Want to explore the unknown but can’t splash out on big trips abroad right now? Go where 4 423 165 people went in the summer of 2018 – your geographical back yard! People from all over the world flock to Mzansi to enjoy its coasts, cities, towns, cultures, live music, natural attractions, wine, wildlife, lifestyle, safari, and adventure, and you don’t even need a travel visa to delight yourself in any of these experiences. We’ve looked at budget-friendly ways you can still get to explore our world-class country, or even just one of its precious little towns or popular cities, as the ultimate holiday destination.
Get there on less
Getting on the road (or on the plane!) is a terrific way to meet amazing people when making your way through the country, and it doesn’t have to break the bank at all.
Going by air – budget airlines offer cut-price airfare and will get you from one end of the country to the other in a few hours, tops. Check out Kulula and Fly Safair and book well in advance to take advantage of lower fares.
Going by road – public transport is very reasonably priced, so if you don’t mind giving way to your personal space for a little while, it’s the perfect way to truly experience a magical journey with your fellow travel companions. Bus companies like City-To-City cover the country’s main routes regularly. Book its well-priced fares beforehand. Independent minibus taxis travel the same main routes that long-distance buses do, and those they don’t – and also cover shorter distance trips within most urban (and many outlying) areas. For these services, you generally pay upfront in cash.
The Baz Bus is a tad pricier, but routinely takes travellers along main travel veins, while offering a secure, door-to-door option between backpackers. Some backpackers offer dedicated shuttle services to and from their premises if they’re at difficult-to-reach destinations, like Durban to Port St Johns, KZN.
In towns and cities, you can grab the public buses like the Go George (George, Western Cape) or MyCiti (Cape Town central and some suburbs – requires a prepaid card); a minibus taxi mentioned above; or a mobile-enabled Uber on any route you wish.
Eat on the cheap
Whether it’s a vegan bunny chow or a very big Gatsby, South Africa expresses its rich and varied cultures with delicious street cuisine. You’ll find food stalls on the pavement, near public transport depos, at markets and from informal spaza shops. There’s a host of affordable fast food chains across the country, from the Halaal Steers on Strand Street, Cape Town, to chicken takeaways like the beloved Nandos.
You can also save by self-catering. Shop at the local grocer or fruit and veg warehouse and DIY for less, instead of eating out. Most backpackers and AIRBNB stays have kitchen/cooking facilities.
TIP: Use a payment app like Zapper, which is also loyalty-centred, and take advantage of discounts and specials at various eateries near you. You can use Zapper to pay for a variety of items besides food and it lets you split the bill.
We love Eastern Food Bazaar , which is open 24-7 in Cape Town and caters for huge buffets at economical prices.
Hotel rooms are heftily priced if you’re travelling on a budget. There are lots of more economical alternatives. Lay your head to rest for less with these options:
Couchsurfing website – Couchsurfing is like Airbnb for your couch (or somebody else’s). It’s a free service that relies on crowdsourcing. You basically pick a reputable host, crash at their place, and cook a meal for example, to say thanks. Just be careful when choosing a host. They need to have glowing reviews over the entire time they’ve been hosting, preferably a long hosting history, and if you’re a lady, check that other ladies felt 200% safe staying with them. It’s a global movement and you can later become a host yourself. It’s also a terrific way to meet open-minded others from all over the world and save on your journey every single night.
Camping is great for a down-to-earth experience of nature and camping culture. It’s naturally more comfortable in the warmer seasons – spring, summer, and early autumn. The better caravan and camping sites may include laundry facilities, but they’ll all have toilets and showers. And most backpackers and other accommodation spots offer this super-cheap option. Invest in the best tent for your budget at Outdoor Warehouse.
Backpackers have a range of accommodation options, from super-cheap camping to damn fine basic dorm rooms. You may get lower rates for block booking with a crew, doing a trade exchange to subsidise your stay, staying longer-term, or staying out of season. It’s worth asking.
Get yourself a Guide (or a tour)
If you’re going to splurge on one aspect, get yourself a local guide. A qualified travel guide means a more authentic adventure, and it can cost a lot less if you team up with other travellers who all chip in. Airbnb offers the “experiences” search for ordinary folk who know secrets of destinations you want to visit. Check out the two-way reviews to make sure the individual is reliable, consistent, and kind. Official tourism departments often list qualified tour guides and companies (here’s P.E’s ), and there are many more groups and group tours on offer across the country. Take care to pick a guide or a tour company that actively practises responsible tourism for the most valuable and respectful, two-way cultural travel experience.
We love Coffee Beans Routes , who will take you right into the homes of artists, musicians, chefs and more for a very personal and positive experience and show you a South Africa you didn’t know existed.
Other ways to travel SA for less
If you have a little longer than an annual break, consider the following for a full experience of the richness and variety of lifestyles, destinations, and activities available to locals and foreigners alike:
Volunteer. For a small annual fee, you can join websites that specialise in unpaid volunteer stints. This usually means your board and lodging are covered, or subsided, and that you’ll be working alongside hosts in their home, on their property, or in their business. The average commitment is 5 hours per day (5 days a week), and these stints suit longer stays from a few weeks upwards. Again, check out the reputation of the host, make sure all their recent reviews are amazing, check what they had to say about previous volunteers, privately reach out to volunteers who stayed with them for input, and ask hosts about hidden costs (like getting from a main town to their remote destination, for example, or providing your own meat). It’s wise to get written confirmation of the exact agreement between you and a host e.g. which meals are provided, number of work hours, what your accommodation includes, etc. Some setups are rudimentary (compost loo, anyone?) and may not suit travellers accustomed to a little more comfort. Check out Workaway. It’s global, reputable, and offers volunteer options, from adventure sports to childcare to hospitality, and everything in between. If you’re into keeping it green and clean, try WWOOF SA listing organic farms and smallholdings in search of help in South Africa. The work is very often active and outdoorsy.
A Winter job in hospitality. Many backpackers, guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts need someone to hold the fort in the low seasons. You could experience an exotic location at a slower pace and get to know the community, and even earn a little as a receptionist or general helper. Volunteer stints (above) can also lead to offers of employment or extended, board-and-lodging stays. And it never hurts to suggest it …
Sleep in your van. Invest in a vehicle you can live in like these photographers did . Vehicles like these can be a pricey outlay, but you can sell them again afterwards, and if you split the cost between all participants, or get it sponsored (you travel influencer, you!), you may be able to recoup some of those setup expenses. Research caravan parks and campsites and friendly farmers (might require a 4×4) for tourists to park safely in across the country.
Ok, now that you’re almost on your way … Got any other travel questions for us? Drop us a post at our Facebook page and we’ll look into it for you.
HEALTH TIP 101
Just because you’re already in Mzansi doesn’t mean you’re immune to all its cooties. Depending on where you are, you can contract serious diseases like malaria here, so find out which medication/vaccinations you might need before you leave. Your local travel clinic or trusted GP can advise; and remember to check in with both en route, too. Safety first!
For added peace of mind, why not insure your portable possessions with dotsure.co.za before you depart on a ‘lekker local’ trip? Luckily, there are many affordable options from which to choose, so don’t sweat 😊. Follow this link for more information, give us a call on +27 861 368 7873 to chat with one of our friendly consultants or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles you might be interested in:
- Got gifted a new portable possession and thinking of having it
- How to outsmart the most common travel scams.
- Two-day getaways in SA!