If you’re looking to dip your toes into solo travel before fully committing to going overseas by yourself, the Mother City is the perfect introduction to travelling on your own

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha said: “Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” To some, travelling alone is like going to dinner by yourself: a sure sign of loneliness. But the truly confident and content among us can revel in the simple joy of solitude. Learning to do the things you enjoy without the need for company frees you from the social imprisonment of constantly needing company to have fun. When you travel alone, you learn to trust your instincts, you don’t need to consult a committee of friends or family about what activities to do, and you find out a lot about yourself along the way. Feel like languishing in bed without rushing to go sight-seeing? Just put a “Do not disturb” sign on the door. Wanna hit the bar and a club later? All good, no need to drag along unplayable companions. You might even meet a stranger to flirt with or make a cross-continental friend. That said, though, not every place is conducive to travelling solo. Seaside resorts have been known not to cater to kayaks for one, so you might want to think twice before booking a holiday for one at a beach resort. However, there are some fabulous places made for solo travellers that will make you reach for your passport and vacate your life! Like author Kurt Vonnegut once said: “Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.”

LONDON, United Kingdom  

If you’re looking for… a place where they speak English and you don’t have to worry about deciphering street signs, then London is meant for you.

You’ll like it solo because…

Besides the fact that you’re most likely to meet other South Africans living in London (it is home to many African and Indian communities), the city is built for the modern traveller. You’ll find many other tourists travelling by themselves, and you’ll most likely make lasting connections with people from other countries.

Things to do…

Head for a curry on Brick Lane, and visit Notting Hill’s weekend street market, which is among one of the most famous in the world – but if you’re looking for high street shopping, head to Oxford Street and burn your credit card at Selfridges. Visit the London Eye and take selfies from the top, from where you can see most of the city (from Big Ben to Westminster). Don’t leave without checking out wax replicas of celebrities at Madame Tussauds.

Getting around…

London has over 270 underground stations, so finding your way around the city won’t be a problem. From Heathrow Airport, take the Heathrow Express into the city (or the Gatwick Express if you fly into that airport). The city’s famous red buses run until past midnight. That said, you can also use both Uber and the ubiquitous black taxis around the city.  


Expect to pay…

Okay, let’s be honest, with the rand weaker than the knees of a schoolgirl with a crush, this is not going to be a cheap solo trip. Since the pound is currently around R18 to the rand, you’ll probably find yourself parting with several purple rands for some take aways. 

NAIROBI, Kenya  

If you’re looking for… a cultural experience that gives you both a bush experience and the feeling of being in a city, then this east African metropolis is it.

You’ll like it solo because…

Kenyans are some of the most giving people you’ll ever meet. Swahili (which sounds a lot like isiZulu. For instance, umzungu in Swahili is similar to saying umlungu in Zulu, both words used to describe a white person), and English are widely spoken, so you won’t have a problem communicating with the locals.

Things to do…

Kenya is known for having the Big Five (buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinocerous) – you can book a safari to the legendary Masai Mara or many other reserves and conservancies, or simply visit the Nairobi National Park (right next to the city) to view some of the country’s wildlife. Maasai traditional accessories have become de rigueur all over the world, and you can find them in many of Nairobi’s local markets, which are open from 8am to 3pm. Alternatively, you can visit the city’s biggest general market, Gikomba, where you’ll find everything from toys to clothes. Try out local cuisine by eating some ugali (maize meal balls, often served with goat stew) and you can wash it down some locally grown coffee.

Getting around…

You cannot leave Nairobi without taking the local matatus. These are essentially minibus taxis, just like we have here at home. Quite reliable, and I even saw two Maasai men catching one.

Expect to pay…

Prices for a night at a four-star hotel in Nairobi start at around R1 400. Travelling with the rand in Kenya is advantageous, as seven Kenyan shillings equal R1.

ROME, Italy  

If you’re looking for… an Eat, Pray, Love experience like Julia Roberts’ character in the movie, this European city will give you good food and great wine. Enjoying a big bowl of pasta alone is not frowned upon in Rome, it is encouraged!

You’ll like it solo because…

You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the beauty of this city. The French may have mastered the art of fine dining, but the Romans have mastered creating food for the soul. From pasta to gelato, these will be some of your best solo meals ever.

Things to do…

Taking the Hop On, Hop Off bus will make your life easier when in Rome. Get off at the Vatican City stop and view the official residence of the Pope, and don’t miss visiting the Sistine Chapel, so you can feast your eyes on the mesmerising ceilings painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century. Of course, an obligatory stop in the city is the Colosseum. For something a little different, head to the neighbourhood of Campo de’ Fiori and savour a pinot grigio while staring at one of the area’s many fountains.

Getting around…

Rome has an efficient urban metro and bus system, as well as plentiful taxis. Getting from Fiumicino Airport (also called Leonardo da Vinci International) is easy: simply hop on the Leonardo Express to Termini, Rome's main railway station, in the centre of the city. Termini is also the departure point for regional trains, if you have the time for a day trip into the country. And with a city crammed so full of history and amazing buildings, fountains and sights around virtually every corner, the best way to get around is to lace up your trainers and get walkin', bella!

Expect to pay…

At around R15 to the euro, and with European four-star hotels being more like three stars in terms of the standards we’re used to here in South Africa, you’ll spend most of your budget on accommodation and dining out. But don’t forget Airnbnb as an alternative to expensive hotels; the hosts usually leave you with suggestions of places the locals visit so you don’t only experience the touristy part of Rome.

BANGKOK, Thailand  

If you’re looking for… pockets of tranquil spirituality amidst a shopping mayhem, then Bangkok hits all the right notes. With temples all around the city and big shopping malls, you’ll get to burn your credit card on shopping sprees and then pray for forgiveness after.

You’ll like it solo because…

As most travellers to Bangkok are there to see the temples, the city tours are perfect for people travelling alone. Whether you’re looking for some risqué action in Patpong, Bangkok’s red light district, or hunting for bargains at the weekend and night markets, solo travellers will feel at home in this Thai city.

Things to do…

The city’s oldest temple, Wat Pho, is where you will see the Reclining Buddha, but you should also view the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace’s Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Bangkok’s floating markets are a must-see – Amphawa, about an hour or two outside the city, is undoubtedly Bangkok’s most authentic and less touristy weekend water market. But for those after popularity and size then, Damnoen Saduak is the floating market for you. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, the Chatuchak weekend market is the largest in Thailand, and you’ll find everything from lampshades to earrings.

Getting around…

The Skytrain (BTS) is the easiest way to get around Bangkok’s inner city. The train only has two lines so it’s easy to understand. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, as are buses (although Bangkok traffic can be horrific), and there’s an efficient subway (MRT). River taxis and the Chao Phrya Express boats are worth the experience, as is catching a tuk-tuk (motorcycle taxi) and Don’t worry about the language barrier, what you’ll find is that communication is more than just the verbal, so enjoy bumbling!

Expect to pay…

One of the best places in the world to travel when you’re South African, you’ll be able to afford great Thai cuisine for next to nothing, and the real bargains are at the markets. One rand converts to approximately two Thai baht, so you won’t have to worry about constantly converting every purchase into rands.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa

If you’re looking for… a local trip to dip your toes into solo travel before fully committing to going overseas by yourself, then the Mother City is the perfect introduction to travelling on your own.

You’ll like it solo because…

For starters, you’re in Mzansi, so you can make a call or send a text should something go gravely wrong. Cape Town is the gift that keeps on giving, because the city offers a great night life – Long Street has been known to swallow up whole Friday nights – and quick drives outside the city, like Stellenbosch’s winelands (about an hour from the city) will make you fall in love with its beauty.

Things to do…

Take an ocean safari and check out some whales and dolphins. If you’re looking for something historical, visit Robben Island, South Africa’s own Alcatraz, where Nelson Mandela spent more than two decades after being imprisoned by the apartheid government. Or get on the cable car and head to the top of Table Mountain to catch sweeping views from one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Getting around…

The Hop On, Hop Off ride around Cape Town will provide you with wonderful ocean views along the promenade, and even better mountain outlooks. MyCiTi is Cape Town’s excellent public bus service, and takes in tourist attractions such as the Table Mountain Cableway, Hout Bay and the V&A Waterfront. Uber is plentiful but do try catch a minibus taxi at least once, to experience the zeal of the gaaitjies (taxi conductors). It’s also really easy to rent a car from the airport.

Expect to pay…

Things will cost a little bit more in Camps Bay than in Observatory, for example. But it’ll cost you nothing to drive up Bo Kaap to see the colourful kaleidoscope of houses, hike up Chapman’s Peak or picnic on Clifton Beach. Book your solo vacay now.