Kruger Park: Budget Bucket List

4:36 AM Jmo 0 Comments

Just out on a casual walk...

      It’s safe to say that any self proclaimed ‘adventure-traveler’ has, or has had, an African safari dream-adventure cooking up in their brain. But perhaps this dream has chosen to remain a dream due to apprehension and budget woes. But! I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t need to be so. 

You CAN fulfill your wild Africa travel plans! On a budget!   
We did!

Here’s how we did it:
Key: (low) $-$$$$$ (high)

Flights: $$$$ 
     -Search for Deals!
I found a roundtrip, one stop, from Detroit to Johannesburg for only $860USD. 
That’s almost 8,500 miles for $430 one way!  To put this into perspective… I recently payed $340 for a roundtrip domestic flight from Detroit to Texas. That flight was only 1,400 miles. 1/6 the distance! So yes, obviously this is the biggest expenditure for anyone flying to South Africa. But, it is worth the price and works out to be a deal in the long run. 
     I've had great success using and 
(I know, I know..the name... but I've used it many times before and had great luck!)

     -If you’re from The United States, you’re in luck! 
You don’t need a traveler’s visa if you are staying in South Africa for 90 days or less. So, have at it! Explore this beautiful country! After Kruger Park, hit up Pretoria, Johannesburg, Clarens, or Cape Town.  There's so much to see and do!
     If you are not from The United States, don’t fret. A South African tourist visa will run you approximately $72 USD.

Car / Petrol: $$$
     -Gas (or as the South Africans say: “petrol”) isn’t the cheapest. 
But, is it “cheap” anywhere? Not really.  Driving to and from Pretoria expect to pay $80 USD roudntrip; depending on your car.  As for a car, you will be driving your own car through the park so you’ll either need to be with a local or rent a car. 
     Kruger National Park (Crocodile Bridge gate) is a straight, 4 hour drive from Pretoria. Don't worry! It's hard to get lost!

Why stay here? The rooms and facilities are small and self-catering but this adds to the adventure. The owners are extremely friendly and make you feel as if you are part of the family. 
The inn is located inside a national park (Marloth Park); therefore you needn’t go far to encounter a few exotic locals: Giraffe, warthog, zebra, impala, wildebeest.
     Not only will your stay be enjoyable, but it will keep your pockets full at $17 USD per night for a private room. Compare that to resort “game lodges” that can charge upwards of $2,000 USD per night and I say you’ve got yourself a deal! Accommodation in and around Kruger can, like I said, cost anywhere between $17-$2,000 per night. But, I believe that a lower budget accommodation adds to the adventure and makes the dream a little more real.

I mean, if you have $2,000 to spare… go for it, I guess..

Gate / Entrance fee: $$ 
     -Crocodile Bridge
A full day pass (you drive your own car) will run you about $30 USD per vehicle. This is a steal in my opinion and seems to be the generic price for big, travel experiences.  To put that into perspective,  I payed $30 USD to tour the Great Wall of China and less than $30 for Ha Long Bay. 
     This money not only goes to maintaining and protecting the park, but also goes towards anti-poaching efforts. Money well spent.
     And! If you're heading to the Kruger Park for the first time, more than likely, your goal is to see all the animals you can. If this is true for you, be sure to head to one of the Southern-most gates of the park. All the animals hang out here! (South African pro-tip!) Read more about the park HERE.

Walking right in front of our car!!!

Tours: $$
Tours and walks can be a bit pricey, but are extremely rewarding and educational. We took a sunrise drive and saw all of The Big Five with some baby cheetahs and lion cubs as the kicker on top. I highly recommend taking a tour with a park Ranger because of their knowledge and dedication to the preservation of the park.  Our sunrise drive was approximately $30 USD per person.

Finishing up our sunrise drive... just after seeing three cheetahs!

     -Skip the restaurants and self cater!
There’s no need to splurge on food while in Kruger Park. Unlike Disney World, Ha Long Bay, or any other big international travel destinations, Kruger Park does not price gouge. They keep grocery (even restaurants) prices at their normal price. I found this to be amazing and keeps the integrity of the park itself. Good on you Kruger!
     So, stock up at the local mart and braai like the South Africans do! Buy veggies and things to throw on the braai to make rolls and sandwiches and you’re all set. If you budget and self-cater without going holiday time(!) overboard, expect less than $5 USD per meal.

Souvenirs: $
More than likely your souvenirs will be incredible photos and memories, but if you’re like myself and love a few knick-knacks as a reminder of your time at Kruger… don’t worry! You wont break the bank. 
     I bought a few sculptures and knick knacks to take home to friends and family and, once again like the food, found the prices to be extremely reasonable. You’re not paying “zoo” or Disneyland prices. I payed less than $12 USD for a hand carved statue and less than $6 USD for a beaded animal sculpture. Not bad at all!

Time of Year:
Kruger gets hot during South Africa's summer months (Dec-Feb), so be sure to wait it off until the spring or fall. Fall time (April) was great though because of all the babies following their mommas! 
(Baby animals of course... not the bipedal variety.)

For two to experience Kruger Park for a long weekend, on a budget (aside from flights), I'd say you'll be fine setting aside around $400USD.  Even less if you explore purely on your own and avoid the restaurants and tempting souvenirs. But $200USD per person is truly a steal for an experience like this.  So, start dropping your spare change into your travel jar and start dreaming of elephants~!

     Traveling with someone who spent their childhood driving through Kruger Park was obviously a privilege, So!, I figured I'd pass on the knowledge to my fellow explorers!  It was an absolutely stunning and life-changing experience that I believe everyone should have the chance to do. So, if you're looking for your next destination, look no further than Kruger National Park.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me, message me, or tweet me (Twitter: HeyyitsJmo).
 I'd love to help!

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