With its stunning natural beauty, diverse culture, and exciting cities, South Africa is a must-visit destination for any traveller. Great News… it's more affordable than you might think. With the current USD to Rand exchange rate, it's possible for 2 people to travel around this beautiful country for under $1200. But to do so, you'll need some insider knowledge and tips from local students and travel enthusiasts. In this blog, we'll share some of the best hacks to help you explore South Africa on a shoestring budget. From wildlife spotting to city adventures, we've got you covered. So grab your backpack and let's get started!
Exploring South Africa will be an adventure, but let's not ignore the fact that you’ll be a tourist and some areas are not considered safe. Don’t worry, I’ve only included the tourist-friendly spots.
Before You Begin
While ride-sharing apps like Uber are available in major cities, they aren’t available in all areas. That's why we recommend considering car hire for your travels.
For our itinerary, Avis has the flexibility of allowing you to pick a car up in Johannesburg and drop it off in Hoedspruit. Just be sure to let them know your plans when booking.
Car hire provides the freedom to explore at your own pace, stopping off at hidden gems along the way. You’ll need a valid driver's license that is in English, together with your passport to be legally valid and some car hire organizations require an international driver's license.
Just remember you will need to be confident to drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re not comfortable with that, I suggest you fly for the Kruger part of this itinerary because you can organize transport with the lodge and Uber everywhere else.
Avis Car Hire for 7 days Cost $240
Day 1 - Johannesburg, Sandtona view of a city from a distancePhoto by Edward Wynne on Unsplash
Accommodation Recommendation - Albatrossways
Sandton is considered a safe area with loads of entertainment. I’ve found a really great place to stay that is affordable. You can go even cheaper if you find a backpacker, but the cost saving is minimal. Albatrossways is quite close to all the hustle and bustle with great options for nearby restaurants, nightlife and adventure.
So we’ll start by dropping your bags off, maybe take a nap after your trip and then we’ll hit the town.
Attraction - Montecasino
If you’re looking for masses of entertainment all under 1 roof, you’ll love Montecasino. With opening hours 24/7, you’ll never run out of fun. It's famous for its architecture, which is based on a Tuscan village and offers incredible dining, theatres, cinemas, nightclubs, bowling, gambling… well it's got pretty much something for everyone. The best news is that it's free entry.
Where to eat? - Huscar Grill
You’ll need to eat at some point. My favourite is the Hussar Grill, which has regular offers and at the time of writing this has an all-inclusive food and wine deal for 2. You might want to check out other deals here.
I’ve included an Uber in the cost given that you may be drinking
1 night for 2 at Albatrossways Lodge in Sandton: $26
Uber to Montecasino: $5
Dinner at the Hussar Gril including wine per couple: $21
Entertainment Estimate for 2: $20
Day 2 - Sudwala Caves, Mpumalanga
As a bit of background and to add to the excitement, the Homo Habilus lived in these caves 1.4 million years ago and since we discovered them, we've stored weapons, hidden from enemies and even hosted concerts because of the amazing acoustics. They are truly beautiful and definitely on the list of what you need to see. These are the oldest caves known in the world!
Heads up - You’ll have choices as you enter to do the basic route or the longer one. If you have average fitness I strongly recommend doing the longer walk. The last chamber is like a fairy wonderland. It takes 30 minutes to complete the full tour.
Breakfast at Mugg & Bean
The trip to Sudwala is around 4 hours, so it’ll be worth grabbing a good breakfast before you leave. Mugg and Beran serve a mean eggs benedict.
Lunch at Sudwala Caves
The restaurant at Sodwala Caves is surprisingly affordable. The menu is quite basic but well worth the amazing views.
Dinner at Kruger Adventure Lodge
You’ve had a busy day… let’s stay at home. Kruger Adventure Lofge have a diverse menu in a homely environment
Accommodation - Kruger Adventure Lodge
Once you’ve finished at the caves, you’ll take a drive towards Kruger National Park. The distance is just over 1 hour. Kruger adventure lodge is just a short drive to the gate of Kruger. You can find cheaper accommodation if you drive a bit further from the gate, but the extra money is worth it so that you’re close enough for the morning safari
I’ll tell you more about Kruger shortlyPetrol and tolls: $40
Day 2 Cost Breakdown
Breakfast for 2: $6
Lunch at Sudwala Caves for 2: $8
Dinner for 2 at Kruger Adventure Lodge: $18
Entrance for 2 to Sudwala Caves for 2: $11
Accommodation for 2 at Kruger Adventure Lodge: $37
Day 3 - Kruger National Parkadult lion on grass fieldPhoto by Charl Durand on Unsplash
Kruger National Park
So this is where I want to tell you more about Kruger National Park. Kruger is one of the biggest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 20,000 km which is not far off the size of Wales in the UK. This is home to the big 5, 147 large mammals, 517 species of birds and all sorts of nature lovers' paradise.You can choose a full-day guide if you like, but I like A half-day safari (6 hours) where you’ll be picked up at your hotel Here is a great link to book.
Breakfast at Kruger Adventure Lodge
Breakfast is included in the accommodation cost… Hooray! Since you’ll be going on safari, they’ll give you a packed breakfast. You have a long day ahead, so don't forget to request a packed breakfast as you check in.
Dinner at Pioneers Grill
I loved the Pioneers Grill. It was great service and wonderful food. You can choose a massive amount of other options in the area, but you’ll need to drive because as a reminder, there isn’t much in the way of taxi services
Accommodation - Kruger Adventure Lodge
Day 3 Cost Breakdown
Safari for 2 people: $44
Dinner for 2 including wine: $22
Accommodation at Kruger Adventure Lodge: $37
Day 4 - Cape Townblack rock formation on body of water during daytimePhoto by Janan Lagerwall on Unsplash
Cape Town is iconic for its views, table mountain, beaches and entertainment. Just as a bit of background - its South Africa's oldest city and is South Africa’s 2nd largest city. I've made my suggestion for what you should see in a limited time, but you can easily make your own plans because there really is so much to see and do in Cape Town
Before we get started with the next leg of the journey, breakfast is included in your accommodation, so you’re all set
The trip to Cape Town is around 22 hours by road, so I have suggested a flight leaving Hoedspruit. You can leave your car at the airport and pick up a new one in Cape Town. You can get a cheaper flight if you stop at Johannesburg airport
Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre
Well everyone needs a shopping day. Victoria Wharf has mountains of shops and restaurants. It's the main shopping centre of the V&A waterfront, selling fashion, curios, jewellery and all sorts of other things.
Lunch - Cape Town Fish Market
Since you're at the sea, it makes sense to visit what I believe might be the best place in the area for seafood. Cape Town Fish Market often referred to as CTFM offer Japanese and seafood cuisine. You can have classic fish and chips, sushi and everything in between. If you're a wine lover you'll enjoy the selection. They also offer both carnivore and vegetarian options. Accommodation - Point Break Apartment
These apartments are amazing. The studio apartment is just the right size to be comfortable. You can definitely find cheaper, but here you have a great location and view. You might be ready for home-cooked food and so you could buy the ingredients, but I’ll recommend some great restaurants too. Dinner - Pigalle
Dinner at PigalleThis restaurant is wow! It's just around the corner from your accommodation and it's safe to walk. You can view the full menu here
Accommodation - Point Break Apartment
These apartments are amazing. The studio apartment is just the right size to be comfortable. You can definitely find cheaper, but here you have a great location and view. You might be ready for home-cooked food and so you could buy the ingredients, but I’ll recommend some great restaurants too.
Day 4 Cost Breakdown
Breakfast - Included at Kruger Adventure Lodge
Lunch at Cape Town Fish Market for 2 = $32
Dinner at Pigalle $36
Accommodation at Point Break $52
Day 5 - Robben Island, Cape Townpenguins on rock near body of water during daytimePhoto by Mikell Darling on Unsplash
For those of you that love history, you'll love Robben Island. It was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, with the most famous inmate being Nelson Mandela. The prison was closed in the late 90s, along with the apartheid regime.
The relics of the prison, hospital and chapel are strangely still home to nature with a conservation management plan that protects the natural species
Breakfast at Vovo Telo
Vovo Telo has become famous amongst the locals. Everything is fresh from the oven and as you walk in you can smell the pastries, bread, cakes and crumpets. You can choose from a massive range of hot or cold breakfasts
Lunch at Cooked
Cooked has made the list of restaurants because it has such a unique feel. Recipes here have been passed down for generations. You'll have Mediterranean and middle eastern, which sounds like a strange combo, but it somehow works.
Dinner at The Waterside
The waterside is quite a famous spot. I love a bit of ocean-side dining! With beautiful views, the smell of sea and amazing food how can you go wrong
Accommodation - Point Break Apartment
We'll stay at Point Break.
Day 5 Cost Breakdown for 2 people
Breakfast at Vovo Telo: $15
Lunch at Cooked: $13
Dinner at Waterside: $73
Robben Island Tour: $44
Accommodation at Point Break: $52
Day 6 - Return Homea large airplane on the runwayPhoto by Delano Ramdas on Unsplash
So we've had a great holiday in South Africa and all good things must come to an end. If you would like to stay longer, then you could do so much more. South Africa is famous for its wine farms and has many more nature reserves. You could even explore with a hot air balloon.
I'll send some more posts but in the meantime, here is a breakdown
Car Hire - $240
Day 1: $72
Day 2: $129
Day 3: $103
Day 4: $446
Day 5: $197
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