Solo travelling is something everyone should experience in their lifetime. It’s a liberating, eye-opening experience that stretches your comfort zone and shows you just what you’re capable of.
More and more female solo travellers are choosing South Africa as their next destination. With a buzzing backpacker scene, super affordable cost of living and authentic experiences around every corner, it’s not hard to see why. But don’t just take our word for it – we’ve spoken to two ladies who have experience flying solo here in SA.
Alyssa, 26, stayed with us when she visited South Africa for the first time last year. Originally from Indiana in the US, she’s an experienced solo traveller and travel blogger.
Rena, a 22-year old from Gottingen, Germany, is currently in Johannesburg on a long-stay trip. This is her fifth visit to the country in total.
We got the lowdown on safety, social life and any surprises South Africa has given them. Here’s what they had to say…
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL ALONE IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Aylssa: I felt extremely safe travelling in South Africa. If you are a female and you are heading over, I’d say take regular precautions but I personally didn’t have any problems. My top tip is to always ask for advice at the front desk at your accommodation – they can tell you things like the safest route to your destination.
Rena: I feel safe travelling here. I think you can’t go wrong if you ask locals for advice and staff in accommodation are very helpful, too. The transport systems are also very convenient for getting around safely – you can travel with Uber, by train or take overland buses for longer trips. There are even bus companies especially for travellers connecting hostels across the whole country so you can go from door to door without any problems.
IS IT EASY TO MEET PEOPLE? WHAT’S THE SOCIAL SIDE LIKE IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Rena: I think hostels are the easiest way to connect with locals and other travellers. The people here are super friendly so you will find friends easily. As long as you’re open, you will be included in conversations and meet people in no time at all.
Alyssa: When I stayed at Curiocity, it was extremely easy to meet people. You can make friends when taking one of their tours and from just being around the hostel. I connected with one girl from Sweden and we are still friends to this day.
Rena: The social scene is great here in Johannesburg. It would take me all day to list my favourite places! I love Convoy in Melville which is an amazing combination of a coffee shop, bookstore and retailer which showcases South African designers. The Royale, a Cuban restaurant and bar, is a great place to go for drinks on a Friday and Saturday night. I’m also a sucker for markets and creative spaces and Joburg has plenty of these. Check out Market on Main in Maboneng, the Neighbourgoods Market and Victoria Yards. These are all great places to meet people, too.
WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA?
Alyssa: I was really surprised when I travelled to South Africa. I had some misconceptions – I expected it to be dirty and the buildings to be poorly built, or for things to be badly organised or unprofessional. This was not the case at all. It is such beautiful place that’s full of history and definitely worth visiting. My favourite memory is visiting the Little Rose Home on the tour of Soweto – I really enjoyed being able to meet the kids and buy items they had made themselves.
Rena: For me, this question goes way back – coming back to the country repeatedly means I got to know many different sides of South Africa. It’s so diverse and your perceptions are very likely to be challenged and changed over and over again. You can definitely be surprised every day here, but that’s why I love it.
ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLERS?
Alyssa: My top tip to other female travellers is to always ask for advice at the front desk. They can give you all the information you need, share local insights and tell you things like the safest route to your destination.
Rena: If you’re considering choosing South Africa as your next travel destination, I would say go for it. You won’t regret it! In Joburg, Maboneng is a great place to start your adventure. You’ll meet a cool crowd and get some great tips to help you make the most of your trip. Don’t plan too much in advance so that you can go with the flow.