West Africa: A Budget and Spending Summary

Although it probably shouldn’t be a surprise, the one thing I have been asked more about travel in Africa than anything is the cost.  Well, the truth is there is no set price or budget.  Every country changes, every city is different, and of course each person has their own standard of living that they require.

Like a good budget traveller, I’ve been keeping tabs on my spending throughout Africa.  However, it wasn’t until a recent comment on the blog here that I realized that what I’ve been spending on average would be of interest to you.  Thus, I’m spilling the beans.  This is my budget for West Africa (Senegal to Nigeria).  There are some minor holes that I had to go on memory, but for the most part this is what I spent in each country along the way.

Budget Africa

In general, I aim for an average of 45USD a day no matter where in the world I travel.  Now, that number was actually a little bit higher in West Africa, mostly due to the cost of visas as well as the lack of the ability to cook for myself.  That being said, had I really wanted to, if I was willing to sleep in really rough accommodation and eat nothing but local street grub, I could have spent less than I did, much less.

At the end of the day, I have found that the idea that Africa is an expensive place to travel is a myth.  I haven’t missed out on nearly anything due to high costs and my budget has been about the same as it was in South America, a famous budget travel spot.

Anyways, on to the numbers!  Click the title of each country to be brought to that page:

map of west africa


  • It is possible to travel West Africa on a backpacker’s budget.  Even with the visa fees and occasional high cost of a tour or hotel, it’s completely possible.
  • Local vs. Expat.  I could easily drop my food budget in every country to $7 a day or less if I ate only local grub.  However, I tend to splurge too often on expat meals.
  • Mid-Range Accommodation.  What I like about West Africa is the availability of mid-range rooms.  In most places your options are dorms ($10-15/night) or private ($50-100/night).  However, in West Africa you can get private rooms for midrange ($10-25/night) prices.  Also, if you are willing to really rough it you can spend as little as a dollar or two a night on a room.  You can also couchsurf to save money.
  • Activities. I thought that this would be a larger chunk of my spending, but the few safaris there are in West Africa are really reasonably priced.
  • Internet. In the English-speaking countries, there is very little wifi and I had to rely on USB internet which is expensive because you need to by the stick and the pay by the megabyte.  Wifi isn’t as available as I expected.
  • What are people waiting for?  I think that my trip through West Africa proved a lot of things: 1) there are worthy sights, 2) it is safe for tourists, 3) it can be done on a budget.  So get you there and travel West Africa!

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. That’s very interesting – I thought it would be much more expensive. I have stayed in Abidjan and Dakar which maybe are the two most expensive cities in West Africa and struggled not spending too much. How easy/expensive was it to get the visas?

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    • Martin – Visas vary from $30 (Mali) to around $150 (Nigeria). They vary in easy to get, but most are a pain in the ass. Obtainable, but require time and painstaking paperwork to get.

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  2. This is an excellent overview. Thanks for the myth-busting! By the way, is the implication about wifi that there are decent connections in the non-English-speaking countries, like Cote d’Ivoire?

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    • Yeah Sam, that’s fairly accurate. But it’s not really a French/English divide. You get good internet in Nigeria and Ghana. It comes down to development. But yeah, for the most part, the French-speaking countries have wifi more prevalent than the English-speaking countries.

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  3. I think spending just 45 dollars a day on your travels seems hard but as you say you are doing it so I suppose it must be possible. In Africa, it will probably go a long way. Thank you for this insightful post.

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  4. Always good to see quality breakdowns of budgets from around the world. Well done. And glad you apparently got over malaria and are on the road to recovery.

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  5. Thanks for a great breakdown of costs. I had assumed it was going to be cheaper outside the major towns which would balance the costs a little. It’s great to hear about your experience and glad your fit and well again now.

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    • Good point, the rural areas cost basically nothing. It’s the cities that eat up budgets in West Africa.

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  6. Great information, thank you. I can completely understand about your meals, it’s better to be safe when traveling and eat a good meal than to eat something you are unfamiliar with and spend a day or two sick. Safe Travels!

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    • CJ – The food thing is me loving western food haha. The local grub here is actually pretty safe, and actually really good. But I don’t like sacrificing my burgers and pizza for too long if I don’t have too haha.

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  7. Thanks for the info, i’ve noticed that nearly every country only takes visa or maestro, is it still possible to use a mastercard anywhere in west africa?

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    • James, I only saw Mastercard in Ghana when I was there.

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