Where to Stay - South Africa

Johannesburg Travel Guide (Gauteng)


Johannesburg commonly referred to as Jo'burg by the white population and E'Goli or the "city of gold" by the blacks. This is the third largest city in Africa, after Cairo and Alexandria, and the world's youngest city to pass the million mark. Johannesburg is steadily expanding to join up with Pretoria to the north and the industrial towns of Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging to the south, together forming the province of Gauteng (until 1994 it was known as Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging, or PWV for short). The province, with only 2% of South Africa's total area, contains 25% of its population.

A great way to get your bearings on any new city is to take an open-top bus tour which until recently wasn't an option in Johannesburg. However thanks to City Sightseeing their red double decker buses offer two routes for tourists. 

Johannesburg Red City Tour - departs from the Gautrain Park Station and takes you on a circular route via; Gandhi Square, Carlton Centre, James Hall Transport Museum, Gold Reef City, Apartheid Museum, Mining District Walk, Newtown, Origins Centre at Wits, Braamfontein, Constitution Hill and finally back to the Gautrain Park Station. Buses depart every 40 minutes Monday to Friday and every 30 minutes on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and school holidays. One day tickets can be purchased online for R130.

Soweto City Tour - departs from Gold Reef City and drives past Soccer City, then stops at Diep Kloof (entrance to Soweto) and then Baragwanath Taxi Rank and Hospital, then drives past Orlando Stadium before stopping at Hector Pieterson Memorial, Vilikazi Street, Mandela House and Desmond Tutu house and Kliptown before returning to Gold Reef City. The Soweto tour is taken in a taxi rather than on a red bus. A 1 day 'Combo-Ticket' for Johannesburg and Soweto costs R350 online.

Despite the fact that many gold-mines in and around the city have been closed down, Johannesburg is still the financial and industrial capital of South Africa. Most of the country's leading industrial firms have their headquarters here the city's Stock Exchange is one of the busiest in the world.

For many visitors to South Africa, Johannesburg is their first port of call, and many of them stay no more than a day or two before escaping from the city with its grave social problems. Although to many, Johannesburg is not considered a beautiful town, it is the South African city with the most stimulating atmosphere. Johannesburg is considered to be the heart beat of South Africa and a gradual process of getting together between whites and blacks has begun. You will meet more blacks of higher social status here than elsewhere.

Against this background, it is well worth spending several days in South Africa's largest city but you shouldn’t ignore the fact that the city has a high crime rate. However, if you heed common sense, as you would do in most major cities around the world, then you can still enjoy this city. It is inadvisable to walk about after dark, when Johannesburg becomes a ghost town. The best way of seeing the sights is by taxi or on an organized tour. And of course it is advisable to dress simply and avoid flaunting an expensive camera.

OR Tambo International Airport (formerly Jan Smuts and Johannesburg International Airport) the largest in southern Africa - is 25km/15 miles east of the city centre. Regular half-hourly bus services (5am-10pm) run between the airport and the air terminal in the city centre. Johannesburg has excellent road and rail connections with other South African cities.

Johannesburg, thanks to its position, has a very agreeable climate. The winters are relatively cool and dry, with sunny days following ice-cold nights. In summer the temperatures are high, with occasional showers of rain in the afternoon. Average temperatures are 20.3°C/68.5°F in January and 10.2°C/50.4°F in July. Average annual rainfall is 847mm/331/3in. The number of hours of sunshine per day averages 8.7.

The city centre, laid out on a regular grid, is relatively small, but its high-rise blocks give it a skyline reminiscent of American cities. On weekdays after business hours and at weekends the central area appears to be populated almost entirely by blacks.

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