Accommodation in Southern Africa is infinitely varied, from remote and basic campsites, to stunning temples to good taste.
Lodges and tented camps The jewel in Southern Africa's crown, with stunning accommodation in stunning locations.
Camping Ranges from simple, cleared patches of ground to well-resourced campsites with excellent facilities.
Hotels The mainstays for those staying in towns and cities; everything from basic fleapits to business hotels.
B&Bs and Guesthouses Found across the region but at their best in South Africa.
Hostels Common in South Africa but often either rare or uninhabitable elsewhere.
B&Bs & Guest Houses
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 verandah, 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.
Camping is popular, especially in national parks, in coastal and lakeshore areas, and in more expensive destinations, such as Botswana. Some camping grounds are quite basic, while others have a range of facilities, including hot showers and security fences. 'Wild' or free camping (ie not at an official site) is another option, but security can be a problem and wild animals are always a concern, so choose your tent site with care.
Many towns and cities on the main tourist trail have at least one hostel, and in some places, such as South Africa’s Garden Route, you’ll have a wide choice. The hostels generally mirror small hostels anywhere else in the world and offer camping space, dorms and a few private doubles. Many also have a travel desk where you can book tours and safaris.
Another budget option, albeit dwindling but still available in Malawi and Zambia, are resthouses run by local governments or district councils. These are peppered throughout the region, and many date from colonial times. Some are very cheap and less than appealing; others are well kept and good value.
In towns and cities, top-end hotels offer clean, air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms, while midrange hotels typically offer fans instead of air-con. At the budget end, rooms aren’t always clean (and may be downright filthy), and bathrooms are usually shared and may well be in an appalling state. Often, your only source of air will be a hole in the window. Many cheap hotels double as brothels, so if this is your budget level don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of coming and going during the night. Some countries, including Malawi and Botswana, offer little in the way of hotels between budget and top end.
Many hotels offer self-catering facilities, which may mean anything from a fridge and a hotplate in the corner to a full kitchen in every unit. In some cases, guests will have to supply their own cooking implements – and perhaps even water and firewood.
Throughout the region you’ll probably encounter hotels and lodges that charge in tiers. That is, overseas visitors are charged international rates (full price), visitors from other Southern African countries pay a regional rate (say around 30% less) and locals get resident rates (often less than half the full rate). Most places also give discounts in the low season. Where possible we quote the international high-season rates, including the value-added tax (VAT), which ranges from 10% to 30%.
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 at 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).