Johannesburg Travel Guide: The Concrete Jungle Of Africa

Johannesburg has a tarnished reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, overshadowing the city’s touristic potential. Ever since the discovery of gold, what used to be a desolated area became the financial hub of Africa. People from all over the world still make their way into the city to benefit from its countless opportunities. Yet, it doesn’t attract as many tourists as the country’s coastal areas and national parks. This article will give you an idea of what you might be missing out by skipping Johannesburg.

Johannesburg Nico Roets License: CC

Best Time To Visit

Johannesburg experiences a transition between subtropical and semi-arid climate. Winters are dry and sunny, although it can get as cold as 5 degrees at night. On the other hand, the summer sees overwhelming heat and humidity, as well as heavy afternoon rains. The mildest weather occurs in fall (March-May) and spring (September- November).

Getting In

Johannesburg has one of the busiest airports in Africa, O.R Tambo International Airport. There are several flights from overseas and other African cities. Flying to Johannesburg is the cheapest way to enter South Africa on a plane.

South Africa doesn’t require a visa from many countries, meaning you can stay as a tourist for up to three months.

Getting Around

Getting around in Johannesburg is not very easy because the city’s neighborhoods are larger and more scattered compared to Cape Town. The touristic attractions are mostly located in the dilapidated old section, while many restaurants and business centers are in the newer part of the city.

Commissioner Street Chris Eason License : CC

Public transport is close to none except for Gautrain, the subway line running between OR Tambo and Johannesburg’s central areas like Rosebank and Sandton, as well as Pretoria. The train is always on time and safe, but it only goes to certain places.

Uber is the quickest way of getting around, but it can be as expensive as 300 ZAR for a 30 minutes long ride.

Another way to get around and access the touristic attractions is to take the Red Bus from Rosebank. This hop-on / hop-off bus allows you to take two major touristic routes in the city and get on-of limitlessly at the sites. It costs 200 ZAR per day and includes an informative audio guide that supports many languages.

Things To Do

The Apartheid Museum

This thought-provoking museum will take you back to the dark years where non-white people were discriminated against in South Africa.

The Apartheid Museum smithadri Licence: CC
Gold Reef City

This amusement park is a perfect demonstration of the gold mines that once defined the economy of Africa.

Gold Reef City Boks Saaleha Bamjee License: CC
Cradle of Humankind

Hundreds of fossils of human ancestors are waiting for the curious visitors in Sterkfontein Cave just outside the city. This UNESCO Heritage site boasts proof of early humans also called hominids.

Soweto

With a population of over a million people, Soweto is the largest township in the country. It is also a very historic one, with the only street in the world that features two Nobel Laureates’ houses: Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. After your museum visits, take a break at the Freedom Square that symbolizes the country’s liberation.

Soweto Supermarket Martyn Smith License: CC
Constitution Hill

This historic building was a prison where anti-apartheid activists like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were imprisoned.

Wits Art Museum

The museum that belongs to South Africa’s second-best ranked university, the University of Witwatersrand, has an extensive collection of artwork from contemporary to ancient Khoisan paintings.

Rosebank

This fancy neighborhood will satisfy anyone who loves entertainment and shopping. The Jan Smuts avenue is full of stores, cozy restaurants, and shops.

Performance artists at Rosebank Rooftop Market, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa South African Tourism Licence: CC
Sandton

The new financial hub of the city is also popular for its gourmet fine-dining restaurants

Carlton Center

This abandoned building is interestingly one of Africa’s highest buildings. You can pay an entry fee to go up for the panoramic views of Johannesburg’s concrete jungle.

North west from top of the Carlton Centre Chris Eason License: CC
Pilanesberg Nature Reserve

Being only two hours from Johannesburg, Pilanesberg offers a malaria-free and affordable alternative to Kruger National Park with its equally exciting wildlife.

Mellville, Newtown, and Braamfontein

Thanks to the University of Wits, these three neighborhoods have become vibrant student districts with a thriving nightlife.

Newtown, Johannesburg Chris Eason License: CC

– Sun City: Adjacent to Pilanesberg National Park, this vast resort is often considered the Las Vegas of Africa due to its high-end entertainment scene.

Typical Costs

Johannesburg has attractions suitable for every wallet. Here is a breakdown of the costs.

Accommodation

Hostel Dorm Bed: ZAR 160

A standard double room: ZAR 800-1000

A double room at a 5-star hotel: ZAR 3000-4000

Food

Budget or fast-food restaurant: 50-75 R per meal

Meal at a standard restaurant: 100-150 R

Meal at a fine-dining restaurant: 200 R

Transportation

Gautrain from OR Tambo to Sandton: 160 R

Uber from OR Tambo to Sandton: 350 R

Gautrain from Rosebank to Sandton: 15 R

Flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town: 1000 R one way

Museum entry: 20-30 R

A guided safari tour at Pilanesberg National Park: 500 R

The Gautrain Ulrika Licence: CC

Tips And Things You Might Need To Know

  • Johannesburg is in the malaria-free area of South Africa, so you don’t need to worry about taking precautions unless you are planning to visit Kruger National Park.Although safety is a major concern in Johannesburg, you can still have a good time by being street smart.
  • You must always use Uber whenever possible, especially at night.
  • Walking alone in the dark will make you an instant target, so will flashing your valuables or leaving them in the car.
  • You are expected to pay a tip of 10% the bill at coffee shops and restaurants.
  • If you want to explore the hidden gems of Johannesburg, you can join guided walking tours. Past Experiences is the most accomplished tour company that takes tourists on various walking tours around the city. You will delve into the local life while looking at amazing murals, authentic street markets, and ruins of gold mines.
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