Guest post, Travel Solo: South Africa, by Caitlin of the Travelling Cheetah
I found South Africa empowering, exhilarating and exciting, and that is exactly why it is an incredible place to travel solo!
I was blown away at just how friendly and helpful the locals were. Regardless of whether I was in the big cities or in rural areas, people would never leave a traveller stranded.
As I walked down a rural road in Hoedspruit, people would pull over to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help. In Pretoria, I had one man spend over an hour of his day organising me a taxi. People would be more than happy to help you out with directions, help lift your luggage or simply have a chat, and I loved that. I got myself stuck in sticky situations once or twice and I came to the realisation people wanted to look after me and ensure I was happy and safe.
Fantastic Day Trips and Organised Tours
I took part in many day trips and organised tours, and the quality of every single one was fantastic!
Here’s a few you might want to check out while you are there:
– The Cape Peninsula Day Tour with Day Trippers
– Soweto Tour with SoWeToo
– Shark Cage Diving Day Trip to Gansbaai
The Best Hostel on the African Continent
I stayed at the Atlantic Point Backpackers in Cape Town, which has since been named as the best hostel on the continent by HostelWorld, and for very good reason. Free breakfast, free Wifi, amazing staff, great social nights, clean facilities, comfy beds, a great vibe and only 5 minutes’ walk from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. It cost me $120 for the week, and I would have been happy to stay there forever – in fact, I even cried when I left!
South Africa Makes Budgets Happy
You’ll be surprised how far a few dollars go!
$120 for 7 nights in the best hostel on the continent
$170 per night for a room in a 4 star hotel in Johannesburg
$110 car rental for 48 hours
$17 for two amazing pizzas and a few cokes
$12 for a full basket of groceries
$20 for a pair of jeans
$270 for a two-day unlimited Red Bus Tours ticket
$7-$15 for a decent restaurant meal
$2 for a beer or cider
$2.50 for a coffee
From the small things like walking the streets alone, bargaining with road-side vendors, and picking up a conversation with a stranger; to the huge, adrenaline-fueled adventures like abseiling down, then hiking back up Table Mountain, shark cage diving and watching a lion hunt, these were what made South Africa special. These were what made me grow as a person. I overcame all of my fears, I evolved, I learnt, I loved and most of all I had the best experiences of my life in South Africa.
Scenery like you have never seen before
From the lush Blyde River Canyon in the Limpopo Provence, to the desert near the Orange River. From the white sandy beaches of Cape Town, to the scrubby bushlands of the Lowveld. From the rolling hills of the Drakensberg mountain range to the green vineyards along the Western Cape. From the high-rises of Johannesburg to the small thatched townships dotted along the countryside. The beauty of South Africa took my breath away, and the animals of South Africa made me speechless – I have never witnessed nature so close, so personal and so beautiful.
I cannot recommend South Africa highly enough – go out and explore for yourself!
Tips and Tricks
– Book all your day trips, including Robben Island and Soweto, when you arrive in the country, as it is much easier to organise and cheaper too
-Be aware that although most people are helpful out of the goodness of their heart, some will expect money from you in return for their help. These people stick out like a sore thumb, so just thank them for the offer but do it yourself
– Tipping is essential in South Africa – 10% is considered appropriate
– Most people speak English and will quite happily communicate in English, but try to learn a few local words like sawubona (isiZulu for greetings) and dankie (Afrikaans for thank you)
– Instead of going to Kruger, where the likelihood of seeing animals is pretty small, check out a smaller private game reserve, such as Karongwe or Makalali
-Johannesburg has the cleanest train system you will ever see! The Gautrain is a clean, safe and cost-effective way to travel around Jo’burg and Pretoria (it also stops at the international airport)
– Try a three cheeses pizza from Debonairs Pizza
– Talk to the locals and learn as much as you can
– HAVE THE BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE!
About the Author: Caitlin has always dreamed of travelling the world. Born and raised in New Zealand, she travelled extensively through her own country, before moving to Australia at 18. At the age of 19 she spent three months travelling through five Southern African countries – this is where her passion for wildlife conservation and travel grew, and began to complement each other. She is currently working on The Travelling Cheetah Project, with which she hopes to travel the world, documenting the world’s animals and shedding light on conservation issues.
Follow Caitlin: www.thetravellingcheetah.com