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Independent vs overlanding travel in Africa: the pros and cons

Planning your first trip to Africa can seem rather daunting. It’s a big continent with a lot to see and do – where do you even start with deciding where to go? And then there are the safety and logistical concerns – how safe will you be? How do you cross borders? What would it be like driving yourself around?

The first thing to decide when you decide to travel to Africa is whether you’d like to travel independently – on your own or with a partner or friends – or on an organised group trip. If you go for the group option, the most affordable way to go is on an overlanding trip, where you travel in a big overlanding truck around a country or region (or even as far as Kenya to South Africa) and sleep in tents or in accommodation each night.

So how do you know which is for you? Let’s measure up independent vs overlanding travel in Africa withthe pros and cons of both.

Independent travel appeals to those who tend to be drawn to adventure. Travelling in Africa is not the same as travelling in Europe or North America – it definitely comes with its challenges! To travel independently in Africa means you have to be prepared for things to not always be easy – things certainly don’t always go according to plan, and you have to be prepared to make a plan when things go wrong (like getting lost driving in the middle of nowhere when your GPS takes you on the wrong desert road – true story).

Travelling independently means that you’ll be in charge of where you go – and if you travel without an itinerary, you can make it up as you go along. The freedom in this kind of travel is great. You do need to do your research though, to make sure that the places you visit are safe, and also that you’re covering both the must-see sights and the off-the-beaten track ones. If you’re travelling across countries, you’ll have to deal with border crossings, visas and paperwork – African border crossings can be confusing to work out, especially if it’s your first time.

Pros: You choose your own route and go wherever you want on your own time schedule, you can get off the beaten path, you have more time to meet locals, you learn a lot from dealing with travel challenges that arise.

Cons: You have to spend time doing research on where to go and what to do and which areas and regions to avoid for safety reasons, you have to deal with the hassle of border crossings and police checks, you have to work out the logistics of transport – whether it’s catching public transport like buses or driving yourself around with a map or GPS – which can be tricky.

Doing an overlanding safari in Africa, on the other hand, takes all the hassle out of travel. You don’t have to do anything other than have fun (and maybe put up your tent each night)! All the research, logistics and planning have been done for you. You never have to worry about the paperwork for border crossings, or how to work out where to go and what to do, or how to catch buses or rent a car. That frees up your time so you can spend your whole trip on doing fun activities such as game viewing in national parks, sand boarding in the Namib Desert, bungee jumping at Victoria Falls or tracking gorillas in Uganda. You also get to travel with a group of people of different ages from around the world – overlanding is a great way to make new friends!

Overlanding safari tours work out to be cheaper than travelling independently because your food, transport, accommodation and park entrance fees are included in the package price, so you get a better deal than paying for each of these on your own. Overlanding tour operators can also get hefty discounts on things like gorilla tracking permits or white water rafting trips, so you’ll pay much less than you would if you were travelling independently.

If you go on an African overlanding trip you do need to be prepared for long, dusty driving days in an overlanding truck. Because of the huge distances that are covered between game parks and natural sights in Africa, you can end up spending up to 10 hours in the truck some days. For more on this, here’s our blog post on what you can expect from an overlanding safari.

Pros: Overlanding is easier, more stress-free and safer than independent travel. You maximise your time in Africa by packing in a lot of sights and activities into one trip. You get to make new friends and have a lot of fun travelling in a group. Overlanding safaris generally work out to be cheaper than independent travel.

Cons: There’s less freedom than independent travel – you don’t get to decide your own route or how long you spend in a place. You also have to be flexible enough to travel in a group and be accommodating of other people. Long days of driving in the truck.

If you’re sold on doing an overlanding safari, why not take a look at some of our many African overlanding safari packages? We have budget overlanding tours that cover most of southern and east Africa and range from a few days in one area to two month trips from Nairobi in Kenya to Cape Town in South Africa.

Have a look at all of our African overlanding safari packages here or check out some of our most popular tours:

8 day Kilimanjaro mountain trek

41 day Nairobi to Cape Town

14 day Mozambique and Kruger overland adventure

20 day Cape Town to Victoria Falls

7 day Uganda gorilla safari


About Sarah Duff

Documentary filmmaker/ travel writer/ photographer - www.sarahduff.com
Article by: Sarah Duff
on November 16, 2015
Filed under  Africa Blog 
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