Ever since my first big trip in Africa (Nov/Dec 2016) people have been private messaging me to ask if Africa is safe for females. I say privately because people don’t want to come off as ignorant and post publicly. It’s totally understandable in my opinion because Africa is in no way like say… South East Asia. There isn’t this massive influx of young tourists with backpacks traipsing through Tanzania. However, that isn’t to say that people AREN’T travelling through Africa on their own, because tourism is on the rise and it’s amazing.
I am just going to put a disclaimer here to say that we all hope that these new tourists coming into Africa are respectful and will leave Africa the same way they found her. After seeing what a few years can do to Angkor Wat, I shudder to think what we might be opening Africa up to. She has such rich untouched beauty and I hope that after doing their research, travellers will embark with respect. Lastly, I hope tourists also understand that posing with underprivileged communities does not make you a saint and you could do more damage than good. Please educate yourselves on the foundations you want to support and try favour actually learning about the local communities rather than paying for photo opportunities. OK, let’s move on.
Is Africa safe for solo female travellers?
I knew I couldn’t answer this question on my own, having one person’s opinion on the matter doesn’t pack that much of a punch. So, I reached out to Emily who recently did an awesome trip through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa with her friend Patricia.
I asked her some questions that she was kind enough to answer and I’ll be answering them as well. So, you get two opinions for the price of one! Collectively, we’ve visited:
I am, of course, South African and although I haven’t travelled to all these countries on my own, I can pretty make gage the safety of these places by travelling through them.
Q&A with Emily & I
Question 1: How much research into the safety aspect of it did you look into before going?
Emily: To be honest with you, I didn’t look much into the safety aspects. Although, I did hear of a lot of negative things regarding South Africa, that didn’t make me NOT want to go. I was always warned to stay cautious. I read things in guides that told us to be careful when leaving the airport in Cape Town because people run out on the roads and make you stop – then try to mug you. I didn’t hear anything bad about Namibia and Botswana.
Lamb: I totally agree with her on this. South Africa has a larger influx of tourists every year and yet it is the most dangerous for tourists. There are horror stories online and I do recommend constant vigilance when you’re in public areas. I do think that we can use preventative education on this matter – being aware is a great safety tool. I didn’t do much research into the African countries I was going into, but my dad did! He was much more nervous than I was. I always go with the idea that bad things can happen at any time, so I’m just constantly vigilant no matter where I am.
Question 2: Did you, at any point, feel unsafe?
Emily: The only time I felt unsafe was in Johannesburg. That’s because I heard stories of men going up to tourists, getting out of their Uber and threatening them with knives. I never felt unsafe anywhere else in South Africa.
Lamb: Outside of South Africa – never. In South Africa – yes. My country has a ridiculously high crime rate and it’s happening right on your doorstep. I get nervous stopping at a stop street in my car with protective windows. It’s just how life is there and it does take away from its beauty.
Question 3: Would you recommend Africa as a travel destination for female travellers?
Emily: I definitely would. At least the three countries I went to. I didn’t really know what to expect before setting foot on the African continent. I imagined it to be a lot of deserts, very vast and not many places to stay/camp. I was completely wrong! Although we didn’t camp much in South Africa, we found plenty of places/guest houses to stay in. We had our own car, which helped us a lot to get from one place to another.
But even without a car, it’s easily accessible by bus or taxi. The fact that I didn’t hear much about Namibia was my biggest worry about the trip. I didn’t find much info on blogs, which made it feel like ‘going into the unknown’. Namibia ended up being the highlight of my trip.
Lamb: Yes, I would. African women are very strong and I feel we can learn a lot from them. Besides the beauty that you’ll see, I feel you’ll learn a lot more from this trip with the internal realizations. Life can be enjoyed simply; Africa teaches you that you don’t need a lot of possessions to be content. Time slows down and you have the space to be present.
Emily: If you’re a girl, I would recommend South Africa alone, however, you need to be street smart when going out on your own. I’d recommend bringing a friend for Namibia and Botswana as the days can get very long when alone especially when you’re driving long distances.
Lamb: I never felt unsafe outside of South Africa in any of the above-mentioned countries. As a South African, I’m conditioned to constantly feel afraid when I’m out on my own. This might just be my upbringing, but I do stress that you need to be very street smart when going out in South Africa and booking with legit company’s beforehand rather than just winging it. South Africa is still one of my favourite countries on the planet, but the safety factor does weigh in on my decision to travel through it on my own.
Non-profit Expeditions I’d recommend
In terms of group travel, I would recommend seeing if you can go on an expedition if you’re feeling unsettled. Going in a group will help with the organization side of things and you’ll make life-long friendship, trust me. There are plenty of travel companies organizing group travel, but did you know you could go on expedition AND give back at the same time?
Blue Sky Society Trust
There are two that I’d recommend; the first is by Blue Sky Society Trust. Their latest all-female expedition The Rise of the Matriarch (I LOVE that name – fierce!) will spend two months covering four countries distributing 30 000 wildlife educational booklets. They will be journeying through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. You can reach the expedition leader on firstname.lastname@example.org and to read more about them and what they stand for click here!
DTours arrange expeditions in Africa to raise funds for great causes. They are currently on expedition right now and you can follow their adventures on their Facebook Page.
So, there you have it! I hope that gave you a little bit more clarity on the levels of safety in Africa for female travellers. Emily and I are no experts; we’re just women who love to travel and adventure around this beautiful planet!