Travel Guide Africa South Africa Gauteng Johannesburg



Cooling towers, Soweto

Cooling towers, Soweto

© EmmylouSA

Johannesburg is South Africa's largest and most populated city with 3.9 million residents, easily boasting the largest economy of the country and thus Sub-Saharan Africa. Located in Gauteng province, and pronounced jō-hān'ĭs-bûrg', it's commonly referred to by one of it's shortened nicknames; Jo'burg, Jozi, Egoli or the city of gold. The last of these names also contains the clue to what lay the foundation for its development as the economic hub of South Africa: the discovery of some of the worlds richest gold fields in the region led to the establishment of Jo'burg in 1886.
For all it's wealth and prosperity, the city is also one of stark contrasts with a large population of very poor people living in shacks. So great is the gap between the two that it's led to one of the highest crime rates in the world. If you are planning a trip to Johannesburg, take reasonable precautions and listen to the locals, so you can enjoy it safely.




  • Alexandra
  • Cresta
  • Brixton
  • Four Ways
  • Houghton
  • Hillbrow
  • Hyde Park
  • Melville
  • Northcliffe
  • Parktown
  • Parkhurst
  • Randburg
  • Rosebank
  • Sandton
  • Soweto
  • Westcliff



Events and Festivals

World Cup 2010

Johannesburg was a host city for the World Cup 2010. World Cup matches in the city were held at Soccer City Stadium and Coca Cola Park. Soccer City was host to the first mass rally after the release of Nelson Mandela and was also the venue for the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations final. Current capacity stands at 80,000 with an upgrade set to take it up to 94,700. Ellis Park has been a rugby stadium for most of its history and it was the scene for the famous SA victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Once work has been completed, it should hold almost 65,000 fans.

Joy of Jazz

Johannesburgs big Joy of Jazz festival brings together musicians from all over the world and runs in August.

The Soweto Wine Festival

Launched in 2004, the Soweto Wine Festival brings over 100 of South African's finest wineries offering over 1,000 wines to taste into trend-setting Soweto. Held in the first weekend of September over three nights, the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus, is transformed into an up-market VIP experience for thousands of visitors. The Soweto Wine Festival boasts wine lounges by some of South Africa's premium wine producers, wine and food pairing classes hosted by Cape Wine Masters and Celebrity Chefs, Soweto's Finest Restaurants, Entertainment and wine for sale. The festival attracts an international audience of wine lovers who spend three days in Soweto tasting South Africa's fine wines by night, and touring some of Soweto's top tourist destinations by day. The Soweto Wine Festival is organised by South Africa's official wine and education authority, the Cape Wine Academy.

Arts Alive Festival

During September, Johannesburg hosts the Arts Alive Festival, a 10-day spectacle dedicated to South Africa’s visual and performance arts. Theaters and other venues in the city’s old Newtown precinct stage dance and musical shows. Audiences are just as likely to see local performers enact Afro-fusion as Spanish flamenco dances. International acts often include Chinese puppet groups and ballet troupes.




Johannesburg has what many would call excellent weather, with a dry and sunny climate, although the summer months (October to April) can bring impressive afternoon thunderstorms. Indeed, more than 90% of the yearly rainfall occurs in these 7 months, with January being the wettest. The average high temperature for the year is 22 °C, but highs of 35 °C are not uncommon in the warmest month of January. Yearly lows average 10 °C, with temperatures very rarely dropping under freezing point. Snow is rare as well, as winters are usually very sunny and dry as well.

Avg Max25.6 °C25.1 °C24 °C21.1 °C18.9 °C16 °C16.7 °C19.4 °C22.8 °C23.8 °C24.2 °C25.2 °C
Avg Min14.7 °C14.1 °C13.1 °C10.3 °C7.2 °C4.1 °C4.1 °C6.2 °C9.3 °C11.2 °C12.7 °C13.9 °C
Rainfall125 mm90 mm91 mm54 mm13 mm9 mm4 mm6 mm27 mm72 mm117 mm105 mm
Rain Days15.911.



Getting There

By Plane

Johannesburg is served by the largest and busiest airport in South Africa, Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport (JNB). The airport is also an important gateway (or hub) for international air travel to and from the rest of Southern Africa.

From Johannesburg there are many flights within the continent and South African Airways has flights to and from Abidjan, Accra, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Hong Kong, Kigali, Lagos, Libreville, Lilongwe, London, Mumbai, Munich, Nairobi, New York, Perth, Sao Paulo and Washington, D.C. among many others. Numerous other airlines from all continents in the world fly to and from Johannesburg and it has one of the busiest airport within Africa. Other examples of destinations include Bangkok, Dubai, Paris, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Athens, Sydney, Jeddah, Zürich, Moscow, Lisbon and Madrid. is a lowcost airline based in Johannesburg with flights to Namibia, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mango flies from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Durban as well as South African Airways does.

To/from the airport

  • Car: The airport is easily accessible by car and it is located in northeast Johannesburg on the R24 Airport Freeway, which can be accessed by the N3 Eastern Bypass and the R21 highway.
  • Rail: the airport is currently accessible by the Gautrain, which travels to Sandton. Extensions of this line will continue into Johannesburg and further towards Pretoria.
  • Bus: several bus lines operate to and from the airport, but services are not always frequent or safe. Use the better shuttle buses provided by some airlines or take a taxi.

By Train

Spoornet is the national railway, with services between most major South African cities. Most of the connections are budget, but there is a Premier Class train between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The Blue Train and the Pride of Africa by Rovos Rail are luxurious options to cross South Africa and beyond.
The main routes with Shosholoza Meyl are:

  • Johannesburg - Cape Town via Kimberley and Matjiesfontein, 27 hours, premier class twice weekly, tourist 4 weekly and economy daily
  • Johannesburg - Durban via Ladysmith and Pietermaritzburg, 13,5 hours, premier class twice a week, tourist once a week and economy daily except Tuesday.
  • Johannesburg - East London via Bloemfontein, 20 hours, economy sleeper class, daily except Saturday
  • Johannesburg - Port Elizabeth via Kroonstad, Bloemfontein and Craddock, 21 hours, tourist class twice a week and daily economy class (except Saturday)
  • Johannesburg/Pretoria - Musina via Louis Trichardt (Makhado), 17 hours, economy class daily except Saturday
  • Johannesburg/Pretoria - Komatipoort via Nelspruit, 13 hours, economy class daily except Saturday, connecting with the onward train to Maputo, Mozambique.

By Car

Tarred roads run in all directions and getting there by car is straightforward. Car hire facilities include Thrifty Car Hire, Avis,, Hertz, Budget, First Car Rental, as well as many others. They have offices both downtown as at the international airport, where most travellers pick up their cars.
Sample distances from Johannesburg are:

  • Bloemfontein - 398 kilometres
  • Cape Town - 1402 kilometres
  • Durban - 557 kilometres
  • East London - 982 kilometres
  • Kimberley - 476 kilometres
  • Port Elizabeth - 1075 kilometres
  • Pretoria - 58 kilometres

By Bus

From Johannesburg there are connections to Maputo in Mozambique (8 to 9 hours), to Gaborone in Botswana (6 hours) and to Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe. To Lusaka in Zambia, there are buses, most of which stop on their way in Bulawayo, taking a total of 26 hours. It takes almost as long to get from Johannesburg to Windhoek (21 hours), the capital of Namibia. Daily connections also travel to Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland. There are even daily buses between Blantyre in Malawi and Johannesburg, travelling through Mozambique and Zimbabwe, taking about 30 hours to cover the distance.
Minibus taxis travel between Johannesburg and Gaborone, Johannesburg and Palapye (Botswana) and between Mafikeng in South Africa and Lobatse in Botswana.
Minibuses also travel between Johannesburg and Manzini in Swaziland (4 hours).
There are many companies offering services, but the main operators are Greyhound South Africa, Intercape and Translux, all offering at least services between major cities in neighbouring countries from Johannesburg and also to dozens of domestic destinations, including Cape Town, Durban, Nelspruit, Upington, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein.

The Baz Bus is a bus where you can hop on and off and is mostly used by backpackers travelling on a budget. They are dropped off at hostels. There are three routes two of which are routes between Durban and Pretoria via Johannesburg: one via the Drakensberg (Drakens Mountains) and one via Swaziland. In particular, if you are coming from Swaziland simply to fly out from Johannesburg, then taking the Baz Bus to one of the hostels near to the airport is the most convenient way - the fare is similar to taking a minibus from Manzini to the centre of Johannesburg then a taxi back out to near the airport.



Getting Around

Street Scene

Street Scene

© soupatrvlr

By Car

The best way to explore the city is by car, just make sure you know your route before heading out, and it's advisable to keep doors locked in inner-city areas. Car hire companies in Johannesburg include Thrifty Car Rental, Avis, Budget Rent-a-Car, Hertz, Europcar and First Car Rental.

By Public Transport

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.
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.




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.




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.





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Keep Connected


Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).


See also International Telephone Calls

South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.

South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.

There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.


The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: -26.20000000
  • Longitude: 28.08333330

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