How much cash do you need in Africa?

by Sandy Salle on October 2, 2018

It’s one of the most commonly asked questions for those traveling to Africa for the first time: How much cash should I bring from home?

First and foremost, the answer depends on how long you’re going to be in Africa and whether or not you’ll be traveling on a pre-paid safari the most (if not the entire) time you’re over there.

Like anywhere else on the planet, the longer your vacation, the more cash you’re going to need in hand.

Your biggest cash expense is likely to be tips, especially on a pre-paid safari. That may seem like a contradiction, but the one thing that’s not pre-paid on most safaris is gratuities to the lodge and camp staff.

As a general rule, should tip at least $10 a day to cover your safari drivers and guides, and $5 a day to cover lodge and camp staff. That’s per person. For example, a husband and wife on a weeklong safari would tip roughly $140 for the drives/guides and $70 for the rest of the staff.

If you’re doing your daily game drives in a private rather than shared vehicle, then figure $20 per person, per day — times however many days you’re on safari.

These tips should always be rendered in cash. Don’t worry about converting to the local currency — U.S. Dollars will do just fine. Except in South Africa, where gratuities in Rand are preferred.

Most safari camps and lodges provide a general staff tip box near the front desk or bar to leave your gratuity right before final departure. You can tip your drivers/guides personally by handing them the cash in an envelope.

These amounts are pretty much standard across the continent, from South Africa and Namibia to Tanzania and Kenya, and places in between.

If you’re spending any time in cities at either end of your safari, you’ll also need cash for tipping hotel or airport porters ($1-2 per bag), taxi drivers (10-15%) and other service or transportation workers.

As a general rule, most hotel restaurants and the more expensive independent eateries take credit cards these days. This is especially true throughout South Africa and Namibia, but also urban hubs like Nairobi, Lusaka, Victoria Falls, Addis Ababa, etc elsewhere on the continent.

Just like back home, it’s customary to tip in restaurants and bars — 10-15% is standard in Africa. In cash at the table or as part of the credit card bill.

High-end art galleries and souvenir stores also accept credit cards across the continent. But in craft markets and rural stalls, cash is the only thing that’s going to buy you that African souvenir, artwork or keepsake.

Given the fact that it’s almost impossible to make change in Africa — especially out in the bush — it’s best to bring smaller bills. Nothing larger than a US$20. And preferably a selection of ones, fives, tens and twenties.

Nowadays, you don’t have to carry all of that cash from home. ATMs are as much a fact of modern African life as mobile phones and satellite TV.

Ask your driver or guide about a safe place to withdraw money from an ATM — like a bank of cash machines in a busy, modern shopping mall. And ask that driver or guide to accompany you to the machine while you get the money.

If you decide to use local ATMs, be aware that the cash that comes out of the machine is going to be local currency (not US Dollars).

And your bank back home will most likely charge you a fee for the transaction. But for many veteran safari travelers, that’s better than carrying hundreds of dollars in cash on your person at all times.

Of course, you’re free to tip a lot more that our recommendations — or less than these guidelines if you think the service or experience just isn’t up to par. It’s definitely voluntary and completely discretionary.

But keep in mind that for many of the folks who drive, guide, cook and clean for you on safari, tipping is a huge part of the income for both themselves and their families.

Contact us at 1-800-940-9344 if you’re ready to start planning your African Safari Vacation.  Or email us at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com.

 

 

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