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10 Ways to Get The Most From a Budget Safari in Tanzania

A fully accommodated Tanzanian Safari is extremely expensive. You could be looking down the barrel of a $30,000 bill at worst, and at least a couple of thousand if you want a working toilet or bed to sleep in.

A Budget Safari may be all you can afford.

You may have read that it isn't going to be comfortable, but in my opinion, this is the best way to do Safari. Yes, it may not be completely comfortable, you will be sleeping in a tent, and you may not have a proper shower in a few days, but it is so worth it.

If your budget can't stretch to a couple of thousand USD, and a budget safari is your only option, then have comfort in the fact that you're going to have a life-changing experience. But before you go, here are a few things that will make sure you get the most out of a tented and budget safari tour.

How Much Should a Budget Safari Cost?

The price of a budget Tanzanian Safari is a hard one to pin down. The issue is that the budget scale is prone to poor quality guides or being scammed. Often guides tell you one price (which seems great value) but exclude hidden costs (like camping & park fees).

A safe and reliable budget for a safari in Tanzania should be between $600 and $1000 (£500 - £800). This price should include all fees, food, water, the vehicle and guides.

 

Be Prepared - 1. Clothing

The most common mistake people make when going on Safari is not preparing for the weather correctly. Believe it or not - while Lake Natron can be over 30 degrees C day and night, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater can be as cold as 3 degrees C.

That is hats and gloves weather. If you do not prepare correctly then you could have a very cold and uncomfortable night.

It is best to pack light, but also for all eventualities. For hot and cold weather, some shoes for the car, and some flip-flops for the camp-site (or if you get your shoes wet travelling into the hidden waterfall near Lake Natron).

Don't feel like you need to look the part, the point is that your clothes need to keep you warm when it is cold and be comfy in the car/ the tent.

You'll spend most of the time in a car travelling, so take that into consideration too. There is almost no point in dressing up like you're Speke looking for the source of the Nile.

Most of the time, the cars can hold everything so if you over-pack, there should be space for you.

Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. 

 

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  • Feet: Boots (for wet season) Light Trainers (a spare pair if possible) & Flip flops
  • Cold: Long Trousers/ jeans, a warm jumper and a waterproof jacket.
  • Hot: Shorts, T-shirt and Hat
  • Clean Night Clothes: It can be hot and very cold so bring clean pajamas, comfy joggers and a clean night jumper.
  • Spares: Have an extra pair of everything - in case one gets wet, muddy or dirty. Pants, socks, the works.
  • Extras: Clean Change of Clothes for Traveling Home/ next destination.

Be Prepared - 2. Medication & Soap

A budget Safari can be rough - after all you're leaving civilisation and travelling into the bush.

While many of the public budget safari campsites are well provisioned with toilets, showers and working facilities, others are not. You must be prepared if there are no toilets or working showers.

When I stayed at a campsite with very basic facilities I found it quite a strangely rewarding experience; it was a great bonding experience with others in the same boat, and really made me appreciate my humanity. I became so grateful for the facilities we all take for granted and the small comforts become huge comforts (like a really nice smelling shower gel).

One of the most memorable experiences was waking up with the birds to clean ourselves in the camp's swimming pool as the sun-rise burst open the sky. Unforgettable.

You also need to be aware that if you get sick on Safari, you may need to look after yourself. A runny tummy could ruin your Safari so have something to hand that will make you feel better.

I've been on the wrong end of a runny tummy on Safari without the correct medication. Don't make the mistake I did!!

 

First aid kit

Cleaning & Soap

  • Shower Gel
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • Wet Wipes/ Face Wipes
  • Toilet Paper/ Wipes

Medication

  • Anti-Diarrhoea (Buscapan)
  • Rehydration Salts
  • Anti-Sickness
  • Paracetamol
  • First Aid Kit (plasters, bandages, alcohol wipes)

Go With A Group

Some suggest that going in a group will make a budget safari a million times better; especially if you're travelling alone.

Firstly, most safari operators work on a 'car rental' basis, meaning, the more people in the car, the cheaper the bill becomes for each person. A larger group is much better value than a small group.

The second benefit of a group budget safari is meeting new people. One of the joys of budget travel is staying in interesting places, meeting new people and learning about them and their culture. It is the richest essence of travel you can achieve.

There are plenty of guides who regularly offer group tours and advertise last-minute slots for travellers to join their nearly full tour.

Whether you travel with friends or go on your own, a group safari will save you money and you'll make new friends for sure!

Group on Safari

Benefits of a Group Safari Tour: 

  • Save you money
  • Enable you to meet new friends
  • Share the experience with others

Choose the Right Guide

The right guide, route and camp are essential for getting the best experience from your budget safari.

Those who seek a budget Safaris in Tanzania are the most likely to be ripped off, or suffer an inexperienced guide. The less you pay, the lower the quality of the experience. You may also end up paying unexpected fees to enter into the game reserves.

You may be paying less for your Tanzanian Safari, but you shouldn't expect bad service.

Your guide should be:

  • Ready with food (snacks & evening meals)
  • Bottles of Water/Soda
  • A Safe (& Clean) Vehicle
  • Clean & comfortable cleaning gear (tent, mattress, sleeping bag - if you don't make your own).
  • ... and ideally registered with a Local Authority

The Safari guides in Tanzania are a small knit group, and they often know each other. They are fiercely proud of what they do and do not take kindly to people who con guests to their country.

Safari Guide

Recommended Guides

You should do some research into the guides you are planning to travel with, and remember that sometimes it is better to spend a little more money on a guide you can trust.

Our experiences with Albert have always been fantastic, and he is kind, helpful, safe and reliable. Plus he is great fun and loves a laugh.

You can find him here.

Learn a Little Kiswahili

The most valuable thing I learned before going on my budget safari tour in Tanzania was learning some Kiswahili. I had already travelled a lot there and had a good grasp of the language, so I had a head start.

While most of the guides speak multiple languages, there are occasions where learning a little bit of Kiswahili can help you out massively.

Whether you're meeting new people, other guides, camp staff, or sellers who want to sell their goods (you'll meet a few selling key rings etc...) it is good to be able to converse a little in Kiswahili.

You should learn the basics - such as greetings, food stuff, asking for things etc..

Tanzanian's are very proud of their culture, so showing them a little respect and speaking to them in their language goes a long way.

A little bit of effort is free!

 

Lonely Planet Swahili book

You can learn basic Safari Swahili words here or you can download the Duolingo app which has a Swahili option.

 

Convert your money to Tanzanian Shillings

The local currency of Tanzania is the 'Shilling'. While it is possible to pay for services in US Dollars, it is far better to convert your money into shillings.

You can convert GBP (English Notes), USD and EUR into shillings in Arusha very easily if you cannot get shillings in the county you are coming from.

The reason I suggest converting your money is more to do with the ease of use. If you wish to buy gifts, snacks, souvenirs or give tips (which is customary for guides/ Maasai) it is better to do this with the local currency.

Plus, it is respectful to have the local currency rather than expecting to be able to pay for things in another currency - which is sadly common.

 

Image of Tanzanian Shillings

I have once witnessed a tourist try to pay for two beers (6000 shillings) with a 100 US dollar note (worth 232,900 shillings).

The man was bitterly offended that the barman couldn't offer him change?

Include a Cultural Tour

What makes Tanzania so very special is the people. Tanzania is home to over 60 different tribes and ethnic groups, many of whom still live in their ancestral homelands.

The most famous of the Tribes are the Maasai- they are nomadic tribes who inhabit the areas surrounding the national parks. They work as guides, and guards and sell goods to tourists who visit them.

If you are to make the most of the time on safari, I would recommend including a cultural element in your trip and meet the people of Tanzania.

The fascinating thing about many tribal people is that they still live in the same way as they have done for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They know the land better than anybody else and can make your budget safari an unforgettable.

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Party with the Guides & Other Guests

As an extension of travelling as a group, it would be wise to make the most of your time with the other guests and guides.

Personally speaking, I much preferred getting an early night and waking up fresh, but many people enjoy the community aspect of the Safari camps.

In the evening, there will be lots of opportunities to share time with other travellers, tell stories about your day and connect with other travellers. Some camps sell drinks, play music and allow guests to stay up late into the evening.

Tanzanian's know how to do hospitality - so you're likely to be given food, bought a drink or have the whole camp singing for you if it is your birthday.

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Take the Experience As It Comes (correct your expectations)

When you're on holiday, there may be a tendency to expect everything to go smoothly, or to have some element of control over what you'll be doing. Try to resist that temptation because things happen.

You may be excited to see the animals but remember the national parks (or Tanzania for that matter) aren't Disneyland and you should treat the country (and its people) with respect.

You should not forget that Tanzania is still a developing country and has its problems; from traffic, bad road conditions, and breakdowns to hawkers (people following you to sell you things), people arguing and poor facilities.

There may be things happening that you don't quite understand, but I am here asking you to forgive these things and embrace the experience for what it is.

It is likely that you'll use a long drop with a broken door, or shower under a few cold drips. It is part of the fun. A budget safari is rough and ready.

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The best advice I can give you is: to relax. Go with the experience with an open mind, and say yes to new experiences.

Provided that you're in the hands of a trusted guide, and you have come prepared for every eventuality (medication and clothing), you will have an amazing time.

All of the guides want you to leave with the best experience possible, and they want to showcase the country they are extremely proud of. None of them wish something to go wrong, so when it does just have patience and try to be understanding.

Most guides are accommodating and will help the best they can - so put your trust in them.

Finish up at a Beach Hotel

You'll not believe it, but most of your Safari experience will be in a car, travelling. So getting back onto a plane and travelling home is the worst thing you can do.

After a long couple of days of roughing it, the thing you will need most is a proper shower, a clean soft bed and a good night's sleep. Some time of rest and recovery will absolutely be needed before you head back home.

Tanzania is home to some of the best beaches in the world so while you're in the country, why not spend some time there.

Zanzibar (an island off the coast of the mainland) is world-famous for its beaches and has an international airport. It makes sense to travel to Zanzibar before making your way back home.

Mbudya Island Dar Es Salaam

It is possible to get a budget safari and beach package with the same tour guide. So, that is what we would suggest.

Plus, they may be able to be your guide around Stonetown (historical Zanzibar capital) too.

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