Budget Analysis (Warning: May put you to sleep!)

After paying for our safaris, flights and most of our hotels, we calculate how much cash we need to take with us to Africa.  We create a fairly in-depth cash budget. It is an excel spreadsheet with each day we are away across the top, one column for each day. Down the side, there are groups of categories, as listed below.

Budget Amt

  • Departure Tax                                                                                                           $ 164
  • Hotel                                                                                                                           $ 663
  • Safaris (sub categories for Tips and Extra Safari Costs)                                  $ 465
  • Diving (sub categories for Diving/Equipment and Tips)                                $ 795
  • Transport                                                                                                                  $ 285
  • Meals (sub categories for Breakfast, Lunch, Supper and Snacks/Drinks)  $ 895
  • Entertainment/Fees                                                                                                $ 117
  • Spending Money (sub categories for Presents and Artwork)                         $ 620
  • Miscellaneous                                                                                                           $     0

Grand Total Budgeted                                                                                                $4,004

Under each category, we specify the specific location, for example for hotels, we listed Dar es Salaam, Arusha etc. This budget is strictly a CASH budget – what funds will we need while away. It does not include anything that is prepaid (safaris, hotels, flights). We are taking US cash with us and do not want to take an excess amount in case it got stolen, lost etc.

Murray did his normal research and found out what departure taxes we may have to pay, average meal costs, average tipping requirements etc. We fill in the spreadsheet and total the rows and columns and the grand total budgeted is $4,000. We feel this sounds reasonable so we take this amount in cash. We also, as insurance against theft, take $1,000 US in traveler’s cheques. We expect to use these only in an emergency. (We both also have credit cards.) We had read that credit cards were not widely accepted, and this turns out to be very true.

While traveling, we keep track of what we actually spend. I had copied the budget into another worksheet and we use the same format for the “actuals”. It works quite well. Here are some comments about what we budgeted compared to what we actually spent.

Departure Taxes – We only paid $10 departure taxes in one airport, so we were under-budget by $154.

Hotels – We spent $686 ($23 over-budget), which was due to the extra hotel costs in Gabarone that we were not expecting. This was due to having our flight in Maun canceled and getting re routed through Gabarone.

Safaris – We budgeted $465, made up of $420 for Tips and $45 for Extra Costs. We actually spent $550 on Tips and $0 on Extra Costs, making us $85 over budget. We had budgeted for tips for the safari guides and camp staff, but did not budget for tips for staff in the hotels/lodges where we stayed. It seems to be the norm to leave a tip in the “tip box” for staff, so we did this. We also tipped the 3 fellows who were our camp staff in Botswana a little extra as we were the only clients on the safari out of a potential 9 client safari. These two items caused us to go over-budget.

Diving – We budgeted $795 and spent $785. Not bad! $10 under-budget.

Transport – We budgeted $285 and spent $144 ($141 under-budget). This is what bargaining can do. The guide books etc give a pretty conservative amount which can always be bargained down. We also budgeted to take a taxi for every trip to/from the hotel in Dar es Salaam and ended up walking twice and getting a free ride once.

Meals – Meals are always hard to budget for. Murray looks in Lonely Planet and makes his best guess as to prices. We used three pricing ranges, one for Tanzania and Botswana mainland (B $10, L $10, S $20), one for Zanzibar coastal (L $15, S $ 35) and Zanzibar Stonetown (L $15, S $ 40). If breakfast was included with hotel, we did not budget for it. The prices are for two people. We budgeted for $5 per day for snacks and Coke.

Tanzania and Botswana mainland – Breakfasts averaged about $7.50 for two. Lunch averaged about $15 for two. Suppers averaged about $15 for two. Lunches were over budget but suppers were under budget, so it came out fairly even.

Zanzibar coast – Lunches averaged almost $17 for two. Suppers averaged about $26 for two. Again, lunches were over budget but not by much. Suppers were cheaper than anticipated by about $9 per meal for two.

Zanzibar Stonetown – The one full lunch we had was about $7.50 for two, under-budget by $8. Suppers averaged about $15 for two, quite abit lower than anticipated.

Over all, we spent $578 on meals and budgeted $895, under-budget by $317. We do not eat at expensive restaurants, making the Lonely Planet our main source of possible restaurants. We could have spent quite abit more if we ate at more upscale touristy restaurants.

Entertainment/Fees – We budgeted $117 for a spice tour and entrance fees to museums while in Stonetown. We paid entrance fees to a couple of parks in Tanzania mainland and did a cheaper spice tour, so ended up underbudget by ($117 – $92) $15.

Spending Money – Because we travel with carry on bags only, we do not do alot of shopping. What we do buy, is small and usually not costly. We budgeted $120 for presents for us and family and $500 for artwork that we were hoping to buy at one of the lodges we stayed in. The artwork did not materialize, so we saved the $500. We ended up spending $203 for presents for family and stuff for ourselves, which included 4 cds for $88. I think that we need to budget more for this type of shopping in the future. Even with the over-spending on shopping we came out ahead by $417.

Miscellaneous – We hate to admit this but with all our care and attention to funds and budgets etc, when we did a mid trip calculation of funds, we were missing $137. My theory, and I believe it to be true, is that a $100 and a $20 (or 2 maybe) bill were stuck to other bills when we exchanged money and the clerk, of course, did not say anything. New US bills are terrible for sticking together and somehow we did not catch that they were stuck together. So, we lost about $137. We also had some miscellaneous expenses of a pair of reading glasses for Mur when his broke and some dental floss. We did not budget anything for Miscellaneous and spent $153.

Looking at the overall budget vs actual for cash only, we budgeted for $4,000 and spent $3,200. When we counted our US cash when we got home, it was $800, so it agreed to our tally.

London – We incurred extra expenses of about $103 in London for two meals, Undergound fare, luggage storage and a present. These were unexpected expenses and go against the overall cost of the trip, but we paid for them using a credit card, so they did not affect the cash tally.

Westjet flight – We also incurred the cost of a Westjet flight (credit card) that we had to book when we couldn’t change our existing flight when our return flights got messed up. Murray is trying to get all or some of this money back from British Airways.

Lessons learned from this exercise:

  • Crinkle new US bills so they do not stick together!
  • It’s okay to over budget meals, as you don’t really know what the prices are going to be.
  • Allow for tips for hotel staff regardless where you travel.
  • Expect unforeseen expenses and make sure you have a way to pay for them.
  • Tracking daily expenses is a good exercise if you really want to know what you spend.
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