This week’s expert interview is with Kate Els. Kate is originally from Johannesburg and has lived there all of her life. She gives us an insight into visiting South Africa as a solo traveller.
Parts of South Africa can get a bad press especially Cape Town and Johannesburg. What is your reality of the country?
South Africa’s reputation as a crime-ridden destination is completely inflated in international press. As a traveller, you need to take the same precautions as you would in any other major city, but otherwise it’s perfectly safe to travel around as a solo traveller.
How are you perceived as a woman and have you seen any changes over the years?
South Africa is one of the most liberal countries in the world in my opinion. The diverse cultures and religions here mean that most travellers are easily accepted here. Travelling solo as a woman is easy and enjoyable, and I can honestly say I’ve never felt threatened while on my own, even in the townships.
Does South Africa surprise you?
Growing up here, South Africa always has something different to see even though I feel like I know it. The best way to see the country is on a roadtrip, stopping off in the small towns that scatter the sides of the highways. From the world’s largest pineapple statue to wild animals on the side of the road, we do sorta have it all.
Are there any issues in the country that you should know before you go?
Public transport in South Africa isn’t great. Major centres are getting better with some forms of public transport, but to get between cities by road, it really is best to hire a car. Bus and rail are available, but they are slow! Uber is the best way to get around in the cities right now.
Apart from the obvious reason that people go there for safaris, what are the other attractions?
The list is endless really. South Africa is a very big country with multiple World Heritage Sites, hundreds of small nature reserves, bustling urban centres and tons of culture and art. The people though, are probably the best reason to visit.
Being a solo woman, what would you suggest doing in the evenings?
It’s quite safe to go out as a woman at night in South Africa’s cities. Most hostiles will be able to direct you to the busy nightlife areas in each city, and backpackers’ bars are always a great place to start.
Is it easy to meet other travellers?
South Africa has become super popular with travellers from all over the world so I would say yes. Most popular nightlife areas are punctuated with foreign accents, but otherwise, locals are extremely friendly and helpful.
What would you avoid in the country?
Anything that is described as a ‘cultural village’. These tend to be touristy and manufactured experiences that are dated and a waste of time and money.
How long realistically would you need to see South Africa, and what would be your perfect itinerary?
To get around South Africa and see a fair amount. You’d need at least ten days, preferably fourteen. Most flights go through Johannesburg, which has a great nightlife, food and market scene so stay a day or two, then head into one of the safari areas like Kruger National Park or Madikwe and Pilanesberg. After that, it’s worthwhile to head into the Cape Winelands for a few nights and then finish off in Cape Town.
How safe and easy is it to get around?
If you’re using private transport like uber or your own hired car, it’s safe. South African public transport can be unreliable, but I wouldn’t say unsafe. As I mentioned, take the same precautions you would in any other busy city, and you’ll be just fine.
What would you say to someone who is looking to go to South Africa alone for the first time?
What are your plans for the future?
I’m trying to travel a lot more of Africa in the coming year, there are so many places that aren’t known as well as they should be and I want to tell their stories. Rwanda is top of my list for 2016.
Where can people go to find out more about you?
They can check out my blog at IndiKate.net or on Instagram and Twitter at @Kate_Els.
Is South Africa on your bucket list?