A Solo Traveler's Guide to South Africa

Amazing view over Cape Town | © Joshua Earle/Unsplash
Amazing view over Cape Town | © Joshua Earle/Unsplash
Photo of Carina Claassens
1 June 2017

South Africa has plenty to offer the solo traveler, from cosmopolitan cities filled with museums, galleries and world-class restaurants, to small towns with rich histories and much else to explore.

When traveling to South Africa you’re more than likely to fly to Cape Town or Johannesburg. Cape Town is ideal if you’d like to explore the Mother City and its surrounds, while Johannesburg is a short drive from the Kruger National Park—the top safari destination.

A lion in Kruger National Park | ©Tony Kirkbride

Inbound flights within South Africa are relatively well-priced, which makes getting around quick and easy. As it’s such a large country, it’s advisable that you make use of them if you’re short on time. Car rental is also an option if you’re confident driving in a foreign country.

Where to go and what to do

South Africa has no shortage of things to do and see, from natural wonders, to amazing shopping destinations, museums, galleries and more. When flying to Cape Town, make sure to hike up Table Mountain, go wine tasting in Stellenbosch and whale watch in the quaint seaside village of Hermanus. Then there’s also the Garden Route, one of the most scenic stretches in the country.

The vast landscapes of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, in the Free State | ©Pawel Janiak

If Johannesburg is on your itinerary, make sure to visit the many bustling restaurants, cafes, art galleries and, of course, the nearby Cradle of Humankind heritage site is not to be missed. It’s easy to visit the Kruger National Park and other top safari destinations from Johannesburg, and you can choose to self-drive or book a tour.

One of the most convenient ways, however, of seeing all that South Africa has to offer is by booking a tour on the Baz Bus. The hop-on hop-off bus travels between Johannesburg and Cape Town, approximately 1,400km (870 mi.), and allows travelers to get on and off whenever and wherever they please. The Baz Bus picks up clients at more than 180 accommodation options and visits more than 40 cities, towns and villages within South Africa. The best part is that there’s no time limit on how long you can stay in one spot. You’ll get to see the major cities including Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, The Drakensberg, Coffee Bay, Hogsback, Jeffreys Bay, Storms River, Knysna, Oudtshoorn and more. There really is no easier way to travel.

Where to stay

Depending on where you travel to and how long you stay, South Africa has many different accommodation options that are perfect for solo travelers—from quirky backpacker lodges, where you’ll end up meeting many locals, to comfortable guest houses and luxury hotels.


Radisson Blu Gautrain, Johannesburg

The Radisson Blue Gautrain is conveniently situated opposite the Sandton Gautrain station, making travelling to and from O.R. Tambo International Airport a breeze, plus there are many shuttle services on your doorstep.

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Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel, Cape Town

This affordable hotel is situated in Cape Town’s popular Long Street, and is within walking distance of many stores, restaurants and bars.

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Daddy Long Legs is famous for its quirky, artistic rooms | Courtesy of Daddy Long Legs

Hotel64 on Gordon, Durban

Hotel64 on Gordon is set in a more toned-down part of Durban, but is no less trendy than the options above. The bar area is great for sipping cocktails and swapping notes with other guests.

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Here are some of our favourites in South Africa—places that’ll ensure you feel right at home, and be surrounded by friendly people.

Once in Cape Town, Cape Town

This cool hostel offers twin, double and mixed dorm rooms, as well as ladies-only rooms.

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Once in Cape Town hostel | © Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr

Hermanus Backpackers, Hermanus

The accommodation options at this hostel are budget-friendly, comfortable and clean, and the staff are great at keeping guests up to speed with what’s happening in town.

Shepherds Tree Backpackers, Knysna

Situated near the beautiful Knysna lagoon, this upmarket backpacker-style lodge will make you feel at home, especially when hosting a braai or a get-together around the bonfire.

Terra Khaya Eco Lodge Backpackers, Hogsback

This down to earth, eco-friendly, backpackers lodge is extremely well-priced and has on-site camping spots for the more adventurous.

Where to eat

South African restaurants are some of the most affordable in the world for tourists, while at the same time serving delicious food. Many travelers can’t believe the prices when they see the large portions, and there’s literally something for everyone. Whether you’re a vegetarian or want to try exotic meat and seafood—you’ll find it in South Africa.

D6 District Six Eatery, Emmarentia, Johannesburg

For traditional South African food, D6 District Six Eatery in Emmarentia is the place to be. Order the home-cooked Cape Malay-style curry.

The Local Grill, Parktown North, Johannesburg

The Local Grill in Parktown North is situated on a stretch of road lined with some of the trendiest restaurants in town. Don’t let this sway you, but they’ve been voted best steak house in the country a few times.

*Not for vegetarians* First day in SA had to be marked with steak. BEST lunch & tour of the kitchen #nevereatingagain

A post shared by Kate Nicholl (@kate_nicholl) on

Burger and Lobster, Cape Town City Bowl

Burger and Lobster serves only three dishes, a lobster roll, a whole lobster and a burger. If you eat only one burger in South Africa, make sure it’s here.

Die Walskipper, Jeffreys Bay

If you love seafood, this restaurant is a must visit—it’s set on the beach and the food is cooked on open fires and grills.

The Hungry Herbivore, Cape Town CBD

The Hungry Herbivore, a plant-based restaurant, caters to all your vegetarian needs and serves delicious breakfasts and more.

Chat to the friendly locals for tips on the best hiking and surfing spots in Cape Town | ©Joshua Earle/Unsplash

Practical tips

There are many amazing walking and cycling routes in South Africa, but don’t go about it alone. Ask about trips where you’ll be in a group.

Be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone after dark.

Check whether any of the areas you visit are a malaria risk and take the necessary precautions.

Remember to take out travel insurance.

Uber is widely used in South Africa and car rental is affordable—if you have GPS you’ll be more than equipped to get around.

Remember, South Africans drive on the left side of the road and vehicles are right-hand drive.

South Africa has 11 official languages, but just about everyone speaks English.

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