How to Travel to Tanzania or Kenya with points & miles for an African Safari for $150 (with bonus time in The Seychelles)

The smell of tall grass baking in the mid-day sun awaits you, with the distant, commanding roar of a lion purveying his brood tantalizing your senses as nothing else can. The thrill of the hunt is calling, be it with high-speed camera or high-powered rifle. Either way, one thing is certain, it will be the adventure of a lifetime.

But, will you get there? Of course. Here, we’ll show you how to use points and miles to take a safari trip to EITHER Tanzania or Kenya. The choice is yours, and the amounts of points needed are the same. Plus, for only $71 more you can add on some beach time in the Seychelles afterwards to relax & recover.

And, of course, once you’re there, you’ll need to add to your life’s list of accomplishments, topping the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sound like all work and no play? Don’t worry, we’ve built in to this African Adventure plans for leisure and rest, too.

The only remaining question is: Are you ready to make it happen? Because it’s all a great deal closer than you think.

Pack your khakis, and let’s go! Keep in mind that miles can get devalued and points programs change all the time, so if you have the points, take the trip.

Trip Summary & Cost

Here’s what we’ve worked out for you: You can hunt for the big 5 on a safari in Tanzania, then climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and then, to round out your trip and recuperate, you can relax at a resort on the Seychelles islands.

How much will it cost out-of-pocket?

Here’s the amazing part: the travel and lodging for your African excursion (excluding the safari itself) will break down as follows, and certainly not break your personal bank:

  • Approximately $150 airline taxes & fees
  • No fees for hotel.

Total out-of-pocket spending: $150 per person (+ cost of ticket from your home city to DC, if required).

Note that the ‘extra $71’ is the cost of the airline taxes & fees for the extra leg from Kenya or Tanzania to the Seychelles – but that is already included in the $150 cost above!

Elephants in front of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Paul Hampton

Cost Comparison

In case you were wondering, here’s what it would cost if you booked this the old school, non-points way:

That would bring your grand total to ~$4,500 if you weren’t using the Dips and Trips points methodology. Aren’t you glad you’re traveling with us and not the rest of the caravan?

Safari Cost

Please note that we’re not including the safari costs here, because this will vary greatly depending on what type you want to take. While the cost of your safari company could increase the price of your trip greatly, it is possible to plan within a reasonable budget. If you book a 2-week safari that has you staying at the Four Seasons, well, that’s going to be a lot more expensive than a 5 day camping safari!

Points & Miles Needed to get to Kenya or Tanzania (plus The Seychelles

These are the points you will be accruing and putting to use for your incredible adventure in Africa:

  • 190,000 United or Chase points (which you’ll convert to United points)
  • 105,000 Hyatt or Chase points (which you’ll convert to Hyatt points)

NOTE: Points listed are the total needed for you and a safari companion.

Cost of the plane tickets on United.
Cost of the plane tickets on United.

Credit Cards You’ll Need to Utilize

Here are the cards you’ll need to apply for and utilize for spending in order to obtain the miles and points you need. One person will need to apply for all 3, however, the other person can get away with only applying for two of them.

The result will be you having 63,000 United points, 65,000 Hyatt points, and 64,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points. You’ll transfer 30,000 of your Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt, leaving you with 93,000 United points. You’ll transfer your other 34,000 Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt, giving you 99,000 Hyatt points.

Putting a little extra credit card spend on both the United & Hyatt cards will then leave you with the 95,000 United points and the 105,000 Hyatt points needed.

Award booking at the Hyatt in the Seychelles.
Award booking at the Hyatt in the Seychelles.

Since one person will already have the 105,000 Hyatt points, the other person can apply for just the United Card and Sapphire card to get them the 95,000 United points needed for the second flight.

Total Minimum Spending on the credit cards: $12,000 per person.

Credit Card Application Process

All 3 of these cards are Chase, so you’ll have to space out the applications a little bit. You can apply for the business and one of the personal cards at the same time in one churn. You’ll want to wait at least 31 days before applying for the second personal card (to play it extra safe you might want to wait 90 days). Keep in mind the Chase 5/24 rule – where you can’t apply for more than 5 cards within the last 24 months.

Also, one of the cards is a business card. However, many people are eligible for business cards, even if you don’t have an official LLC or business. Sell things on eBay? You have a business.

The Thrill of the Details

Anse Source d'Argent beach, La Digue Island, Seyshelles,
Image Credit: Shutterstock / fokke baarssen

This adventure takes advantage of the Excursionist Perk from United – which is a “free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries.” To take advantage of this, you must depart, and return to the same region. The free one mile award must take place in one region, and that region can’t be the one you depart or return from.

In other words – You can fly from North America to Africa. You can then take a free one way flight within Africa. You then fly back from Africa to North America.

And this is exactly what you’ll be doing here. Flying from Washington DC to Tanzania or Kenya is the flight between regions. Then, you’ll fly from either Tanzania or Kenya on to the Seychelles – which is part of the same region of Africa, giving you a free flight. Finally, you’ll return from Seychelles back to Washington DC.

The routing for this will cost 94,700 United Miles, and $149.40 in taxes and fees on the ticket. For the hotel – it’s simply 105,000 Hyatt points with no fees.

Note that these instructions can be modified for any city, not just Washington DC. However, we’re focusing on Washington DC since it’s the gateway city for these flights. If you can find a United award flight with low award availability from your home airport to DC [either Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Reagan National Airport (DCA)] that is a direct flight, you’ll be able to get the whole routing on an award ticket.

So this is how we’re able to make our trip happen for such a low cost. Using these rules, we can book a ticket to either Kenya or Tanzania for a safari, but then take advantage of the United Excursionist Perk to add a free flight to the Seychelles to relax afterwards.

Take your pick: Tanzania or Kenya

This trip allows for you to go to either Tanzania or Kenya. It really is up to you, depending on your preference. Both are the same cost flight-wise, and both countries are wonderful to visit. You can have great Safaris in either country, so it will just come down to what you’d like to see. You can see the Serengeti and visit the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania (or try to climb Mt. Kiliminjaro while in Tanzania!), or search for the Big 5 in Kenya. There are tons of Safari companies, or you can make your own and boost the adventure value up, if you want!

Flight & Hotel Details

The majority of your flights (except for your leg from your home city to DC) will take place on either Ethiopian Airways or Turkish Airlines. Note that this can slightly change over time as routes and airline partners are added and changed, however, the same general principles will apply.

The United booking system is able to price out the free award ticket for the Excursionist Perk online, so you should be able to book this without needing to call an agent. You’ll pick go into the “Advanced Search” mode on the United website, and from there, change to the multi-city search. Toggle the option that you are using Miles, and plug in the different pairings.

This will be (as you can see in the screenshot below):

  1. IAD -> NBO (or JRO)
  2. NBO -> SEZ
  3. SEZ -> IAD
Booking the safari using the United website.
Booking the safari using the United website.

The first leg of your flight will be from DC (IAD) to Ethiopia – ADD (Addis Ababa Bole International Airport). From there (after a short layover), you will have a direct flight to either Kenya or Tanzania. If you fly to Kenya, you will go to NBO – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is just outside of Nairobi. If you fly to Tanzania, you will fly to JRO – (Kilimanjaro International Airport). If you decide you want to do a Safari in Tanzania, and there is no availability from ADD to JRO, you do have the option of catching a flight from ADD to NBO, and then taking the land route by bus from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro. It will probably cost around $30 per person this way, and take around 6 hours for the bus trip.

Giraffes in Kenya.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Volodymyr Burdiak

However you get there, it will be hard to leave once it’s time, but here’s how that will work. Once your safari and stop-over are done, you will then fly from either NBO or JRO back to ADD. You’ll have a short layover before continuing on direct to the Seychelles.

In the Seychelles, you can stay for 3 nights for free at the L’Escale Resort Spa – which is now part of the Hyatt brand under the SLH properties. It is a category 8 hotel, meaning it will cost you 35,000 per night for off-peak season, or 40,000 points during peak season. The hotel is on the north coast of Mahe island, and around a 30 minute drive from the airport.

On the way back, your flight is a bit easier. Your route will depend on what day you are flying. Some people will go from SEY -> IST -> IAD on Turkish Airlines. Other wills will take Ethiopian Airlines from SEY -> ADD -> IAD.

The total number of miles needed should be 47,350 miles for your first leg, 0 miles for your second leg, and 47,350 for your final leg. The Hyatt should show 35,000 points per night.

Other Flight Choices – If you have Delta miles

This trip was also sometimes possible using Delta miles (160,000 to be exact – 80,000 round trip to Africa from the US). However, it removed the option of a flight to Tanzania (JRO), instead, making your safari take place in Kenya. You could still do your safari in Tanzania, but you would just be required to take the bus by land (or purchase a separate airline ticket) to get from NBO to JRO.

With Delta, you were more likely to be able to get round-trip flight from your home city, instead of having to get a separate ticket. Your route would probably end up something similar to: -> ATL -> AMS -> NBO (stop-over) -> SEY.

However, this trip did require calling an agent and Delta to piece together the trip – and getting low ticket availability within the US can be hard to do! Also note that the legs from AMS -> NBO and NBO -> SEY are on Kenya Airlines, and many agents have a hard time looking up availability for those legs – some claim to not think it’s possible!

In our experience, it’s a lot harder to find availability for this trip on Delta partners than United & their partners; YMMV* of course!

*Your Mileage May Vary!

Live the Adventure

Any which way you get there, and whether you tackle the big mountain or not, you’ll be sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you visit the rare mountain bongos and white zebras at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, or you take in the exotic birds, walk through giraffe sanctuaries or drive just yards away from the most majestic creatures in the world, you and that special someone will never forget your time in Africa and maybe the best part of all, how little it cost you!

“Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.” – W. C. Fields

Author: Michael Sortino


Author, Screenwriter and Producer, Michael Sortino, has written for film and television, fiction and non-ficition, and produced entertainment for over twenty-five years, now.

Leave a Comment