Johannesburg Tourism Information
Johannesburg is South Africa's biggest city and it was once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela’s former residence is now the Mandela House museum. Johannesburg, also known as as Jo’burg or Jozi. After almost 20 years of decline and decay, the city is now looking optimistically towards the future. Its centre is undergoing a rapid transformation and smartening up with new loft apartments and office developments being constructed.
However, the wealth division remains very noticeable, and crime and poverty haven't been eliminated. There are safety concerns in many areas of the city (see "safety precautions tab") and it's not a safe city to hang out alone during night time, specially for tourists. But when taking care, the city can still be enjoyed, if you stay in the more affluent areas of Rosebank and Sandton and join organised tours to see Joburg and it's outskirts.
If you are not familiar with South Africa it may not be advisable to use public transportation, specially in Johannesburg, as crime levels are high in the city centre. Unless if you have a local who can show you around. Taxis, for example, would be a better option mainly because you will be assured of being dropped off at the front door of your destination.
Always take metered cab that can be easily recognised by their yellow “taxi” lights. A cab ride from the airport to Johannesburg takes approximately 30-45 minutes.
Same goes, if you are travelling around Johannesburg city, unfortunately, safety levels are low due to the high crime activity, and as many poorer people and less fortunate come to the city centre to live. It's advised always to move around the city with cabs and going from door to door. Tour groups are fine and taking tour busses or walking tours.
However, once the sun sets it's not advised to walk around the streets in the city or neighbourhoods which you are not familiar with.
❗Attention: Crime has increased in South Africa in the last 3 years, specially in Johannesburg. The biggest problems are being mugged or robbed, stolen cars, broken into cars, being attacked to steal, being insulted, being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion, using or dealing with drugs, property crimes such as vandalism and theft, assault and armed robbery and finally corruption and bribery.
If you encounter any threats, it's advised always to stay visible on main streets, walk away from any conflict and stay alert of your possessions. Never expose your mobile phone, camera, digital equipment etc and it's recommended to under-dress. Don't wear (expose) any jewellery or items of value on the street. Also, if you are alone make sure nobody follows you when walking around the city and frequently cross the street to avoid any followers. Don't take much money with you and only one credit card, not a wallet.
Areas which should be avoided at all costs in Johannesburg are Hillbrow, Malvern, Alexandra, Yeoville and the CBD, specially during the evening/night.
Johannesburg has a subtropical highland climate with generally mild weather and plenty of sun. Between October and April (late spring, summer, and early autumn) it is hot with frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon. These dramatic storms are usually short-lived and shouldn't disrupt a holiday too much. It is just best to plan outdoor activities for the morning and midday when possible. The average temperatures in summer, range between 17°C and 30°C.
Between May and September (late autumn, winter and early spring) it is dry and sunny with cold nights. After dark it can be freezing and the city is often covered in a layer of frost early in the morning. Temperatures in Winter, between June and August, range between 5°C and 20°C.
Therefore, with mild temperatures spread around the year, Johannesburg is good to visit anytime. During the Summer, as an added bonus, the locals tend to spend holidays on the coast making Johannesburg pleasantly empty over the Christmas period.
When arriving to Johannesburg you will probably arrive to OR Tambo International Airport, the main airport (code JNB). Transportation to the city centre and other areas is safe and reliable. You can opt to take busses or trains. Local busses and minibuses are located outside the arrivals of the domestic and international terminals. However, for first time visitors, the most reliable and safest way of transport is taking the train, named Gautrain. It provides services to to the suburbs in Sandton and Pretoria, as well as to Johannesburg Centre (Park station). To access the train station at the airport you will find it on the upper level between terminals A&B; all you have to do is to follow the signs. It costs around 150-170 Rand to travel to the city centre. Plus a charge of 16 Rand if you buy the magnetic card called (Gautrain Gold Card). Note that if you travel to the city centre you need to change once at Sandton.
Another airport in Johannesburg is Lanseria, (code HLA) offering mostly domestic flights. It is located 30 min drive from Sandton/Rosebank or 50 min from the CBD. To travel from the airport you can only arrange a shuttle transfer, costing 300 Rand per person. They will drop you off at the door of your chosen location, and the same for the pick up. Follow this link to book your shuttle.
Once in the city, you can use the Gautrain, a new transportation system which is modern, clean, safe and reliable. It operates North to South, and West to East of the city.
The trains operate from the early morning but finish around 20.30pm. As well it has a modern fleet of busses which give more areas improved access via public transport. You can also use the magnetic card on them with discounted rates when combining a connection between the train and the bus. However the Gautrain busses only operate at the moment in the north side of the city (the safer areas) and finish services at 19.00 pm.
You can also find local transportation, in the CBD, via public trains called, Metroline. (see map below), and busses. However, it's been reported that many lower class people take this system of transportation as well as pickpocket's which you need to be always alert of. The busses, called Rea Vaya, cover an extensive network but are used 99% by blacks. You can identify the stops with the big platforms situated at elevated heights and barriers to access the busses.
Taxis in Johannesburg are actually referred to as cabs, these being the private transportation vehicles, with the yellow taxi sign above them. Most of them are licensed, however they don't always have a meter, so it's important to agree the price of the ride before you get on. They often can overcharge you, specially to tourists. When you are in Johannesburg, specially in the CBD you will notice the high amount of white vans driving all over. These are the "taxis" which the locals commute with. They are cheap, from 10 to 20 Rand per trip, but they have a unique system. If you want to take this type of taxi, you need to learn the sign code. Depending of destination, there is a hand signal which you indicate to the driver. You can stand anywhere on the street and signal the taxi to stop. However, these taxi's quickly fill up and they are used in the majority by the lower classes, so it's not really advised for tourists unless you are very confident, want the adventure or travel with a local!
Below you can find the links and the map of the Gautrain in Jo'burg:
Johannesburg, in its origins, sprang up in 1886 when prospectors found gold in the area now known as the Witwatersrand. Gold has always been associated with South Africa, but not only for the precious metal, but because it's the colours in which you will see the city at sunset and sunrise. The strong colours and backdrop scenery make for some really good creative pictures. The city is full of culture and history, with many galleries and museums to pass the time and learn about the turbulent times which this city has gone through. Alternatively you can be more hands on, by joying tours and exploring the outskirts of the city.
✔️Tip: Taking tours is the best (and safest way to see the city). You can arrange this at your hotel or hostel. But if your accommodation doesn't offer this or you stay at Airbnb, then head to any major hotel in Sandton or Rosebank to inquire. Many staff at the hotel, even have "local" contacts who can assit you and help in booking a tour.
Below you will find the highlights of Johannesburg, organised by importance:
- Pilanesberg National Park, located 150 Km from Johannesburg. It's South Africa’s 4th largest Game Reserve. It is also an extinct alkaline volcano, now known as an “alkaline ring complex” it is one of only three of its kind in the world. The park is known for its beautiful landscape and is ideal if you are staying near Johannesburg and do not have time to go to the Kruger National Park. The park is very good for seeing many different animals, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo). There are a number of giraffes, hippopotamus, cheetahs, antelopes and countless birds as well. It takes 2 hours to drive there and the rides inside the park last 3 hours in order to search for the animals. Not every tour you will be able to see all the wild animals which live in their natural habitat, so it's important to be patient and always have your camera ready! The guides, however do their best to ensure you get the best pictures! (To visit the park from Johannesburg, it's best to take a tour, starting at 6.30am for pick up and return about 6-7pm, the prices are usually around 2000 Rand. per person). To organise your tour, this is one recommended tour company "pilanesbergnationalpark"
- Soweto and the Orlando Towers: Soweto is the most populous black urban residential area in the country, thanks to its proximity to Johannesburg, it is also the most metropolitan township in the country, setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language. It was back in 1904 that Soweto, was established. The township was created to house mainly black labourers, who worked in mines and other industries in the city, away from the city centre. Also it's said that it was created to isolate the black community from the white areas. To visit Soweto, its highly recommended with an organised tour. The tours last around 4 hours and also include the famous Orlando Towers, the Mandela House as well as the Hector Pieterson Museum, and Freedom Square in Soweto Town.
- The Orlando Towers can be seen from nearly any point of Soweto's Orlando township. Originally the site of a coal fired power station, the Orlando Towers have become one of the most distinctive landmarks in the neighbourhood of Soweto and the site of the world's first bungee jump between two cooling towers. Construction of the Orlando Power Station began in 1935 and was only completed in 1955, due to delays caused by the Second World War. After 56 years of service, the power station was shut down in 1998 and was transformed into an entertainment and business centre in 2008. They are amusing to photograph as well as to visit and practice the extreme-sports it offers now. If you only want to raise to see the views it costs R80. Other activities vary up to R550 for the bungee jump for example.
- Mandela House Museum: Located In Orlando West, Soweto, you’ll find the modest house that Nelson Mandela and his family called home from 1946 to the 1990s. Upon his release in 1990 after being arrested for 27 years, Mandela moved back to the house for a short 11 days before moving to larger and more secure premises in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg. The Mandela family’s four-roomed Soweto home is now a museum and houses various memorabilia, artworks, awards and honorary doctorates conferred on Nelson Mandela and his family as well as photographs of the family dating back to the 1950s. It's one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa due to its deep history and tie to Madiba's pre-presidential life.Tickets cost R60. To get there you can take the metrorail to Orlando Station or join the tours which stop by it. Entrance fee R60.
- The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, is situated in Orlando West, Soweto. It commemorates the role of the country’s students in the struggle against apartheid and in particular the role played by the school children who took part in the Soweto protests of 1976, many of whom were shot by the apartheid police while protesting against the sub-standard of education in black schools in South Africa.
On June 16, 1976, Soweto high school students took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the mandatory use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in black secondary schools. On the way to the stadium, they were met by police, who ordered them to end the march and disperse. A violent confrontation ensued in which students threw stones and police fired shots. One of the first to be killed by the police was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. Newspaper photographer Sam Nzima was in Soweto on June 16 covering the protests and the riots which followed. His iconic image of Pieterson’s body being carried by high school student Mbuyisa Makhubo, with his sister, Antoinette Sithole, running alongside, is a graphic representation of repression under the apartheid regime and has become an iconic image around the world of the senseless cruelty and brutality of the apartheid state.
The museum is definitely worth a visit during the tour and with many images and videos, the museum is very vivid. vivid. Entrance fee R30.
- Pretoria, is about 55 kilometers from Johannesburg, it's the administrative capital of South Africa and is worth visiting for its impressive lineup of historical buildings, monuments, and museums. Many trees with the purple hues of jacarandas in the spring, Pretoria is also a city of beautiful parks and gardens. Highlights of a visit here include the Pretoria National Botanic Garden, the Voortrekker Monument, Freedom Park, the large zoo, and a clutch of peaceful nature reserves within the city limits with diverse wildlife and an abundance of birds.You can take the Gautrain to Pretoria.
- Johannesburg CBD: When visiting the CBD, it's recommended you visit the city centre by tour bus or an organised group trip, unless you are visiting with locals. Not all the areas in the centre are safe, specialy at night, so walking along the city it's best to be alert at all times. There are many things to see in the city, it is rapidly evolving from a crime-tainted safari stopover to a vibrant hub for arts and culture. Cutting-edge contemporary galleries and the new Maboneng Precinct, with its funky restaurants, cafes, and art studios, now rank among the city's top tourist attractions along with the poignant Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill. Take the Red Tour Sightseeing bus for 200 Rand for the hop-on-off tour for the best views and information.
- Gold Reef City is an amusement park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Located on an old gold mine which closed in 1971, the park is themed around the gold rush that started in 1886 on the Witwatersrand. There is a museum dedicated to gold mining on the grounds where it is possible to see a gold-containing ore vein and see how real gold is poured into barrels. There are many attractions at Gold Reef City, including water rides, roller coasters and the famous Gold Reef City Casino. You can get there by the Red Tour Bus or by cab.
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 km2 located in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 km from north to south and 65 km from east to west. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa's first national park in 1926.
The park is also part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area designated by the UNESCO as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve. The park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps, all offering different activities from day tours to whole week packages for those eager to see all big 5 wild animals!
You will be able to see, hopefully all of Africa's iconic safari species; elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and zebra! With an additional supporting cast of 137 other mammals and over 500 varieties of birds.
Depending where you are staying and budget, tours start from $100 (USD) for a day trip and can reach up to $3000 for more comprehensive tours covering more scoupe of the National Park and other activities. For more information and to book your tours please visit Krugerpark.co.za
Because of the safety concerns related to the city, specially at night, socialising and going out at night should not be really at the top of the agenda for those who are not confident about the city. However, Johannesburg does offers world-class theatre and live music to mega-hip lounge bars and epic nightclubs. The locals are known to be keen to socialise and tend to be very friendly and happy to meet new people.
Jazz fans should make their way to legendary Kippies in Newtown, and to the nearby Bassline. In fact, the young, hip and multicultural Newtown is a great place to begin night-time explorations of the city for anybody. The Civic Theatre hosts major live productions, while plenty of smaller venues have minor plays, cabaret shows, and reviews.
Nightclubs tend to open around 11pm and will charge an entrance fee. They stay open into the early hours and drinks can be expensive. Many top clubs are positioned in the lively city centre of Johannesburg, or areas such as Orange Grove and Melville.
The more affluent suburbs of Sandton, Rosebank and Melrose Arch are home to the more plush and modern clubs frequented by the more wealthy classes.
❗Attention: Despite the nightlife in Johannesburg being open and friendly, there are numerous issues when it comes to venues in the downtown, when rival gangs might clash and create violent scenes and disturbing the local life. It's strongly advised not to go out at night if visting, unless in comapny of locals and if you do, stay in the better affluent areas of Sandton and Rosebank, but even here, always take extra care and be alert at all times.
The best areas for shopping, can be found in the prestigious Sandton City. The northern suburbs are the place to start a day of shopping in this bustling city, and Mandela Square provides a wonderful location at Sandton City for shoppers to take a load off and eat at one of the many restaurants surrounding the square.
The Bruma Flea Market specialises in African souvenirs and crafts such as wooden sculptures, paintings, beaded masks, and jewellery, and is highly recommended for those looking for something authentically African.
The Rosebank Rooftop Market, which is held on Sundays and public holidays on the roof of the Rosebank Mall, is an absolute must for bargain-hunters. There are also wonderful food stalls where shoppers can rest their legs. Other popular shopping malls include Eastgate Mall, Northgate Mall and Fourways Mall.
When staying in Johannesburg don't look for city centre Hotels as your first option. It is actually the most dangerous are to stay in Johannesburg at the CBD, specially at night. Although you can find good and secure Hotels, the areas around the city centre are not safe and are only good for Business travel or going from door to door.
The best locations, as for safety, are located in the north neighbourhoods of Johannesburg, Rosebank and Sandton are recommended for accommodation and to travel from there when you discover the city or other areas. Prices are moderate and you can find all types of Hotels to budget hostels.
Prices per night can be found from €45 per night for a double room close to transport areas and shopping malls.
Jo'burg can be seen easily in a quick 3 day visit, to tour the main areas of the city. If you are taking tours and want to visit the Game reserves plus staying overnight at them, you might need an extra night. It's also a good tip to organise the tours in advance, to save time and plan your itinerary.
Johannesburg Photo Slide 📷