Our last day of our trip to Africa was spent in Johannesburg. We only had one day to see as much as we could, before catching a flight back to Australia late at night.
We were a little bit nervous about visiting Johannesburg. There are so many new stories that paint the city in such a dangerous light, especially for tourists. But we wanted to get out and check out some of the city, so we thought we’d make the most of our short stop over.
If you currently planning a visit to Johannesburg, here is everything you need to know.
Location and Time Zone in Johannesburg
Johannesburg (also known as Jozi or Jo’burg) is the largest city in South Africa and is located in the eastern area of the country known as the Highveld. Johannesburg follows the South African Standard Time Zone (GMT + 2) and there are no daylight savings.
Getting to Johannesburg
O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) is the closest airport to Johannesburg and is also considered the main airport for both domestic and international travel to and from South Africa. In fact, O. R. Tambo Airport is actually Africa’s busiest airport with direct flights to and from every continent except for Antarctica.
The airport is located about 22.5 kilometres away from the city, so you will need to think about how you are going to get to and from the airport when you visit. There are six different terminals at Johannesburg airport, so when you’re planning a transfer or shuttle make sure to give them your correct flight details so that they meet you at the right terminal.
There are public buses that can take you from the airport to the city, however if it’s your first visit it’s not recommended. The safest option would be to jump in a taxi. There are metered taxis that can be easily recognised by their yellow taxi lights. The drive from the airport to the city takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
Visa Requirements for South Africa
Stays in South Africa for up to 90 days do not require a visa for travellers using an Australian passport for tourism purposes. If you’re travelling for any other reason, or for longer than 90 days you will need to obtain a visa before you travel. Leaving and re-entering South Africa does not automatically give you another 90 days.
The consequences for violating the terms of your visa are pretty strict in South Africa and there have been even more specific changes made to the policies recently. If you’re found to be overstaying your visa, working in or migrating to South Africa, changing your visa status or attempting to extend your visa by travelling to another country and then returning you will actually be considered ‘undesirable’ to South Africa and will not be allowed to re-enter the country for one to five years.
Don’t risk it, organise the correct visa in advance.
Currency & money in Johannesburg
The currency in South Africa is South Africa Rand ZAR. At the time of writing this post, $1 AUD converts to 10.27 ZAR.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted across Johannesburg and there is a good availability of ATMs across the city as well. Some ATMs are less maintained than others, so depending on where you are around the city you might come across the occasional empty ATM. To avoid any issues it’s always a good idea to carry a little bit of cash on you at all times.
Internet access in Johannesburg
Surprisingly, the city of Johannesburg actually has quite good wifi coverage, starting from the minute you land in the airport, although the connections might not always be as strong as you’re used to.
Most hotels and guest houses are equipped with wifi connections, although you might have to pay a fee for some of them. Some shopping centres also offer free wifi, as well as cafes and restaurants, although you might have to ask your server for a password to get online.
Best time to visit Johannesburg
The best times to visit Johannesburg are during the shoulder seasons from March to May and September to November. During the lower or shoulder seasons there are smaller crowds and cheaper prices, but the weather is still nice and sunny for most of the time.
If you’re planning to head out to any of the national parks in South Africa for a safari make sure you check when they recommend visiting. Often there are times during the year when wildlife spotting is better. Even if it is during the peak season, these experiences are truly worth travelling at the best possible time.
Safety in Johannesburg
Generally the travel advice issued for anyone travelling to South Africa is to exercise a high degree of caution from Smartraveller. This is primarily because of the high levels of serious crime, a lot of which is reported to be in Johannesburg.
Pay close attention to you personal belongings and your surrounding at all time. Make sure you’re alert to what’s going on around you and careful whenever you might be alone. Robberies are frequently reported on the roads and at shopping centres. Monitor the news and media for the most recent updates on security and crime to be aware of.
Always make sure you have the latest travel information by subscribing to Smartraveller.
Can’t miss in Johannesburg
Jump on a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus to see as much of Johannesburg as you can, especially if you’re only visiting for a short amount of time. The sightseeing bus takes you through most of Johannesburg and gives you a glimpse into life in this bustling misunderstood city.
The route for the hop-on-hop-off bus is quite long, so to avoid wasting any time make sure you jump off at any stops you’re interested in whenever you get there. For the ultimate experience in Johannesburg and to learn more about the rocky history of this torn country, make sure you stop to visit the Apartheid Museum.
The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg has been open since 2001 and is dedicated to presenting the history of the Apartheid and the struggle of South Africa. While we were there they were also displaying a temporary exhibit on the life of Nelson Mandela, which was so interesting to see. The museum was absolutely fantastic and we couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
The exhibits held so much information, as well as images, videos and displays about what life was like during this time, and how it effected the South African communities. It includes many different interactive exhibits too, to show you the way people lived during this time. If you ever find yourself in Johannesburg we would definitely suggest a visit.
Out of respect we didn’t take photos in the Apartheid Museum, the above image was found on Google Images. You can find our more about the Apartheid Museum and their current exhibitions on their website HERE.