Cape Town to Cairo! 19 countries, 7 months, $10,000USD spent.
This Cape Town to Cairo blog post, I hope, should help show you guys what an epic trip can be had by independently traveling overland along the length of Africa. It took me 7 or 8 months, 17th African countries, and gave me the taste for real adventure en route to my ‘every country in the world’ goal!
Cape Town to Cairo, one of the final frontiers of ‘real travel’. Traveling overland, by public transport with no real plan, from Cape Town to Cairo, I crossed the entire length of the continent of Africa. It was traveling in its truest form. And one of the best travel experiences of my life.
I had overlanded before, 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.
I hope this blog post helps convince you guys to also undertake some hardcore travel, and if you’re considering Cape Town to Cairo, then this should help convince you!
Table of contents
- Cape Town to Cairo! 19 countries, 7 months, $10,000USD spent.
- How Long Does It Take to Travel From Cape Town to Cairo?
- How Much Does A Cape Town to Cairo Trip Cost?
- What are the Cape Town to Cairo highlights?
- Cape Town to Cairo Cost Break-Down for Big Ticket Items:
- CAPE TOWN TO CAIRO; My Experience
The Cape Town to Cairo Route
Cape Town is obviously in South Africa, and Cairo is in Egypt. So the Cape Town to Cairo Route starts at the South Western tip of Africa and proceeds all the way to the North Eastern tip. Normally, you try to avoid most of Central Africa and West Africa. Why? Because a lot of it can be dangerous, corrupt, and a little scary (I went back and did that part of Africa too, wild travel!).
NOTE: Cairo to Cape Town is also possible, but personally I think Cape Town to Cairo is a better way to do it. Finishing up in Egypt, with the Pyramids, it’s pretty epic. Leaving SubSahara Africa behind, it’s a fitting end to an African trip.
Which Countries Do You ‘NORMALLY’ Cover Cape Town to Cairo?
If you start in South Africa, then normally a Cape Town to Cairo Route will include 8 countries:
- South Africa
For me, I took a slightly more ‘scenic’ route. I was trying to visit every country in the world, all 197 of them, so I didn’t want to skip any countries. So I show my route below.
My Personal Cape Town to Cairo Route:
My route covered 17 of the 54 total African countries
- Zimbabwe (I started here, rather than South Africa)
- Zambia (I crossed over to Zambia at Victoria Falls)
- Botswana (then I made my way towards Cape Town to meet friends, via Botswana)
- South Africa
- E-Swatini (formerly Swaziland)
- Rwanda** (I stupidly was too scared to continue on to Burundi, which meant I had to go back years later to visit in order to complete my goal of every country!).
- Back to Ethiopia and on to Sudan
- I also then continued on through the Middle East, to Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Syria.
- ** I missed the volcano and lava lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to lack of funds, try not to miss it too. I went back years later, beautiful.
I tried to add my route on google maps, but it only allows 10 stops, so I’ve had to use 2 maps below. The countries I covered were:
My Cape Town to Cairo Route Part 1 & Part 2:
How Long Does It Take to Travel From Cape Town to Cairo?
It depends on how you plan to travel. I met a guy on a bicycle doing it, it took him a year! Generally speaking though, you should allocate 6 months as a minimum to complete Cape Town to Cairo. If you’re traveling with an overland tour company, for sure that timeframe is possible.
If like me, you have no plan in place and you’re just winging it via public transport with nothing booked in advance, then it may take a little longer. Waiting for public transport, figuring things out, visas, etc. When you’re doing it on your own, these things can prove a little tricky.
How Much Does A Cape Town to Cairo Trip Cost?
The million-dollar question eh? Obviously, if you’re staying in high-end hotels and riding hot-air balloons in the Serengeti, you could EASILY spend $50,000USD doing this trip. but, don’t worry, you don’t have to travel like that.
If you book with a tour company, you can expect to pay around $10,000 to the tour company, and then another $5k to $10k on visas, flights, activities, and daily expenditure.
If you do it solo, you can do it for around $10k USD. That’s how I did it, and I spent pretty much exactly $10k. For me, I did my Cape Town to Cairo trip before I learned how to start a blog, and started making all this money online, so I was a broke backpacker, watching every penny. Also, doing it independently was COOL! Difficult, but cool. Doing it with a tour isn’t quite the same adventure.
I thought Africa was cheap?!
Africa is NOT cheap to travel to. Not by a long shot. Africa 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.
Although I was careful with my budget, I still spent about $10k. However, 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 $20k if you want to do every activity available, stay in decent places, and avoid the (often less than delicious) Sub-Saharan African cuisine. As I said, personally, I spent about $10,000USD.
TLDR? The minimum you can expect to spend is around $6kUSD, and this can go all the way up as much as you want.
What are the Cape Town to Cairo highlights?
South and East Africa hold so many highlights it’s difficult to list them all without dominating the article. These activities are also why costs often exceed $10,000USD. Because you don’t want to come all the way here for this epic trip, and then miss out on the best stuff right?!
These are some things you CANNOT miss if you take on the Cape Town to Cairo mission:
2) 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.
- Even better, JOIN ME FOR THE TANZANIA MARATHON AND SAFARI IN 2021!
6) Learn to surf in Togo, Mozambique
7) Lake Malawi. All of it, especially Monkey Bay.
9) White water rafting at the source of the Nile in Jinja, Uganda
11) Visit Somalia, one of the least visited countries in the world. But the ‘safe’ part of Somaliland in the north (for travelling to the real Somalia, in Mogadishu, check this post out)
13) The Pyramids of Meroe, Sudan that the world seems to ignore. You’ll have it to ourself
14) 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.
15) The Pyramids of Egypt, Cairo. Obviously. (Check out the perfect Cairo itinerary here)
16) Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. A sunrise like no other.
17) The Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
18) The lava lake in the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- I also then went on through Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria with a host of other amazing things to see but I’ll save that for another blog post (the perfect 7 days in Jordan Itinerary is here).
Cape Town to Cairo Cost Break-Down for Big Ticket Items:
So, yeah, traveling in Africa is way more expensive than people think. It’s actually pretty comparable to the costs of traveling in Europe, to be honest. And worlds away from your South East Asia or Central America budgets. Why is that?
When you’re in Thailand, for example, and travel in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you can cut back on your budget pretty easily. You can stick to street food, cheap tourists buses, and there aren’t endless ‘big ticket’ items that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
But when overlanding from Cape Town to Cairo, as I mentioned above in the highlights, has so many epic things you don’t want to miss. And the costs quickly add up.
Just have a quick lot at this stuff and you’ll see what I mean:
- One-Way Flight to Cape Town to Cairo: from Europe $500, from North America $1000
- VISAS: around $600
- Shark diving with Great Whites: $200
- Car-rental/local flights/long-distance buses in South Africa: $300+ (minimum)
- Climbing Kilimanjaro: $1500+
- Scuba in Mozambique/Kenya/Tanzania/Sudan/Egypt: $100
- White water rafting the source of the Nile in Uganda/Zambezi at Victoria falls: $150
- Bungee (various locations): $120
- (Digital Nomad) travel insurance: $40 a month
- Trekking with wild mountain Gorillas in Uganda/Rwanda: $750
- Safari in Tanzania /South Africa/Kenya/Zambia: 3 or 4 days costs around $1000 for a budget option
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 at sticking to a budget then maybe $20 a day is possible, so 200 days = $4k. Plus the the $4k in fees = $8k.
But $20/$30 a day is tough in most of Africa (Malawi aside). You can see how you easily reach $10k+.
Organising logistics on the trip
If you book with an Overlanding company, they take care of everything (not quite the adventure though).
If you do it solo, you pretty much work out each step the day before you do it. For example, I organised a flight to Zimbabwe, and nothing else. Each night’s accommodation I organsied that day. Each bus ticket, or bush taxi to the next destination, I organized the day before. And then just kept going.
When you’re in the more popular countries, like Kenya/Tanzania/South Africa, they have hostels where it’s quite easy to plan stuff. When you’re in Malawi, Djibouti, Zimbabwe, things can be a little trickier. BUT don’t be scared. Thousands of Africans are making the journeys you want to make every single day. Just join the crowd.
Go to the bus station in the new town you’re in and enquire about getting to your next destination. Buy the ticket for the next stop. Before long, you’re making your way across the continent.
CAPE TOWN TO CAIRO; My Experience
Quitting my Job to Travel From Cape Town to Cairo
I hadn’t yet visited any countries in Africa when I set off (if you’re wondering how many countries are there in Africa, there are 54!). For the past year, 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. And the Monday to Friday was killing me on the inside. I had to get out of there. So I started a travel blog, quit, and flew one way to Zimbabwe. Home to the amazing Victoria Falls.
8 months overland
I quit my job in Australia in April and flew to Zimbabwe via France. I ended up in Aleppo, Syria just before Christmas. So that’s 8 months in total. If we discount Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria to workout just the Cape Town to Cairo section, I’d say about 6 or 7 months and that was moving pretty fast.
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. Fortunately, I made it all the way to Syria (just before the war started, but even now travel to Syria is still possible. I went back in 2019.), 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.
The experience was insane. On a tight budget, I arrived on the continent on my own. I met friends at a few different spots but the whole thing was done independently, with no ‘plan’ in place other than knowing that IF we were heading in the direction of Egypt, then we’re were on the right track.
16 hour buses
Despite money being tight, we didn’t skip on seeing the mountain gorillas, or climbing Kili, or going on safari. Instead, we just did everything else super cheap at each point to make up for those pricey experiences. And when we had a chance to kick back and recharge in places like Zanzibar, we made the most of that too. Before puffing out our cheeks, and boarding yet another 16 hour bus somewhere, in a northerly direction. Every 3 or 4 days, I’d be on another long distance bus, or car, to the next stop. 12 hour journeys become the norm, and we just rode with the punches. And at each new destination, I’d arrive, find a spot to crash for $10 or so. Then spend a few days exploring until the next overland ticket was purchased. Rinse and repeat.
Looking back, now in my late 30s and with a bit more money, I don’t know I could face that type of travel. But I loved ever last second of it. So Cape Town to Cairo, if you’re considering it, just do it. Book your own flight flight and go. It’s the final frontier, and it’s waiting for you.
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