Exploring the world is without a doubt one of the most valuable experiences of all humankind. For women looking to travel alone, it opens up an entirely new pane of possibilities. Traveling alone to another country gives a woman the ultimate freedom to choose her own experiences, meet a variety of people, try new things she might not have tried in the company of friends, learn new things about herself and provide an enormous boost of confidence; after all, it’s no easy task to explore an unfamiliar place unaccompanied. Travellng alone in Africa combines all of those facets, along with the wide-reaching beauty of the world’s second-largest continent.
Before traveling, check out the World Health Organization for the latest health updates in Africa, and plan all vaccinations to take place at least six months ahead of travel.
With a total area of over 3.6 million square miles, the Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, trailing only behind Antarctica and the Arctic as the world’s third largest desert. The Sahara swallows up the majority of North Africa, including most of Morocco, where ergs of wind-blown sand create beautiful dunes in the desert.
Erg Chebbi is one of two Moroccan ergs, with the tourist center of Merzouga located at the nearby border of flat desert and sand dune. Here, tourists can book a camel trip into the desert overnight. Experienced travelers recommend sticking to bottled water and avoiding swindlers, who have been known to charge susceptible tourists for asking directions or taking photos.
Moshi, which has historically been considered the cleanest town in Tanzania, is home to the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The world’s tallest freestanding mountain, Kilimanjaro stands 19,340 feet high and is situated 200 miles from the equator. Known as “the roof of Africa,” more than 50,000 daring souls climb Kilimanjaro each year. Any adventurous woman with a bit of training (and a lot of fortitude) could climb the mountain, making it a prime destination for solo traveling in Africa. Join a group for a highly motivated climb; often, guide services provide tent equipment and food for their climbing groups, making it an all-expenses-paid excursion.
Though Johannesburg has a rough reputation both internally and abroad, planning ahead of a trip can make it safer and more enjoyable for a solo female traveler. Many traveling experts advise first-timers to stick to tourist destinations, such as Gold Reef City (an amusement park themed around the 1886 gold rush), the 135-acre Johannesburg Zoo, the breathtaking Johannesburg Botanical Garden or one of various museums filled with the rich history of the area. Taking the Blue Train or driving in daylight is the best bet for transportation. Experienced South Africa travelers recommend spending extra money for safety's sake during a visit by purchasing travel insurance and staying in a reputable hotel over a budget hostel.
Located along the Zambezi River, which serves as the picturesque border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is a dream destination for extreme adventurists. Here, one can stand on the precipice of a 2,904-foot curtain of water or take perhaps the most adventurous white-water rafting trip of a lifetime. The falls have been named a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) site for their reputation as the most powerful and remarkable waterfalls on Earth.
Some tourists prefer to pull out all the stops and take a helicopter tour of the falls, since an aerial view might be the only way to really witness the largest waterfalls in the world. But even more tourists enjoy seeing Victoria Falls from the Zambian side of the border, which can be accessed via bridge.
Africa is the only continent with both northern and southern hemisphere weather patterns; the Equator, which divides those temperate zones, passes through several countries in Africa, including Uganda. It’s a perfect photo opportunity and a rare moment to have a foot in both the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time – with t-shirts to commemorate the occasion. In terms of a well-rounded travel experience, Mpigi is limited and quite rural. But its landscapes are stunning, and women tend to find the environment safe for traveling alone.
Those seeking a relaxing solo trip, look no further: The small town of Livingstonia in the Northern Region district of Rumphi in Malawi, home to only 6,700, is known as one of the most peaceful areas in Africa. There aren’t any theme parks or zoos, but instead Livingstonia is filled with acres of farms, churches, and old stone buildings. Many visitors choose to stay at one of the local permaculture farms, or at the iconic Stonehouse, which doubles as a historic site and a bed and breakfast.
Visiting Marrakech is a controversial event on its own as many find the hustle and bustle of the city to be overwhelming. But for those who thrive off of the buzz of a city, it’s the perfect destination for food, culture and shopping. The Marrakech International Film Festival, a celebration of Moroccan cinema typically held in December, is a can't-miss event.
It might be wise to dress in long sleeves and loose pants with covered shoulders to avoid feeling uncomfortable on the busy streets; the overall vibe of the city is excited but some travelers find that it’s not necessarily threatening. Women who travel to Morocco recommend that fellow solo female travelers do not respond to street harassment or even a seemingly friendly “hello” on the street with anything more than a returned greeting or nod.
Check out the Henna Cafe for teas, sandwiches, salads and falafel, and try the "tableside henna" on the cafe's rooftop, or visit Café Clock for a storytelling night each Thursday. Be sure to investigate the wealth of local gardens and museums while visiting the city.
Author and Nobel Prize-winner Albert Camus was born and raised in French Algeria, and it’s easy to see where he found the inspiration for his beautiful language. From the stunning beaches along the Bay of Algiers to the Public National Museum of Fine Arts to the Martyrs’ Memorial of the War of Liberation following the country’s 1962 war of independence from France, the city has no shortage of culture. Algeria is not an ideal environment to push boundaries; consider hiring a guide for translation and safety purposes.
Safaris can be wildly expensive, but they don’t have to be. While many families with financial means enjoy trips to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, solo travelers can take advantage of less-frequented attraction sites, like Meru National Park. Meru takes up about 540 square miles of territory filled with a wide range of animals, like elephants, lions, hartebeests, hippos, pythons and more than 400 species of birds in their natural habitats. With rainfall in great abundance, the park blooms with green grass and swamps.
The park was restored by the Kenya Wildlife Service with support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare after a severe poaching problem devastated the area. Now, it stands as one of the most favorable destinations in the eastern region of Africa. Rent a cheap campsite, find a guide and experience the Kenyan safari on a budget.
This article was written by Caitlin Kalsk.