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19 countries, 7 months, only 1 flight. Cape Town to Cairo mission complete!

Traveling overland, Cape town to Cairo,  across the entire continent of Africa is traveling in its truest form.  After traveling from Japan almost all the way to Australia with no flights, it was time to cut my teeth on something a little more hardcore. Africa was calling.

Traveling in sudan
Trying to fit in, much to the amusement of the locals in Khartoum, Sudan!

I had been working in my only ever corporate job in my life in Australia, on a working holiday visa, and it was during that spell  in an office that I knew the ‘real world’ wasn’t from me. I needed to be true to be myself, I needed to live a different kind of lifestyle, I need excitement, to feel alive. So I quit and flew one way to Zimbabwe.

I didn’t know what my plan was other than I would go south to Cape Town in South Africa, and then head north as far as I could with no flight. I made it all the way to Aleppo, Syria (just before the war started), and the only flight I took on the entire trip was a flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia due to a visa blockade. They wouldn’t issue visas by land, so I had no choice. A little hiccup, but an epic trip nonetheless.

traveling in malawi
Trying to traverse Malawi via public transport…


I’ve just rehashed my trip on google maps, it wouldn’t allow it all on one map so I’ve divided into Part 1 and Part 2

My Route (Part 1):

MY ROUTE (part 2)

How Long Did it Take?

I quit my job in Australia in May, and flew to Zimbabwe via France. I ended up in Aleppo, Syria just before Christmas. So that’s 7 months in total. If we discount Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to workout just the Cape Town to Cairo section, I’d say about 6 months and that was moving pretty fast. I’m really excited to visit my journey to every country in the world so I can go back and hit up the hotspots I missed the first time around!

Blue Nile falls, Ethiopia
The spectacular Blue Nile falls in Ethiopia

What were the highlights?

South and East Africa hold so many highlights it’s difficult to list them all without dominating the article! Let me have a try though, these are somethings you CANNOT miss if you take on the Cape Town to Cairo mission:

Bungee jumping Victoria Falls
Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • Cage diving with great white sharks near Cape Town, South Africa
  • Safaris in the Serengeti and Masai Mara (also Kruger, but it’s a distant 3rd compared to the others). Try your best to catch the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania
  • Fullmoon parties in Zanzibar
  • Climbing Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
  • Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • Learning to surf in Togo, Mozambique
  • Lake Malawi! All of it, especially Monkey Bay.
  • Climbing Africa’s highest peak, all 5895m of it, Kilimanjaro
  • Trekking with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda
  • White water rafting at the source of the Nile in Jinja, Uganda
  • Feeding wild hyenas mouth-to-mouth in Harar, Ethopia
  • Being one of the handful of tourist to reach Somalia, but the ‘safe’ part of Somaliland in the north
  • The churches dug into the ground in Lalibela, Ethiopia – this should be a world wonder
  • The pyramids of Meroe, Sudan that the world seem to ignore. You’ll have it to ourself
  • Riding the ferry from Sudan to Egypt as the Call to Prayer wakes you up at 5am, sailing past the Egyptian monuments on the side of the Nile at Abu Simbel. Unreal.
  • The Pyramids of Egypt. Obviously.
  • Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. A sunrise like no other.
  • I went on through Jordan, Lebabon and Syria with a host of other amazing things to see but I’ll save that for another blog post.

How Much Did It Cost?

I did my Cape Town to Cairo trip before I started making all this money online, so I was a broke backpacker, watching every penny.  Also, it’s a long, long way – I can vouch for that. Lots of people drive their own motorbikes/cars or go on organized, expensive overlanding tours, as an advocate of independent travel I recommend planning nothing and going for it freestyle. Much more of an adventure, much more unpredictable and hey, if you want to truly experience Africa, it’s the only way to truly feel it.

climbing Kilimanjaro
At the summit of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Africa though is not a continent for backpackers on a seriously restrictive budget, better to save some extra cash and hold off the trip for a year or two as opposed to rushing in and missing out. I would say that the trip from Cape Town to Cairo could be done, in 6 months, for around $6,000 at the very, very bottom end of the scale. That would mean missing out on a lot of the more expensive activities. The final price could easily shoot to $15k if you want to do every activity available, stay in decent places and avoid the (often less than delicious) Sub-Saharan African cuisine. Personally, I spent about $10,000.

Lalibela Ethiopia
Lalibela, Ethiopia. What should be the 8th Wonder of the World!

It’s tough to break down the cost precisely, but here are a few of my heavier expenses, of course they are ‘optional’ (this is in inverted commas because although they seem optional when you’re planning your trip, when you’re actually there you’re almost definitely going to want to do them all).

cheetahs Africa
On safari in Kenya

Ok guys, so these external costs can mount up to $3k or $4k alone – then you have to think about food, transport, accommodation and entrance fees on top of that. If you think you’ll be traveling for around 6 or 7 months, that’s approximately 200 days – if you’re good on a budget maybe $20 can do you = $4k, plus the $4k in fees = $8k. But $20/$30 a day is tough in most of Africa (Malawi aside). I probably spend the best part of $10k in my trip, including flights and a ticket to the World Cup Final in Johannesburg – a lot of money for sure, but worth every penny! If you have any questions about things to do on the journey, just drop me an email on Johnny@onestep4ward.com or leave a comment, I’d be more than happy to help…

The wildebeest migration, Serengeti
The wildebeest migration, Serengeti
Processed with Snapseed.
Best McDonalds I’ve ever eaten in, Cape MacClear, Malawi
Processed with Snapseed.
Hippos in Tanzania.
Processed with Snapseed.
At a camel sacrifice in Sudan.
cape town to cairo The Maasai in Kenya
The Maasai in Kenya


cape town to cairo Hot Air Ballon Egypt
That’s me in the pink ballon! Luxor, Egypt
mountain gorillas rwanda
Trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda



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53 thoughts on “Overland from Cape Town to Cairo – $10,000 very well spent

  1. I was also backpacking in Africa two years ago. I traveled from Kenya to South Africa and it already took me 3 months. Now I’m going back soon and I’ll do it all the way from Cape Town to Cairo.

  2. I agree totally. Any money spent in Africa is well spent We’ve spent a total of 18 months (or thereabouts) in various parts of Africa (I think we’ve managed to visit 33 countries) and another 3 months in the Middle East. We’re currently trying to work out how to get back to the countries we’ve missed. Your last trip to Algeria has put that back on our list, and we’d love to get down to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau now things have stabilised somewhat.

  3. Very useful post and indeed that was great photos of Africa. Reading your post as well as watching the pics will make everyone think to visit South Africa once in their life, as i do. The prices that you describes also can be a great information for everyone who plan to trip toward Africa and i just cant believe you did it in 19 months for 19 countries.

  4. Wow its such an amazing Journey in 3 months and watching all the photos of Cape Town and other places in Africa that you captured we sure that Africa should be considered as a trip destination especially for its safari. I love to read your post, its so informative and give detail about cost make it more valuable to read.Thanks for sharing

  5. Hey Johnny,

    That trip sounds epic and we’re very envious. We were going to try and do the same as your part one leg in three months… I’m very happy though we decided against it and opted to give it real go when we have more time. What was the public transport like between cities? Were you booking accom ahead of time of winging it when you got to a city?

    Ps. The “Notify me of followup comments via email” check box doesn’t seem to be working 😐

  6. The picture itself proves these places are worth spending for. Thanks for sharing. Your photos are beautiful.

  7. For a “broke backpacker,” you certainly accomplished a lot in those seven months – everywhere from going to the World Cup 2010 final to visiting Aleppo just before the Civil War broke out. Would it be safe to say that this overland trip was your “point of no return?” Or your “coming of age” trip? In other words, after this trip, you knew you just had to visit every country in the world at that point when you just accomplished this much in Africa with very little money to your name?

    1. hard to say mate, i had already been in Asia and Australia (i.e away from Ireland), traveling for almost 3 years so to be honest i guess it was right from my first year in thailand, teaching english, that i knew i would never return 🙂

  8. Good morning, am so happy to have come across your article and am blessed to have tapped a little from your African experience .How ever my aim of writing you at this point in time is to seek information about some African countries am planning to visit from March 5th to April 14th 2015 and will be much happy if you can just help me with some reliable information. Any way am African from Ghana but work and live in Dubai –UAE and I want to visit Egypt, first then from Egypt to Sudan, Sudan to Ethiopia and Ethiopia to Uganda, once I leave Uganda I will be heading to Kenya ,then from Kenya to Togo and Togo back to Dubai, so with that road map in mind I will love you to advice me on the mode of transports starting from Egypt right down to Kenya and the approximate cost from each of the journey. Especially transport by land via rail or buses. Bearing in mind the border crossing I wish to find out about immigration procedures at each border.
    While wishing and hoping your contribution on this will be of help I want to say thanks in advance and looking forward to your prompt response
    Thanks & best regards

  9. Hey Johnny,
    Loved reading about your Cape Town to Cario trip. I am so keen to backpack Africa this year and am trying to figure out how to do it as a solo female traveller. I have looked into your options but would rather just go with the flow at my own pace. Do u think for the most part it’s ok to travel solo? I’m itching for another big adventure, Reading your blogs are so inspirational and helps me follow my travelling dreams for sure. Keep up the good work matey!!!

  10. I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I am not sure
    whether this post is written by him ass no one ekse know such detailed about my trouble.
    You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  11. Hi I am traveling cape to egypt from november this year using a motor trike it has been a life wish now I am old I have to do it thanks for the positive views. I am a little worried about the sudan borders though cheers tony.

  12. Asking questions are in fact nice thing
    if you are not understanding anything completely, but this paragraph offers nice understanding yet.

  13. What an impressive trip! Definitely on my bucket list, but as a solo woman traveler, for once, I’d like a travel buddy. Your budget sounds quite reasonable, sure, more expensive than Asia or South America but still pretty cheap considering all the awesome stuff you did.

  14. So, Johnny, I am trying to figure out if I can go to Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya and Egypt for a 30-day holiday. I know that the first three will be easy since they are neighbors. The question I have is about Egypt. Would you fly to Cairo first and then fly to Tanzania or Kenya?
    I want to spend at least a week and a half in Tanzania, 4-5 days in Zanzaibar, about a week in Kenya and another week in Egypt.

    1. hey mate, i think the cheapest flght from that area is gonna be nairobi so personally i’d do my thing in Egypt first, then fly and explore the next 3 by land (and boat to zanzibar). A great plan would be Egypt -> Nairobi -> safari in Masa Mara -> mombasa -> Zazibar (via dar es salaam) -> north to Moshi or NgoronGoro crater and back to Dar for your flight home – just an idea 🙂

      1. I knew I was asking the right person. Thank you.

        I read your post about backpacking in Egypt. Do you think 2 days is enough in Cairo, followed by a day trip to Luxor and maybe 2 days in Alexandria?

        Have you been to Namibia? I am amazed at the sand dunes there and wonder if I could add it to this African trip.

        Does Africa have low-cost airlines like Ryan Air?

        1. i didn’t make it to namibia unfortunately mate, it’s so expensive! although i hear it’s beautiful (and really expensive). To answer your question about low cost airlines in Africa – a categorical NO! flights are so pricey, it’s unreal :s To fly to namibia return from Nairobi will cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars!

          2 days cairo, i day luxor and 2 days alexandria sounds perfect mate – you’ll be a little rushed but if you get your game face on you’ll be fine 🙂 personally, that would be enough for me, i spent a lot longer in each place and i was getting bored of more dusty ruins (i know that may sound a little unsophisticated but it’s true :P). If you wanna do the hot air ballooning in Luxor you’ll have to stay 2 days though, cos it’s v early in the morning

          1. I read your Luxor post and I might have to stay two days now. I’ve never been hot air ballooning and would love to experience that. Now that’s I’m researching more, I might try to go around the migration season.

            I did see your prices for everything in Luxor. Looks like I’m going to spend more than I thought I would in Africa. I swear (aside from Japan), Asia spoils you when it comes to relatively inexpensive travel. Did you find that things like snorkeling and eating in Tanzania/Zanzibar were inexpensive?

          2. zanzibar demonstrates a bit of a false economy because it’s such a tourist hub so food and drink there can get pricey. Other than that it’s cheap mate, Africa generally is quite cheap for food and accommodation, it’s just the awesome activities that end up costing a fortune!

        2. When I was in Egypt, I took a train from Alexandria to Cairo in the AM and then took a sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor that night. I spent one day in Luxor and then took the sleeper train back to Cairo, spent a day, and took a train back to Alexandria. Luxor in one day is definitely doable if you have to. The sleeper train may be a good option for you. It was about $60 US each way, but it will save you time and the cost of accommodation elsewhere.

          1. Wow, you move fast!! I traveled a lot slower, took the (cheap) bus and chilled but i had no time constraints so no stress. If you’re in a real rush, this advice is a great option

  15. I hope you liked Cairo. Did you visit it in winter or summer? you will find it less expensive in summer although temperature can be as high as 40 deg C during the day. Alexandria on the other hand is more expensive in summer as it is a Mediterranean resort with long beaches that attract thousands of local tourists in summer. I am looking forward to reading a post about your trip to Egypt.

  16. Dream route! My boyfriend and I are heading back to Africa next year but only to a few countries for two months – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania and then South Africa for a friend’s wedding. I’ve been doing a little bit of planning and was so surprised at the costs! I’m used to scraping by very little in SE Asia and central America, so it’s come as quite a shock! But will hopefully be an amazing trip!

    Did you travel by yourself? And any recommendations for companies to do the gorilla trek with?

    1. hey Rebecca, what a trip! Sounds like you’re gonna have a blast too – east africa is captivating. I traveled partly by myself and partly with a friend, it’s safe as houses so no drama there.

      For the gorilla trek, there are no companies – you have to do it through the tourist boar, loads of companies act as a 3rd party – avoid them and go straight to the tourist board either in uganda or rwanda. I’m gonna write a post about it this week so i’ll explain it all there in more detail. If you need any help in the mean time just drop me a msg 🙂

      1. VERY excited! Shame it’s planned for October 2011 though – feels soooo far away. Look forward to your post. I’ll email you if I have any more questions re costs and recommendations for things to see and do!

  17. Excellent route and one I’d like to do. I’ve travel through most of the countries on the route but am missing the bridge from Egypt to Kenya. I agree Africa is more expense that Southeast Asia for example, but so doable. It’s my favorite continent in the world and I can’t wait to make another trip back. Would love to chat with you more about your experiences there and your favorite places- I’m sure we’ve been to many of the same places but am always looking to hear about ones I haven’t been to yet!

    1. hey laura,

      thanks for dropping by 🙂 Amazing continent for sure, but I guess with all the negative media coverage, it can be a daunting prospect for travellers sometimes. But if you go beyond that, the rewards are endless. I know you’re a volunteer and there’s so much scope for that area of work across the whole continent so I’m sure they’ll welcome you back with open arms. Any timeline on when you want to return?

  18. Amazing post Johnny, congrats for having done such a route.
    I am a route-lover and have performed some such as Route 66, the Transiberian or Southern Africa during my last holidays. The Pan-American and the Pan-African routes are in my list too, but I will need to quit my job first 🙂
    I was told that the most difficult / dangerous part for the African one is crossing Sudan, is that right?
    I am beginning to write my own blog and following world travelers, so you have a new fan here.
    Keep going…

    1. Hey diego,

      thanks for the kudos – i actually didnt stop in Cairo but i know most people do, hence the blog title. I continued for another month on into the Middle East – great people in that part of the world.

      Sudan was ok, bureaucratic-heavy but worth the effort. Somaliland was prob tougher but the most dangerous part is taking buses all the time. I was probably in around 5 crashes in my 6 or 7 months, it’s a nightmare! but u have little choice to get around otherwise :S

      Uv been around a bit too mate – look forward to reading your blog, take it easy mate


  19. Wow, doing this treck has NEVER crossed my mind. This actually doesnt seem like a bad Idea to once I am done exploring Egypt on my RTW trip. Im saving this post and fav’ing your blog. I will be reading more of your adventure to learn more about it.

    Glad I came across this.

    1. Hey jaime,

      yeah i didn’t realise it was a backpacker route until i decided to do it but when ur there lots of people are doing (by lots i mean a a handful but that seems like lots when you’re in somaliland, sudan, djibouti etc!). Hope u get a chance to do it mate – if u do, keep me posted please!


  20. Gosh I am in a muddle today … what i meant to say was great info as I intend a return to Africa and it will be traveling a variation of this route, I think, and didn’t realize exactly how much i’m gonna spend … better cut down on beers tonight … actually, nah.

    the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

    1. im sure after 20 years u have a few tricks up your sleeve to make that money stretch mate! Africa is one crazy continent tho, that’s for sure

  21. Yeah crossed from Ethiopia to Sudan – pretty intense to be honest! I was in a mosque and stumbled across this, check this camel sacrifice out (video at the bottom of the page):


    it was relatively safe but the visa was a real hassle and having to constantly check into police stations got a bit frustrating. Great experience tho and a cracking country to backpack in..

  22. Thanks for the post. We were thinking of doing this initially… but later on decide to skip South Africa due to it being more expensive than we initially thought. Did you cross Sudan from Ethiopia? What was it like?

  23. Agreed … Travel is no longer dirt-cheap nearly anyway – amazing that some articles BS about traveling the world for free – unless you beg, sleep in the streets – couch-surf, eat crap, take advantage of locals – no way, that’s mostly what you are in for as an extreme budget traveler in much of Africa. UNLESS you are African or really get amongst it.

    Hey, at less the ganja and beers still cheap … MRP

    1. hey mate,

      i’d say central asia is the last place you can truly scrape by on. Pakistan, Iran, India (for the next few years only tho) Bangladesh – these countries you can get by on $10 a day. Most other places though, you’d have to double that as a bare minimum

      I couldn’t believe in some countries in Africa the price of a bottle of 1lt bottle of water is the same price as a bottle of coke/beer… difficult to refuse really!

      1. Yeah, sorry, in my liquor haze last night I really meant in Africa but yeah certainly the Indian subcontinent & Indonesia rank amongst the best but many parts of Africa – especially the West, are no bargain compared with good-value SE Asia or even Central America & Bolivia & Colombia.

        Now, time for a cheap cold Chinese beer …

        the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

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