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Johannesburg [1] (in spoken language also referred to as Jo'burg, Egoli or Jozi ) is South Africa's largest city.

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



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 are able to buy almost anything from vendors selling goods at traffic lights. 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 Caucasoid hair. Mine dumps can also been 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.

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.

Get in

By car

A number of highways from everywhere in South Africa go to Johannesburg, like 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 got worse. 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). Expect massive roadworks on all major routes around and in the city, all roads get a new surface and extra lanes are being made for the Bus Rapid Transport or Rea Vaya which needs dedicated bus lanes. Work to be finished before the World Cup.

By plane

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

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 for that reason, public transport is few and far between and often sketchy, and the metro is dangerous. The Gautrain (a speed train not part of the metro system) is a good, clean and safe way to jump fast between the airport and Sandton, but be sure not to exit from the Marlboro station (next to the very poor and dangerous township of Alexandra) as this will exponentially increase your changes of being robbed and possibly raped and murdered if you are a foreigner!!! There are buses and mini cabs on the streets but there tends to be no designated stops and these are generally only used by commuters coming in and out of the city. They are also unsafe (speed, crime, roadworthy), and except for the feeder buses connected to the Gautrain, bus and shared taxis are best avoided by foreigners - even middle class and rich South Africans never or hardly ever use these. You enter where you want (make sure you know where the taxi is going) 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 now means difficult as long as you stay aleart. Traffic jams 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 (INCLUDING THE FREEWAYS GOING TO THE AIRPORT!!!) could delay your journey by up to two hours, so plan accordingly.

Car rental

Renting a car is your best option, as public transport is limited. It is worth buying a good road map of Johannesburg as the city (inc northern suburbs) is very large and not very well signposted. MapStudio [11] produce a good map. If you are a foreign tourist and get lost, wherever you choose to vere off to, don't take London offramp on the N3 (it may look like a shortcut to Sandton in daylight, but is not at all safe), as this leads right into the dangerous township of Alexandra where you should go on your own if you desire to experience the crime cruize in which you may well be highjacked and robbed of all your posessions or even murdered. Other areas to be especially careful of if you don't know the place, is Hillbrow, Louis Botha Avenue (running from Hillbrow to Alexandra) and some poorer parts of Soweto. To get from the N3 highway to Sandton, take Marlboro Drive (and NOT London Road under any circumstances) and drive straight past the outside of Alexandra until you reach or cross under the M1 freeway (DON'T turn left/south (coming from the N3) or right/south (going towards the N3) from Marlboro Drive on any roads between the M1 and the N3). If 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.

It is very easy to avoid most danger by using common sense: All the places tourists would want to go to in their rental cars are nice-looking, modern and clean with broad streets. When the area starts to look dodgy, turn around and GET OUT for your own safety, or only visit townships, Hillbrown and the old City Centre (not applicable to Sandton city centre which is safe) as part of a safe guided bus tour or with a trusted local knowing these areas. Ask your hotel, who should be able to arrange such tours.

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 BY NO MEANS 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 a 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 should only use the normal sedan taxis (i.e. metered or fix price taxes that only transport you and your travel partners) and not shared minibus taxis. Taxis are very rare in Johannesburg and only avaialble 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 rather rent a car.

In general all the taxi operators collude with each other and fix prices so taxis are not cheap (and not 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.

Be aware that ongoing traffic diversions will be in effect in Sandton, Rosebank, and other areas over the next few years. This is due to the construction of the Gautrain [12] rapid rail link between Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport [13]


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.

Soweto is an increasingly popular destination for travellers from around the world. The Apartheid museum is a worth while stop for any traveller wanting to learn more about the South Africa's previous regime.

The Market Theatre precinct, Museum of Africa and Newtown (New Town) are particularly vibrant sectors of the city centre. By day, a walk around Newtown (preferably in a small group) will give you a taste for the wide range of traditions and cultures the city plays host to.

Museums and Galleries


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.




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 & surrounding areas. You will also find plenty of beautifully crafted beadwork & wirework being sold on the roadside & at intersections. Though you will be able to bargain with the locals, give a thought to the crafters who are often unemployed & rely on sales to support themselves & 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 cant 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. Dont forget to buy the 2 feet geraffe 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 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.


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. For the visitor the Melville suburb is where most people head to for an evening meal - consequently it can get very busy, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Greenside makes a good alternative (north of Melville - head to where the M71 crosses the M20, Green Way) and there is a good collection of cafes and restaurants which won't be full of tourists. 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 quiet good, if a little soulless.


Good pubs and clubs are available in the Melville student district, Newtown cultural precinct. Posh and upmarket clubbing happens in the Rivonia and Sandton area. Rivonia also contains Liliesleaf Farm, where Mandela and top ANC leaders once plotted to overthrow the apartheid government.


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

Joburg is full of accommodation to suit any type of budget, from the ultimate in luxury & expense, to backpacker lodges.


Mid range


Joburg also caters for those who are looking for a luxurious stay, with five-star hotels. Many of these are located in the Sandton area.



Always-On [19] , +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:

Stay healthy

HIV infection rate is high; avoid unprotected sex at all costs.

Municipal water is however safe to drink.

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

Stay safe

Be aware that Johannesburg has very high crime levels day and night. However, like many cities with a crime problem some places are quite safe while others can be quite dangerous, and with some places this may depend on whether it is day or night. Armed security (not necessarily the police) are not an uncommon sight in the city. Ask local people (e.g. hotel staff) what to do.

You should keep security constantly in mind and tourists must remain alert at all times, no matter where they are.

Shopping malls Shopping malls in Johannesburg are as safe as shopping malls anywhere else in the world, with pickpocketing being the only (tiny) risk.

Central Business District Although the recent installation of surveillance cameras in the central business district has decreased daytime robbery and theft there, the area is largely deserted at night, during weekends, and on holidays; if visiting the CBD plan out where you are going to park and what you are going to visit beforehand, don't wander around aimlessly.

Northern suburbs care should be taken if walking around quiet back streets, but you should be fine walking from your guesthouse to a local restaurant / shopping mall - however distances can be large which makes driving / a taxi a better option. If you want to go jogging / go for a long walk then carry a map and minimal valuables, and make sure you are home before it gets dark.

Hillbrow, Yeoville and Berea Avoid travelling to areas such as Hillbrow or Berea at any time unless in a large group or with local guides. If travelling to townships, you should make sure that you go with an organised tour as crime is generally much higher in township areas, including Soweto and Alexandra. This warning, especially in the cases of Alexandra and Hillbrow, are not to be read as a paranoid or overly cautious warning - it is so dangerous that many locals who have lived in Johannesburg for 50 years, have never ever ventured into Alexandra and tend to avoid Hillbrown, as it is just stupid to go there on your own. We are not talking about pickpocketing, but brutal assault with a fat gun and possibly your murder.

Alexandra Unlike most other dangerous areas in Johannesburg which would take some more effort or serious getting lost to accidentally get into, this very poor and most dangerous township deserves particular attention for the foreign visitor as it is next to the road you would drive on from the airport to Sandton and therefore easy to land up in if you get lost or take the wrong offramp. Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES take the London Road offramp 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) as this road goes right through the heart of Alexandra and could lead to your speedy death (or at least being robbed of your car and everything of remote value, leaving you barefoot in your underwear on the pavement in the middle of a slum). 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). Don't turn south/left (coming from the N3) or right/south (coming from the M1/Sandton side) anywhere between the two freeways, including Louis Botha Avenue (which may be dangerous if you don't know the area). Alternatively if you don't want to risk getting this wrong, you can drive a few kilometers 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.

Also when taking the Gautrain (which is very safe and nausiatingly well-guarded) between central Sandton and the airport, one of the stations it will stop at is Marlboro Station. This station is right on the edge of Alexandra and there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON WHATSOVER (except dire emergency) why any foreigner would want to or need to exit at this station, as you will then find yourself almost in Alexandra (without a car around you to protect you) ready to be harvested by criminals. It is the type of stupid foreigners who get off and walk around in places like these that often cause many of the headlines in foreign newspapers that give South Africa a bad image.

Night time It is also prudent to plan night-time journeys. If you must walk at night, make sure to remain in populated, well lit areas, walk confidently and with a purpose as if you know where you are going. Avoid giving the impression that you are lost and ask directions only from persons of authority (example: business owners) and not random people on the streets.

Safety whilst driving Carjacking is much less common than in the late 1990s but Johannesburg still has one of the highest rates in the world - but don't get paranoid and let is spoil your holiday. When you enter your car ensure that your doors are locked and windows are rolled up before starting your journey, night and day. If you have parked in a quiet area be particularly careful when going to and from your car as thieves often wait for victims to exit/enter their vehicle. Do not leave any valuables on the seats as it is likely that your window will 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, if necessary paying the fine. At all times be vigilant, watch for vehicles following you or road blocks (stones, wood) on the roads. Many carjackings happen in the main highways such as R21 and R24 which link the O.R Tambo airport to the rest of the province. If faced with a suspicious/dangerous encounter turn around and drive to the nearest police station or well-lit populated area. Do not stop under any circumstances. You even get fake police. In case of doubt drive to the next policestation. the real police will be aware of your behaviour.

Public transport Public transport use is discouraged as frequent attacks occur on the crowded services. Depending on the area, the city's Metrobus service can be safe to ride, although it is often late and way too unreliably and confusing for a short-term foreign visitor to figure out. Avoid any public transport with out consulting your hosts. The Gautrain however is very secure, but don't leave the Marlboro station.

Women Rape and sexual assault levels are exceptionally high and care should be taken due to the high HIV levels in Johannesburg. Females should avoid walking alone at all times and should try if possible to remain in large groups. If you want fitness, go to gym inside the hotel or shopping mall. To go jogging on the street with sports bra with shorts will make you a very visable target.

To conclude The best general advice is to try your best to look like a local and to avoid at all costs displaying any form of wealth, including ear rings as these have been ripped from unsuspecting tourist. Keep your cell phone hidden and avoid using it in public places. Avoid carrying backpacks, daypacks or purses. Use a cheap plastic bag, keep your values a the hotel and take only the amount of money you really need. Don't use a purse, but put coins or notes loose in your pockets.

If you fall victim to robbery, 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, they can kill you for nothing.

Finally, keep things in perspective, J'burg does have a bad reputation for crime, but most of this is restricted to residents living in the townships. The overwhelming majority of visitors have a trouble-free stay.

Get out

Related Information


A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel. Additional modifications may have been made by users at TRAVEL.COM [21].

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.

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