Safari on a Budget: How To Explore Kenya’s Wild Side for Less

Kenya, as compared to some other African countries, is not an extremely expensive safari destination, but as you will have to travel far distances, prices can add up, especially if you plan to go on a safari.


Luxury lodges may have caught the whims and fancy of the intrepid traveler, but the fact is that there is so many accommodations to choose from, so much street food you can eat, and low-cost transport you can use that you can enjoy a quality safari without breaking the bank.


So here are some ways you can do a Kenyan safari on a budget without having to sacrifice even a bit of the actual wildlife viewing experience.


Money-Saving Tips for Your Kenyan Safari Trip

Getting to Kenya


Choose an indirect flight to enter Kenya via Addis Ababa in Ethiopia or Johannesburg in South Africa. You will get an excellent deal on some African carriers from these destinations. The Kenyan Airways newsletter also publicizes exclusive offers at specific periods.


Use an Uber to get to the city center from the airport, as fares (KSh300) are a third of the official airport taxis. Alternatively, catch the airport bus 34, operated by Citi Hoppa from terminal 1, which costs KSh 50.


Book a Hostel


Hostels all over the world have improved dramatically and are modern, and Nairobi is no exception. On arrival, you can book a dorm room with beds with private curtains, USB sockets, and private plug points. Some hostels even provide private rooms with en-suite facilities.


(The Wildebeest Eco Camp in Nairobi has everything from dorm beds to deluxe tents)


Book Your Safari Only in Kenya


Apart from some high-end lodges in the national parks, innumerable mid-range options make a safari to Kenya very much affordable.


Having said that, you can still save a substantial amount of shillings, provided you have some flexibility in your schedule. Booking a safari on arrival in Kenya will be quoted as much as 50% less than booking from your home country.


Local travel agents are always aware of where budget rooms are available and offer safari packages that can be booked for the next day.


Travel During the Shoulder Season


If you can travel outside the busy season, just after the short rains, the flights and hotel rooms will cost much less than the migration months between July and October.


Moreover, Masai Mara doesn’t change a bit throughout the year, and you can pick up great deals for safari bookings between January and March. Downpours are any short-lived, and a safari in the lush green landscape is an unforgettable experience.


At this time, you can pick up excellent deals, including meals, transport, guides, accommodation, and game drives from Nairobi at half the expected cost during the peak season.


Travel Overland


Domestic flights between safari camps are reasonable, but it is far cheaper to travel by bus for around KSh 850 rather than pay KSh 5000 for a similar journey.


Hiring a private car with a driver is also an affordable and fun way to travel from one park to another, especially if you are in a group. Not only can you share the daily charges (about KSh 6,000), you get the freedom to stop anywhere you want to enjoy the views or stop at a roadside cafe.


Book Internal Flights in Advance


If you are short of time and wish to catch internal domestic flights, be sure to book well in advance, as popular routes get taken up fast. In fact, book straightaway once you know your dates of travel.


Go Camping in the Parks


Pitching your own tent(KSh 1200 per night) is the cheapest way to stay inside the national parks of Kenya. Most parks have restaurants and showers, making the experience of a night under the stars even more magical.


If your budget permits, you can book a pre-erected tent with cooked meals for around KSh 6000 per day. You can check the amenities available in every park in the Kenya Wildlife Service brochure.


Since camping is fun and exciting, they are very popular, so spots get booked fast. So book ahead, especially if you are traveling in the high dry season.


Don’t Stay Inside the Parks


Lodges and other accommodations within the park attract a hefty price tag, so if you really want to save $$$, book a lodge or camp just outside the park’s boundary but not too far away, particularly if you have booked an early morning game drive.


There are camps, too, for cheaper stays, plus many pre-pitched tents and cabin accommodations.


Plan Your Safari Carefully


You can save a lot of money by planning your itinerary carefully and well in advance. Most of the country’s safari destinations are spread out across the country, so unless time and money are no constraints, try not to see all on a single trip.


So plan logically, as air travel and land crossings over different terrain can take up a lot of time and even more than you may have thought of.


Don’t Neglect Nairobi


No matter your proposed itinerary, factor in some time to spend in Nairobi. The capital is often overlooked by travelers who simply want to head to the bush as soon as they arrive, but a day or two in Nairobi can fit into anyone’s budget.


There are great restaurants and bars, and the hotels are cheap. If by any chance you are yearning for a safari trip, you can always head to the Nairobi National Park for a day. It is the only National Park located within a city in the whole world.

Related: The Most Popular African Safaris in the World 

National Park Admission Fees


Do not forget to budget for the National Park admission fees, especially if you are traveling solo. Entry fees vary from park to park and can range from KSh 900 for Nairobi National Park to KSh 9500 for a single day in Masai Mara if you are staying outside the reserve.

This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved