Safari Planning Recommendations
The safari is worth every penny you spend on it -- it’s an amazing experience. We never regretted money spent on safari for an instant.
Safaris and trekking (hiking) are both much cheaper in Kenya & you can take a bus to Nairobi inexpensively. If you decide to do this, negotiate directly with the bus company to pay the locals price specified in the Lonely Planet book – you can get that price or very close to it.
There’s a good list of questions to ask about safaris in Lonely Planet, but here’s a few: ask to see the vehicle you’ll be traveling in, ask to meet your guide (and make sure he knows something about animals and speaks your language) & ask what kind of food you should expect to eat. Also, if you can, talk to someone who is returning from safari.
Inspect the jeep before you pay anything! Try to negotiate a max of 4 people in the back so everyone has a window (a 5th person will get stuck looking over someone's shoulder). Also, a jeep with a big sunroof is well worth it. Everyone can poke their heads out the top to get a panoramic view instead of angling for peek out a small window.
For an extra $25 you can drive off-road in the Serengeti.
Bring as much U.S. dollars in cash as you feel comfortable carrying, and travelers checks. Everything for tourists is priced in USD and you may need to pay for safaris in cash! You can often get a better deal that way too! There is only one ATM in Arusha and it’s often out of order. Prices for everything are negotiable. Try to find out what the fair price is for something and bargain hard. Also, while food is cheap, any sort of western goods are expensive – shampoo, sunscreen, toothbrush, etc are sometimes hard to come by. Books are available, but not a wide variety -– I’d recommend bringing whatever you need to read with you & trading with people on the road. Mosquito coils are about 1/10th of the price they cost here.
Typical costs in Tanzania (900tsh = $1, prices are for two people): water 600tsh, dinner 4000tsh, load of laundry 5000tsh.
Tips are expected for each staff person on your trip. Expect to spend up to 10% of the total cost of your trip on this.
Stock up on water before you go on safari. It’s way cheaper in the supermarkets in Arusha & better to have too much than too little (since you’ll pay several times more once you’re on the road and in the parks). There is no warm water at the campsite, but you can ask your cook to heat up a little water for you in the morning so that you can at least wash up.
It's easy to meet people to travel with if you want. There’s a good backpacker circuit & things are pretty easy.
Money We kept track of every penny we spent every single day. It sounds like a hassle, but since you really don’t have a lot of expenditures it’s not so bad. We found that this made it easy to identify small places where we were spending money stupidly (e.g. buying drinks at a hotel instead of a supermarket). Mistakes like that seem small, but add up quick when you’re trying to travel on a budget.
Telephone calls home are very expensive (about $4 per minute). Internet is very cheap (less than $1 per hour). Arranging a time (usually evening in Tanzania works well) to IM with someone from home works well.
Laundry is very cheap if you’re staying in a budget hotel. If you’re tired of washing stuff out in the sink, use it. It’s incredibly luxurious to have everything come back clean and pressed and it’s good work for housekeeping (who will typically do this on the sly and pocket the money themselves) and the laundry comes back cleaner than you can possibly get it on your own.
Language: a little “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” goes a long way. Swahili sounds beautiful, so you’ll be happy you learned ;). Our favorite expressions: “pocachizi kamandizi” (cool like a banana) make everyone laugh. “Usewa chizi kamandizi” (crazy like a banana) was also funny, but I think insulting unless you say it about yourself!
Travel agent: In a few places, there's an American Express office, which great prices. We paid $650USD for business class tickets from Nairobi to Bangkok with a 3-day stopover in Dubai.
Questions and Answers
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