Have you always dreamed of going on an African safari? It’s a trip of a lifetime adventure and something we think everyone should experience at least once! But, if you’re worried about the cost of a safari, then we’ve got some great news…
It’s possible to do an amazing safari within a reasonable budget! Tanzania offers quality affordable safaris even in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Parks. However, planning your own Tanzanian trip might seem like an impossible task on a modest budget.
But we’ve got a great guide for you below on how to plan an affordable but memorable trip of a lifetime exploring the African plains!
Factors Influencing the Cost of a Safari
1) Duration of the Safari
How long you want to spend on your Tanzania safari will greatly define the budget you can put toward the trip. It’s possible to have a great Safari experience in 3-4days at the very minimum. But this would limit your viewing to just two parks and means you’ll spend a lot of time on the road instead of enjoying the lodges you’re staying at.
For Serengeti Park, you’ll need at least 1-2 days and 1 extra day at Ngorongoro, so this is the absolute minimum amount of time to spend in the area. If you’re spending this amount of time, then we’d suggest focusing only on game viewing instead of extra activities you can do in the area.
If you want to visit all four parks, including Lake Manyara and Tarangire (which we’ll explain in more detail below), then we’d suggest factoring in at least 1-2 more days for these places. Remember that you’ll have to pay entrance fees too, which we’ve defined below.
A well-planned safari holiday can be around 4-7 days within a friendly budget. In this time, you’ll still get a great chance to soak in the stunning scenery that surrounds you whilst not being at a rushed pace.
2) Type: Group, Self-Drive or Private Safari Tours
You’ve got a lot of options to choose from when deciding on the style of trip you want to do on your Tanzania safari. What you decide on will largely impact the budget of your trip. There are three types of trips you can decide on. We’ve explained them in a bit more detail for you below.
Group safaris are arguably the most budget-friendly options. That being said, they don’t offer much flexibility or exclusivity, so a lot of research has to be done to find the best group safari suited to your interests. We’ve gone into a bit more detail with our recommended ones below.
You can expect to pay around $200 per day for entry-level safaris traveling by overland truck, and groups normally include up to 30 travelers. This price includes all accommodation, most meals, transport, and activities. But you won’t have much flexibility with the itinerary.
Try not to be fooled by Tanzania budget safari trips coming in at around $130 per day. Most of these don’t even include a visit to Serengeti National Park, which can be a major drawback as you shouldn’t miss the wild animals you see there!
Self-drive can be one of the cheapest ways to explore the National Parks in Tanzania. But if you don’t research and plan this carefully in advance, the price can begin to get rather expensive! On the other hand, if you want to explore by self-driving, which gives you greater flexibility and the ability to customize the standard of accommodation and activities you want to include, you should book this in advance.
There are many self-drive companies you can do this with that also assist in booking accommodation, vehicle hire, and even some park fees in advance. If you’re traveling during a busier season, it’s important to do this to avoid availability issues.
If you want to hire a car, you can expect to pay around $70 a day (including insurance) or $110 if you want to include a driver. If you’re going to camp in the vehicle, too, then expect to add $25 to this for the rooftop tent (you don’t want to be camping on the ground here!).
A private safari is the most flexible option. It’s not totally out of your price range if you’re sticking to a budget! If you travel in a group of 4 or more, the cost can be split between you. It’s definitely something we’d recommend as it makes the experience all the more memorable! If you’re in a group with specific interests, then perhaps this might be a good option for you as you’ll be paired with a guide with expertise in these interests. It’s also the best way to get a guide that speaks your language.
3) Standard of accommodation
A camping safari is the most inexpensive way to enjoy exploring the national parks of Tanzania. For nature-lovers, it’s the perfect way to explore. Typically, you’ll stay in dome tents in public or private campsites that have 24-hour security. You’ll be in groups of 7-10 people. They’re always fenced; you’re unlikely to encounter any wildlife as you stay at these places!
If you’re tight on a budget but have a spirit of adventure, then this might be the best option for you. Prices normally range from $250-300 per day, including all transfers and meals prepared by a safari cook who travels with you.
If you’re not so eager to stay in a tent, then a budget lodge might be the best option for you. Tanzania has a wide variety of lodge accommodation ranging from 3-5 stars and catering for all budgets. Lodges can be either small hotels, guest houses, or luxury tented camps. It’s a great way to have an affordable but classical African safari experience. You can expect to pay around $300 per person per day on an all-inclusive trip with lodge accommodation included and traveling in groups of 7-12 people.
Mobile Tented Camps
Mobile Tented camps are also another upgraded version of the camping safaris. These are bigger tents offered on a more private touring basis.
What makes these camps unique is that they can easily relocate, depending on the movement of the migrating animals.
You get more flexibility with where you want to stay and explore, plus the quality of equipment is generally much better at these places. These prices can range from $400-500 per person per night, but also remember that this cost includes all travel expenses and food as you’re traveling. Plus, it’s the ultimate way to relax. You won’t be required to assist with cooking and camp set-up on this adventure.
A luxury safari is the most expensive way to explore the National parks of Tanzania. However, they can be great value-for-money if you’re traveling in larger groups! Private mobile camping offers the highest level of comfort with all the amenities included.
There are many 4-5* lodging accommodations in Tanzania, and if you really want to explore these, we’d suggest traveling in the lower season to get the best rates. It’s possible to book these sorts of accommodations on a full-board basis, too, so everything is included, but the prices can be a lot higher, with some ranging from $600+ per night.
4) National parks
You have four National Parks in Tanzania. You can find the details and our down-low on all the parks below:
If you’re driving to Serengeti, then you’ll no doubt be passing through the Ngorongoro crater on your way. We love Ngorongoro’s high concentration of fauna and flora in such a small conservation area. We couldn’t believe how much we saw in a single day!
It’s certainly worth the day trip as you’re passing through, but you won’t need much more than this, especially if you’re on a tight budget. If you stay at a campsite close to the entry gates, then you can be up early the next day and be one of the first to explore. Seeing the Crater in the early morning hours is one of the best ways to explore the conservation area.
Passing through here does, unfortunately, come at a fee. The park has an entry fee of $80 per person and a vehicle descent fee of $295. It’s an expensive road trip, which is why we’d suggest making the most of your time here instead of skipping straight ahead to Serengeti.
If you spend less time at Serengeti to add the extra day here, you won’t be disappointed with the stunning game views, and it will save on the budget too!
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti is arguably one of if not the best park for the best game viewing in Tanzania. But unfortunately, this comes with a higher price. It’s also the furthest park to travel to, so you’ll need to factor in extra travel time and fees for this. The entry to Serengeti National Park is $80 per person, and you’ll also need to pay a $150 fee for each safari vehicle.
If you’re traveling in a group of 4-6 people, then you’ll easily fit in one vehicle and can split the cost of this between you. If you’ve booked a package, however, then you won’t have to pay these prices as it’s normally included in the package.
Remember that you’ll need to pass through Ngorongoro Crater to reach Serengeti, which means you have to pay the fees here too. It’s an expensive 24 hours but worth it for the viewing. That’s why we’d suggest spending a bit of time at Ngorongoro to make the most of the fees you’re paying to enter instead of just driving straight through to Serengeti.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire is located in Northern Tanzania, just south of Lake Manyara. It’s a protected area and is most renowned for the elephant herds that graze in the area. However, it’s also one of the best areas for viewing a variety of bird species. We truly believe you can’t beat seeing them dart from the scenic baobab trees. It’s one of the most beautiful sights to marvel at!
The best part is that experiencing this isn’t so expensive either! The entry fee for Tarangire is $55 per person, so you’re not breaking the bank to access the area.
Lake Manyara National Park
Whilst Lake Manyara is impressive because it is one of the least visited and untouched parks, you’ll need to factor in a whole extra day to explore this area. So if your time is limited due to budget, stick with the top two best destinations Serengeti and Ngorongoro, you won’t be disappointed with the viewing here.
Also, remember that despite Lake Manyara having a cheaper entry fee of $55 per person, the more parks you visit, the more entry fees you’ll need to pay.
When Do You Want to Travel: Time of the Year
The time of year in which you decide to travel will have a significant impact on the cost of your trip. The high season falls around June – October. This is also referred to as the dry season, where prices of accommodation and trips can be up to 60% higher!
Another season to avoid if you’re looking to keep costs low is January and February. Whilst prices are a little cheaper (around 20% less than a high season), it’s still expensive as this is the calving season, making it a very popular time to experience a safari.
The Great Migration is one of the most sought-after sights to experience in Serengeti. It takes place around February time every year when prices can be at their highest. So expect to pay a hefty viewing fee if you want to experience this moment.
If you’re looking to cut costs whilst traveling during a period that is still relatively dry, then November and December can be a good period for traveling. The game viewing conditions are still sublime and the experience more enjoyable with fewer crowds and vehicles on the road.
If you travel in November, you can expect to find prices up to 40% lower than what you’d expect in the high season. However, December is always a little tricky with it falling in the holidays, so you can expect prices to leap back up in the last few weeks of the year when many families are taking their holidays.
We personally love traveling in November, and if you pick Serengeti as your park, you might even catch the great migration live in action!
March to May is the rainy season when prices are at their lowest. This is when you can expect heavy rainfalls and high humidity, which can be a little overwhelming at times! This doesn’t mean that it should be a time to avoid traveling.
In fact, Tanzania is a year-round safari destination, and you can still have a great time despite the occasional downpours. It’s also a photography-lovers delight, the savannah is at its greenest during this period, and the vast plains of Serengeti National park are filled with lush greenery.
This is also the most popular time for bird migration, so if that’s what you’re traveling to see, make sure you get the right binocular and this season will be the perfect time for you!
Things to consider which are not included in your Safari package
- International Flights – Some tour companies can include the cost of flights in a safari package for you. That being said, if you book yourself, it’s easier to take advantage of frequent flyer points you may have or special booking deals.
- Visa Costs – To enter Tanzania, you must pay for a visa. These are normally paid in cash upon arrival or through an online e-portal before arrival. Remember that if you’re booking with a tour company, they cannot do this for you, and it’s your responsibility to pay for this upon arrival. It’s worth noting a visa costs $50 per person. You can find more detail about whether you are required to get one here.
- Vaccinations – You may be advised to have some vaccinations to protect you against diseases before traveling to Tanzania. We’d suggest booking a consultation with your travel doctor to understand what vaccinations may be required and the costs for doing so. You’ll also need to check border control rules regarding covid-19 requirements. It could be that you are required to have a negative PCR test 72 hours before arrival if you do not yet have the vaccine.
- Tipping – It’s customary to tip in Africa; however, this is at your discretion. We’d suggest tipping at least 10% of the bill in restaurants, hotels, and taxis if you were satisfied with the level of service. Typically gratuities are asked to be paid upon departure of lodges. Most of these will be shared out amongst the staff of the lodge. We’d suggest tipping guides separately, and it should be given to them directly. Normally a rate of $10 per day for a guide per guest is a reasonable gratuity. For lodge staff members, $5 per guest for all staff is a good start (depending on the level of accommodation). For transfer drivers, we’d suggest a tip of $3 per guest.
- Travel Insurance – It’s important to make sure you book a good travel insurance before departing on the trip that covers you for any medical emergencies or cancellations you might encounter. We always think it’s good to pay a little bit extra to have excellent insurance that covers all areas regarding accidents. It’s better to be safe than sorry in these cases despite accidents being a very unlikely scenario! You can find great comparison sites online, or if you’re booking with a tour provider, they may be able to advise you on the best policy.
Budget Safaris to book (including our personal guide)
Finally, we couldn’t finish this article without giving you some of our suggestions on budget safaris for you to book. You can check out our suggestions below:
- We booked a 4-day trip with Roadside Tanzania, and they were great. You can read a bit more about our experience here. They had competitive prices and the best service! We felt truly welcomed and at home with this agency.
- Misele Safari travel offers great local experiences at affordable costs. In addition, it’s locally owned, and they train their own guides, so it’s good to know that your booking is going directly towards supporting the local economy.
- African Budget Safaris have the widest range of options for all budget levels. So if you’re looking to make some comparisons on prices to work out what you can afford, then this is a great platform to book on.
- Another great agency is Wildroot Safaris and Adventures. They’ve got some of the best reviews online and tailor programs to families, so it’s great for those who want to bring their little ones on an African adventure!
Final thoughts about a Budget Safari in Tanzania
So now you’ve got all the details, an incredible Tanzania safari within a budget doesn’t sound so impossible! So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get planning for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It’s sure to be a wonderful adventure! Happy travels!