the Wilderness section (£8 each) than the Tsitsikamma one (£13.50). These fees go towards conservation though so we don’t begrudge paying them. If you’re spending a lot of time in the national parks in South Africa, consider getting a Wild Card through SAN Parks for discounts.

Elephants at Addo Elephant National Park

Our most expensive activity was a fruitless whale watching trip in Plettenberg, which would have been totally worth the £100 cost if we’d actually seen some whales. The Robben Island entrance fee was also a bit pricier, £30 per person, but one of our top Cape Town activities. Museums and other entrance fees were reasonable and the Cango Caves heritage tour was great value for money. Addo Elephant Park prices were £17.50 per person per day. I wish we hadn’t taken the £45 sunrise game safari because we saw much more wildlife just driving around on our own.

Expense Total Per Person
City Sightseeing Bus Cape Town£23£11.50
District Six Museum£5£2.50
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens£8£4
Robben Island£60£30
Betty’s Bay£3£1.50
Cango Caves£17£8.50
Garden Route National Park (Wilderness)£16£8
Map of Africa donation£1£0.50
Garden Route National Park (Tsitsikamma)£27£13.50
Knysna boat trip£27£13.50
Ocean Blue whale watching£98£49
Robberg Nature Reserve£6£3
Diepwalle Forest Station£11£5.50
Recife Reserve£4£2
Addo Elephant National Park entrance 2 days£70£35
Addo sunrise game drive£45£22.50
Total £421£210.50

Miscellaneous South Africa cost

Our South Africa vacation cost included a few miscellaneous items, including laundry and a few souvenirs. Beware of using ATMs in touristy areas, we got stung by a fee in Camps Bay. We found that First National Bank didn’t charge any fees for cash withdrawals. We bought a SIM card for our phone on arrival at Cape Town Airport with MTN network. We feel like that was a bit of a rip-off at £26, we probably could have found something cheaper in Cape Town.

Expense Total
Laundry£13
Socks£5
Souvenirs£6
Toiletries£8
ATM fee£4
SIM card£26
Total £62

How much does a trip to South Africa cost? Pinterest pin

So, how much does a trip to South Africa cost? Our final total

So, here’s a breakdown of our total South Africa travel costs, which came in at £1,993 for 23 days, for two people. If you add the cost of our return flights from London, our entire total came to £3,195. We think this was quite reasonable considering that we stayed in nice apartments, did all the activities we wanted to and drove all along the Garden Route. Based on our costs, it’s possible to travel South Africa on a budget of £87 per person, per day.

Expense Total Per PersonPer Day
Accommodation£710£355£31
Food£378£189£16.50
Transport£422£211£18.25
Entertainment£421£210.50£18.30
Miscellaneous£62£31£2.70
Total £1,993£996.50£86.75

What do you think of our South Africa travel costs? Let us know in the comments below and if you have any questions, ask away.

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