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The Best of Africa is Free

It might shock you. You might not believe it to be true. The best of Africa is free – it always has been, and it always will be. How do you find it? Where do you go? Keep reading.

Over the years, I have spoken to countless people, groups, and organizations about coming to explore Africa. Before I started learning the concept of world travel, I used to have the same mental block as them. It just seemed too dam difficult. First, I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t have any idea on how much it would cost. As I started to travel more and eventually moved to Africa, I realized how simple and affordable traveling really could be. The trips to Africa seemed very expensive. The vision of riding around in a safari vehicle, with my safari hat, binoculars, was only a rich expats dream – and not something that an average Joe from America could afford. The flights were expensive, and all the safaris, transportation, souvenirs, and nice hotels made me realize it could cost upwards of $10,000 for a trip. I was wrong.

This is the same story that I hear time, and time, and time again about those who really want to come experience Africa. Usually they say, “My friend went on safari in East Africa and her family paid close to $20.000.” I often cringe, but it’s true. If you want all the safe, comfortable, clean Western amenities, completely separated from the culture, and not really experiencing or seeing much of the real life of Africa (besides the animals and the view of the people from your vehicle), then this is the price you should pay. You are paying for nice amenities in a controlled environment. But if you want to see, smell, taste, interact, and experience the heart and soul of mother Africa, you can do it for close to nothing.

I should begin that it’s impossible to quantify a whole continent, especially one that has more than 50 governments, 100s of religions, 1000s of languages. There is just no way to understand everything for all the countries – there are too many variables. That said, if you adopt a certain philosophy for traveling around many of these countries, you will realize that people, are just people – just like you and me. They are curious about you, and conversely you are curious about them. You can learn and they can learn. This is a great combination.

Now some of these steps might seem a little bit uncomfortable, or downright ridiculous, at first. They do for everyone, but just like anything else, you get use to it. The first step is always the hardest – always tell yourself this. However, this is how legions of travelers cruise around the world, see some culture, have amazing life changing experiences, and avoid paying an arm and a leg like the average American. It really takes a big mental step to follow these steps below, but it works. I know people who traveled from Egypt down to South Africa for more than 5 months and it never cost more than $1 per day. Granted, he didn’t see animals from a posh safari vehicle, but they do have a huge slew of amazing stories that are way better than some pictures of sleepy lion or a scared zebra.. If you want to know how to experience a safari for super cheap, then check our article called, “INSERT LINK.

When you arrive, the first thing is to climb on a bus and escape the city. Many buses in Africa are dirt-cheap and can get you far for a minimal amount of money. The best part – it’s an amazing cultural experiences – almost always. All sort of things happen on buses, from breaking down, everyone singing a song, to a bus driver trying to go around a blind corner at 80. Even the really mad American action movies make for good fun, especially since you know it’s not real.

Throughout this whole process of trying to experience Africa for close to free is to interact, mingle, and hang out with the locals – the normal guys, which is pretty much everyone riding the bus. If someone were coming to the United States for a cultural experience to interact with the locals, you sure as hell wouldn’t send them on a bus in Beverly Hills (if such a thing exists). You would tell them to get on a Grey Hound or ride a public bus through the city – that’s some real American culture at its finest.

Therefore, you riding a local bus, jammed packed full of people, buckets, and children staring at you is really important. This will give you the first taste of real culture.

I have always thought that the best place to meet people isn’t down in the heart of cities – it’s in the country, where life is a little bit more laid back, chill, and routine. Again, if a foreigner where coming to the United States, would you send them to downtown Manhattan to meet average people – No. You tell them to head out in the country; somewhere like Marshall, Minnesorta, a small average middle-america kind of town. It’s the same for traveling in Africa. You need to get out of the cities – and the tourist spots – and go out into the country. In the country, you stand out even more and that is your ultimate goal. We want people to approach you, stare completely stunned, which often they do, and be curious about what the hell you’re doing out in some small African village.

Depending upon the culture and the country will determine if locals approach you first. Regardless, the ultimate goal is for you to look for some locals to befriend. Anyone! They usually won’t approach you first, because to be quite honest, if you saw a guy fresh off the boat from Africa, would you approach him, probably not. If you see someone working out in the field, walk up to them and find out what he or she is doing. Don’t worry about the language; there are natural ways of communicating with hands, gestures and smiles – often people do know some English or French. If you see a group drinking tea or eating food on the side of the street, join them. Just walk up and sit next to them. It’s all comes down to your ability to try to interact with locals. They often love it. In most places around the world, people are very nice, curious, and never have the chance to meet a foreigner. Your curiosity is what intrigues people and naturally this is a great way to form a bond. Just wander around with a smile and a genuine interest, and in a short time, you will have a bunch of friends.

Approaching local is one of the hardest steps. With often lack of communication and an apprehensive looks, it’s hard to take that first step toward them and introduce yourself. Almost every time I have used this method, and shown genuine curiosity, it has worked out with success.
You just need to smile, be curious and be on their level.

Now you have ridden the bus, out into the country, and have been curious, met some locals, you still need a place to sleep, right? You don’t see any hotels or guesthouses around? This is where a tent comes into place. The countryside of many African countries is one massive campground and playground. If you ask politely, almost anyone will let you pitch a tent on their land. In fact, in many places, most people have never seen a tent and, the whole village usually stops by to check out your portable home. Often people will invite you into their homes to eat and sleep too, and this is often a great wonderful cultural experience.

If you put your mind to it, you can and many people do, come to Africa and have the most amazing, intense, eye-opening, change-your-life-forever, experiences – for close to nothing, except the plane ticket. Again, it’s a philosophy of meeting and interacting 100 percent with the locals – and not from the comforts of a hotel. Is this hard and mentally challenging? Of course, you’re exploring the unknown, and it can often be difficult and tiresome. The trick is to eat, sleep, drink, ride local buses and stay 100 percent away from tourist areas. The goal of traveling through Africa for close to nothing is ultimately up to you. This will turn out to be a truly amazing rewarding experience.