Solo Travel in South Africa
If you are planning a trip to South Africa, below is our guide on how to travel solo in South Africa, including the best places to travel solo in South Africa, where to stay, South Africa tours for solo travellers, and how to travel within South Africa. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place.
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- Solo Travel To South Africa
- About South Africa
- Tours in South Africa
- Accommodation in South Africa
- How Long in South Africa?
- Travelling Around South Africa
- From The Airport
- Border Crossings
- Travel Insurance For South Africa
- Plan a Trip To South Africa
Solo Travel To South Africa
Is South Africa safe for solo female travellers? South Africa doesn’t have the best reputation for safety and with a high crime rate there’s a good reason why, but most of the crime takes place within the townships. The tourist areas are much safer but it’s still a country that you need to take extra care in especially travelling solo in South Africa.
South Africa attracts the older traveller and not the seasoned partygoer that you’ll find in Australia or Asia. There are opportunities for group travel here or you could hire a car with other like-minded travellers for extra security. Avoid entering into townships alone and don’t go out by yourself at night.
If you are unsure of what to do in South Africa or the best places in South Africa to visit alone, you may feel more comfortable on a group tour to visit South Africa solo.
About South Africa
South Africa is a beautiful country known as the ‘Rainbow Nation.' It’s a mix of African culture and chic cities with a turbulent past, and is teeming with an abundance of South Africa wildlife and the Big Five.
Cape Town is a vibrant city and a great place to start your African adventure. It’s the land of wineries, great beaches and Al Fresco living with a fantastic V&A Waterfront that rivals that of San Francisco (along with the resident seals). It is one of the safe places to visit in South Africa. Things to do in Cape Town include taking a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain. As one of the best places to visit in Southern Africa, it is a symbol of hope and freedom – for views of the city and its beautiful bay.
Explore Cape Town by wandering around the artisan market at Greenmarket Square, listen to jazz at Cape Grace or take a stroll along Camps Bay. Or just go celeb spotting with a cocktail on the beach whilst watching bronzed bodies play volley ball.
To learn about the history of this country, visit the SA Museum or take an escorted Township tour to District Six, an important district at the time of apartheid between 1968 – 1985 when 3.5 million people were forcibly removed from their homes. People lay in front of bulldozers and only seven churches and mosques remain and stand as memorials of what happened here. Read more about the apartheid.
When in Cape Town, don’t forget to visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, at the foot of Table Mountain. It’s said to be one of the best botanical gardens in the world and is definitely one of the things to see in South Africa for nature lovers.
TIP – If you are staying in Cape Town for a few nights, consider purchasing the Cape Town Pass. It gives free entry to more than 30 top Cape Town attractions as well as a free hop-on hop-off bus tour. * Buy the Cape Town Pass here
Boats from the waterfront will take you to Robben Island. This island is one of the famous things in South Africa and was once a high security prison where Nelson Mandela served eighteen years. Former prisoners and guards will take you on a tour around the island which has now become a symbol of peaceful resistance. Allow plenty of time to buy your ticket for the 30 minute journey across.
In the Eastern Cape province, from Cape Town is the Garden Route, one of the prettiest drives for a road trip. It takes three to five days to drive with the option of staying in lodges, guest houses and hotels along the way. Head to the small wine town of Franschoek for your first stop, then onto the wine route to Paarl where the world famous vine grows.
You may want to avoid the crowds at Mossel Bay as its calm blue bay and natural harbour pull in the tourists. If you’ve ever wanted to see an ostrich you won’t be disappointed at Oudtshoorn, renowned for its ostrich farms (and you can ride a camel here too), but don’t bypass Cango Caves, a labyrinth of stalactites and stalagmites.
If you carry on the Garden Route you’ll get to the Wilderness (it is actually the name of a place) with unspoilt beaches, a lagoon and endless sand dunes. There is another lagoon in the next stop of Knysna which is one of the highlights of the drive.
Knysna is one of the popular destinations to stop along the route, and its easy to see why from its gorgeous South African coastline. Things to do in Knysna include taking a RIB from the waterfront then enjoying some oysters as you return, seeing the sandstone cliffs where the ocean meets the Knysna Lagoon, and spotting velvet monkeys on the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour. For the adventurous GatG, one of the top things to do in South Africa is to throw yourself off the world’s highest bungee jump!
You can take a ride on the steam train or cross the peninsula on a ferry then uphill by train. It’s one of the beautiful places in South Africa where you’ll find many South Africans coming for their holidays. The last stop is the Coastal National Park of Tsitsikamma, a large canyon carved out of sandstone, before finishing at Port Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth is one of the best cities in South Africa. It is a windy, coastal city which thrives on tourism and has plenty of museums to keep you busy. Taking tours from here to a township or Nelson Mandela Bay City are some of the things to do in Port Elizabeth. Others include visiting the ruins of Fort Frederick or just explore some nature at Alexandria Dune Fields – the largest coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere, and one of the points of interest in South Africa.
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and also has the worst reputation for safety so stick to the tourist destinations. You can’t get more touristy than Gold Reef City (the city was actually built on gold), a theme park with old mining wagons. For more excitement, venture into the fantasy world of Sun City – a giant theme park in an African savanna – with a Lost City, picturesque gardens, waterfalls, casino and water sports.
Other things to do in Johannesburg include taking day trips outside of the city. One of the top tourist attractions in South Africa is Sun City, located in the North West Province. Also in the North West is Pilanesberg National Park, one of the South Africa tourism attractions for the Big 5. There are more than 7,000 animals within the reserve
Pretoria is the administrative capital and is a contrast from Johannesburg. Take a township town to Soweto, visit a Komodo dragon at the local zoo or check out the view of the city from the Presidential residence. It's great for buying souvenirs too.
For a more cultural experience go North to the culture centre of Lesedi where you can meet the locals in their tribal villages. Families from all over Africa have settled here and will give you an impressive display of their ritual dancing. Pilgrims Rest is nearby. This living museum was once Africa’s first gold mining village.
The Zulu Kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal is the battlefield area of South Africa where you can learn more about the Zulu history and walk in the footsteps of Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi. Visit the Elephant Coast, a mecca for eco-tourism where you can spot whales and bottlenose dolphins whilst enjoying the views of the Drakensberg Mountains.
For south Africa’s largest wetland, head to Isimangaliso Wetland Park, also within this province. With coastal dunes and sandy beaches amongst coral reefs and wetlands, it’s easy to see why this area of more than 330,000 hectares has been chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sodwana Bay is one of the top attractions in South Africa for diving and has been classed as one of the world’s top 10 diving destinations. You may even have an encounter with a whale shark too, as whale watching takes place from June to November.
But it’s not just diving that you can do here, the Wetland Park is also one of the best places to visit in South Africa for turtles. If you visit between November and February you can see these amazing little creatures, a must do in South Africa.
For the adventurous traveller there are activities such as: sand boarding, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, canyoning, and bungee jumping. One of the unique things to do in South Africa is shark cage diving with great white sharks! If you prefer the finer things in life, the wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschoek provide some of the best Pinot and South Africa wine.
For the surfing GatG, Durban, in the Kwazulu Natal province, is one of the cities in South Africa for excellent surfing. This harbour city has an Indian influence and a golden mile of beach. Things to do in Durban include learning about the Zulu tribe in the nearby villages, walking along the seafront promenade, seeing African plants at the Durban Botanical Gardens, or visiting the Japanese Gardens.
You don’t have to cross the border into Namibia to see one of the world’s largest canyons. Blyde River Canyon is the 3rd largest and it may surprise you to know that this canyon is green. It is one of the places in South Africa for stunning nature.
Other places to go in South Africa are: the waterfalls of Drakensberg, Seal Island, and the Cape of Good Hope; a nature reserve of rugged landscape and a 40km coastline. See the ‘real Africa’ at Nelspruit and go whale watching at Hermanus. If you make it as far as the Northern Cape which borders Namibia and Botswana, expect to be rewarded with desert, ocean and historic towns.
South Africa solo travel for a country full of tribal ancestry, wild animals on a safari and breathtaking beauty.
Take a township tour on afternoon weekdays where you meet more locals.
Tours in South Africa
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your South Africa trip or the whole duration, look for solo travel tours South Africa. G Adventures is a responsible tour company offering tours to South Africa, and mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours of South Africa have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
G Adventures South Africa holidays start from 7 days exploring Kruger National Park to an epic 40 day trip from Cape Town to the Serengeti through South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers so you can meet other South Africa solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear more costly than G Adventures.
Intrepid Tours South Africa include a 3 day Kruger Park safari, 12 days cycling around South Africa, and a 14 day Garden Route Adventure. With both tour companies you share a room with another female or you can pay extra for your own room. It's a safe and easy way to explore South Africa. Read our Intrepid Travel Reviews
- Africa Travel Company – This company offers overland camping tours through the majority of Africa. Their guided tours of South Africa are ideal if you are backpacking South Africa alone and want to travel across several countries with others. Join their South Africa tours from Cape Town.
- Emzini Tours – Explore an African township with a personal touch.
- Urban Adventures – Day tours with a local in Johannesburg, and Cape Town.
Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated activities and tours in worldwide destinations including South Africa. There are several to choose from Including Johannesburg tours, Cape Town wine tours, sightseeing Cape Town tours, and day trips from Cape Town to Cape Peninsula and Cape Point. You can also choose a ferry trip and prison tour to Robben Island, a trip to Tsitsikamma National Park or whale watching Hermanus. It’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews for the South Africa attractions, the price and availability then book online.
Accommodation in South Africa
There is a variety of accommodation in South Africa, from hotels, holiday apartments and of course African game lodges. If you are backpacking South Africa and looking for cheap accommodation in South Africa, you’ll find hostels in South Africa for solo travellers where you can meet others backpacking Africa solo. Booking.com is a great site which has places in South Africa for all budgets.
Guest houses are a sociable way of staying in family homes. Plus there’s Airbnb which connects you to unique travel experiences and isn’t just limited to staying in a local’s spare room. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
Independent South Africa trips aren’t for everyone, so you may prefer Expedia who offer package holidays to South Africa. Their travel packages in South Africa include accommodation and return flights. * Check prices and accommodation for Expedia
Below are some of the best places to stay in South Africa, as recommended by solo female travellers, for all other South Africa hotels and other types of accommodation, click on the link below for Booking.com South Africa. * To book, check prices or availability for all accommodation South Africa
Solo Favourite – The Dune Guest Lodge, Wilderness
This gorgeous guest house is right on the beachfront, overlooking the sea. Not only are the staff super friendly but the place is spotless and it has an outdoor pool to cool off. It’s really close to the National Park too. Prices from £60 p/n. Find Out More
Solo Favourite – Menlyn Boutique Hotel, Pretoria
Perfect for solo females, this boutique hotel has an outdoor pool, a gym, and a spa and wellness centre. It’s beautifully decorated, with balconies in some of the rooms and is near to a shopping centre – perfect for shoppers. Prices from £60 p/n. Find Out More
Solo Favourite – Lagoon Beach, Cape Town
If you're looking for beach hotels in South Africa, I stayed at Lagoon Beach. This stunning hotel has both rooms and apartments and offers a free shuttle to the city so you can visit V&A Waterfront. Prices from £80 p/n. Find out more
One of the best things to do in South Africa is taking a safari and a game drive. You simply cannot visit South Africa without going on one of the games drives in the country's game parks. You may need to take malaria tablets if you choose to do a South Africa solo safari in the northern area of the country. Read here for more of South Africa’s game reserves and national parks.
- Kruger – Everyone’s heard of Kruger. It's one of the best parks in the world and is said to offer the best safari in South Africa, with a diversity of animals and an endless landscape of African bush.
- Mala Mala – This private game reserve borders Kruger and is game packed with the Big Five.
- Kgalagadi – A spectacular Transfrontier park with the Big Five (not as touristy as the others).
- Richtersveld – Arid and desert scenery (better for desert flora than the Big Five). *malaria free
- Shamwari – Cultural history and the Big Five. *malaria free
- Addo Elephant National Park – Lots of elephants! *malaria free
- Madikwe – Excellent year round game viewing and renowned for sightings of wild dogs. *malaria free
- Kariega – Boasts the ultimate safari experience. *malaria-free
Travel tips – The best time to go on safari is May to September
How Long Do I Need?
If you’re planning to see as much of South Africa as you can, two weeks should be enough time to solo travel Cape Town, South Africa, the Garden Route then fly to Johannesburg for Sun City or a safari.
Travelling Around South Africa
For those feeling intrepid about the public transportation in South Africa, Baz Bus is a hop on hop off bus service for backpackers in South Africa, that will take you from Cape Town to Johannesburg, stopping off at the main tourist places in South Africa along the way. It is ideal if you are travelling Africa alone and want to meet others traveling in South Africa.
How to travel around South Africa independently – For independent travel, one way to travel around South Africa is with the Greyhound bus service if you’re not on a budget.
Safe public transport in South Africa include tourist class trains to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. Tourist Class Trains are 2 or 4 berth sleep compartments and serve South African meals onboard (or you can take your own food with you). If you can afford it, the Blue train is the best way to see South Africa in comfort. This luxurious train runs from Pretoria to Cape Town.
Hiring your own car gives you more flexibility on your vacation in South Africa and allows you to fly into one destination and out of another but make sure you’re comfortable with driving. For car rental we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
How to get around Cape Town – It’s easy to walk around the V&A Waterfront on foot but to get around the rest of the city, there are minibus taxis on dedicated routes. Although they are cheap, you may prefer to take one of the intra-city buses such as MyCiTi where you can download an app for the timetables and top it up for your fare. Uber is also a good way of getting around. Read more here
From the Airport
There are many domestic and international airports within South Africa.
Cape Town – Buses leave every 20 minutes from 05.30 until 21.30 for the 40 minute ride into the city and cost £20 or take a taxi from the outside of the terminal.
Johannesburg – There will be lots of people offering you taxis and transfers as you arrive but go to the airport approved taxi desk in arrivals to book your taxi. The 30 minute journey will cost approx £55.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling Onwards (check visas before you travel)
South Africa to Botswana – There are so many borders. The most popular is Pretoria to Gaborone and a bus runs daily from Pretoria Station and takes 8 hours via Johannesburg (approx £20).
South Africa to Namibia – There are flights from Cape Town or Johannesburg. The best border crossing overland is via Springbok along the N7 highway. The Trans Kalahari highway goes from South Africa to Namibia. Other crossings are: Onseepkans, Alexander Bay, Vioolsdrif, Rietfontein, Noenieput and Naroegas.
South Africa to Zimbabwe – Buses leave Johannesburg to Harare where the border is open 24 hours. There are also buses from Jo’burg to Bulawayo which you can buy from Greyhound.
South Africa to Swaziland – Bus services run from Johannesburg (3.5 hours to the Ngwenya border), Durban or Cape Town to Mbabane or Manzini. The South African Baz Bus (popular with travellers) travels from South Africa to Swaziland.
Where can I go from here?
Namibia – 2 hrs
Madagascar – 3.5 hrs
Mauritius – 5 hrs
Travel Insurance For South Africa
South Africa is a beautiful country to visit but travel insurance is always recommended for your holiday to cover you for any medical assistance or if anything gets stolen. I recommend True Traveller for UK and European residents, and World Nomads for U.S. and worldwide citizens, especially if you are backpacking in South Africa. Both companies allow you to buy insurance when you are already on the road, and offer different plans depending on your needs including additional adventure cover.
- Can I drink the water? In the urban areas – yes. Not outside.
- Is tipping expected? Yes, approx 10%.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price.
- Any ATMs? Yes.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Left.
- Good for vegetarians? If you are vegetarian avoid the ‘smileys’ which are barbecued sheep heads. Cape Town is great for fresh fish though and their local catch is ‘snook.’
- Any Seven Wonders of the World? No.
Map of South Africa
Plan a Trip To South Africa
If you are planning a solo trip to South Africa, below are useful websites for visiting South Africa, including visas required, vaccinations for the country, airlines which fly there and customs and etiquette.
Budget – £45 a day
Capital – Cape Town, Pretoria
Population – 49.9 million
Language spoken – Many including Afrikaans, Zulu, English
Airlines To South Africa – South African Airways is the country’s national carrier and has direct flights to the UK.
The Best Time to Go – Jan and Feb, Nov and Dec
Did you know? Robben Island used to be a former leprosy colony.
Stay in Eco Luxury at Camp Jabulani
Mind Body & Soul
Weather in South Africa – Below is the annual weather forecast for South Africa from January to December.
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