Lodges usually need to be booked far in advance; hotels and hostels should be reserved during high season.
- Lodges & Tented Camps A speciality in Southern and East Africa; often in remote wildlife-rich areas, they offer an all-inclusive experience.
- Camping Southern Africa has the best campsites, from wilderness sites with no facilities to well-provisioned camping grounds. Less common elsewhere.
- Hotels From cheap and cheerful to high-end international chains. More often it's a simple, uninspiring place and the only game in town.
- Guesthouses & B&Bs A handful but quite country-specific (South Africa and Burkina Faso, for example).
- Hostels Plenty from Nairobi to Cape Town.
A tent usually saves you money, and can be vital in some national parks or wilderness areas. However, it's not essential for travel in Africa, as many campsites have simple cabins, with or without bedding and cooking utensils. Official campsites, of varying quality and security, allow you to pitch a tent, as do most backpackers' hostels.
In Southern Africa, especially in Botswana and Namibia, most 4WD rentals come with full camping equipment, including tents (ground or roof), bedding and all cooking equipment. Advance booking for campsites in Southern Africa is essential.
Be cautious about 'wild camping' – you may be trespassing on private land or putting yourself at risk from attack by animals. In rural areas, if there's no campsite, you're usually better off pitching your tent near a village. Seek permission from the village chief first, and you'll probably be treated as an honoured guest and really get under the skin of Africa.
In rural areas you can sometimes arrange informal 'homestays' simply by politely asking for somewhere to bed down and get a dish of local food, in return for a payment. Do not get carried away with bargaining – pay a fair fee, normally the cost of a cheap hotel.
Guesthouses & B&Bs
B&Bs and guesthouses are interchangeable terms in much of Southern Africa. They range from a simple room in someone’s house to well-established B&Bs with five-star ratings and deluxe accommodation. B&Bs and guesthouses are most prevalent in South Africa, where the standards are high and features such as antique furniture, private verandahs, landscaped gardens and a pool are common. Indeed some of the finest accommodation on the continent is found in B&Bs along the Garden Route. Breakfast is usually included and almost always involves gut-busting quantities of eggs, bacon, toast and other cooked goodies.
In West Africa (especially Burkina Faso), B&Bs can go by the names of chambres d'hôtes or maisons d'hôtes. They operate along similar lines to B&Bs, with a more personal or intimate experience than hotels.
Hostels aimed squarely at backpackers line the popular routes from Nairobi to Cape Town, although elsewhere in Africa they're less common. Most have beds in a dorm, as well as double or twin rooms. Backpackers' hostels are good places to get information on stuff to do or onward transport, and they also offer a range of cheap safaris and tours. A potential downside is that you'll be surrounded by fellow travellers, rather than the Africans you came to meet.
Africa's hotels range from no-frills establishments to sky's-the-limit dens of luxury. Under the 'hotel' category you could also be bedding down at a guesthouse, B&B, rest house, pensao (in Mozambique) or campement (in West Africa). The latter is a simple rural hotel, often with a campsite attached. A cheap local hotel in East Africa is called a gesti or lodgings, while hoteli is Swahili for basic eating place.
In cheaper local hotels it's rare to get a private bathroom, and you can forget air-conditioning. Other 'extras' such as a fan or mosquito net usually increase the price. Africa has a huge choice of midrange hotels, and standards can be high, especially in privately run (as opposed to government-run) places.
Lodges & Tented Camps
Lodges and tented camps are the prestige end of the safari market and it’s important to note that ‘camp’ doesn’t necessarily denote a campsite (although it may). A camp sometimes refers to a well-appointed, upmarket option run by a private company. Accommodation is usually in tents or chalets made from natural materials. The contact number for these places will be for their office in a larger town and are for bookings and inquiries only, not for direct contact with the lodge or camp.
In upmarket lodges and camps the rates will typically include accommodation plus full board, activities (wildlife drives, boat trips etc) and perhaps even house wine and beer. It may also include laundry and transfers by air or 4WD (although these are usually extra).
Lodges and tented camps are particularly prevalent in Southern and East Africa, although there are some high-end outposts elsewhere.