Sep 19, 2018

Travel can be affordable – How to travel across Africa for pennies

After a 17-hour flight, I was greeted by an immigration officer who inspected every page of my passport then asked, “who is financing your travels?” I was not prepared for such a question so my response was, “I don’t understand the question.” 🙂 This was just one of many encounters where I was forced to discredit the false perception that one must be wealthy or sponsored in order to travel the world. I find myself discussing affordability in travel quite often.  In fact, even my friends’ parents have asked if I am a trust fund baby or a recipient of a large inheritance. I must say that I would have seen much more of the world by now if that were the case but contrary to popular beliefs, I am not. My mindset regarding travel and my ability to leverage my resources have allowed me to travel for very little money so I aim to share some tips with you.

In addition to not being an heiress, my trips are not sponsored and I do not have flight benefits (although I would be happy to put someone’s benefits to good use – so call me 🙂  ). I manage to travel economically by tapping into my network and by being flexible regarding accommodation. For example, I was hosted in 19 of the 20 countries that I visited during my 6-month trip across Africa. This made my cost of accommodation lower than that of being at home in Hong Kong.  I started where I had contacts and was hosted by friends & family of friends and even random strangers who I now call family.  I have always had the mindset that I would be happy to sleep on anyone’s floor but a sofa would be nice. 🙂  Being hosted also enabled me to eat at my host home or at restaurants where locals eat at reduced costs.

Besides accommodation, transportation costs are also budget killers so I urge you to take advantage of every opportunity to save money in this area.  There is this narrative that transportation cost in Africa is extremely expensive.  I must say that intracontinental flights there are much higher than those on other continents.  However, I have paid pennies to travel from one country to the next by road.  You do not always have to take a plane to visit a new country; there are more affordable options like buses, taxis, minivans, ferries, and/or in my case, the back of a motorbike with my suitcase attached. One example was my commute from Sierra Leone to Guinea where I paid approximately $20 US dollars to travel by road. That cost included a 100% markup for my choice to have a vantage point of sitting in the front seat of a shared taxi.

You may be thinking that my travel style is not your thing but will you really let your inability to fly first class or stay in 5-star accommodations prevent you from exploring new countries and having life changing experiences? My road journeys were fun and rather eventful and they have allowed me to see half of the African continent for a fraction of the cost.  Whether my host home was luxurious with swimming pools on the rooftop or a hut with a mattress on the floor and a bucket for showering, I was eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to experience many countries like a local.  I would not have traded this experience even if I were offered complimentary hotel accommodation.

The false narrative that travel and specifically traveling across Africa is expensive is due to some people’s unwillingness to be flexible. Don’t let the pretty pictures on social media fool you into believing that travel is only for wealthy elites. Create your own path and determine what traveling looks like for you. Leave your inner bougie at the border to connect with the local people and get immersed in the places you go. 🙂

  1. Hi Audra
    I am inspired after reading your post about traveling. my goal is to travel around the Caribbean and expreience the life of each island. I am nurse and recently started my accommodation business in Jamaica with 2 beach villas for nightly rental. Next month I am going back to school to do my post Masters in hospitality management to expand my knowledge in the tourism industry which is my passion. As you said my next step is merging my role as nurse with hospitality business in the caribbean. Congrats and your new adventure and God Bless.

    1. Thanks so much Pats. Your plan sounds great! I would also like to travel more around the Caribbean. Congratulations on starting your business and on furthering your studies. Please share the link for your villas so we can support you. I’m sure you will do well. X

  2. I am one of the people who was inspired by your African travels. I took your example and traveled to two countries by bus with a very small budget. I traveled to Tanzania where I visited 3 large cities then I headed to kenya by bus also which cost about 50$ my total budget for the round up trip was 300$. Africa is indeed affordable to travel if you are flexible

    1. Kapalu, this made my heart smile. I am happy to hear that you are flexible and that you have managed to see two new countries by bus. Let me know where you would like to visit next and I will be happy to connect you to my friends there. Well done!

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