Overlanding from Cape Town to Kenya: Self Drive vs Group Tour

October 1, 2019
Jodi Lucas
Jodi is an adventure enthusiast and Douglas Adams groupie who supports these addictions through travel writing. When she’s not hitting Cape Town’s surf, you’ll find her trawling pre-loved bookstores for a leather-bound volume of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Africa’s ever-changing scenery from Cape Town to Kenya is the perfect canvas on which to paint a storybook expedition that will change your life.

From the vast savannahs peppered with immense herds of wildlife, to the golden Kalahari dunes, star-studded desert skies, and traditional people who bring soul to the land. This epic overland route gives intrepid travelers a front-row seat to some of the continent’s most legendary wonders. 

The only question is – who’s going to be driving?

When planning your African overland tour, you may be torn between traveling independently or traveling with a group. A lot of people ask us about self-drive vs organized tours and look for advice on what they should do.

The truth is that there is no right or wrong way as both travel styles have their pros and cons. So how do you know which is for you?

Travel is personal: it all depends on how much time you have, what your budget looks like and mostly on your travel style.

  • Do you want the freedom of choosing your entire itinerary or do you prefer to enjoy the ride and let the experts take care of it?
  • Would you enjoy meeting new people or are you more of a solo adventurer?

Here we’ve rounded up a few pros and cons of independent vs group travel in Africa to help you decide how to overland in Africa.

The pros of a self-drive African Overland tour:

If you’re an intrepid traveler who is always ready for anything, then a self-drive overland tour will be right up your alley.

Overlanding in Africa is one of the most intense travel experiences you can have and it comes with plenty of challenges. To travel independently in Africa means you have to be prepared for anything and everything – flat tires, border crossings, getting lost in the middle of nowhere – and that’s just the start.

But, for those up to the task, a self-drive overland tour is incredibly rewarding and comes with a few advantages over group tours. 

 

You decide your itinerary and travel at your own pace

This is one of the biggest perks of a self-drive African overland tour. While you can usually find a guided tour that can fit in with your travel plans, there is still a limit to where you can go and what you can do. There is no last-minute change of plans allowed and you can’t wander off for an hour or two to another town you had hoped to see also.

Traveling independently means that you’ll be in charge of what you do, how long you stay in a place, and it gives you the flexibility to change plans last minute. The freedom in this kind of travel is great. You choose your route and go wherever you want on your schedule.

One of the biggest advantages of a self-drive overland tour is having the ability to travel at your own pace. On a guided tour, everything comes down to timing. Independent travel allows you to linger longer in places that you love and make a quick exit out of the ones you don’t. 

More immersion

Independent travel allows for a slower pace, enabling you to immerse in the local culture and to create more enriching experiences with locals.

When you’re traveling solo, you get a more immersive travel experience because there is no-one around to break the new cultural connection. A self-drive tour gives you the freedom to step outside the world of the tour group to get to know local life in the villages and you’ll more likely get to experience those crazy exchanges or encounters that happen when you travel.

You choose your travel companions

So, you’ve finally booked that African overland tour you’ve been dreaming of. Over the next 56 days, you’ll be traveling from Cape Town to Kenya and experiencing life on the road with a group of like-minded travelers. But, by day 3 you realize you have nothing in common with the 28 other people on the bus and there’s no escape. 

When you’re on a guided tour, you have little to no choice of who you get to travel with. With independent travel, you can choose who you travel with. If you find you are not getting along with your travel mates you can easily change directions and head off on your own. 

The cons of self-drive African Overland tours: 

The complete freedom of a self-drive tour is understandably tempting. But, every rose has a thorn and independent travel is no exception.

Freedom comes at a price and, if you’re not careful, it may end up making your trip more stressful than anything else. So, if you’re thinking about embarking on a self-drive tour of Africa, be sure to carefully consider a few of the cons. 

You have to do all the planning

Traveling independently means that you’ll be in charge of where you go, how you get there, and what you do when you arrive. This kind of freedom is amazing, except when you’re the one who has to plan it all. 

Traveling independently in Africa is a whole other ball game – especially in remote regions where English is not widely spoken.

Unlike a guided tour where you have a region specialist to help you plan, independent travel requires much more attention to detail. It’s not enough to just pick a few highlights you want to check off your bucket list and hit the road; you need to do your research to ensure the routes you’re planning to take are safe to travel, not to mention the border crossings, visas, paperwork, and permits that some activities require you to have in advance.

All of this is incredibly time-consuming, especially if it’s your first time traveling to Africa.

 

It can be more expensive

When you factor in costs such as vehicle rental per day, accommodation per person per night, food, entrance fees and permits, self-drive overland tours can work out being more expensive than group travel.

Groups and agencies organizing tours often get discounts which is why they can offer affordable packages that include some tours, meals, and transport.

Safety

Africa is not the easiest place to travel by road. Glitches and challenges happen, and when you book the trip it’s your responsibility to fix them.

This can be time-consuming and sometimes have a domino effect for the rest of your trip. With a group tour, you have a whole team behind you for advice and support, which leaves you more time to enjoy your adventure. 

The pros of Guided Group Overland tours:

We all know, booking a holiday can be stressful.

Booking an overland tour across Africa is daunting. How do I get the best deal on flights? Where should I start the overland trip? When should I go? How long should I overland for? And the most important question of all: Are these roads safe?

There’s a torrent of information on the internet to sift through and it can get overwhelming quickly. This is where group guided  tours come in. 

Less money and hassle

Group travel is less expensive especially if you’re a solo traveler. This is particularly true for overlanding. When factoring in the renting of a 4×4 vehicle alone, the price for a single person on a self drive would be exorbitant. 

Another bonus is that group tours are generally hassle-free. It’s easy to book, stress-free and often more secure. If you’re booking a small group overland tour, you’ll be directly in touch with an expert who can answer questions before you book, during the process and afterward. 

Someone to show you the way

A huge benefit of a guided tour is the knowledgeable tour guide who will be showing you the area and teaching you more about it. When you’re traveling solo, you’re the one who’s responsible for your itinerary and you may miss out on a few trip highlights along the way.

On tour, your guide will tell you where you’re going each morning, take you there, and a good one will be able to give you the facts and history about everything you see along the way too.

This is one of the best things about traveling in a tour group. When you travel by yourself, in a country where you don’t speak the language, there’s no one to answer the questions you might have. On a tour, no matter how silly your question, your tour guide is there to help.

 

Meeting new people

Group tours are a perfect choice if you’re keen to meet like-minded people sharing your same passions.

When you travel with a group, you have people who will motivate you to do activities you might not do by yourself and to share your experiences with. This can be very reassuring to those shy folks who might not be so great at getting out there and meeting people on their own.

Safety

When it comes to traveling in Africa, safety is a prime concern for a lot of people. The truth is that it’s not more or less dangerous than any other continent but a group tour is certainly more reassuring. Safety and numbers and all that.

The cons for Guided Overland tours:

This hassle-free way to travel does come with its downsides though. So before you book that 56-day tour across the continent, be sure to consider the following. 

No privacy

If you’re someone who prefers being alone then in a group, this form of travel may not be for you. Between the long days on the road, shared activities and hostels, there could be very little chance to have any time to yourself. 

Clashing personalities

If you don’t get along with someone in the group it can end up being awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved.

There’s always going to be the couple who never shows up on time, the person who hogs all the coffee, someone with poor hygiene habits and, of course, the nonstop bus-talker. Group travel requires you to be a patient and flexible person.

Less flexibility 

Group tours tend to have a pretty packed schedule. You may need to wake up way earlier in the morning than you normally would on our own.

If you want another evening in a destination and that isn’t part of the itinerary it won’t happen. And, if you don’t like a particular area then you still have to stay there until the scheduled departure.

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Our African Travel recommendations:

How you travel is personal and there is no right or wrong way to explore.

But, when it comes to overlanding in Africa, we recommend going on a group guided tour. This takes all the hassle out of travel and 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 will be done for you by our expert guides. So, you won’t 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.

Self Drive vs Group Tour travel in Africa: Cost breakdown

 

For a 55 Day Overland trip from Cape Town to Kenya: 

 

Self-drive cost breakdown (based on 2 travelers):

Car rental:

ZAR 2050 per day x 55 days = ZAR 112 750 for a 4WD (necessary for unpredictable African terrain). Add Insurance and one way drop off fees (prices on application with car hire companies) 

Be aware this may get complicated as no Keyan number plate vehicles are permitted entry into Tanzania’s national park and visa versa so you may have to hire separately in these countries.

Consider the fee to enter with a car to each country (cross border fees of an average of ZAR 1 500 per country x 8 borders visited = ZAR 12 000) as well as additional expenses such as fixing tires (roads in Africa can be rough and you will likely get a flat tire or two over the 55 days) and GPS rental along with Local sim cards and wifi (estimated at a total of ZAR 8 000)

Accommodation:

3-4 star bedded accommodation is roughly ZAR 1100 per person per night or campsites at ZAR 300 per person per night x 55 days = ZAR 60 500 pp for accommodated or ZAR 16 500 pp for camping

Food:

You could choose to eat out at restaurants and buy meals enroute, for this you could budget breakfast at ZAR 40, lunch at ZAR 60 and dinner at ZAR 120 which amounts to ZAR 220 per person per day (total of ZAR 12 100 pp). Alternatively you could self cater while camping and prepare simple meals on an open fire in which case you could budget ZAR 150 per person per day (total of ZAR 8 250 pp).

Activities & entrances into National Parks:  

ZAR 450 per activity on average x 55 days (assuming you take part in activities every alternate day) = ZAR 24 750 (2 pax) and Park Fees in the region of ZAR 500 x 8 parks = ZAR 4 000

Other factors to budget for:

Gas/Fuel ZAR 500 a day (based on 350-400 km driving per day) x 55 days = ZAR 27 500

 

Total cost of Accommodated self drive with standard food costing = ZAR 167 100 per person (excluding car insurance and one way fees)

While the total cost of Camping self drive with self catered food costing = ZAR 119 250 per person (excluding car insurance and one way fees)

 

Group tour cost breakdown:

An Accommodated Tour for 2020 travelling for 55 day from Cape Town to Nairobi will cost you around ZAR 143 750 per person (based on 2 pax, otherwise a single supplement of ZAR 22 600 is payable).

A Camping Tour from Cape Town to Nairobi for 2020 will cost you around ZAR 110 550 per person (based on 2 pax, otherwise a single supplement of ZAR 6 150 is payable)

This will include 52 breakfasts, 30 lunches and 46 dinners along with all accommodation and transport. Also included will be registered guides who have first hand experience within each region guiding you as your explore each country. All National Park fees are also covered along with many highlight activities enroute.

 

Ready to travel on an overland group tour through Africa? We’ve got you covered!

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