Experiencing South Africa as a solo female traveller while exploring safely is not as challenging as you might think. With plenty of care, a healthy dose of common sense, and a few essential insider’s tips, solo female travellers can enjoy an extraordinary journey through this enchanting African country.
When planning a journey as a solo female traveller, South Africa may not be the first destination that springs to mind. It’s undoubtedly true that travelling here necessitates more personal safety precautions than you might be used to. Yet, if you are a sensible explorer, and have your wits about you, you can enjoy a safe, rewarding and empowering journey in South Africa.
Revered for offering some of the most extraordinary safari experiences in Africa and boasting two of its most exciting cities, world-class vineyards, and a cacophony of other experiences, South Africa is an incredibly rewarding travel destination.
Sure, the wines and cities are brilliant, but no South African experience could ever be complete without a safari.
How safe is South Africa for solo female travellers?
Like any travel destination worldwide, South Africa has its fair share of safety concerns. However, it is crucial to differentiate between perceived risks and the reality on the ground. The country has significantly improved safety, with visible policing and increased security measures in tourist areas, particularly in popular destinations like Cape Town and Johannesburg. Many of the crime issues often mentioned on the news have very little to do with tourists on safari or sightseeing trips in the country.
This article aims to provide valuable tips and recommendations to help you navigate South Africa confidently and enjoy an unforgettable trip as a solo female traveller.
The best places to go in South Africa as a solo female traveller
Rated as one of the most jaw-dropping cities in the world, Cape Town is the metropolis jewel on South Africa’s crown, nestled between iconic Table Mountain and the sparkling waters of False Bay. A seemingly endless stretch of stunning white-sand beaches, water sports, exquisite food, a vibrant nightlife and glorious mountains within easy reach. There's precious little that Cape Town can't offer. If that's not enough, the city has some of South Africa's most renowned wine-making towns at its doorstep.
Cape Town’s seaside promenade and most vibrant suburbs are busy 24/7. This is, by far, the least intimidating South African city to explore for solo travellers since it’s a bustling, modern, cosmopolitan hub.
Tips on where to stay in Cape Town – You'll want to stay in V&A (Victoria and Albert), the city’s most enticing waterfront neighbourhood. You'll find plenty of attractions within easy walking distance (the Museum of Contemporary Art, Aquarium, The Cape Wheel etc.) and a head-spinning array of hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars.
Vibrant and cosmopolitan Cape Town, framed by stunning Table Mountain on one side and the South Atlantic Ocean on the other.
Stellenbosch & The Cape Winelands
Stellenbosch in the Western Cape will steal your heart if you love excellent wine and drop-dead gorgeous landscapes. This charming town is surrounded by vineyards specialising in Merlot, Cab Sab and Bordeaux blends. It boasts enchanting Cape Dutch architecture and fascinating history. Take a leisurely stroll through the town’s historic streets, enjoy a tasting tour of the best wine estates and indulge in delicious local cuisine. Include a stopover in nearby Franschhoek, widely regarded as South Africa’s food and wine capital!
The rolling vine-drenched hills of Stellenbosch – South Africa’s premier wine-making region.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route is an insanely picturesque stretch along the southern coast of South Africa, renowned for its incredible natural beauty. The region offers plenty of adventure activities, so if you love bungee jumping, canopy tours, and boat trips to spot dolphins and whales, this is where you’ll want to head. Mind you, there are plenty of less adrenalin-pumping highlights as well. Visit the charming towns of Knysna (renowned for its oysters and elephant sanctuary) and Plettenberg Bay, hike through lush forests, and stop by scenic viewpoints to soak up splendid views of the Tsitsikamma National Park.
Enjoy this exceptional destination on a 5-day Cape Kaleidoscope Small Group Tour.
The scenic coastal road of the Garden Route makes for a sensational road-trip.
Kruger National Park
Among Africa’s most prized safari destinations, Kruger is reason enough to head to South Africa as a solo female traveller. Tucked away in northeastern South Africa, near the border with Mozambique, this iconic park is renowned for its vast expanse of wilderness, remarkable biodiversity, and unbeatable wildlife encounters. What sets Kruger National Park apart is its incredible concentration of wildlife, including the famous Big Five—elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and buffalo. The park is home to over 500 bird species, numerous antelope species, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, and many other fascinating creatures. Embarking on a safari game drive or guided walking safari in Kruger is a bucket-list experience that’s impossible to beat. The sheer size of the park, spanning a mind-boggling 19,000 square kilometres, ensures that every day delivers an awe-inspiring experience.
Africa’s largest national park is HUGE – about the size of a small European country!
Jo’burg struggles to hold a candle to Cape Town, but we think no African city can. The largest and most populated city in South Africa is a bustling metropolis that can be overwhelming for solo female travellers. Yet there's no denying that its central location makes it convenient for travels through the eastern part of the country and makes for faster/easier connections to Kruger National Park. Convenience aside, Johannesburg boasts plenty of its own highlights. You can delve into the city's rich history at the Apartheid Museum or Constitution Hill, and gain insights into South Africa's past struggles and path towards democracy. Explore the vibrant, gentrified neighbourhoods of Maboneng and Newtown with trendy cafes, art galleries, and live music venues. Take a guided tour of Soweto – perhaps the single most famous township in Africa and the heart and core of South Africa’s struggle to end apartheid – and escape the bustle of the city on a leisurely walk through the Botanical Gardens.
Tips on where to stay in Johannesburg – The Sandton area is, by far, the best area for solo travellers – female or otherwise. Known as the 'richest square mile in Africa', this upscale neighbourhood boasts many excellent hotels and fantastic restaurants. The epicentre of Sandton is Nelson Mandela Square, a sprawling plaza featuring a larger-than-life bronze statue of Nelson Mandela, surrounded by many shops, restaurants, and cafes. With its thriving nightlife and an array of rooftop hotel bars, Sandton is a top choice if you travel solo.
With plenty of museums, great shopping and fabulous dining, Jo’burg offers an abundance of fun stuff to see and do.
Essential safety tips for solo female travel to South Africa
South Africa is a fascinating and thrilling country to explore at length. Yet, solo female travellers will undoubtedly have to adopt extra precautions.
Here are a few things that will ensure you take home only good memories from your tour of South Africa.
Experience – There’s something about solo travel that builds confidence, vigilance and a steely resolve. Earning your stripes with prior solo travel experience will help you navigate the added challenges in South Africa. The more experience you have travelling alone, the easier you’ll find exploring South Africa. So, should you travel here on your first solo trip abroad? Perhaps not. But there is a genius way to travel solo and not be alone. Keep reading!
Make safety your priority – From booking your flight to arrive during the day to pre-booking hotel transfers, choosing the right area to stay in and deciding what/where and how to go out for dinner. The main priority for all of these activities must be your personal safety. Experiencing the incredible riches of South Africa is the reward you'll gain when you adjust your mindset to prioritise your safety.
The safest accommodation and transport options – When booking hotels, always ensure they are well-reviewed, especially by solo female travellers. South Africa is not the place where solo female travellers should go 'remote and non-touristy; quite the opposite. Choose to stay in the most popular touristed areas, and opt for smaller boutique hotels with 24/7 concierge service.
Private transport trumps public, any day – Public transport in South Africa is not all that great and, it should be noted, not all that safe either. Only get around with registered taxi services within city boundaries, and book private transfers between destinations. These are the best options for your safety, and all are relatively inexpensive and convenient to boot.
Dress somewhat conservatively – South Africa isn't particularly conservative. Still, there's no denying that the more skin you show, the more attention you'll get. As a solo female traveller, extra attention is something you'll want to avoid, so pack comfortable, non-flashy clothing.
Don't go out alone at night – It's not wise to head out alone after dark anywhere in South Africa. Unless you're lucky enough to make new friends travelling and are confident of your safety going out of an evening in company, eating an early dinner and returning to your hotel by sunset is best. In Cape Town and Johannesburg, you’ll find have fabulous restaurants and bars nearby hotels in the most touristed areas.
Adopt tried-and-tested safety precautions – The most basic safety tips aren’t limited to travel to South Africa. Don’t wear flashy jewellery or carry big daypacks, use a money belt, leave your most valuable items in your hotel safe, always carry a copy of your passport and don’t venture into a neighbourhood unless you know it is safe. Especially after dark.
Know where you are at all times – It's easy to get swept away in South Africa, especially in enchanting destinations like Cape Town. Yet venturing into the wrong area is way too easy if you're not keeping track of your meandering. We'll dedicate sections below to Cape Town and Johannesburg so you can familiarise yourself with the best areas for solo female travellers.
Steer clear of big crowds, protests and commotion – This one's a bit obvious, but you need to be extra-vigilant in big crowds, especially if you happen upon a demonstration of any kind. Just turn right around and get out of there.
Don’t share your exact location on social media – It's always a good idea to delay the daily broadcast of your trip on social media. This is especially crucial if you're habitually making your posts public. Wait until you've moved on to the next location before posting, and avoid mentioning the exact name of the hotel you’re staying.
Join an organised group tour – If you’re travelling solo but don’t wish to be alone all the time, organised group tours are a fantastic alternative for safe travels. On a group tour, you'll instantly make brand new friends, have a guide to look out for you, and enjoy the benefits of private transport and safety in numbers.
Travel solo but wouldn’t mind some like-minded, adventure-seeking company? Join a small group tour and enjoy the best of both worlds.
It's no secret that we're huge fans of group tours here at Viva Expeditions. When it comes to tours of South Africa, in particular, we also recognise how popular these are with solo female travellers. The added safety, company and logistical help is a godsend to solo travellers who want to be out there experiencing the world but prefer not to be alone for the entirety of their trip to South Africa.
The wonderful aspect of group tours is that you need not be on one for the entire duration of your trip. Yes, you can join us on a whirlwind 24-day Cape Town to Johannesburg adventure, but you can also just join us on a 5-day Kruger National Park Safari tour. The choice is yours.
See Viva’s selection of Tours of South Africa. Don't forget that you can contact our Destination Specialists for more personalised advice.