Beautiful mosques, rolling sand dunes, luscious green forests, exotic animals — the list goes on in Africa! With more than 50 countries, the continent overflows with diversity which can make it hard to decide where to go and what to see. Plus, if you’re a solo female traveller like myself, preparing to visit Africa for the first time can feel daunting as there are so many differing opinions and recommendations. Who am I kidding? I found it VERY daunting!
Some said it was too dangerous for women to go alone, others said it wasn’t an issue at all, and still more wavered on what was safe depending on activities. Honestly, my mind was spinning and I had no clue what to really think. I’m an experienced traveller and know that advice often errs on being overly cautious but since I had nothing really concrete to go on, what was I to do?
As a first stop, North Africa seemed like a good place to start as it already boasts a solid tourism infrastructure as a common European getaway. I still had concerns because Egypt was my first country on a whole new continent and I’d never been to a predominantly Muslim country before. Too many unknowns to feel fully comfortable, and since I had nothing but the internet and news (admittedly very easily distorted frames of reference,) I hopped on a small group tour.
Which one did I choose? The 12-day Wonders of Egypt and the Nile adventure and I can safely say that I’m very happy that I trusted my gut and booked an organized experience. Here’s why:
Get schooled on scams
A few days ahead of the tour, I arrived in Cairo on my own so I walked around the city to explore. No surprise here: I got scammed. Fortunately, I wasn’t harmed and didn’t lose a lot of money, but I’d prefer it hadn’t happened at all. Once I joined my tour, our Chief Experience Officer (CEO) gave us the rundown on all the different scams we’d find at each location. Without fail, each person from our group was approached by scammers at different times but we all knew better.
Feel safe in small numbers
As a solo traveller, I don’t want to travel with a horde of other people. But in a small group with a local guide, it was just enough to ward off unwanted attention. Many local men will stare at you if you’re on your own. Yes, full on stares. Even if it’s you and another woman from the tour, they stare like a deer caught in headlights. Often catcalls will come your way as well, but once you’re with the group that fades away. Well, the catcalls do at least. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t meant to scare you. Now that I’ve visited once, I won’t have a problem visiting on my own without a tour. But experiencing this kind of attention was overwhelming at first, so I’m grateful I had the group for comfort.
Learn from local Egyptologists
Naturally, one of the main reasons to visit Egypt is for the immense amount of ancient history. I can’t overstate how incredibly knowledgeable our CEO was about each site. Even after the tour, I wish I could still listen to him forever. He alone made joining a small group tour worth it and the rest is just a happy bonus. The things he knew were not on the signs and hieroglyphs we saw at each attraction. Well, okay, they may have been on the hieroglyphs but I definitely didn’t have the translation skills to check.
Leave navigation to an expert
Last but not least, having all of our transit worked out by someone in the know was such a relief. I tried to take an Uber a few times and it was definitely more frustrating than it should be. The drivers were uncommunicative and I’d sometimes wait for an hour to be picked up. Taxis are just as challenging because you have to negotiate the fare before getting inside, and it gets tiring to argue each and every time. Even more so when they try to convince you to go somewhere you don’t want to visit. With a local CEO and the transit planned, I just sat back and enjoyed the views.
All that to say, don’t get discouraged if you’re a female solo traveller who wants to experience all the wonders of Africa. Travelling solo doesn’t always mean travelling completely alone. Since Egypt, I racked up four more African countries under my belt.
There will be bumps in the road but there are many ways to smooth out a first-time experience so you can grow in confidence. For me, the tour helped me ease into a new culture and environment without the added stress that all brings. Take chances and go outside your comfort zone, but don’t let it get to the point where you’re no longer having fun.
Top 5 things I experienced:
– Sunset on the Nile
– The colourful tomb of Rameses V and VI
– Adorable stray puppies playing together enjoying life
– Real mummies in The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization
– Camels chilling by the pyramids in Giza
Top 5 experiences for my next trip:
– Explore the Great Egyptian Museum
– Overnight stay in Nubian village
– Swim in the Red Sea
– Stay along multiple cities on the Mediterranean
– Check out the Suez Canal
Ready to fly solo and revel in the ancient history of Egypt as part of a small group? Here are just a few of our top suggestions: