The ultimate solo travel guide to South Africa: Everything you need to know

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Adventure, wildlife, natural beauty: triple threat South Africa is an unmissable solo travel destination. As one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, it’s dotted with wildlife-roamed grasslands, lush bushveld and Big Five game reserves, including Kruger National Park – a sanctuary for big cats, rhinos and roaming herds of elephants. 

Whether you’re hanging out with the penguins of Boulders Beach, snorkeling around the Great African Sea Forest or abseiling down Table Mountain, a solo travel trip in South Africa brings new meaning to the word “extraordinary”. This ever-bright Rainbow Nation is also home to a huge range of cultures, histories and languages; perhaps best captured by its biggest city, Johannesburg, where you’ll find the township district of Soweto and the Nelson Mandela National Museum.

From the Cape Winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek to whale watching in Hermanus and the scenic Garden Route route trip, the sheer magnitude of South Africa means many solo travelers opt to explore it in a group. By hitting the road with a local guide and a small group of like-minded adventurers, you can get under the skin of this thrill-a-minute African destination with unique perspectives and effortless ease. Here’s everything you need to know about group solo trips to South Africa.

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South Africa travel facts

Perched on the tip of the African continent, South Africa takes up just 1% of the globe’s land surface, but houses a tenth of its known bird, fish, plant and mammal species, including the endangered black rhino, cheetah and African wild dog.

With 11 official languages and nine provinces to explore, you’ll find a different vibe wherever you travel in South Africa. Its southern shoreline – running along the Cape Whale Coast and the Whale Trail in De Hoop Nature Reserve – is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, creating a rare marine ecosystem. The limestone caves of Sterkfontein – part of the “Cradle of Humankind”, where some of the earliest human fossils on Earth have been found – near Jo’burg, is a paleontological wonderland dating back 3.5 million years. 

The history of the nation’s first black president, Nelson Mandela – known as the father of modern South Africa for peacefully ending the struggle against Apartheid and winning a 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for doing so – can be explored at Robben Island off Cape Town (where he was incarcerated for 27 years) and other sites around the country.

Is South Africa good for solo travel?

From Chapman’s Peak Drive on the glorious Atlantic Coast, campfires and canapés in the wilds of Kruger Park, the clubs and nightlife of Cape Town’s bustling V&A Waterfront, South Africa has a vast constellation of joys to tempt solo travelers – whether you live for wine-tasting (hello, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek) or whale watching is your thing (all eyes on Hermanus). 

In fact, there are so many highlights, it’s wise to curate them with the help of group solo trips to South Africa. With all the logistics arranged for you, including a symphony of bucket list moments, you can drink in the best of South Africa. Learn more about solo travel with Flash Pack.

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Best places to visit in South Africa

What should you do on a solo trip to South Africa? Each destination here comes with its own distinct character. Head for coastal Cape Town for beautiful beaches, hip nightlife and iconic sights, including Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Robben Island and the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Johannesburg, in South Africa’s northeast province, is known for its cutting edge culture, cafés and contemporary art scene, along with moving landmarks such as the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill and Mandela House in Soweto. 

The vast wilderness of Kruger National Park delivers the ultimate safari experience with sunset game drives and the chance to see lions, buffalo, elephants and more roaming their natural habitat. Adventure hotspots include the Panorama Route’s Graskop Gorge for ziplining, and the mountainscapes of Sani Pass and Drakensberg (inspiration for part of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth). Many of these highlights come together on Flash Pack’s South Africa adventure.

Where to stay as a solo traveler in South Africa

What are the hotels like in South Africa? Accommodation in this magnificent land is as diverse as the country itself. Along the Cape Peninsula, you’ll find beach-facing, cliff-edge holiday villas and inland farm cottages specializing in a warm South African welcome. 

Luxury safari lodges are a major part of the country’s global appeal and the ideal way to experience solo travel in South Africa: usually all-inclusive, they tend to come with pools, spas, fine dining food, outstanding game drives included and knowledgeable guides who can spot a cannily camouflaged leopard a mile off. In the wealthy Winelands towns of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch it’s all about staying on a boutique wine estate. Meanwhile, Cape Town and Johannesburg both have a burgeoning boutique hotel scene, where you’ll have your pick of chic, central hotels with rooftop bars and epic views.

With Flash Pack, you’ll typically share a room, swerving the single supplement that normally puts smart stays out of reach for solo travelers. Prefer a private room? That’s fine, too.

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How to get to South Africa

You can reach South Africa on international air routes from pretty much any corner of the world. Major entry points include O.R. Tambo International Airport for Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport, and King Shaka International Airport for Durban and South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Kruger National Park has three airports which are generally reached via internal flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. 

Private bus or coach travel is easy to arrange and many companies offer cross-border trips from South Africa’s neighboring countries of Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The easiest land crossing by private car runs between Noordoewer in Namibia and Vioolsdrift in South Africa.

How to get around South Africa

Bus travel is one of the most affordable ways to get around South Africa on a solo trip: expect snacks, movies and a choice of hop-on, hop-off networks that include both major cities and more off-the-radar destinations. Train travel is quite spectacular, with routes running regularly between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein to prime cities, including Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. You can pick from reclining seats or berths on the everyday Shosholoza Meyl rail services or treat yourself to a deluxe suite aboard the Blue Train, South Africa’s showcase rail safari. 

Metered taxis, including the popular rail-hailing apps, are easy to use in major cities. Hiring a car for road trips, especially along the scenic 300km Garden Route from Mossel Bay to Storms River, is also popular. South African Airways, the national carrier, is another option to get you quickly between cities and safari destinations via a range of domestic routes. With the Flash Pack approach to solo travel in South Africa, all internal travel is arranged for you via private minibus, which makes getting around the country a breeze.

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Best time to visit South Africa

South Africa is a year-round destination, with great temperatures come rain or shine. Peak summer season runs from November to March, with highs of 30ºC or more along the Cape Peninsula and very hot, humid conditions in the tropical northeast. This is rainy season in Kruger, which means the bushveld is at its most verdant, with lots of newborn wildlife and summer migrant birds. 

However, winter dry season (May to October) generally has better game viewing and walking safari conditions, due to low grass and a mild, arid climate, which sees animals congregate around watering holes. During winter months, Cape Town and Johanssburg still enjoy warm temperatures, with averages of around 17-20°C. October is whale season in both the Eastern and Western Cape.

South Africa travel itineraries

Flash Pack’s 11-day South Africa escape moves from Cape Town on the Western Cape to the Panorama Route and Kruger National Park, rounding off in jubilant Johannesburg. Along the way you’ll abseil down Table Mountain, search for octopi in the ethereal ocean kelp forest (à la Netflix hit My Octopus Teacher) and explore the Stellenbosch wine region by e-bike. 

A high wire adventure across Graskop Gorge is also on the books, along with a luxury safari stay and game drives in Kruger National Park, in a resort run by Mdluli royals. Bushveld canapés, farmstead feasts and wine and gin tastings are yours for the taking, too, finishing with a walking tour of Johannesburg’s Soweto district (including Mandela House) – the perfect conclusion to your South Africa solo trip.

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What to pack for solo travel in South Africa

Bring your passport, insurance, a fair amount of local South African rand, credit/debit cards, an adapter for plug types C, D, M and N (or a universal adapter), and a secure money belt. Camera kit and lightweight binoculars go hand-in-hand with safari trips, and you’ll want malaria tablets and mosquito spray if you’re visiting the game reserves, national parks and other wilderness areas. Sunglasses, sunscreen and wide brimmed hats (not caps) are your armour against the African sun, alongside light, breathable cotton clothing, swimwear, a comfy pair of trainers or boots for bush walks, and a waterproof jacket.

Solo travel advice for South Africa

South Africa is a solo travel destination that delivers on all fronts. Cosmopolitan cities, scenic vineyards, vibrant cultures and big, bold adventures in the great outdoors. It’s an escape that’ll keep you fully in the moment every second of the way. To savour it all with limited leave, in a country that is dizzyingly diverse, Flash Pack’s solo group tours make sense, taking the hassle out of planning and serving you up the support of a small like-minded group. So, throw yourself headfirst into South Africa: the big, the small, the local, the tasty and everything in between.

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Is it safe to travel solo in South Africa?

Thousands of visitors experience solo travel to South Africa every year and most trips are trouble-free. However, do check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), the Department of State Travel Advisories (US) or your country’s local government guidelines for the latest advice before traveling. Once there, follow local advice and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

If you’re hiking in South Africa’s national parks, it’s best to travel in groups of four or more and stick to popular designated trails. Take particular care in isolated areas, and in townships on the outskirts of major cities (don’t travel to a township without a reliable tour guide). If road-tripping, do not leave valuables locked in your vehicles unattended and keep them out of sight while driving. For a gateway into South Africa that’s both adventurous and secure, let Flash Pack be your guide. 

Ready for your next adventure? Try group solo travel to South Africa with Flash Pack – designed exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s, seeking the independence of solo travel within the safety of a group.

A cool 98% of Flashpackers arrive solo to join our group adventures. So, you’ll be in good company – whether a first time solo traveler or a seasoned pro looking for like-minded new friends.

Images: Flash Pack

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