I thought I would detail out what everything is costing me for my trip to Tanzania/Rwanda, for those of you interested in how I did it (because, no, I’m not rich.)
Here’s the breakdown for my trip (all prices in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise noted):
Flight – $1780
Kilimanjaro climb (7 days) – $1400 USD (includes food, lodging)
Safari (5 days, camping) – $900 USD (includes food, lodging)
Flight from Kilimanjaro airport to Kigali, Rwanda – $282
Gorilla trek in Rwanda – $500 USD
Golden moneky trek in Rwanda – $100USD
Flight from Kigali to Dar Es Salaam – $332
Flight from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar – $80
1. Search for flights
I searched and searched and searched (and then continued searching) for a cheap(er) flight to either Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi, or Kilimanjaro airport. That’s the first thing to keeping your budget low – if you can, try a variety of options for the airport you’re flying into. I’m lucky (cursed?) in that I can also search two different airports to leave from – Ottawa (my home city) or Montreal (two hours away, and with a bus that goes from Ottawa to the airport.)
And don’t just try different airports – try different dates. I plugged in various dates (both for the start of my trip, and the end) to see what price came up. I found that if I left on July 30, I would pay close to $2500 (which is fairly standard for flying to East Africa in the high season). However, if I left on July 31…..the price was closer to $1700.
The other thing here is to use different websites. Try airline websites, Travel Cuts, Expedia, Kayak…try them all. You never know who will have what price. (Although, I find that Travel Cuts has the best deals.)
2. Watch out for hidden prices
I once booked a really cheap flight from Burssels to Barcelona. The catch? I couldn’t check any baggage. That was frine for me – I was only going for a weekend, so I didn’t have any baggage to check.
The point, though, remains. If it looks like an unbelieveable deal – read the fine print. It might not be, it might be a really really good deal and you should go for it, but make sure you know what you’re getting. If it’s a flight – is there a meal? An overnight layover? How many bags can you check? If it’s a hotel – are you getting a room in the back with no view? Shared bathroom? Is it the price of a triple room, so a third of what you will pay if you’re all alone?
3. Some things are worth the cost
The Gorilla Trek in Rwanda is expensive. $500 for the permit, a guide, and an armed guard (just in case.) And you only get about an hour to watch the gorillas, before you have to trek back out. If you’re trying do a budget trip, you may be tempted to skip the experience. But somethings are worth the cost, if it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and you think you may kick yourself for not doing it – then pay the cost and enjoy.
The same thing goes for Kilimanjaro. I didn’t get the “best” price, but I did get one that I could live with. The company that I chose costs more, but they pay their staff (the porters, the guides, the chefs) a decent wage. This is something I feel very strongly about – I make a decent wage, why shouldn’t others? I’m willing to pay more to ensure that the people who will be in charge of my safety (and life!) are paid a decent amount to do so.
4. You won’t save everywhere
My flights are expensive, but flying is expensive. My time is more valuable during this trip, so I chose to fly instead of spend a day or two on buses. Recognizing that not everything is going to be cheap helps you pay for those expensive things. I know that my accomodations are budget, so it balances things out for me.
5. Hostels aren’t slums.
Seriously. And not only that, you don’t necessarily have to stay in a dorm room. Most hostels have private rooms (with or without ensuit bathrooms, so you don’t necessarily have to share that either!). What’s the difference if you have a private room with an ensuit between a hotel and a hostel? Not a lot, really. It’s easier to meet people, and there’s a kitchen. Which, by the way, is also a great way to save – making your own meals is cheaper than eating out. You can book and review hostels are several sites – I use Hostel World and Hostels.com. You can also see reviews of sites on Trip Advisor. Being able to vet the hostel first is a great way to ensure that you’re staying in a reputable establishment.