Budgeting for Your Trip

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Budgeting for Your Trip

The amount you spend during your stay in Cape Town is influenced by several factors, such as your leisure activities, dining habits, internship commute costs, evening outings, and shopping preferences.

If you, like most travelers, are on a budget, we suggest that you plan ahead and be realistic about the activities you want to do while you are in South Africa.  Some costs in your budget such as rent, groceries, and transport will be unavoidable; however other costs such as eating out, nightlife, and shopping can be controlled. If you have your heart set on a trip to the Kruger Park and some additional weekend adventures, it may well be worth curbing some of your daily expenses in order to make your budget work. Past VACorps participants have cautioned that overspending on nightlife can quickly derail your budget.

Please note the following:

  • This budget does not include your program tuition and airfare, which are expenses you will pay prior to your arrival.
  • This budget shows weekly costs. Some interns stay for 3 weeks, others for 6 months.  The total amount of money you spend will depend on how many weeks you are staying in South Africa.
  • We have done our best to give you a realistic expectation of costs, but please note that everyone is different and has different spending habits. Your actual costs incurred may end up outside the guidelines stated in this document.
  • All budget costs are stated in USD for your ease of reference. However, most of your actual costs while you are in the country will be in South African Rands. The Rand: USD exchange rate does vary (sometimes substantially) on a daily basis.  As a result, costs expressed in this document in USD when converted to Rands may be different when you arrive.  You can keep an eye on the current exchange rate here: http://www.xe.com

Internship Commute Costs: $40-$180 per week

Your daily commute expenses for your internship can vary significantly based on your internship site’s location, the availability of public transport, and the potential to share costs with other interns at your site. Your program advisor can provide an estimate in this regard. Public transport in South Africa is affordable, and many sites are accessible via bus or mini-bus taxi. If public transport is not an option for your site, Uber is a viable alternative. Uber charges per kilometer, so your total commute cost depends on your daily travel distance. Once you know where your intership site is located, you can estimate your Uber commute cost, using the Uber Fare Calculator. Often it is possible to share Uber costs with fellow interns which helps a great deal, especially if your internship site is located relatively far from where you live. Your placement advisor will help you coordinate this.

Recreational Transport Costs: $30 – $80 per week

While Cape Town boasts a relatively efficient public transportation network, it’s important to note the absence of an underground or functional train system. The bus and minibus systems, although available, can be intricate, time-consuming, and are not viable after nightfall. Consequently, the majority of interns opt for Uber as their preferred mode of transportation when exploring the city beyond Observatory during their leisure time

Even though Observatory is centrally located, you’ll find it necessary to travel to reach the city’s stunning beaches, access hiking trailheads, enjoy market excursions, and more, and you will need to incorporate this into your budget planning.

Accommodation: $150 – $175 per week

Our preferred housing provider is Rent-a-room because they offer flexible occupancy dates and good value. Staying in a Rent-a-room house will ensure a convenient location, proximity to the VACorps offices, and potential housemates who are also VACorps interns. This budget item is relatively fixed and varies depending on the room and house you select. For Rent-a-room current rental costs are as follows:

Category A room:               $25 /Day
Category B Room:              $21 /Day
Room Deposit (once off):  $250
Cleaning Fee (Once off):    $100

Food: $100 – $310 per week

Food expenses in South Africa are generally lower than in America and Europe, and the city offers high-quality and value-for-money dining options. Your food expenses depend on your culinary preferences, cooking habits, and choice of restaurants. The table below provides indicative per-meal food costs.

Indicative per-meal food costs
Budget Mid-range High-Flyer
Lunch cost per meal eating out $8 $11 $23
Lunch cost per meal home cooking $5 $7 $9
Dinner cost per meal eating out $10 $14 $30
Dinner cost per meal home cooking $8 $10 $13


Indicative weekly food spend:

The below table should give you an idea as to what your weekly food spend might be, depending on your budget and preferences:


Budget Mid-range High-Flyer
1 lunch and dinner out per week; breakfast at home $100 $140 $200
4 lunches and dinners out per week; breakfast at home $120 $170 $310
7 lunches and dinners out per week; breakfast at home $140 $200 $410

Electricity Costs: $15-$20 per week

This can vary from house to house and is generally higher in winter than in summer. Electricity is not included in your rent.

Cell Phone and Mobile Data Costs: $15-$20 per week

In Cape Town, robust cell phone networks are readily accessible, and you will have access to free Wifi in your houses, and likely at your work site too. You will need access to the local cell phone network when you go out and are travelling around the city. VACorps provides a complimentary local SIM card and you’ll need to purchase prepaid airtime and data in order to stay connected when out of WIFI range.

Weekend Activity Costs: $40 – $120 per week

One of Cape Town’s standout features is the abundance of low-cost or free leisure activities. Hiking Table Mountain or Lions Head, relaxing on the beach, indulging in surfing, or catching a post-work sunset are all budget-friendly options. On the other hand, experiences like shark cage diving, spa mornings, paragliding off Lion’s Head, or skydiving can be more expensive. No matter your budget, there are options to suit your preferences. While Cape Town offers plenty of affordable fun, ensure you allocate a budget for high-ticket adventures that genuinely pique your interest.

Nightlife Costs: $50-$250 per week

This part of your budget varies significantly depending on your personal inclinations. If you’re inclined to frequent nightlife establishments, you’ll need to allocate funds accordingly. While nightlife costs in Cape Town are likely lower than those in your home country, they can accumulate. Don’t forget to factor in Uber or transport expenses to and from these venues when planning your budget.

Traveling and Excursions: $220 (weekend away) – $2000 (big trip)

South Africa and its neighboring countries offer exceptional exploration opportunities. The possibilities are boundless, and we strongly recommend venturing beyond Cape Town during your stay. You’ve already invested in international airfare to reach southern Africa, so it’s a wise decision to maximize this opportunity. You never know when you’ll have the chance to return!

The following table gives an estimate of trip costs for VACorp’s recommended trips:

Indicative trip costs

Weekend Trip to Hermanus / Cederberg / Montague, etc. $220
 3-Day Garden Route Safari Trip $300
6-day Kruger Park Trip $1200