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Solo travel tours – Reviewed by Travel Experts

Solo Travel Tours

 

Except from being an adventure to travel alone it may offer the added challenge to face some truths about yourself and learning to overcome them. There is no better way to get to know who you are as a person than by spending time with yourself away from the distractions of your everyday life.

An important benefit of solo travel is that it forces you to step out of a comfort zone and make independent decisions —something you wouldn’t necessarily do if you weren’t left to yourself. This is a sink-or-swim experience: If something goes wrong, it’s only up to you to get yourself out of the predicament.

Not having to compromise on your travels adds more benefits that responsibilities, however.  You can decide how to spend a day – lazy or active, you can wake up whenever you want, eat whatever you want, and can be as selfish as you want.

While travelling alone, you can spend time reading books, working on a hobby, browse through shops, hiking, or simply meditating to your heart’s desire. You can experience the incredibly liberating freedom of doing whatever you want without having to worry about anyone else.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of solo travel may be the opportunity to meet people other adventurous people on the road. Solo travel builds confidence and improve your social skills as you meet strangers and get used to introducing yourself and making conversation.

Well, the good news is that solo travelling through the so-called dark continent of Africa need not be such a dark proposition at all.

If you plan to travel alone in Africa, you perhaps just need to plan the whole adventure a bit more meticulously though. Since two heads often are better than one, it could be wise to first find reliable and current information from a reliable travel agency like MoAfrika Tours, or even a traveller that had done such a trip before.

The next step would be to take as much as possible sensible precautions against imminent handicaps in order to smooth out as many as possible problems that you may encounter. After all, you want to go travelling and don’t want to spend most of your time solving problems or hiccups.

 

How safe is it to travel on your own through Africa

 

While solo travel isn’t necessarily unsafe, it definitely may be less safe than traveling with a group of people. You are more vulnerable when you’re on your own because you only have yourself looking after you. When there is nobody else helping to watch out for scams, or advise you about dangers, you may fall prey to those easier, or even get lost more likely.

This need not deter you from solo travel, just make you aware that you should take some extra precautions to keep yourself safe. This would include decisions not to go out alone after dark, or if you want to, being more cautious and even arm yourself with available self-defence means. It may be wise to research unsafe neighbourhoods before your arrival, and not getting drunk when out with hostel friends, are all things that may lower your awareness in a situation.

Travelling as a solo female in Africa need a little bit more and careful planning but may result in a memorable experience. The people of Africa you will meet may turn out to be some of the friendliest in the world. Like at home, women travelling alone should take normal safety measures like not wearing valuable jewellery in obvious ways or venturing out alone in the dark in unfamiliar places.

Women should acquaint themselves with the cultural and religious taboos of any country to guide them in their choice of clothing and for example avoid wearing skimpy clothing in predominantly Muslim areas.

 

What kind of transport to use safely

 

In Africa, transport include anything from crowded minibus services along rutted roads to international-standard airlines between major cities.

As a sole traveller you should be able to find well connected by flights within Africa, although smaller destinations may require more inconvenient connections.

Flying over the Sahara, Central African Republic and the often difficult South Sudan may be a better idea. Flight details should always be carefully and often checked, since it may turn out to be merely “guidelines” and prone to delays and cancellations. Reliable airlines operating in Africa include Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc and Interair.

Buses also connect major cities while so-called bush taxis are often the only option in rural areas. Trains operate with limited services and very few operate cross-border.

A bus service may be the best way to go where there’s a good network of roads, since international bus services are fairly common across the continent. In some area’s buses may be fairly ancient and very crowded with people, livestock and goods. They also tend to stop frequently, either for passengers or because something is broken.

Travelling by boat could well count among your most memorable journeys due to the many rivers and lakes to explore, where large ferries and barges are often used. Usually ferries are also crammed with people, goods and livestock, but often, at a price of course, safe and comfortable cabins with bar and restaurant access can be booked.

Exciting routes or lakes to consider for this type of adventure, include Lake Malawi/Nyasa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania), Lake Tanganyika (Tanzania and Zambia), Lake Victoria (Tanzania and Kenya), the Congo River (Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo), the Nile (Egypt), Senegal River (Senegal), Gambia River (The Gambia) and the Zambezi River (Zimbabwe and Zambia). A popular coastal ferry service is that between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.

Travelling by boat can be hazardous though, since safety regulations like lifeboats or life jackets may be neglected and overloading is common.

Cycling around Africa may be rewarding but not the best choice due to the lack of smooth tarmac roads. Adapted mountain bikes might be a good option to undertake short joyrides though.

Exploring Africa with your own car or motorcycle may be a wonderful way to see the continent, but not the safest for a solo traveller. Hiring a vehicle is however becoming an increasingly popular way to get around in Southern Africa, especially in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.

Booking on an overland trip may be the ideal solution for a solo traveller. That means you’ll be travelling with a group in a purpose-built vehicle, setting up your own tent most of the time and be able to visit remote communities. This is one of the most popular ways to “rough” it in the bush without modern facilities, but for getting the best possible wildlife experience.

 

What kind of accommodation to use safely

 

When you travel solo you should look for accommodation that waives or lowers single-supplement rates. This option may only be available during low seasons, but you may be lucky to find one single room per lodge or camp available at a time.

You should look for opportunities for shared excursions so that have freedom to balance activities with relaxation and make the most of in-house facilities.

 

Planning your solo trip

 

In order to plan well and choose the best options, it would be wise to contact an expert agency like MoAfrika Tours to help you unlock the wonders of the continent.

Once you are sure that you are in the care of an operator with an impeccable reputation, you can relax and know that your planning would ensure that you are never left abandoned or unescorted at an airport or vulnerable points, and that as many transfers or accommodation as possible are booked and paid in advance.

This is the point where you will have to decide how you want to approach your trip, for example whether you want to join other people for dinner or dine alone; whether you want to join scheduled tours or do everything on your own; and whether you have a specific reason for your safari, like photographing a specific wildlife event.

You now need to decide which activities like hot-air ballooning you want to experience and what type of accommodation establishments (big or more intimate) you prefer.

Good communication with your travel expert at this stage can make or break your safari, therefore tell them exactly what you want to achieve and what your budget is.

 

How to keep the cost of solo travelling as low as possible

 

If you need to mind your budget, one of the downsides of traveling alone is that it almost always works out to be more expensive than when traveling as a couple.

As a couple, you can stay in private rooms, share meals and split a lot of expenses. Booking a private tour may also cost you a lot more if you don’t want to join scheduled ones.

As a solo traveller, a single room supplement is basically mandatory when you book a private room in a hotel or lodge. While this makes sense from a business’ point of view, it certainly doesn’t fit solo travellers very well.

But this needn’t deter you from going through with your plans for that once in a lifetime trip: A travel expert can help you to stretch your travel dollar by negotiating better rates than the usual single supplements, which can eventually make a big difference to your travel expenses.

 

Tips for solo travelling through Africa

 

Book well in advance

 

June to September is high season Africa and rooms book up fast. Gorilla Trek permits can book up fast and many people want to visit Kenya and Tanzania to see the wildebeest migration.

Lodges and camps that are willing to waive single-supplement charges will often do so on only one or two rooms. Your chances to secure one of that rooms for yourself increase the earlier you begin your planning. Make sure you have done most of your planning and bookings at least three months in advance not to be disappointed.

 

Choose the right season

 

Your chances of getting a good and affordable solo travel deal are also much better in the Green Season (low season) when demand is less, and rates are lower than in peak season.

Research your destinations and the accommodations and activities or attractions it offers thoroughly, so that you know exactly when peak season would be and if it is worthwhile at all to visit in a lower season.

 

Have a tailor-made itinerary being put together to fit your needs

 

Appoint a reliable travel agent who already knows which tours, activities and accommodation establishments would work best for solo travellers.

Not all safari accommodation makes the necessary allowance for single persons so trust your chosen agent to do the groundwork and search for the best and cheapest options that would fit you.

An experienced agent will be well acquainted with the best travel and transport options and deals and can make sure to book seamless transfers, accommodation and activities.

Be aware of bogus agencies that may take your money but drop you at an inconvenient time. Ask around for references and make a wise choice, rather than just using the one with the nicest photographs on its website or offering the best discount deals.

 

Rethink and clearly communicate your expectations

 

Realise that you most probably won’t be able to fit all your dream destinations and activities into one trip. Prioritise your dreams and preferences and clearly communicate that to your travel agency so that they can draw up the best possible itinerary for you to visit as many as possible destinations and fit in most of your preferred activities.

 

Be honest about and properly calculate your budget

 

In general, Southern Africa seems to be cheaper to visit than East Africa. If you have to adhere to a strict budget as a solo traveller, but still want to experience fantastic wildlife, you may for example rather consider a wildlife experience in Botswana or Namibia than in the Maasai Mara or Serengeti. If your dream however is to experience the great wildebeest migration, you will just have to fork out the extra money for that.

While it may be reassuring to book and pay for everything upfront, knowing that you could fit the planned itinerary into your available budget, you don’t need to map out every single detail of your trip. It is always wise to leave some room for flexibility and spontaneity so that you don’t feel constrained halfway through your trip.

It is good to have a fair itinerary for a specific destination, but it is also nice to have the time (and saved some of your budget) to fit in some extra sights or activities. Once you’re at a specific destination, you might find more sights you want to see, or you may find that you just want to hang out at your accommodation too for a day.

 

Check and get your vaccinations up to date in time

 

In many African countries it is mandatory to show proof of certain vaccinations (such as against yellow fever) to enter the country. Check with your doctor in time which vaccinations you need to keep you protected, so that you can get the necessary ones before you travel.

 

Pack appropriately

 

Make sure you pack appropriate clothing and the necessary repellents against unwanted insects. Leave your bright coloured clothes at home when you plan on searching for wildlife and bring hiking boots if you are going to do some trekking on tour.

Don’t pack too much, since you won’t have anyone to help you handle your luggage. Apart from the hazzle of having too much to lug around, struggling with a too heavy suitcase may add to you feeling overwhelmed on a foreign airport.

Remember, you don’t really need a different outfit for every place or event and should find laundry facilities in many places.

Make sure camera equipment and similar valuable stuff are carried in comfortable backpack type of bags, so that you are able to keep it on your person at all times.

 

Be mentally prepared for another kind of experience

 

When travelling through Africa you may find things much slower or at best very different to what you are used to back home.

If a room’s air-con doesn’t work, wi-fi is non-existent in some areas or roads and border-crossings are unbearably slow, remind yourself that you are in Africa and be prepared to just go with the flow.  You embarked on the trip to enjoy it, so embrace every moment of the adventure and leave the worry about time for when you are home again.

If you’re not used to so much time on your own, especially when on holiday, don’t feel embarrassed to feel a little awkward at first. Although you might feel that you stand out for traveling on your own, rest assured that you’re not the only solo traveller out there.

 

Start off easy

 

Keep in mind that some locations will always be easier to visit than others. This may be applicable even more if you think about locations to visit all on your own. A country or region where the locals speak the same language as you, or a country that is known for very good tourist infrastructure would be a good first choice.

It may also be a good idea to start closer to home. First take a trip to a destination within your home country, if you decide that that’s the way to do things in future, you are definitely ready to start planning a next solo tour.

 

Stay on top of ordinary and extraordinary challenges

 

A few more things to remember as solo traveller:

  • Hold on to your money carefully. When using bush transport, keep your options open and don’t pay until departure or even reaching your destination.
  • Keep a towel or camping mat at hand to double up as cushion when travelling on African roads.
  • Carefully balance liquid intake with bladder control. While hydration is very important, toilets may be non-existent in many places.
  • Carry your passport on your person at all times to ease getting through roadblocks and borders.
  • Always try to book bus, minibus or other travel tickets in advance.
  • Always keep a business card from your accommodation establishment with you. If they don’t have business cards, at least ask them to write the name, address and phone number down on a piece of paper. If you then do get lost, you can find a taxi to take you back.
  • Know your limits and don’t drink too much alcohol when you’re on your own. You should also be double cautious when socialising with strangers, it is never a good idea to get drunk in any new place, let alone when you are alone.
  • Always stay aware of your surroundings. Even if you feel just a little bit uncomfortable, rather abort your mission and turn around. If you suspect that someone is following you, go into the first public place where there will be other people around.
  • Check in with a loved one at home as often as possible so they know you’re safe. A quick email or WhatsApp message not only does wonders to ease the fears of family and friends at home but may save your life if you would really get into any kind of trouble.
  • Overall, just use your common sense and do everything that you would do at home to keep yourself safe – and a little bit more.

 

Packing for your solo trip

 

Don’t go overboard on a shopping spree just to get some modern “must have” safari gear and clothes. Shops may lure you with mouth-watering adverts, but eventually you don’t really need all the paraphernalia prescribed for a “real African experience”.

Your ordinary summer – or winter – clothes may be suitable enough and the extra dollars not spent on inappropriate clothing may buy you an unforgettable experience or two.

I is important though to pack appropriate clothing for your itinerary. If you have booked that safari or Gorilla Trek, make sure you pack suitable walking gear. Do not pack bright colour clothes when a wildlife safari is booked and make sure to bring hiking boots if you have booked some trekking. If you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or any other of Africa’s high mountains, make sure to pack extra warm clothes.

Pack at least one scarf to keep dust from your nose and mouth if your itinerary includes travelling on rural dirt roads.

Make sure you pack the necessary repellents against unwanted insects and perhaps some small and nutritious snacks to keep you alive between meals.

 

To which destinations can you undertake a solo travel

 

Now that you have all planned and packed in your imagination, where is the best places to go all on your own? Some of the most popular destinations and tours for solo travellers in Africa, from west to east, from the very south to the far north, include the following:

Enjoying views from Table Mountain in South Africa

If you want to travel solo in South Africa, what better place to start than right on top of our own iconic Table Mountain?

After the cable-car ride to the top you will have a beautiful view over the city, the Atlantic Ocean and the vastness of the African continent to the north, which you are about to explore.

 

Go wild in the Kruger National Park

 

Any journey through South Africa should include a visit to the Kruger National Park. As one of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa, the Park is home to over 500 bird species, 100 species of reptile and 150 mammal species, including the famous Big Five and other endangered species like the African wild dog. Camping facilities are of the best and many lookouts and hides in and around camps ideal for meditation and relaxing.

 

Enjoy a Namibian fly-in or self-drive safari

 

The rugged beauty of Namibia leaves nobody untouched and its people holds a quiet dignity about their “Land of the Brave”.

It is one of Africa’s most solo-traveller-friendly destinations. A popular option is to hire a vehicle equipped with all the necessary camping gear and go for the self-drive experience of a lifetime.

Namibia is a fairly safe country with excellent infrastructure despite its sparse habitation. As a solo traveller you have the option of joining several organised safari tours to travel in a group, or you can travel completely solo, hiring a car as mentioned and driving yourself around.

The desert destination boasts fascinating wildlife, dramatic scenery and intriguing cultural groups. From the Fish River Canyons in the south, the dune sea of Sossusvlei with its fossilized forest, the rock art at Twyfelfontein to the Etosha pan and national park, Namibia is an extraordinary destination with endless blue and fiery sunsets as added bonus.

 

Journeying through Botswana

 

Botswana is one of the top three destinations in Africa with unfenced lodges in pristine areas.

The country’s government policy that encourages low volumes of visitors at a higher rate per person means that camps usually host only 24 or a little more guests and your overall safari experience would be very exclusive.

This unfortunately also makes it more expensive and the low numbers of rooms make single supplement charges for solo travellers also higher, but it may be worth every penny.

The extraordinary wildlife, birding and hospitality of Botswana plus the Okavango Delta makes the country a preferred destination for travellers.

 

Cruising through the Okavango Delta

 

For a truly unique experience the sole traveller should also visit the Okavango Delta swamps in Botswana. Here you can experience the reed-fringed waterways on board a traditional mokoro – a kind of canoe carved out of a tree – while glide through the water and watching hippos.

Walking with Rhinos in Zimbabwe

If you head to Zimbabwe, you can visit Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe where you will get the opportunity to go on a walking safari where you may spot the endangered black and white rhino.

On this wilderness walk through the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park upstream from the mighty Victoria Falls houses you will encounter buffalo, impala, zebra, giraffe, warthog and most possibly get to come close to the amazing but highly endangered white rhino.

A safari through the park takes you to the position where trackers had located rhinos, you will receive a briefing by the guides regarding procedures and safety aspects of the walk and your once in a lifetime opportunity to interact (at a safe distance) with a rhino will start.

Feeling the spray of Victoria Falls

No solo trip through Africa would be complete without standing in the spray of the largest water curtain in the world.

Victoria Falls in the Zambezi River on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia remains a sight to behold for anyone planning a solo vacation in Africa. Victoria Falls is one of the world’s largest waterfalls due to its width of 1 708 metres and height of more than hundred meters.

Local tribes used to call the waterfall Mosi-oa-Tunya (The smoke that thunders) since its noise can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometres, while the spray and mist from the falling water rises more than 400 meters and can be seen from very far away.

Walking through the natural rain forest caused by this is the ideal place for a solo traveller to reflect and enjoy the solace.

 

The thrill of a Zambian walking safari

 

Zambia is still the leading destination and original home of walking safaris in Africa. A guided walk in the South Luangwa National Park can be one of the most authentic wilderness experiences in the world, with the magic of being absolute part of the natural world rather than observe it from a vehicle.

Travellers can experience this in the safe care of a professional guide and an armed ranger.

Visit the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

 

Neighbouring the Maasai Mara, the Serengeti National Park should be a definite addition to any eastern African itinerary and surely not to be missed on any solo travel adventure in Africa.

With the Ngorongoro Crater added, this offers a once in a lifetime experience of spotting wild roaming animals, with the more exclusive lions, cheetahs and leopards as well as rhino too, if you are lucky.

 

Relax on the isles of Zanzibar in Tanzania

 

A solo trip to Tanzania is definitely not complete without visiting the paradise isles of Zanzibar. Home to beautiful white beaches and the turquoises waters of the Indian Ocean, it is the perfect place for a solo traveller to relax and indulge in many of the activities associated with lazy days on the beach, while huge seafood markets and scrumptious meals in exotic restaurants can round off the experience.

 

A wildebeest migration safari in Tanzania and Kenya

 

The East African country Tanzania is home to breath-taking landscapes and legendary wildlife attractions, ranging from the vast herds of the Serengeti grasslands to the abundant wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater. The gentle warmth and hospitality of most of the Tanzanian people and the fact that the country is so totally focused on and geared for tourism, makes it an ideal destination for a solo traveller.

Whether you are an experienced traveller and going to do a custom itinerary or as first-timer want to make use of scheduled tours, Tanzania offers an abundance of the latter.

Most of these tours offer you a sociable and informative introduction to the country.  The Great Migration wildebeest safari in the Maasai Mara where you can watch a pack of lioness hunt zebras across the savannah or the iconic wildebeest migration across the Mara River, is usually one of the top memory-making experiences for a solo traveller to dream about in Africa. The Masai Mara is one of the most famous national parks in the world and home to the big five.

 

Gorilla trekking, culture and wildlife in Uganda

 

Gorilla trekking remains one of Africa’s most memorable encounters. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to the descendants of the gorillas habituated to humans by well-known primatologist Dian Fossey and the jungle is also home to fascinating indigenous cultures. Coming face to face with giant silverbacks and babies swinging in the trees are an unforgettable and almost spiritual experience.

Except for Bwindi, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is another popular destination.

Explore Egypt

Egypt is one of the best known African countries, since the time of the Bible, the pharaohs and through to modern day. It links northeast Africa with the Middle East and millennia-old monuments, temples and ancient sites can be found along the fertile Nile River Valley, including Giza’s colossal Pyramids, the mythical Great Sphinx as well as Luxor’s hieroglyph-lined Karnak Temple and Valley of the Kings tombs.

Its capital Cairo is known for many Ottoman landmarks like the Muhammad Ali Mosque and the Egyptian Museum. A visit to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx will be on any Egyptian itinerary. Added to that, exploring the Aswan and the West Bank of Luxor and visiting the open market in Cairo will be a must. The city of Luxor is often described as the world’s greatest open-air museum and is home to some of the grandest monuments that survived from ancient Thebes.

Cairo’s market with its maze of alleyways and numerous souvenir stalls and coffee shops is the ideal place for any solo traveller to get lost – lost in yourself and the uniqueness of the place, of course.

Sail down the Nile in style

A visit to Egypt is not complete without a cruise on the Nile River, the world’s longest river. While one can do it aboard a regular cruise ship, a more authentic way is to sail the Nile on a Felucca, a traditional Egyptian wooden sailboat.

A felucca is usually able to board not more than ten passengers and the ideal way for solo travellers to enjoy the scenery along the Nile. Overnighting on the Felucca includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and optional visits from the boat is possible.

A 3 days sailing experience on a Felucca will be a totally new experience and a serene and enjoyable way to get to know a bit more about Egypt. The typical route for cruising the Nile River is between Aswan and Luxor.

 

Moroccan magic to remember

 

If you want to add the title of “explorer” to that of solo traveller, you will have to visit Morocco, the North African country bordering both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

It is famous for its different cultural influences and diverse experiences to be enjoyed – ranging from desert to beach to mountainous to city adventures.

Erg Chebbi is a 50-kilometre-long series of large sand dunes and camel treks through the dunes offer a spectacular experience of the Moroccan Sahara. Ait Benhaddou, an ancient city on the edges of the desert, has been used as a shooting location for many films, so what better place to put yourself in the role of your favourite film star?

The Legzira Beach on the other hand is a beautiful stretch of beach along Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast. Known for its red cliffs and natural stone arch, the scenic and rugged coastline with windy conditions may be just the place to tackle that surfing or paragliding activity you crave for.

At the active Chaouwara Tanneries of Fes you can watch how the country’s ancient leatherwork processes work: how leather is treated and dyed in large pits, with methods perfected over several hundred years. And of course, the leather shops would be your natural next stop.

But you may also prefer to take the road into the High Atlas Mountains, to the Ouzoud Waterfalls, a large series of cascades surrounded by reddish-coloured cliffs and green valleys or tackle the tallest mountain in Morocco, Jbel Toubkal.

Within the Middle Atlas Mountains, at Ifrane, you can also experience a bit of Switzerland in Morocco. The charming city sports Swiss-style chalets, with hiking opportunities through beautiful forests.

 

Final warning – travelling solo can be addictive

 

Concluding your first solo trip may leave you with a bigger problem than what you started off with.

While it may have taken all your courage not to be scared to travel by yourself, a whole world of possibilities now have opened up to you and suddenly you may realise you CAN travel alone and never again need to wait around for a friend to join you on a trip.

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