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Is Going on Safari Expensive?

Going on safari can be an incredible and unforgettable experience. However, with the costs of transportation, accommodations, food, guides, park fees and more, safaris are not generally budget-friendly vacations. The expense of going on safari depends on several factors, but safaris do tend to be quite pricey overall.

Is Going on Safari Expensive?

Transportation Costs

One of the biggest expenses of going on safari is transportation. Most national parks and game reserves where you’ll spot wildlife are located in remote areas, so getting there requires flights, charter planes, or driving long distances by 4X4 vehicles.

Flights to reach Africa or other safari destinations can be $1,000 or more roundtrip. Charter plane flights to remote airstrips average $300–$500 each way. And 4X4 safari vehicle transportation often costs over $100 per day.

Key factors determining safari transportation costs:

  • Location and remoteness of parks and lodges
  • Types of transportation used (flights, chartered planes, 4X4 vehicles)
  • Number of stops and distance covered on a safari itinerary

Accommodations Costs

Lodging on a safari also tends to be very expensive, often ranging from $300–$1,500+ per night. Safari accommodations vary widely, but even simple camps and permanent tented camps charge high nightly rates.

Elements impacting lodge and camp costs:

  • Luxury level from budget to high-end
  • Included amenities and activities
  • Remote locations with expensive logistics
  • Demand during peak tourism seasons
  • Scarcity of lodges and camps in some protected areas

Keep in mind that many camps and lodges include meals and some activities, which can offset some of the nightly costs. But it’s common for a 4-7-day African safari stay to tally $2,000 or more just for lodging.

Park Fees and Guide Costs

Most protected safari areas require park and conservancy fees to enter, which can range from $30–$100+ per day per vehicle. Guided safaris also usually range between $200–$500+ per day for a driver/guide team. These costs are often paid in cash before entering the parks.

Typical park and guide fees:

  • Entry fees: $30–$100+ per vehicle per day
  • Guide rates: $200–$500+ per day
  • Park fees + guide salaries paid directly in cash

Having an expert driver/guide is highly recommended for safety and finding the best wildlife sightings. But this adds to the overall per-day expenses on safari.

Food Costs

Meals on safari vary widely as well depending on if self-catering or rates are inclusive. But count on paying at least $30–$50 per person per day, and often much more at high-end lodges.

Food costs on safari average:

  • $30–$50 per day at minimum
  • $100+ per day at high-end lodges
  • Some include meals while others are à la carte or self-catering

It’s smart to ask what meals are included at each lodge/camp when booking. Finding out meal details helps properly budget food expenses.

Overall Cost Considerations

When tallied together, a safari’s costs for transportation, lodging, food, park fees and guides can total $500–$1,500 or more per person per day. That makes a week-long African safari often fall between $4,000–$10,000 total or more.

Tips for budgeting a realistic safari trip:

  • Get detailed cost breakdowns from safari tour operators
  • Factor in ALL expected costs including tips
  • Determine overall budget and length to meet expectations
  • Consider saving up to fund a safari of a lifetime!

The costs of going on safari are certainly not cheap. But for many travelers, the chance to have a real-life safari adventure seeing exotic wildlife makes every penny worthwhile!

Key Takeaway

While variables like itinerary, lodging and transportation impact total prices, going on safari is generally quite expensive with all-inclusive costs often ranging $500–$1,500+ per person per day. With high transportation, lodging, food, guide and park fee expenses, safaris frequently total $4,000–$10,000+ for trips just one week or more. But don’t let the prices dissuade you if it’s a dream vacation, as a well-planned safari can deliver Thrilling in-person wildlife encounters and unforgettable lifetime memories across Africa, India, Australia and beyond that make the splurge worthwhile for those able to budget and save up accordingly.


Going on safari is typically very expensive due to the high costs of transportation to remote areas, rugged accommodations, park and guide fees, food and more that rapidly add up. A multi-day safari often totals between $4,000-$10,000+, even on budget self-drive itineraries. While very pricey, a chance for rare up-close sightings of exotic wildlife like lions, elephants, cheetahs and more provides once-in-a-lifetime memories and stories that avid travelers feel make the investment worthwhile. Carefully saving up for a safari and researching costs helps set expectations, so the focus can be fully enjoying this bucket-list adventure travel experience.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Does going on safari have to be expensive?
    Going on safari does not have to be as prohibitively expensive as luxury African safaris, but it rarely fits most definitions of a “budget” vacation no matter how it’s arranged given the fundamentally high costs of remote wilderness transportation, limited accommodations and more. However budget-conscious options like self-driving safaris, camping, lower-cost camps or shorter itineraries can help trim expenses.
  2. How can I find the most affordable safari options?
    The most affordable safari options come from choosing locations like South Africa’s Kruger National Park where self-driving is allowed, staying in budget-friendly permanent tented camps instead of luxury lodges, using group tour packages to share costs, minimizing internal flights and choosing 3-5 day itineraries instead of week+ long trips whenever feasible to control expenses.
  3. What is typically included in quoted safari package rates?
    Quoted safari package rates usually include transportation (like flights and 4X4 vehicle transfers), lodging, meals and non-alcoholic drinks within camps/lodges, daily laundry service, wildlife viewing activities, park fees, and guide costs. International airfare, visa fees, tips, alcohol purchases and souvenirs are generally excluded from base daily package rates.
  4. Are all meals included in safari packages?
    Meal inclusions vary widely on safaris, so it’s essential to verify which meals are covered at each location. Lower-budget safaris often exclude meals entirely while higher-end packages tend to include all meals. À la carte rates for food & beverages can add $30-$100+ or more per day, an extra expense to account for if not explicitly detailed.
  5. Can I DIY a cheaper self-drive safari?
    Self-drive safaris are possible in some locations, most affordably South Africa’s Kruger National Park or many reserves in South Africa and southern African countries. But self-driving safaris still require significant 4X4 rental rates, high fuel costs driving long distances, park fees and remote camping or accommodation expenses that still quickly tally over $100+ per person daily, so they are cheaper but not dramatically budget-friendly.
  6. Is it better to fly or drive between safari locations?
    Flying between safari lodges and camps is often the most practical and least expensive option in Africa beyond South Africa. But flights on chartered planes add $300-$500 or more per leg. Overland 4X4 transfers take time away from wildlife viewing but may save costs. Choose based on budget, itinerary timing and personal road trip preferences.
  7. How much should I budget for tips on an African safari?
    Tipping is customary within the safari tourism industry, similar to fine dining, to directly reward good service. Expect tipping guidelines around $15-$25 per day for safari guides and $5-$10 per day for hospitality staff and assistants. Many upscale safari packages suggest tips averaging $200-$500+ per week divided across staff.
  8. When is the cheapest time of year to go on safari?
    The cheapest time of year for safari travel aligns with the low seasons based on regional rainfall patterns. Great deals can be found during late April-early June and November-mid-December, but wildlife sightings may be less abundant. The prime July-October seasons have peak rates, crowds and ideal animal spottings.
  9. What types of discounts are available to lower safari costs?
    Look for last-minute discounted safari packages 6-8 weeks before departure dates when tour operators release unbooked space at steep savings. Other discounts may apply for return customers, student/youth travelers, families with young children who don’t require a separate room or seat on flights, and sometimes even independent travelers willing to join others mid-trip.
  10. Can travel rewards points help offset safari costs?
    Many safari packages and flights can be booked using travel rewards credit card points, most affordably through flexible point redemption options. But note that high-end safari lodges rarely participate in loyalty programs. With expensive flights and lodging, rewards for airfare and accommodation bookings can make a notable dent in overall expenses.
  11. How much cash should I take on a safari trip?
    It’s smart to take at least $200-$500 in US dollar cash on a safari for gratuities, visa fees, airport taxes, personal purchases and any incidental expenses. Bring clean newer bills in smaller denominations. South African rand can also be used locally throughout southern Africa. Always have some small cash bills accessible for tipping.
  12. What vaccinations or medications cost extra to prepare for a safari?
    The specialized vaccinations and anti-malarial medications recommended for some regions of Africa and other safari destinations can tack on another $500+ in prep costs per person. Factor these health protection expenses in when budgeting for a major safari trip. Yellow fever and some other specialized vaccines may be required.
  13. Is trip insurance worthwhile given safari costs?
    For the financial protection of high-dollar safari investments against unexpected circumstances, most experts strongly advise getting comprehensive trip insurance – expect policies to add a cost of 5-10% of total planned trip expenses. Choose plans that cover medical emergencies, evacuations, cancellations for covered reasons, lost baggage and any safari-related accidents or injuries.
  14. Can I actually sleep in tents to save money while “glamping”?
    While mobile camping safaris do exist in some regions, sleeping unprotected in parks is often prohibited or extremely dangerous, so cost savings are minimal. Lavish “glamping” tent camps offer budget rates under $500 per night but hardly a camping experience – permanent structures have electricity, private bathrooms with hot water showers and protective zones from wildlife.
  15. What packing essentials might I need to purchase new for safari?
    Quality sunglasses, sun hats, hiking shoes/boots that provide ankle support – as opposed to sandals, lightweight long pants/shirts, masks/gloves to protect from dust are often needed if not already owned. Good cameras, binoculars or spotting scopes won’t come cheap either.
  16. How expensive is it to go gorilla trekking if we add that on?
    Due to critically endangered mountain gorilla conservation efforts, visiting them on permitted Rwanda, Uganda or Congo treks costs a hefty permit fee alone of $1,500 per person. Adding flights, lodging at the park, guides and trekking gear totals $4,000+ per person just for a 1-day gorilla trek, so it is a very pricey safari extension.
  17. Can I realistically see wildlife without blowing my budget?
    Most African wildlife safaris average over $5,000 excluding international flights for multi-day guided excursions to see iconic species like lions or elephants reliably. For slightly tamer but more budget-friendly trips seeing wildlife like giraffes, zebras, rhinos and antelope, choose self-driving day trips focused in South Africa’s Kruger region or similar safari borders.
  18. What costs might I not anticipate for an African photo safari?
    From specialized long camera lenses that can run $3,000+, tripods, powerful flashes, binoculars/spotting scopes and essential accessories like high capacity memory cards, hard drives to store images and laptop software to process RAW images, photography enthusiasts should budget several thousand dollars to get safari ready. Expect to invest at least $5,000+ in gear for serious safari photography, excluding cameras and phones.
  19. If I want a really upscale VIP safari, what should I expect to spend?
    Only the sky’s the limit when it comes to ultra-luxury bespoke African safaris with elite accommodations in private, high-end concessions via charter flights, the best safari vehicles and guides for personalized game drives. Expect private VIP safaris to start at $2,500+ per person per night with per trip totals costing $75,000-$100,000+ not unheard of. Ultra-lux safaris spare no expense for elite adventurers and celebrities.
  20. Can I DIY a safari instead of using a tour company?
    While theoretically possible if self-driving is allowed, complex logistics, language barriers, border documentation, rental costs and remote navigation make solo DIY safaris extremely challenging for all but the most experienced African travelers. Utilizing reputable safari tour operators is highly advisable.

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