Johannesburg

For other places with the same name, see Johannesburg (disambiguation).

Johannesburg (in spoken language also referred to as Joburg, Egoli or Jozi ) is South Africa's largest city.

Districts

Johannesburg is split into eight administrative regions. These exclude the city of Ekurhuleni which traditionally was considered part of Johannesburg but has been split for administrative purposes. Although this list is not exhaustive, the main areas in Joburg are:

Understand

Johannesburg has a population of 3.2 million people (South African 2001 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 500,000 (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.

Orientation

Johannesburg towers

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 centre 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.

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 centre located at the centre 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.

Get in

By car

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. Accidents are frequent and can cause delays at any time of the day and night. Take extra care if you are taking a car to OR Tambo airport as accidents are frequent on at the Gillooly's Interchange and on the R24 towards the airport.

Due to the increasing number of cars on the roads, 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).

By plane

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.

The airport is located to the east of Johannesburg, 24 km (15 mi) from the city center. There is a highspeed train to Sandton and Pretoria (see below) from the airport. 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. If you are staying in a hotel, try to get the hotel to send a shuttle to pick you up (though it may cost).

For getting money try to avoid the many banks and money changers on the left of the arrivals door: They display the exchange rates but don't indicate their excessive "commissions" that can reduce what you actually get by 10% or more - this is the case at all banks and bureaux de change in South Africa. Better to use the ATM machines to withdraw cash (South African ATMs do not charge fees for withdrawals). The ATM machines are located one floor higher up in the airport, in the retail mall where there are many shops and restaurants.

The airport is mainly for smaller charter, cargo and classic airlines flights, it is in fact busier than Johannesburg International and sees more air traffic. Kulula.com is currently flying a commercial flight to Cape Town from the airport.

For South African travel and discounted fares you can search for : Discount airlines in Africa airlines like Mango and Kulula.

By train

By bus

Long-distance buses arrive at Park Station. All major bus companies provide a service to and from Johannesburg. A few of these include:

Get around

Johannesburg was 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. Generally, it is ill advised to make use of minibus taxi's unless accompanied by locals. Minibus taxi drivers often say whatever they need to secure a fare. 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.

Car rental

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. 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. Traffic can be aggressive, and minibus taxis in particular often defy the rules of the road.

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 don't 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.)

By bus

Public transport in Johannesburg is provided by city buses and informal minibus services. Bus (other than the feeder buses attached to the Gautrain system) is not a viable option if you are a foreign tourist/business visitor unfamiliar with South Africa. Large blue city buses run up and down the main roads and mini buses can be flagged down on the side of the street although they are not the best mode of transport as they are unreliable and often associated with crime. These should not be used unless you are very familiar with the way of life in South Africa and the basic geography of Johannesburg.

By taxi

Foreigners are advised to use only normal sedan taxis (metered or fixed-price taxes that transport only you and your travel partners) as minibus taxis have a reputation for being rather unsafe. The minibus taxis, however, are very cheap and are the quickest way between two points. It is a great experience but if you are using these, you must understand the risks. Using these relies mostly on a variety of local hand signals but if the locals will gladly help you get onto the right taxi. Metered taxis are not as abundant as many big cities but are available and in most cases, need to be called before hand. This could incur long delays as you wait for the taxi. 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. If you have a local SIM, Uber offers better pricing and service than taxis with abundant availability around Sandton.

See

Did you know?

At 222m the Carlton Centre is the tallest building in Africa, but not the tallest structure. Both the Hillbrow (270m) and Sentech (234m) towers in Johannesburg are taller then the Carlton. The tallest structure in Africa is the 301m SASOL chimney in Secunda followed closely by two 300m smoke stacks at the Duvha Power Station outside Witbank.

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 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 (football, tennis, athletics, rugby).

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 neighbourhood, which, by Johannesburg's standards, shows signs of street life in the evenings, and more so on Friday and Saturday. Most places are halaal, and so no alcohol is 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 2PM.

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) has a bad reputation for drug dealing, sex bars, crime etc. but is improving - if you visit Constitution Hill, or Johannesburg Art Gallery, Hillbrow is right across the street, not that scary. Empty your pockets and go for a walk to the base of the Hillbrow Tower on a Sunday morning - stay on the main streets and keep your wits about you - and don't carry anything that is worth stealing. Certainly an interesting experience. Worth watching Louis Theroux's 'Law and Disorder in Johannesburg' before your visit.

Northern suburbs

In the north, the suburbs of Greenside, Houghton, Parktown North, Parkhurst, Killarney, Rosebank, Illovo, Melrose North, Atholl, Sandown, Sandton, Morningside, Fourways and Randburg are 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.

Outdoor area at the Military History Museum
Apartheid Museum

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 signs are excellent. You can stop off at Maponya Mall and join the Sowetan middle classes as they entertain themselves with retail and movies.

Do

Have a seat and relax at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
Play with a cub at the Lion Park
Parrots at the Montecasino bird gardens

The Museum tells the story of Migrant Labourers who came to Johannesburg to find work. Having left their homes and families, black migrant workers faced slave-like conditions shown by the original dormitories, concrete bunks and punishment room at the old compound building. The museum reveals the hardships of workers under the migrant labour system, a cornerstone of apartheid, from the early 1900s through to the 1970s, when the system of job reservation began to breakdown. More positively it shows the vibrancy and creative resilience of migrant worker's culture. Oral history interviews and individual stories are combined with archival photographs and documents as well as a newly commissioned documentary on Migrant Labour. Free.

Events

An autoshow held in the Coca-Cola Dome

Learn

Work

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 among 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.

Buy

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, which you can't get in other parts Of the country. But you very good quality shops for this. Many od SA-Art is invented in Swaziland or imported from other African nations. Don't forget to buy the 2 ft giraffe which you get all over and at the airport. You will also find it in your home country.

African Arts & Crafts

Flea Markets

Shopping Malls

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 street life. 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:

Oriental Plaza

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.

Eat

Like all major cities, Johannesburg has a wide variety of places to eat and you'll be sure to find something to suit your taste buds, be it local delicacies or international cuisines. In addition to standard South African shopping mall restaurants Johannesburg is one of the few cities with various 'restaurant streets' scattered around the suburbs offering a more European dining experience.

Restaurant streets

Don't ignore the CBD either, there are a handful of nice restaurants near the Market Theatre, and they are cheaper than their northern suburb cousins. Of course the northern suburb shopping malls are brimming with South African chain restaurants, of which the more expensive ones are also quite good, if a little soulless. South African cuisine features many varieties of sauces, and your food may be drowned in said sauce if you don't ask for it on the side.

Drink

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.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under R500
Mid-range R500-1500
Splurge Over R1500

Johannesburg is full of accommodation to suit any type of budget, from the ultimate in luxury & expense, to backpacker lodges. For accommodations near O.R. Tambo International Airport, see the sleep sections for Kempton Park and Benoni.

Budget

Backpackers dorm beds from R100 pp a night.

Guesthouses / bed & breakfasts

Private en-suite bathroom with shower/bath, Flat-screen TV with DSTV, High-speed wireless Internet connectivity and Mini-bar. Some of its facilities and services are Bar, room service, conference rooms, banquet facilities, swimming pool, Wireless Internet access, Secretarial services, photocopy and fax services. Rates start at 500 ZAR.

Mid-range

Splurge

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.

Stay safe

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, it is best to cooperate with your assailants, hand over your valuables, do not attempt to negotiate, do not look them in the eye, and do not fight back. Then report the robbery to the police.

Above all, use your common sense! If someone insists that you follow them to get somewhere / do something, approach with extreme caution. Don't pay someone for something unless you have the goods in hand. When approached by beggars, it is generally a good idea to politely but firmly deny them.

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

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.

Central Business District

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.

Northern suburbs

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.

Townships

Alexandra is a very poor and dangerous 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.

Never take the London Road off-ramp from the N3 highway to get to Sandton, (which you will see on the horizon and London Road may look like a shortcut even when reading a map or using GPS) unless you are travelling with a local who knows where they are going, as this road goes right through the heart of Alexandra and you could easily get lost.

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. Do not 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.

Night-time

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.

Driving

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. There is a great deal of aggression on the roads, and many accidents are fuelled by alcohol.

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.

Public transport

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.

Women

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.

Stay healthy

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

Hospitals

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> +27 11 470-9000

Connect

WiFi

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:

Embassies

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.