Not gonna lie, this one hurts a bit to talk about. We went to South Africa understanding a 1 to 14 ratio of USD to rand but the exchange rate doesn’t always reflect cost of living. Japan for example is 110 Yen to 1 USD but everything is so expensive in Japan. When we got to South Africa, our suspicion was confirmed. Most things are very cheap cost of living – wise compared to the United States! HURRAH! Or so we thought as we went significantly over our planned budget.

Each and every trip my husband does a post-mortem on our budget and actual spending on a trip to make sure we are on target and it flows into our monthly budget / spending tracking. Overages impact spend on future trips and underspending allows us to allocate more towards a new trip. Typically we either meet or slightly exceed budget.

Here are our key takeaways for what drove the budget to be nearly $2,500 over budget (OUCH)…


Food is not expensive, but knowing how far the USD went in South Africa we got in the habit of going to fancy restaurants including Foxcroft and The Test Kitchen. If not an overly fancy place, we would buy bottles of wine (Only $40 USD!) and/or get the nice things on the menu. We went to have sushi 2 times over 3 days because it was so good and (relatively) cheap compared to the US.

When you buy a bottle of wine with almost every meal, even if more cost affordable than buying one in the US, that adds up. Our mindset was more #yolo and ran us $572 over our projected food spend.


This is an emotional topic after my near arrest in Jo-berg, and after that frightening run in we used more ubers and taxis even though we had our own rental car available to us. Separately, one of the things we didn’t expect was how expensive gas is in South Africa. We are from Texas, an oil capital of the US, so that combined with South Africa’s higher standard of gasoline (90+ vs our 87%) resulted in full tanks of gas being $60 USD. A lot of our trip was spent in the car, so we were unexpectedly $385 over budget.


When we left for South Africa, we anticipated spending about $200 on a souvenir. Our telephone wire beaded art found at the Cape Town Watershed at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront came to be $450 including shipping. Super ouch, but it is art and beautiful so I reconciled that in my mind.

What was a real ouch was the alcohol driven purchase of a 2015 Boschedahl wine for almost $100. This was after a wine tasting and we were feeling good. We didn’t think about lugging it around, potentially needing to ship or check a bag, and/or just drinking it later on in our trip. We were $350 over on souvenirs.

These items and a few other unanticipated expenses (also known as our own free spirited attitude) put us at +$2,496 over budget.

You can use our plan below to help guide your own budget for South Africa. I hope you’re able to practice more restraint on vacation than we are!

Posted by:Allie

4 replies on “South Africa Travel Budget to Actual Spending

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