By Solomon Herring
When traveling to Africa from the western world, it is a common misconception that the money you’ve saved up while working in a more developed economy will allow you to live like a king/queen. However, once people actually look into the price of tourist accommodations, they find that the truth is the exact opposite. This is due to the fact that people conflate the cost of living with the cost of traveling, which are two completely different concepts. It is true that the cost of living in African countries is quite cheap and if you want to live the way a local does, you can do so without draining your wallet. For example, here in Arusha, Tanzania, it is possible to find lodging for less than ten US-Dollars a night, street food for less than three dollars a meal, and get around town by dala dala for around 25 cents. However, if you want to do more than simply walk the streets of Arusha, and lurk around your hostel, and explore the beautiful nature that surrounds the city, you are going to have to pay a great deal of money.
Unlike the United States and Europe, where you have seemingly unlimited options to hike on your own, exploring the great outdoors in Tanzania almost always entails going on an organized tour. These tours are not cheap and could cost you around 50 dollars for a simple day trip to a location outside of a National Park or Conservation Area. Furthermore, the prices of going on a safari are even more expensive, as the cheapest options are around 200 dollars a day. It comes without saying that exploring the nature of Africa is more expensive than pretty much anywhere else in the world. These prices dwarf how expensive it is to travel to Yosemite National Park or any other protected area in the United States.
There are two major factors that are responsible for high costs of Safaris and other outdoor activities across not only Tanzania, but the entire continent of Africa: high prices of fuel and high park fees .The governments of African countries charge exorbitant entry fees to any foreigner who wishes to enter a national park, and unlike many other countries, where you pay a fee that grants you entry for several days, you have to pay an entree fee for every day you spend in the park. Another factor that makes going on a safari or guided tour expensive is the price of fuel. Here in Tanzania, gas costs $1.10 per liter, which is more expensive than in the United States. Taking guests on a Safari tour entail driving long distances, on dirty roads, in a vehicle that does not get good gas mileage, which significantly increases the cost of operating a safari company.
Even though the significant expense of traveling to Africa can be irritating, it is important to remember that the money you spend here is going to a good place. The park fees you pay while on Safari, allow for the country’s national park service to preserve these breathtaking ecosystems. Furthermore, hiring local guides, and paying entry fees when visiting areas outside of national parks stimulates the local economy. Traveling to Africa is an unforgettable experience, one that is surely on most people’s bucket lists. At the end of the day, it may seem like a pain to drop $200 a day while on safari, or $100 for a simple day hike around Kilimanjaro national park, however paying for these trips provides you with a travel experience like no other.