Tips for Traveling South Africa On a Budget

Backpacker in Kloof Gorge, South Africa
Kloof Gorge, South Africa: Photo by Rachael Lees on Unsplash

You can travel any place on the cheap if you know how to manage your finances smartly. Are you willing to make little compromises on accommodation, transport and fancy restaurants? If so, you can see plenty of beautiful countries and sights you will cherish all your life. So if you’re ready to ditch the usual European vacation and travel to South Africa on a budget, here are some tips that will come in handy.

Budget accommodation in South Africa

You’ll spend more on a place to stay than on anything else. However, you can control how much you spend on your accommodation in South Africa. That way, you have plenty left to explore the beautiful country.

When looking for accommodation, opt for hostels/ guest house/ tourist accommodation. These are all called “backpackers” in South Africa. They are usually located in beautiful surroundings and are South Africa’s most affordable accommodations. Backpackers have a diverse group of people staying together, so you can expect to socialize with lots of fellow travelers. The usual cost is around $8 to $20 for a dorm bed.

There are plenty of luxury accommodation options also available in South Africa. You might want to splurge on a night just relaxing in areas like Kruger Park, Pearl Valley or Pinnacle Point.

You can search travel websites for accommodation options. But the best way to get to know about good budget hostels is to speak to fellow travelers. They can share a lot of information and really help you travel South Africa on a budget. So don’t forget to interact and gather information from people around you.

Backpacks on a train. South Africa on a budget

Transport in South Africa

Due to a lack of public transport in South Africa, this one is tricky to do on a budget. Johannesburg and Cape Town still have some public transport options, but there aren’t many apart from that.

To connect to other parts of the country, you should opt for private bus companies like Baz Bus, Greyhound and Intercape. Baz Bus mostly targets backpackers. It offers hop-on hop-off passes and also stops at several backpacker accommodations. So it might actually solve your accommodation problems, too.

The real problem begins once you’ve reached your destination; there are no buses to get you around from there. Here the best option becomes a rental car, as it may well cost less than taking Uber or hotel taxis.

You can ask others in your backpackers accommodation if they want to share a rental car. That takes some of the burden off your wallet and helps you continue to travel South Africa on a budget.

Feeding yourself on a budget

Most backpackers offer breakfast and dinner at around $5 and $8, respectively. The common kitchens are the best place to store and cook your own meals.

For daily meals, it’s best that you cook your own. Buy the groceries, which aren’t going to cost too much, and cook in the common kitchens that backpackers usually offer.

But you should be able to travel South Africa on a budget even if you eat out. Rest assured you won’t go hungry, because even the restaurants are cheaper than in western countries. But you will have to do your research on affordable places to eat.

If you’re not vegetarian, you’ll find some great meat here. It can be expensive, but you can try kudu, springbok, zebra, ostrich and even alligator. You can pamper yourself with a nice meal or two at fancy restaurants.

View of Cape Town waterfront with Table Mountain behind, South Africa on a budget
Cape Town waterfront with Table Mountain

Destinations in South Africa

All places in South Africa fall under the same expense category, more or less, except Cape Town. This is one city where you might have to spend more than the rest of South Africa. Accommodation, food, nightlife and even outdoor activities are going to cost more here.

You can expect other parts of South Africa, especially those which are not the top tourist attractions, to be a bit cheaper and more affordable.


South Africa is a beautiful country and has earned its reputation as a popular tourist and holiday destination. If planned carefully and smartly, backpacking across South Africa on a budget is totally possible. However, you must leave a little room for comfortable spending; you need some flexibility in your budget. You should always have money to spare in case of an emergency.

About Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams is a successful business woman who has a great interest in diverse subjects. She has learned a lot at the hands of every experience – good or bad. Her write-ups are a true manifestation of her rich experiences and her eventful life.

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  1. Tips for a Road Trip in South Africa | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] you’re looking for a place to rest your head, seek out hostels or guesthouses. They might not be as luxurious as some of the hotels. But they’re often in beautiful locations, […]


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