If seeing your friends and favorite celebs in Ghana for the Year of Return this week has reignited your dream of of visiting Africa, we’re here to let you know you can make it happen. Traveling outside peak season can save you some serious money. And while the prices on trips to Ghana might go up as a result of this week’s festivities, there are many other locations on the continent that drop their rates during the slower season, which is between April and September.
From airfares on Kenya Airways or using Blacklane to travel safely in Africa and purchase safari packages and other popular tourist adventures, you’ve got plenty of options. Hotels also usually offer accommodations at lower prices, as do day trip tour companies and other excursion businesses. If you’re looking for a place to get started, Cape Town, South Africa, and Nairobi, Kenya are great affordable cities to use as home base during your travels. Here’s advice on how to plan your trip.
Things to Do in and Around Cape Town
Take on Cape Town with a moderate budget by joining one of the three daily tours organized by Free Walking Tours (and yes, they’re really free). Each kicks off from in front of Motherland Coffee Company and lasts around 90 minutes. For an off-the-beaten-path tour, go with Kiff Kombi Tours for a grand introduction to the city’s culinary delights, culture, and the outdoors. The flagship urban safari costs R920 per person ($65). Get a one-day Cape Town City Pass that permits admission to 90+ attractions for R485.00. And for a bit of history, the house on the grounds of Groot Drakenstein Correctional Centre where Nelson Mandela spent years can still be seen. There’s a statue to commemorate Mandela at the prison gates.
Splurge in South Africa with the Franschhoek Wine Farms Experience (R260, wine tasting extra) and spend some time at Rickety Bridge Winery. Winery tour itineraries may include wine cellar access, wine tastings, and a magnificent lunch that features the best of local ingredients perfectly matched with the best local wines. For postcard views of Cape Town, book a helicopter tour with Uyaphi (starting at R750.00 for 15 minutes). From Table Mountain to animal preserves and the South African coastline, you can customize your tour experience according to your budget. Visit the Victoria and Alfred (or V&A) Waterfront to stroll the many shops, cafes, galleries, and small museums.
The Best Cape Town Hotels
Affordable elegance awaits at The Marly Hotel (starting at R2,450 a night) in Camps Bay. It’s small and cozy, with less than a dozen suites. Swim in the rooftop pool, marvel over ocean and mountain views, and bask in the serenity of sleek and sophisticated decor. Birkenhead House in Hermanus (starting at R6400) offers beachy luxury in dramatic oceanside cliffs location. Book shark cave diving expedition, try surfing, or mussel harvesting nearby. Cellars-Hohenort (starting at R4,815 a night) just a short drive from the heart of Cape Town, is a stunning historic chateau surrounded by lush gardens and majestic mountains. Guests can partake in swimming, tennis, spa treatments, boutique shopping, lawn games, and cycling.
For luxury accommodations in the heart of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, The Silo (around R13,500 for a basic room) offers guests amazing views of the mountains or the harbor from every room; the expansive glass facade makes this hotel an architectural jewel. Dine at the Granary or relax with cocktails at The Willaston Bar. For a more pastoral experience, book a room at La Residence in Franschhoek (starting at R5,700pp including breakfast). Wake to views of the rolling hills, dine on farm-to-table cuisine, and explore the Winelands by foot or bicycle. On a private quayside across from the V&A Waterfront, Cape Grace (starting at R8,099 including breakfast) offers guests refined elegance in accommodations, fine dining, and spa treatments in an exclusive setting.
Where to Eat in Cape Town
Regardless of whether you’re doing it up in Cape Town or keeping your expenses firmly in check, you’ll still need to eat, and the sheer variety of cuisines available in this international crossroads is dizzying. But you can’t go wrong with Surfshack for a casual meal right on the beach. At Janse & Co., take a culinary tour without ever leaving the ultra-modern restaurant. The Commissary delivers old favorites with new flavors, and Salsify, located in the well-known Roundhouse, serves creative dishes with local and regional flair.
Things to Do in Nairobi
See the best of Kenya’s capital city affordably by starting your trip with a visit to the Giraffe Center. Walk the nature trail, enjoy light fare at the tea house, and visit the gift shop to support the work of the Giraffe Center (non-resident adult admission Kshs. 1,500 (approx. $15.00)). The David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary located in Nairobi National Park welcomes visitors for only one hour every day. Common activities include elephant feeding and a bath, which visitors can observe while learning about the elephants from one of the sanctuary’s keepers (admission 500 Kenya Shilling / $7). And don’t miss the Kenya National Museum a celebration of cultural heritage and natural history (non-resident adult admission Kshs. 2,000; there’s an additional fee for a guided tour). City Market is a great hall filled with smaller vendor stalls of friendly local sellers and a great place to browse and shop for local treasures and souvenirs, including farmers’ market items and fresh flowers.
For a high-end Nairobi experience, take a day trip to Nairobi National Park (US$43); it’s a great way to view wildlife like hyenas, black rhinos, lions, with skyscrapers in the background. Close to Nairobi proper and abundant with wildlife. There are several safari vendors that organize trips to see the Great Migration of wildebeest, zebras and more across the Masai Mara National Reserve. Organize your expedition to include a ride on the new Nairobi-Mombasa train, a single gauge railway for a high-speed trip from the coastal city of Mombasa to Nairobi.
Where to Stay in Nairobi
The glamorous tents of the Mara Ngeche Safari Camp (starting at $535pp all-inclusive) overlook the Mara River and Talek River, offering an immersion into the wildlife scene at Maasai Mara. Animals have unrestricted access to, and through, the camp, making for an exciting stay. At Basecamp Masai Mara, enjoy Talek River views and activities like game drives, educational lectures, cultural visits to nearby villages, forest walks, and tree plantings.
Enjoy an authentic outdoor experience without giving up all the comforts of luxury hotels at Leopard Hill Camp (starting at $435pp all-inclusive) at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. From night game drives to walking safaris, you can’t get much closer to nature than this. If sleeping in an en suite tent with 360-degree views isn’t your thing, book a comfortable room in Nairobi’s Sankara Nairobi (around RM 807 a night) hotel. It’s close to major attractions like museums, parks, restaurants, shops, and spas. Rooms are serene and offer city views; swim in the rooftop pool, listen to live jazz on the weekends, or sample tapas, wines, and champagne cocktails at one of several hotel bars.
Where to Eat in Nairobi
Talisman Restaurant showcases local sustainable and organic cuisine while celebrating area artists in comforting dining and gallery space. Try the sushi and sashimi, chargrilled steaks, fish and chips, and ginger teriyaki tofu. Dine alfresco at the famous Thorn Tree Cafe, named in honor of one of Nairobi’s oldest landmarks. Trattoria is a great place for a casual meal and taste of home. The proprietor’s own family recipes make for delicious antipasti, pizzas, and pasta.
If you time it right, your African vacation can be far more reasonable in price when you travel off-season. From airfare to accommodations, dining, and activities, save a little money when you travel and put it toward your next adventure.