Overlanding in Africa is a once in a lifetime trip – one that I had been dreaming of since I was a young girl collecting promotional wildlife cards from the petrol station. Fortunately for me I was able to live this reality last year, spending seven weeks overlanding in Africa, exploring nine countries, and getting a taster of what the truly incredible continent of Africa has to offer.
The biggest challenge I faced before for departing on this amazing journey was choosing what overland company to book with. There are so many options, all offering amazing destinations, different price brackets and similar itineraries and it was a little overwhelming, to say the least.
If you’re looking at overlanding in Africa without spending a fortune, this post is for you! Read on to find out my top tips on how to select the perfect budget overland trip for you and your needs.
Being flexible with the duration of your trip and your start and end dates, opens up staggering possibilities of trips, routes and options, often saving you money in the process. Many of the overlanding operators in Africa offer similar routes and itineraries and though it’s hard to tell from many of the websites, a lot of the companies operate a looping system – this means that there is flexibility when selecting both your route and start locations.
Keep an Eye on Your Budget
Really look into every detail of what is included in your overland trip. There can be a lot of added expense and Africa can be surprisingly expensive (especially tourist activities). Commonly, overland trips are divided into two payments, one for the tour and one as a local payment (which can be nearly as high as your tour payment). The local payment is for your day to day expenses in Africa (such as groceries, petrol and campsite fees). When setting your budget, do not only account for your flights, trip payments, and additional tourist activities, include a budget for nights that meals aren’t included at the campsites (these add up), upgraded accommodation (you will have the opportunity to upgrade from your tent to other guest accommodation in many locations), lunches (if not included in your tour) and any other day to day expenses – small expenses can add up over a period of months.
Check the Included Safari Adventures
The main priority for most people overlanding in Africa is to see the amazing wildlife. Safaris are brilliant – the knowledge of your game driver is mind-blowing and it’s an experience not to be missed. Unfortunately the harsh reality is a lot of the safaris are not included in your tour payments. Be sure to research what safaris are included as part of your tour and the costs involved in the game drives that aren’t included. Safaris are relatively expensive and the added costs of the game drives will quickly add up.
Contributing – Consider How Much You’re Willing to Do Yourself
Traveling at the best of times is exhausting work and an overland trip is definitely not an exception! The cheaper your trip the more you will have to contribute towards the day to day running of the tour and that can be hard work. Your responsibilities might include setting up and putting down your tent (you will be a pro in no time), packing the truck with all the gear (tents, luggage and cooking facilities), setting up the cooking facilities, cooking dinner (for a large group), cleaning the dishes and the truck (obviously not all at once, there will generally be a rota). This can be challenging work, and generally where the tension and conflict amongst the group will playout. Be aware of these factors and the required responsibilities before selecting your trip – if you’re looking to relax after a day out on the road, then chances are, you’ll want a more inclusive-tour.
Dig Into Reviews
Reviews are always an extremely helpful consideration and whilst obviously these are all down to each individual’s personal preferences, if there is common opinion across the reviews it can really show the difference betweenc companies/routes. I would recommend reading the reviews with a focus on the company itself, tour guides, outside operators (for game drives) and reliability of vehicles as all of these factors will impact your trip significantly.
Research, Research, Research
While this can be a tedious task it’s one that will ensure the best adventure for you. I found the best place to start was determining a rough time frame for my trip and the places that I couldn’t miss (for me this was the great migration, trekking with the mountain gorillas, visiting a local village and fitting in as many game drives as possible). Once I had decided on these factors I started the research process. What was the best company for me, the best route to take, what was included in the tour and the optional activities? Eventually by changing my itinerary and starting and ending in different locations I was able to see everything I wanted plus a tonne more.
Don’t be afraid to contact tour companies for advice and options. All of the companies I had contact with were extremely helpful and also gave me options that weren’t listed on their webpage. They’re the experts and are there to help – be sure to reach out.
Ready to Begin Planning your African Overlanding Adventure?
To get you started with your planning, here some popular budget African overland companies. All have fantastic reviews and offer a range of overland tours to suit different needs and budgets.
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