For other places with the same name, see Johannesburg (disambiguation).
Johannesburg is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
Johannesburg city skyline
Johannesburg (in spoken language also referred to as Joburg, Egoli or Jozi ) is South Africa’s largest city.
Johannesburg has a population of 9.6 million people (South African 2011 census), half of which live in Soweto and adjacent suburbs. The majority of the population is formed by South Africa’s black residents who mostly live in Soweto, while white residents amount to 1,333,790 (although the number is likely to be higher). There are also around 300,000 residents of other descent. Unlike other South African cities, no language group dominates, although English is the established lingua franca.
The city is the economic hub of South Africa, and increasingly for the rest of Africa. Although estimates vary, about 10% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP is generated in Johannesburg. Yet the city’s wealth is unequally distributed among its inhabitants causing the city to have, within its own borders, living conditions varying from first world standards to third world conditions. The contrast between rich and poor has led to one of the highest crime rates in the world. The more affluent tend to live in houses with a high level of security by western standards, whilst the less affluent live in less desirable housing conditions. Don’t avoid Johannesburg because of its crime however, since it is perfectly possible to have a safe and enjoyable stay if precautions are taken. Many South Africans choose to live here over other, safer parts of the country.
There are many things that are unique to Johannesburg. It features a distinct street entrepreneurship, and motorists can buy things from vendors selling goods at traffic lights, as in many other developing-world cities. This includes food, umbrellas, soccer balls, cellular phone accessories and many other goods. Barber shops consisting of nothing but a chair and an enthusiastic barber can be found on the sides of roads, although they tend to specialize in African rather than Caucasian hair. Mine dumps can also be seen throughout the city and are a reminder of the city’s legacy of gold mining. These dumps are fast disappearing as new gold extraction techniques have made it profitable for mining companies to reprocess these dumps.
With around 6 million trees, Johannesburg is most likely the world’s largest man-made urban forest. The city is certainly one of the greenest in the world, considering that the natural landscape is savannah.
The weather is generally regarded as excellent; temperatures reach the mid-30s Celsius (95°F) in the summer months (Dec-Feb) with little to no wind and with occasional, spectacular afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures in winter can drop into single digits but snow is extremely rare.
By far the easiest way to find your bearings in Johannesburg is by finding the two telecommunication towers on the horizon. The Hillbrow tower is located near the city center while the Brixton tower (also called the Sentech tower) is located out to the west of the city. Since they are both tall towers located on high ground and easily distinguishable from other structures and each other, they make excellent landmarks.
If the Hillbrow tower is to the left of the Brixton tower, then you are in the north
If the Hillbrow tower is closer than the Brixton tower, then you are in the east
If the Brixton tower is to the left of the Hillbrow tower, then you are in the south
If the Brixton tower is closer than the Hillbrow tower, then you are in the west
Depending on your location, you may also see a cylindrical building (Ponte City Apartments) located close to the Hillbrow tower.
There is a ring road system of freeways, with the city center located at the center of the ring. The ring is formed by the N1 on the north and west, the N3 on the east and the N12 on the south. The ring is dissected north/south by the M1 freeway and partially dissected east/west by the M2 freeway.
A number of highways from everywhere in South Africa go to Johannesburg, the N1 from Cape Town and Bloemfontein or the N3 from Durban making it an easy to reach destination, including:
Traffic can be particularly bad during peak hours (M-F 6:30AM-9AM and 3:30PM-6:30PM) so plan your journey accordingly. Due to the increasing number of cars sold, traffic has progressively worsened. If traveling in the city Monday through Friday, make sure you take into consideration the possibility of traffic jams delaying your journey. As the city is large and spread out, getting around may require covering large distances e.g. from Midrand to Soweto is in excess of 45 km (28 mi).
O.R. Tambo International Airport, formerly called Johannesburg International and before that as Jan Smuts Airport (these old names are still commonly used), is the main airport for Johannesburg. Located 21 km (13 mi) from the city center, it is the busiest airport in Africa and the connecting hub for flights to other cities in Southern Africa. There are many flights to Johannesburg from international hubs, notably London, Paris and Frankfurt. Most flights from Europe are overnight and arrive in the early morning. If you arrive on one of these flights be prepared for very long waits at immigration. Remember your yellow fever certificate if required to have one.
Terminal A is for international flights, and B domestic. When flying out some international flights may have their check-in in Terminal B, but will still leave from Terminal A. The two terminals are adjacent to each other and a 5 minute indoor walk between the two.
Getting from the airport
By rail: Gautrain, a rapid suburban rail network, has a line from the airport to Sandton, where you can change to another Gautrain service to get to Johannesburg. Total travel time is approx. 25 minutes and the cost R162 to Park plus R15 for the Gautrain card During the week there is a network of buses from every Gautrain station putting many more locations within reach of public transport. Gautrain bus rides cost R6. Gautrain buses do not operate on weekends.
A much cheaper alternative is taking a taxi or walking to Isando Metro-Rail, 1.4 km from the airport, and taking a MetroRail suburban train to Johannesburg. MetroRail stops more often than Gautrain but is also more used by locals and much cheaper, costing only R8.5 and taking approx. 45 minutes from Isando to Johannesburg.
By taxi: If you are taking a taxi, keep walking straight until you exit the building and then turn left until you see a long line of taxis (mainly Mercedes) with yellow TAXI signs on their roof. These are licensed taxis with meters ( tell the driver the address and insist on using the meter before you get in the car). Do NOT go with anyone who approaches you offering a taxi while you are inside the airport building, these are unlicensed touts, and you’ll end up paying more.
Hotel pickup is usually from the bus terminal. Exit the airport and keep walking straight until you reach it (less than 5 mins walk). Ignore anybody who approaches you with questions or trying to “help” you as they will end up nagging you for a large tip.
By car rental is a very common way for travelers to get around, even if driving is minimal, as the round-trip Gautrain or taxi/Uber fare to city center is comparable to renting a car. Numerous rental companies are located in the basement level of the airport and cars await in the airport parking garage designated especially for rental cars.
Lanseria Airport, is Johannesburg’s other airport that caters for passengers on commercial airlines. It is privately owned unlike O.R. Tambo which is run by the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). Situated north west outside of Johannesburg, it is reachable from the Sandton, Pretoria, Westrand and Midrand regions, but can be traffic hell to get there. Fewer airlines fly to this airport and it is mostly used for regional, corporate and diplomatic passage. There are however regular flights from Lanseria on some of the budget airlines such as Mango.
For South African travel and discounted fares you can search for : Discount airlines in Africa and Air travel in South Africa airlines like Mango and Kulula.
Park Station is Johannesburg’s central station and is in the city center between Rissik (west), Wolmarans (north), Wanderers (east) and De Villiers (south) streets, it occupies several blocks. Whilst the station itself is quite safe, the areas around it may not be. Be careful and try to organise onward transport prior to arrival. All long-distance Spoornet trains are quite safe, as are most MetroRail trains. The best is, prior to using any public transport to ask local people.
Spoornet is a freight train company but they do have a branch that offers a passenger service called: Shosholoza Meyl. There are 8 primary routes that link South Africa’s cities with smaller towns along each route. There are regular inter-city trains to destinations all over the country, including Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, East London, Pietermaritzburg, Nelspruit and Polokwane. Passengers can chose to travel in the tourist class where there is an option of either a coupe that can accommodate two people or a compartment that can seat four people. If traveling over night these compartments become bedrooms. Another option is the economy class which of course is cheaper, with chairs that can recline but not, alas, turn into beds. There is dinning car on the trains where you can buy food. If you are traveling in a coupe or compartment then there is a trolley service available saving you form ever having to leave your compartment
MetroRail operates frequent commuter trains to many suburbs and outlying towns. As Metrorail operates services in several separate cities, for operational purposes it is subdivided into five regions. The Gauteng region is the one entailing the greater Johannesburg area. Trains run from Johannesburg and Germiston outwards to Springs, Pretoria, Soweto and Krugersdorp.
Gautrain is a first-world-quality commuter train with two lines, namely Johannesburg-Hatfield and Sandton-OR Tambo airport. Interchange is at Sandton or Marlboro. All journeys are paid using a non-refundable R15 gold card. Gautrain has much fewer stops and shorter travel times than MetroRail but is also significantly more expensive. For example, using Gautrain Johannesburg-Pretoria takes 35 minutes and costs R46 (excluding card purchase), whereas with MetroRail it costs R9 but takes 1 hour 40 minutes. Gautrain is very secure – lots of cameras and guards on the trains and platforms.
Long-distance buses arrive at Park Station. All major bus companies provide a service to and from Johannesburg. A few of these include:
•Greyhound the well know bus service is offering services to destinations all over South Africa.
•Translux, their route network extends to many South African destinations and major cities in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
•Magic Bus, Focuses on short distance transportation i.e scheduled airport shuttling.
•S.A Roadlink Has coaches traveling to and from major major city centers in South Africa.
•The Baz Bus Offers a Hop on Hop off service aimed at backpackers. It runs from Johannesburg to Durban via the Drakensberg, and then continues along South Africa’s coast to Cape Town. (Note that the second route previously offered between Johannesburg and Durban via Swaziland no longer operates).
Park Station can be quite overwhelming with crowds, hawkers and aggressive porters. If you are going north or coming from the north rather use the bus stop at the Caltex service station at New Road in Midrand, half way to Pretoria.
Johannesburg on foot can be unsafe or at least scary, so please be very conscious, even at day time when you get into narrow streets or pedestrian sideways like around the Market. It is a city built for the car and so public transport is in the development process. The Gautrain (a speed train not part of the metro system) is a good, clean and safe way to jump fast between the airport, Malboro, Midrand, Rosebank, Pretoria and Centurion. There are buses and minicabs on the streets, but there tends to be no designated stops, so buses may be flagged down on main roads such as Oxford street and Jan Smuts. They can be unsafe, but larger double decker metro bus are easy to use all along Oxford, starting in Gandhi Square, going through Killarney, Rosebank, Illovo, Sandton, Rivonia and Sunninghill (bus no. 5C and 5D). The other bus alternatives, are orange putco buses, coming more regularly than the metro buses and its slightly more expensive. Lastly there are the Gautrain feeder buses connected to the Gautrain, these have quite extensive routes from each station – these can be found easily on the gautrain website or mobi site. The problem is that buses are quite problematic on weekends and public holidays, Gautrain buses do not run, Metro buses have two route runs, and putco buses are at a complete halt. This is when the train would be a good alternative, or RENT A CAR.
You enter where you want (make sure you know where the taxi is going, and generally locals use specific handsignals to ensure the correctly destined taxi stops) and it stops where you want along the fixed route. Renting a car will give you the best flexibility and opportunity to tour the city, however driving is fast paced, but by no means difficult as long as you stay alert. Heavy traffic into Sandton in the morning (6:30 to 9:00) from all directions leading towards Sandton and in the afternoon all routes leading out of Sandton (15:30 to 18:30) in all directions could delay your journey by up to 2 h, so plan accordingly.
Renting a car is your best option if you are a confident driver as the city’s public transport is very, very limited. It is worth buying a good road map of Johannesburg, using a GPS (available when you rent a car) and planning your trips carefully before setting out. Using Google Maps with local carrier may not always prove reliable, as even in pockets of the city with major national carrier there signal may be lost (as of Oct 2016). The city large and somewhat poorly signposted. Make sure to be exceptionally clear with your rental agency what types of things are covered by their insurance plans. The phrase Full coverage doesn’t necessarily mean full coverage (for example, tyre and windshield coverage is an add-on to even the Super Excess coverage plans).
Like any big city, there are some areas of Johannesburg that you don’t want to stray into if you look like a tourist or do not have enough fuel to get out of. Ask advice. If in doubt, stop at a police station and ask them for directions.
From the airport: Stay on the freeway between the airport and Sandton, and don’t divert through the townships and Alexandra on London Road. A GPS following the fastest route will usually divert around the townships, but it pays to know where you are going. (If you are coming from the airport and you are afraid of getting this wrong, carry on past Marlboro Drive with the N3 (which becomes the N1) until you reach Rivonia road. Then turn left/south and this will take you straight into Sandton, bypassing any townships.)
Foreigners should use only normal sedan taxis (metered or fixed-price taxes that transport only you and your travel partners) and not shared minibus taxis. Taxis are very rare in Johannesburg and available only at the airport and some areas of Sandton and the city centre. Unless you are visiting for a very short time, it would be worth your while to rent a car.
In general all the taxi operators collude with one another and fix prices so taxis are not cheap or metered. Haggling is usual so it is best to agree a price when you phone. Do not rely on taxi ranks in shopping malls as often there are none. Always have a few taxi telephone numbers and cash with you so you avoid being stranded anywhere.
Because of the construction of the Gautrain rapid rail link between Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport it is possible to reach Pretoria central via Hatfield (in Pretoria) and Midrand from O.R. Tambo by rapid rail.
Much of Johannesburg, as in the rest of South Africa, shuts up shop at lunch times on Saturday, and doesn’t reopen until Monday. This means that weekend sightseeing can be frustrating – and hence it is worth planning your weekend in advance making sure you use Saturday morning wisely. Shopping malls all stay open until at least 5pm, but art galleries, museums, independent shops will all close around 1-2pm.
Central Business District / CBD
The regeneration Central Business Direct accelerated in the run up to the 2010 World Cup and there are many areas of the inner city which are visitable, and the central area’s poor reputation is no longer deserved. The city planners are using art as the cornerstone of the CBDs redevelopment and there are numerous galleries and art spaces popping up across the CBD. The downtown city centre is the most-visited part of Johannesburg for African tourists, particularly the traders who come to shop at Johannesburg’s wholesale outlets.
Newtown and the Market Theatre area (the city’s cultural precinct) is now easily accessible from the highway and Mandela Bridge and very fun; here you will find live music venues and bars too. Braamfontein – the university area – has a great Saturday market, lively night life, is very artsy. By day there’s nothing here.
On the east side of the city, Main Street Life, Maboneng Precinct and Arts on Main (especially the Sunday market and The Bioscope independent cinema). Troyeville has a fantastic restaurant at The Troyeville Hotel, an art centre and all the main sport stadiums (soccer, tennis, athletics, rugby). Try also the Ethiopian restaurant “Little Addis”, right next to the Bioscope Cinema (Fox str). Simple furniture, but authentic and good food, reasonable priced.
On the west side, Fordsburg is the formerly-Indian part of central Joburg and has some Indian and Pakistani restaurants, shops and markets. Good food is to be found in this neighborhood, which, by Johannesburg’s standards, shows signs of street life in the evenings, and moreso on Friday and Saturday. Most places are halaal so no liquor served. The Oriental Plaza shopping mall is here and has good bargains.
In the centre of town, between Jeppe St and Bree Street at Delvers Street, look up and see the Amharic script which denotes that you are in the Ethiopian/Somali part of town – there are Ethiopian restaurants and coffee shops located in the Africa Mall and Johannesburg Mall. Best to arrive before 2 pm.
To the north east, Yeoville is known as Le Petit Kinshasa and is home to many of the Francophone african diaspora in Johannesburg. Lots of Camerounian restaurants and Congolese bars.
Hillbrow (Little Lagos) used to have a bad reputation but it is much improved – if you visit Constitution Hill, or Johannesburg Art Gallery, Hillbrow is right across the street, not that scary! Go for a walk to the base of the Hillbrow Tower on a Sunday morning, it’s an interesting experience. Worth watching Louis Theroux’s ‘Law and Disorder in Johannesburg’ before your visit.
The Northern Suburbs range from middle class to very affluent, with suburbs like Greenside, Houghton, Parktown North to Parkhurst to Killarney to Rosebank to Illovo to Melrose North, Atholl, Sandown, to Sandton to Morningside, Fourways, and Randburg being green, leafy and pleasant – and safe and comforting to first-world visitors, most have a shopping mall of some description, and some have a main street with cafes, boutiques and grocery shops.
Soweto is an increasingly popular destination for travellers from around the world. Take a tour or just drive in yourself using GPS set to Vilakazi Street… the road infrastructure and signage are excellent. You can stop off at Maponya Mall and join the Sowetan middle classes as they entertain themselves with retail and movies!
Ticketpro Dome, cnr Olievenhout Avenue and Northumberland Road, North Riding (Next to the Northgate shopping mall), The Ticketpro Dome hosts numerous events throughout the year from wedding expos, to live motoring theatre. This is the biggest dome structure in the southern hemisphere.
Due to South Africa’s negotiated settlement which heralded the dawn of South Africa’s democracy in 1994, South Africans have gained a reputation for holding meetings or lekgotlas (the Tswana word meaning “meeting place”) to resolve their concerns, and plan for the future.
This desire to meet, discuss and strategise is also found amongst South Africa’s business leaders, and Johannesburg as Africa and South Africa’s economic hub is filled with conferencing venues and meeting places which can host a wide range of events for small or large groups.
Popular conference areas include the Rosebank and Sandton areas where conferences tend to be held in and around some of the city’s top hotels. The Muldersdrift area and western region of Johannesburg has developed a reputation for outstanding function venues, particularly weddings and private events. While the midrand area located halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria is also a popular conferencing and events area.
There are many craft markets in Johannesburg and the surrounding areas. You will also find plenty of beautifully crafted beadwork and wirework being sold on the roadside and at intersections. Though you will be able to bargain with the locals, give a thought to the crafters who are often unemployed and rely on sales to support themselves and their family.
Craftsmen and women from all over Africa sell their goods at the Rosebank flea market on Sundays and in a bazaar type shop in the Rosebank mall on week days. Johannesburg has no specific artwork that can’t be bought anywhere else in the country, but there are certainly very good quality shops for this. Much of the “African art” that you can purchase is actually made in Swaziland or imported from other African nations. Don’t forget to buy the 2 foot giraffe which you can buy just about anywhere. It’s common to see giraffe heads sticking out of the luggage compartment on a flight of tourists!
African Craft Market, Rosebank Mall, Cnr Cradock and Baker St, Rosebank., ☏ (+27) (0)11 880 2906 (fax: (+27)(0) 11 880 2944), Open 9AM to 6PM daily.
Shopping Malls are very popular in Johannesburg, due to their convenience and safety and the fact that there are few alternatives – although thankfully Jozi is one of the few cities in the country that still has some streetlife. A typical shopping mall has all the usual chain stores (for clothes, books, music, chemists etc.) a food hall (KFC, Mugg & Bean…) and a big western-style supermarket in the basement. Many also have a multiplex cinema. They can be comfortable but soulless refuges that can trap the tourist with their familiar, air conditioned surrounds, so beware. There are many shopping malls throughout Johannesburg, most have free secure parking, although you have to pay for parking in the more popular malls (Rosebank & Sandton). The main malls are:
You will also find many smaller shopping malls close to residential areas. Usually with one or two of the larger retail stores, a number of smaller chain stores, fast food and possibly a restaurant or coffee shop.
Johannesburg is a multicultural city, and therefore a melting pot of cuisines originating from many different regions of the world. There is a large variety of places to eat so you are sure to find something that tickles your taste buds. Joburgers tend to love al fresco dining, and a culture of pavement cafes and restaurants has sprung up on various streets around the city.
Emmarentia, Greenside, Melville, Norwood, Illovo and “the Parks” (Parkhurst, Parkview, Parktown, Parktown North)
Each of these neighborhoods have at least one concentrated area of restaurants in the “leafy green suburbs”
Queen’s Street, Kensington – Queen’s Street has a handful of restaurants near the crossing with Northumberland. Suggested places to try:
Johannesburg CBD – There are a handful of nice restaurants and bard near the Market Theatre in New Town. You can try:
Cyrildene – For authentic Chinese fare, head this way. Derek Avenue is also known as Johannesburg’s “China Town”.
Fordburg has many Indian restaurants with authentic Indian cuisine as well as conventional franchise stores (Wimpy, Nandos, Fishmonger, Nescafe,etc). Fordsburg is close to the Oriental Plaza and can be combined with your shopping expedition. Fordsburg is one of the few (if any) areas of Johannesburg that has a thriving outdoor street market and pedestrian traffic at night – in a relative sense. It’s a small area and pedestrian traffic is light, but at least present. The area is more busy on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Good pubs and clubs are available in the Melville student district, Braamfontein, Rosebank and the Newtown cultural precinct. Posh and upmarket clubbing happens in the Rivonia and Sandton area. In Johannesburg, like the rest of the country, pubs and clubs are only permitted to stay open for a restricted length of time. Most bars, pubs and clubs are required to close at 1AM during the week, and around 2-3AM over the weekend (including Friday). Times may vary dependent on the location and what classification it falls under; namely residential or commercial zones. Thus, in Johannesburg, people tend to eat and drink much earlier in the evening when compared to that of the European norm.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Guesthouses / bed & breakfasts
Johannesburg also caters for those who are looking for a luxurious stay, with five-star hotels. Many of these are located in the Sandton area.
Spend your night in rooms conceptualised to interpret each decade of Johannesburg’s history.
Be aware that Johannesburg has high crime levels, though tourists are seldom victims. Like many other cities with a crime problem, some places are quite safe while others can be quite dangerous, and, in some places, crime may depend on whether it is day or night. Armed security guards (not necessarily the police) are a common sight in the city. Ask local people (hotel staff, police) what to do.
Johannesburg earned its lawless reputation during the 1980s when the apartheid regime was collapsing. Things really went downhill in the early 1990s – and many (white) South Africans have traumatic memories of this period – memories which flavour their security advice for the city even today. However things have improved enormously since those days, although the advice you may receive from some Johannesburg residents may not match today’s reality. Nevertheless you should keep security in mind and tourists must remain alert at all times when in unfamiliar surroundings.
When on the street (this doesn’t apply to shopping malls and other secure environments) best general advice is to try your best to look like a local and to avoid displaying any form of wealth. Keep your cellphone hidden, leave your jewellery at the hotel and avoid carrying backpacks, daypacks, cameras or purses. Use a cheap plastic bag, keep your values at the hotel and take only the amount of money that you really need. Never use a purse, but put loose coins or notes in your pockets.
If you fall victim to robbery, you should remain calm and not offer any resistance. Instead, pay attention to the physical appearance of the suspect. Note any distinctive features and then report the robbery to the Police.
Finally, keep things in perspective, Johannesburg has a partly-deserved bad reputation for crime, but most victims are local residents living in the townships. The overwhelming majority of visitors have a trouble-free stay.
Shopping malls in Johannesburg are as safe as shopping malls anywhere else in the world, with pick pocketing being the only risk, though a small one. Sometimes cash-in-transit security men are attacked at gunpoint when delivering cash boxes to banks inside the malls.
The central business district is busy during the day, and parts of it are pretty scruffy, but there are lots of police and private security around. The area is largely deserted at night, during weekends, and on holidays. There are many interesting things to do in the CBD, just plan where you are going to park and what you are going to visit beforehand, and never wander around aimlessly.
Pedestrians are rare, but you should be fine walking from your guesthouse to a local restaurant or shopping mall; however, distances can be large, which makes driving or taking a taxi better options. If you want to go jogging (not recommended for lone women) or for a long walk then carry a map and as few valuables as possible, and make sure you are home before it gets dark.
Alexandra is a poor township that deserves particular attention for the foreign visitor because it is next to the road that you would drive on from the airport to Sandton and is therefore easy to land up in if you get lost or take the wrong off-ramp. That said Alex is no longer (as of 2012) the warzone that it was in the 1980s and 1990s – as illustrated by the fact Alexandra township tours are now common, and a Nelson Mandela museum is being constructed.
Avoid taking the London Road off-ramp from the N3 highway to get to Sandton, especially at night. This is a short-cut but comes with risks.
To get to Sandton when coming from the airport, take Marlboro Drive from the N3 and drive straight until you reach the M1 highway (this is also called the Marlboro offramp). Do not turn south/left (if you are coming from the N3) or right/south (if you are coming from the M1/Sandton side) anywhere between the N3 and the M1, including Louis Botha Avenue (which may be dangerous unless you know the area).
Alternatively, if you want to avoid the risk of getting this wrong, you can drive a bit further (the N3 becomes the N1) and take Rivonia Road to the south, which will take you straight into central Sandton passing through only affluent areas for the entire length of this road, so if you go the wrong way, you are still in safe areas.
Also, when taking the Gautrain (very safe and nauseatingly well-guarded) between central Sandton and the airport, one of the stations it will stop at is Marlboro Station. This station is the interchange to Pretoria and is right on the edge of Alexandra. Best not to exit at this station.
Other townships surround the city – and don’t offer much for the tourist, except for Soweto, the middle class parts of which (Orlando West) can be visited independently, although most choose to go with a tour.
It is prudent to plan night-time journeys and to use a reputable taxi. If you must walk at night, make sure to remain in populated, well-lit areas, and walk confidently and with a purpose so that you at least pretend that you know where you are going. Avoid giving the impression that you are lost, and ask directions only from shops and not random people on the streets.
It is best to use a GPS when driving so that you do not get lost. Also be aware that more South Africans die from road accidents than from violence – they are notoriously bad and drunken drivers.
Do not leave any valuables on the seats as it is possible that your window could be smashed and your belongings grabbed. At night, do not stop at red traffic lights if you see people lingering there, as they may be up to no good. Slow down and go through the red traffic lights, even if you have to pay a fine (very small chance). At all times, be vigilant and watch for vehicles following you or road blocks (stones, wood) on the roads. If you have parked in a quiet area, be particularly careful when you go to and from your car as thieves can wait for victims to exit/enter their vehicle. If you are faced with a suspicious or dangerous encounter, drive to the nearest police station or well-lit populated area.
The Gautrain is totally safe. The new Rea Vaya buses and the city’s Metrobus service can be safe to ride although it is often late and far too unreliable and confusing for a short-term foreign visitor to figure out.
Rape and sexual assault levels are exceptionally high. However, most sexual assault and rape cases involve alcohol and take place between people who know each other. Care should be taken in sexual encounters due to the high HIV levels in Johannesburg, insist on using condoms. Females should always avoid walking alone and should try, if possible, to remain in groups.
Tap water is completely safe to drink, Johannesburg’s water has one of the highest ratings in the world.
There is a Travel Clinic at OR Tambo International Airport
It is best to avoid public hospitals as standards have declined recently, but private hospitals are of world class standard.
The following hospitals cater for 24-hour accident and emergency treatment:
Hellen Joseph Hospital > 0114891011 Coronation Hospital for women and children> 0114709000
Always-On, +27 (0)11 575-2505, provides prepaid WiFi access in a number of locations in and around Johannesburg. Simply connect to the access point and you will be given the opportunity to pay for access by credit card. Pricing starts at around R15 for 10 minutes or R60 for 100MB.
Coverage areas include: