Safaris are never an inexpensive holiday option. So we thought it might be helpful to discuss some ways to save when planning your gorilla trekking safari to get the best of your time and money.
An ill-planned itinerary often results in a much more expensive safari due to hidden costs that add to the price.
1. Travel out of peak season
Make good use of the varying seasons if you are flexible as to when you can travel. You can save a lot of money if you travel in the ‘low season’ (April, May and November) where permits are $450, compared to $600 in the ‘peak season’. Most hotels also have lower rates during this season.
2. Get a group together
Another tip is to go with a group of friends or family when staying at a safari lodge. This can be terrific value for money and we can suggest a couple of different options.
3. Keep a watch on your travelling
If you plan to visit many different areas of Uganda, this will not only result in high flight costs, but also additional costs with the transfers to and from the airport, and extra stopover nights at hotels which you have no interest in visiting.
In this case you can choose to use Kigali International Airport to go trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as it’s a shorter distance than from Entebbe International Airport.
4. How you travel around
This is a big one! The cost of your holiday will vary extensively depending on how you travel around the country. On safari we use either road transfers or light aircraft transfers. The latter are more expensive but they are quicker and sometimes unavoidable due to the terrain.
Using a rental car, taking transfers and excursions, taking an escorted tour or using a private guide. A self-drive holiday the most cost-effective, followed by mixing transfers and scheduled tours, followed by a private tour for a small party of four to six, followed by a private tour for just two people.
5. Give your target budget to your tour operator
Sometimes our clients are reluctant to give us a target budget for their safari in case this is used merely as a starting point and the proposed safari is even more!
However, in our experience, giving a target budget usually results in the best value for money as our consultants will search around for the best deals to keep within your budget. They view it as a personal challenge to meet your target.
The choice of a safari camp has a big impact on the cost of your African safari and the price range is huge. Understandably you may not know the costs of the different camps, and without a target budget we may suggest a safari that costs much more than you wish to spend, leading you to question whether you want to do a safari in Rwanda or Africa at all.
6. Long stay rates
Our sixth tip is a simple one – consider booking several nights with the same hotel or lodge group. This is because many of them have long stay rates or ‘stay for 4 pay for 3’ deals, and others have ‘circuit’ rates rewarding you with better rates if you stay with their sister camps. Many of these deals are not advertised on the web so ask your safari operator.
7. Stay with one safari company
It pays to stay with one safari company (a company which owns several camps) for your safari and staying at two or three of their camps. Most safari companies have three or more camps and offer reduced rates for longer stays.
Again, let our travel consultants advise you how to best do this. If you are flexible at to which camp you would like to stay at, then you may be offered special reduced rates for a week-long safari at whichever camp has space. As these camps are all in great locations, you get a top notch safari for a reduced price, in exchange for a little uncertainty – they confirm the camps two weeks prior to travel.
8. Plan ahead
Throughout East Africa and in Uganda in particular, we have long-standing relationships with great-value lodges. But as the most popular are also small and intimate, demand inevitably exceeds supply, so it really pays to book ahead, as these get snapped up quickly.
9. Brand name
Somewhat contentiously, if you are keen to save money beware of the brand name. Just as you pay more for brand name jeans, the same goes for safari camps. As safari experts we know of wonderful places that are not as well-known and which choose to spend less money on big marketing campaigns.
10. Mix it up
If you really want to stay at a particular safari camp, but your safari budget doesn’t run to that calibre of lodge, make a conscious decision to mix it up.
Splash out for a few nights and then spend the rest of your time at a cheaper option, such as a tented camp that will offer you a more simplified, but equally as nice, accommodation.