Bringing money on an African safari

Money Matters

You will need to bring some cash with you for your African safari. The various African currencies are complicated enough; add gratuities and bartering at markets to the mix, and it can become very confusing.

Spending money, like many other aspects of an African safari, differs from your typical holiday.

How much money do I require? 

Most higher-end African safaris include meals, drinks, activities and park fees unless otherwise specified.

On a budget safari or tour, you may need to contribute to a food kitty (the amount will be specified in your trip notes), and supplies will be purchased locally by your guide. And, there may be a number of meals and drinks not included.

Whether you are travelling high-end or budget-end; spending money will typically be required for two major categories.

Meals, drinks and any activities not included in your itinerary

An all-inclusive African safari typically includes most meals, drinks, and park fees. This is not to say that the desire to spend money will be eliminated. There are numerous ways to spend money to benefit local communities. Most lodges and camps have lovely shops filled with African crafts, jewellery, and souvenirs. You could also go to local markets, towns, or organisations to buy something or make a donation.

For more budget-friendly safaris and tours, there will be a certain number of meals not included, for which you will need to budget. Drinks, including bottled water, are also not always included. There is a good chance you will be spending more cash locally, for meals, drinks and activities, compared to a higher-end safari.

Extras purchased at lodges, camps, hotels, and restaurants in cities, can be paid for with a Visa, MasterCard, or US dollars. Please remember American Express and Diners Club cards are not generally accepted in Africa. 

Tipping / Gratuities

Tipping is always done in cash only.

Tipping is ALWAYS completely optional, and you should feel free to tip however you see fit. Before you travel, our expert team will make recommendations. 

Click here to read more information on tipping when on an African safari.

What type of cash should I bring?

In Africa, US cash is KING and is the most common hard currency accepted.

ATM’s in throughout East Africa and Southern Africa (except Zimbabwe) do not issue US$. ATMs are uncommon outside of major towns or cities because most Africans use a mobile phone banking system on their mobile phones, via their sim card.

Most places you will visit in Africa will accept US$ cash.

Consequently, you will need to order and purchase US$ cash before you depart New Zealand.

When ordering your US$ cash, it is important to ask for smaller notes that are post 2013 series and newer. These smaller notes will be good for tipping and any purchases you make during your travel. You will not be able to break larger US$ notes into smaller US$ notes while on safari.

Major credit cards (Mastercard and Visa Card) are also useful for expenses such as restaurant meals and curio shops in major towns and cities. Credit cards may not always be accepted in smaller towns and markets. Small craft traders generally will accept US$ cash or their local currency. 

South Africa

The exception to using US$ cash in Africa is South Africa. Here you should use the South African Rand (ZAR), which can be obtained (i) in New Zealand before you depart or (ii) from ATMs in South Africa. 


The Namibian Dollar (ND$) is linked 1-to-1 with the Rand (ZAR), so no conversion is required. While the ND$ is legal tender in Namibia, it cannot be used outside the country. 

If you are not visiting South Africa before travelling to Namibia, you will need to order some South African Rand (ZAR) before you leave New Zealand. Otherwise, you will need to withdraw ND$ from an ATM in Windhoek. You will need to use all of your ND$ before leaving, as they have no value outside of Namibia.

How much spending money should I take?

Providing budget advice for your safari can be a challenge because it depends on the type of safari you have booked and the type of ‘shopper’ you might be.  

Most higher-end safaris are fully inclusive i.e., all accommodation, meals, drinks and activities are included.

If you are participating in a small group budget tour, then depending on where you are travelling, you will need to either (i) take US$ cash to change into local currency. Or (ii) use an ATM on arrival and withdraw local currency.

For specific questions relating to the travel you have booked with us, please email us.