Travel influencer Chanice “Queenie” Williams has always been fascinated by the possibilities offered by the Mother Continent, with its rich history and diverse cultures. In 2018, she traveled to Africa for the first time, visiting Morocco for her birthday. After taking a DNA test and discovering which nations her ancestry traces back to, she set out on a mission to visit each country comprising lineage, and then, the rest of the 54 nations of Africa.
“Traveling to Africa allows me to piece together my identity little by little,” Williams shares. “It’s like each country I visit is a missing puzzle piece to ‘me,’ and each time a piece is added I learn a little more about myself. I feel a sense of home, belonging and pride. Black travelers will benefit from visiting the Motherland, so they can see the continent for themselves, rather than just creating an opinion of Africa based on the media. It’s important for us to learn about our ancestors through the eyes of Africans rather than the lens of American textbook writers.”
However, folks from the diaspora desiring to visit the Mother Continent are often deterred by concerns surrounding budget and affordability. Many assume that because of the distance, the continent is not budget-friendly. With these individuals in mind, Williams created her Master the Art of Travel course, in which she breaks down the strategies she uses to travel Africa affordably.
“Africa has everything you need in a vacation—clear blue beaches, safari animals, mountains, waterfalls, overwater bungalows and more. It is ideal for affordable travel. People have to remember that when they touch down on the continent, the U.S. dollar stretches,” says the travel influencer.
Here are Williams' top 5 tips for maximizing your money and achieving your dream trip to Africa while staying on budget.
Score better deals by visiting your African destination outside its peak season. During peak season, demand and prices soar. Visiting beyond this busy time will allow you to avoid paying top dollar.
“For example, if tourism is booming in Kenya in the summer but slows down dramatically in the winter, then it’s best to go in the winter. Prices will be a lot cheaper since businesses need to get rooms filled and excursions booked to keep the business going,” Williams explains. “When I flew to the Ivory Coast, it was $600 round-trip in its shoulder season but would have been twice as much if I went during their busy tourism months.”
Research visa prices
Some African countries offer free or low-cost visas for American passport holders. Visiting one of these destinations can help lower your trip expenses.
“I've paid as much as $260 for a visa to go to Nigeria; whereas, South Africa didn’t require a visa,” shares the globetrotter. “Botswana, Namibia and Morocco are some other countries in Africa that are visa-free for Americans.”
Go where your money stretches the most
“When I was heading to Johannesburg, South Africa, I saw hotels for as low as $14 per night. After your flight, your accommodation is usually the most expensive thing, so imagine paying $98 total for a week's stay in Johannesburg," says Williams. "Your money also stretches if you get out of the tourist areas and eat and shop at local restaurants and markets. Prices are usually hiked up in tourist areas.”
Utilize public transit to get around
Hiring a driver to take you from place to place can be very costly. Instead, take public transportation. This is always the most inexpensive way to get around and, as an added bonus, it is a great way to explore the place like a local.
“I love taking the motor taxis in Rwanda and Uganda because I always end up meeting the coolest drivers, and they end up showing me different landmarks as we drive by,” Williams says. “It’s like a free tour within the ride.”
Purchase a SIM card
If you plan on using your phone while in Africa, buying a local SIM card will allow you to avoid paying outrageously high roaming fees with your phone provider.
“Safety is important for me, so staying connected to people at home like my parents is a must," shares Williams. "SIM cards with data service can be as cheap as $20 for a whole week, depending on how much data you use.”