Cue the nerves in three…..two….one

That’s it – day of departure.  Time to blow this popsicle stand of a city, and catch a flight out.  I’ve got my bags pack and I’m ready to go (note to self: Play “Leaving On A Jet Plane”).

I’ve got two bags of checked luggage (Ethiopian Airlines is not on the one bag only rule, thank goodness) and I’m probably straining the credibility of carry-on (I’ve got one carry on bag.  I’ve also got a purse and a camera, which are supposed to be allowed on top of the carry-on bag.)

The current plan is to mail home the remnants of clothing from my Kili climb – the fleeces (minus one fleece top, which will be my sweater for the cooler days and nights on the rest of my trip), the gaiters, the heavier weight socks, and the wicking base-layers.  And since the Kili climb is at the beginning, all the energy bars and snacks (trail mix, energy chews, granola bars) will be mostly gone as well, freeing up even more space.  I’m hoping to be down to one bag by the time I fly to Rwanda.

I’ll update when I can.  I hear internet can be spotty at best in some of the places I’m hitting.


Budgeting Your Trip

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  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.