Andy updated you on the obsessions of Southern Africa, so it's my turn to relate our financial status. Even though we didn't have to buy visas in most of these countries, the whole region was quite expensive, thanks to a combination of Western-priced supermarkets, developed-world hotel standards, and pricey national parks and safaris. But there were still a few good deals. Here are the details.
Madagascar: $184/day. Madagascar is actually really, really cheap once you get there, but flying there cost us each about $900 roundtrip from Johannesburg. (If you're coming from America or Europe, double that.) Since we were in Madagascar for 18 days, this added $100 a day to our average. The only other really expensive thing there was a last-minute internal flight that cost us about $170 pp (adding another $20/day). Road travel, street and restaurant food, hotels, and national parks are a fantastic deal, however, so if you can manage to swim to Madagascar, it's a very budget-friendly place to travel...
Zimbabwe: $144/day. Surprisingly expensive for a country whose economy collapsed just a short time ago, Zimbabwe doesn't have particularly cheap rooms, food, or national parks ($30 per person for Victoria Falls felt especially outrageous). It would be a good place to have a tent of your own, and/or a car that you could sleep in...
Botswana: $131/day. Another country where we could have really used a tent! Game drives and boat trips in Chobe National Park are good value, but you can't get a room outside of the park in Kasane for less than $50. We managed to find cheap food and decently-priced tours in most places, but there are just no budget hotels in Botswana.
Namibia: $100/day. Don't let that average fool you--Namibia may be the most expensive country in Africa. We only got it down to $100 by renting the cheapest car possible and a tent with a friend and camping our way around the country. Public transit is particularly outrageously expensive...when you can even find it. We had to hitch a lot to get to Windhoek from the north.
Lesotho: $108/day. We only spent two nights in Lesotho, so take this average with a grain of salt. We were driving our own rental car from South Africa at this point, so gas and rental costs jack things up, while sleeping in our car brought them back down for one of the two nights.
Swaziland: $260/day. This average is also skewed since we only spent two nights in Swaziland, one of which was at a fancy game reserve (other one, in the car). Gas is slightly cheaper in Swaziland and Lesotho than South Africa, in case you were curious.
South Africa: $114/day. We visited South Africa in two sections--first for three days in Johannesburg, where we didn't have a car, then for about two weeks driving in a rental car from Cape Town to Nelspruit (detouring into Lesotho and Swaziland). Things were definitely cheaper when we stayed put in one city, since once we got the car, we covered a lot of ground quickly (and paid for a lot of gas). We were paying around $50/day for the automatic car rental (sticks are cheaper) and $25/day for gas. We slept in the car about half the time in South Africa...the other half the time we were usually in double rooms at backpackers hostels, which cost around $30-$35 a night. We also cooked our own food a lot. Activities in South Africa, such as national park visits and shark diving, made up most of the rest of our expenditures.
Mozambique: $80/day. Finally, a country under the $100/day mark! Mozambique is great value. It's not as developed as South Africa, but it's not quite as poor or disorganized as many other countries in Africa. We traveled by bus, stayed in decent hotels and hostels, did snorkeling boat trips, and celebrated the return of street food for very reasonable prices.
Zambia: $200/day. We only spent three days in Zambia, visiting South Luangwa National Park. It's not exactly a budget destination, but by traveling there on our own by bus and cooking our own meals, we managed to save about 30% off the packaged tour we were considering out of Lilongwe. This would be another good place to have a tent--we paid $60 a night for a room at a camp outside the park, but camping would have only cost about $10.
Malawi: $65/day. Malawi is cheap. A two-day private kayaking trip on the lake, including meals, snorkeling, and camping equipment, cost us $40 per person per day. I feel like a similar trip in South Africa would have cost over $100 pp/day, at least. Hotels, food, and buses are also cheap. There isn't much to do in Blantyre or Lilongwe, so if you go, head straight for the lake if you can.
There you have it, Southern Africa by the numbers. As a general rule, the countries that start with "M" are pretty cheap to travel in (once you get there, at least)...and the ones that start with "S" or "Z," not so much!