July 22, 2011

Our budget - 1 Year in Africa, 2x people + 1x4x4


The budget is probably the biggest question you ask after you have solved the “where are we going” and “what vehicle are we taking”.  It’s perhaps the one we spent several months researching.  We found there was a real lack of detail when it came to showing where and how you spend your money on a trip like this so we made a detailed record on the trip and the data is presented below.  We hope you find it useful. 

Overview of spending
The costs below include EVERYTHING we spent on the trip once we started travelling.  It covers fuel, visas, food, tourist stuff, communications, fines, bribes, taxis, eating out etc...etc... BUT excludes all pre-trip costs / vehicle prep which are covered lower down this page.

Fuel was the main expense followed by eating out, accommodation and food shopping.  You could clearly lower the amounts you spend on eating out and accommodation, especially if you wild camp (see below) but to be honest, we found that after a long day of driving, sitting in a bar, eating local food and having a chat means you leave your “overland bubble” and interact with people more.  If you ate out less you would cook more so there is some give and take on this aspect of the spending. 

What kind of accommodation did we have on the trip?

What had we planned to spend Vs what we spent?

From our experience for 2x people and 1x 4x4 you need to be thinking of somewhere between €45-€60 per day for EVERYTHING for a year in Africa, and that includes being able to "relax", have the odd night in a hotel, enjoy a variety of tourist experiences, buy gifts, eat a healthy diet and treat yourself to the odd "blow out".  We had set an original budget of €49 / day and found we were on target for that by the time we reached Northern Namibia.  North, West and Central Africa were relatively cheap.  The charts below give you a feel for the spending we incurred for the whole year.  

Southern Africa is a lot more expensive and if you want to do tourist "stuff" it starts to add up and so we started to deviate away from the planned budget.  This is even more so if you hit the school holidays or want to visit some of the famous / popular parks.  

We ended the trip after 366 days with an average spend of €58 / day.  For people travelling on foot, by bike, motorbike etc...Budgets will vary from ours and will also vary for different regions of the world.  Africa is not as cheap as you might think.
Types of budget 

During the year we met a few overlander folk doing similar trips to ourselves.   It was a lot quieter on the west coast route.  We did hook up with some of them and travelled some sections together but most of the time we were on our own.  We found from these experiences that the people appear to fall into 3 main types of budget (based on 2x people & 1x4x4), you might want to consider this “rough” assessment as a means to measure your own plans Vs what you can expect on the trip. 
1) Minimal Budget <€40 / day
People on this kind of budget have trip that is dominated by juggling an extremely small budget with very little if no contingency.  These people tend to spend most of their time doing things on the cheap and when the cash runs out the trip is over in what ever country they happen to be in.  They tend to be travelling without proper paperwork, a vehicle that needs constant attention or repairing and day-to-day activity seems to focus on finding the cheapest source of food or hanging around back street garages haggling for something to be welded or scrounged.  There is little if no spare cash for gifts or tourist related activity and when you hook up with them you tend to find that you quickly become a surrogate contributor towards the things they don't have (after a while this becomes a real pain and very tiresome).  We also found they tend to be poorly equipped and are not really set up to travel off-road without support.  Sadly, and whilst its not a universal observation, we did note that their budget had a major impact on how they travelled and also (in the case of 3 couples we met) their attitude to other people they came into contact with.  There seemed to be a strange (competitive) focus on who can travel the furthest for the least amount of cash, which in our view, is not what the trip is about. 

2) Realistic Budget €45-€60 / day
This group of people have a budget that has sufficient cover for a range of activity on the trip including site seeing, tourist stuff, gifts and contingency for vehicle repairs / things going wrong etc....  They tend to be well prepared with a reliable vehicle and have sufficient equipment to travel remotely / off the beaten track without support for extended periods of time.  The trip can accommodate some changes along the way and pace of travel is slower and more relaxed.  Accommodation tends to be simple and realistically priced with a focus on camping / bush camping with occasional stays in hotels / eating out as a treat.  The end date is fixed or flexible and the budget will see them through to the end, even if some mechanical work is needed along the way.  
3) Money No Object Budget >€60 / day

This group of people have a massive budget that has sufficient cover for pretty much anything.  They can change their plans at will and can afford to stay in top end campsites / hotels on a more frequent basis.  They can undertake more expensive site seeing / tourist stuff and have a pretty large contingency for vehicle repairs / things going wrong etc....  They tend to be very well prepared with a high-end vehicle and have sufficient equipment to travel remotely / off the beaten track without support for a considerable period of time.  Pace of travel is very relaxed.  Have the ability to eat out regularly and the end date is flexible.

Pre-Trip costs

The day-to-day budget previously discussed is often linked to what you have left over after you have spent your hard earned cash on the vehicle, its preparation and pre-trip spending.  The figures below are good estimates based on getting a sound base vehicle, fitting it out to basic but reliable level with mainly new equipment and the obligatory paperwork / medical kit.  Other costs are included too. Key areas to consider are:
  1. Base vehicle cost in 2006: 10-12 year old Defender 110 with 100k+ miles (unmodified): £3k - £5k.  We note that you can pick up some good deals in the LRO / LRM magazines as people appear to off-loading vehicles at discounted rates at present - so happy shopping!  Take vehicle to a dealer for a 30 minute check over.  For Land Rovers key areas to focus on are oil and water leaks from engine, condition of cooling pipes, leaks from diffs and gearbox.  Clunking noise from UJ wear on drive shaft, play in drive shafts, condition of radiator and alternator, tyres, check shocks for leaks, rock car to check for bearing wear, check for welds on drive member ends, condition of springs (especially rear springs) and service history.  Check for dates and mileage when Cam belt timing chain was changed and also the last time the serpentine belt was changed. 
  2. Mechanical work, service, MOT, misc repairs, labour & VAT: £2k - £3k.  Can’t stress that having this done is key unless you can do it yourself, you learn a lot on the trip!!!
  3. Basic (new) overland vehicle equipment, preparation, labour & VAT: £10 - £12k.  We got new equipment mainly because it lasts and we are glad we did.  The sun and heat kills fabrics and does strange things to plastics.  Kit we used the most includes, gps, tyre compressor, waffle boards, winch, winch accessories, awning, roof tent, water filter, SPOT messenger, jerry cans, extra fuel tank, extra water tank, Engel fridge, fuel sedimentor.  The role cage was an added extra but one we felt was a good investment.  
  4. CARNET depends on the value of your vehicle and where you go - expect paperwork to cost £250 (ish) and depending on the security an extra £300 (ish) to cover this.
  5. Visas, medical, paperwork, misc administration £2k
  6. Other big costs: We sold our house and imported the vehicle into SA when we arrived.  This means we did not need 2 x flights home or shipping costs (this could cost approx £3500). 
  7. Importing a car for a returning South African on a one-way trip like ours costs about £500 (ish). We will post a report on this when complete.
  8. If you rent out your house furnished there will be admin costs etc ....while you are away and additional storage costs if you rent it out unfurnished that could add another £1-3k to your cost base, especially if you have to pay to store items.
As you can see, costs add up quickly, but they are realistic and based on real quotes / research.  Labour and VAT are a big factor if you are getting a lot of new parts and someone to fit them.  One thing we have observed, and many overlanders do comment (retrospectively) that they wish they had spent more £££ upfront and not cut corners or bought a vehicle already prepared with all the gear.   We have heard a couple of accounts where the trip was a nightmare because things went wrong in a big way!!  e.g. $2000 to get a tow for a broken down car in Central Africa, paying $500 for your vehicle NOT to be fixed at a back street garage and on top of that having your laptop nicked while it was in the garage.  It seems expensive at the start BUT finding parts and getting things fixed if there are MAJOR mechanical issues along the way is not easy in remote parts of Africa. So spend money on getting the car fixed up before you go.


Everyone is different and what you spend on your trip will vary from the above based on your mode of travel, location and spending habits.  The overall lesson we learnt is that it does help to SET a budget and TRY and stick to it BUT allow yourself some wiggle room.  Eating bread, drinking water and starving yourself does not really save you that much money in the long run and we found having the odd blow out is a treat worth waiting for.   The flip side to this is you can actually become ill and then you have to spend money on medicines etc...  A year on the road is longer than you think and its takes it toll in more ways than one.  Good hygiene and a good medical kit are areas to focus on and mitigate costs, the water filter was the best buy as we rarely got ill.  The vehicle prep is key and having a basic level of kit is important.  Whilst you can get spares on the way, it takes time and money to find them.  What you spend up front, saves you money in the long run and we would be very sceptical about couples who tell you you can survive in Africa on $25 / per day travelling in a 4x4 to remote locations like we did.  Survival Vs having a good time / exploring are two different things!

We hope you find this article useful and would welcome any feedback on your own budget Vs what you spent Vs where you went Vs duration of the trip.  We would like to compile a summary and share this via Overland Live.  Please email data to me at: nick @


Nick & Vicki
Stonehenge to Cape Town 2010/11


Merv said...

Well put together, and as a potential traveller, it's very useful. Thanks!

Luke and Shell Kerr - said...

This is really awesome, thank you so much for such useful and specific information! We are setting off on a similar trip in November. We've found so far we had to do a lot of guesswork as there really isn't a lot of specific information out there on budget. We really appreciate your blog too, as we have been following you as you travel.
Luke and Shell -

Chris S said...

Haven't read it cover to cover, but looks like a great job, Nick. Thanks.
I've linked it from the OLH Updates page.

Chris S
Overlanders Handbook

Unknown said...

Very impressive -- thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

Hi - what an awesome summary. Very useful in our planning. Your diligence at recording the info over a year is impressive. Thanks, Iain