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 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.

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