Independent Travel in Africa- it’s totally possible!
I traveled around Southern Africa solo and independently, relying on public transportation and hitchhiking to get around. It was an amazing trip and I recommend this way of traveling for backpackers who are really interested in diving into the local cultures. All the details of my trip are on the blog! Independent travel in Africa is possible and can be easy if you have enough patience.
Also, if you’re interested in knowing how much it cost I kept a list of every penny I spent. Backpacking in Africa doesn’t need to be expensive!
I started in Johannesburg and made a big loop backpacking through several countries in Southern Africa: South Africa, eSwatini (Swaziland), Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Lesotho. From there I had a weird collection of flights home that included a week-long layover in Southeast Asia where I revisited Bangkok and then visited Laos briefly. Lastly, I had a nice full day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before heading back to France ( my home base).
WHAT I DID:
While backpacking in Africa I saw the beautiful beaches of Mozambique, partied in South Africa, hiked in eSwatini/Swaziland and Lesotho, saw the natural wonders of Zimbabwe, safaried all over Zambia, camped in Botswana, and rolled around in the Namibian sand.
Except for one internal flight between Namibia and South Africa and one three day car rental, I did the entire trip in Southern Africa either with hitchhiking or using public transport. Hitchhiking was mainly in big semi trucks. Sometimes I got lucky and bummed rides in nice safari trucks from people I met along the way.
Public transport was mainly in tin cans that were being kicked down a bumpy road for 18+ hours (er…busses). Oh yes! And trains! I took the train as often as feasibly possible because trains are my favorite. Needless to say, independent travel in Africa isn’t always comfortable.
I did rent a car with another backpacker for 3 days to see Sossusvlei in Namibia. Note that all cars have manual transmissions and you drive on the left side of the road. This means that, for many travelers, driving in Southern Africa will be very scary.
Because I wasted too much time at the beginning of my trip I had to take a flight from Namibia to South Africa to save me from spending many many many hours in a bus.
I did a lot of camping in my little tent when I was in nature, a ton of couchsurfing in cities, and of course I ended up in the occasional hostel along the way. I also got lucky and stayed with some extremely friendly locals!
No overlanders for me. The only formal “tour” I booked for the entire trip was a half day trip to see the Welwichia plants outside of Swakopmund in Namibia. Just had to see those plants!
I went on a few safari drives too if that counts as a tour, but I just booked those independently the day before.
If “I love to travel” isn’t convincing enough: I had just finished my Masters in France and was one part worried about whether I would be granted a visa to stay for another year. If I hadn’t received the visa (which, thankfully, I eventually did), I would have had to get the hell out of France quite quickly, this all eclipsed a wonderful flight deal that I couldn’t refuse. I had a little introduction to travel on the African continent a few months before, and I guess I wanted to explore a little more. At the time, I had a traveling nomad’s “dream job” that I could work remotely. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be in particular. Sound irresponsible? good. Now’s the time!
TRAVELING ALONE AS A GIRL?:
No problem. Just some marriage proposals here and there (other solo female travelers will most likely be used to this) but it was all harmless. Solo female travel in Southern Africa is totally possible and I believe that you shouldn’t feel limited as a woman!
Independent travel in Africa is totally possible and will be an absolute adventure if you try and do the same. It was an amazing trip and I am so happy I traveled around Southern Africa independently.