Johannesburg Travel Guide

South Africa  

Getting Around Johannesburg

Although the city offers multiple public transit and taxi options, the best way to get around Jozi is by car. Jo'burg's public transit and shuttles – especially those that carry tourists, excluding sightseeing tour buses – are notoriously prone to robberies, while taxis and minibus taxis are known for their confusing hand signals and unlicensed, irresponsible drivers. Also, due to the spread out nature of many of Johannesburg's attractions and safety concerns in lower income neighborhoods, walking is discouraged. However, walking near attractions is relatively safe. And for longer distances or a quicker ride to and from Jo'burg's O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which is about 13 miles northeast of the city center, Gautrain is an ideal choice.

Car

Despite a variety of public transportation options, driving tends to be the most popular way to explore Jozi. However, when driving in the city and surrounding area, keep a few things in mind. To start, Johannesburg motorists are known to drive aggressively, so exercise caution when driving here. Valuables should also be stored out of sight and windows kept closed to avoid unsolicited street hawkers and "smash and grab" robbery attempts. And remember, much like in London and Sydney, Jo'burg motorists drive on the left side of the road. To rent a car in Johannesburg, plan on using one of O. R. Tambo International Airport's rental car companies. A valid U.S. driver's license and passport are required for all car rentals. Also, make sure to bring a credit card since most companies will not accept cash or debit cards for payment To park in Jo'burg, expect street parking fees to start at 5 rand (or less than $1) for up to 30 minutes (except on Sundays, evenings and public holidays when all city parking is free).

Gautrain

For a quick trip to central Jo'burg, the city's Rosebank neighborhood, the airport and other area cities like Sandton and Pretoria, visitors can take South Africa's Gautrain high-speed train. Unlike other forms of public transit, Gautrain features camera surveillance, regular patrol by South African railway police officers and additional security officers at every Gautrain station, making it reliable and safe to ride. It's also extremely fast – with travel times between stations ranging from four to 10 minutes – and offers a convenient direct route from O. R. Tambo International Airport to two Sandton Gautrain stations – Sandton and Marlboro – which sit less than 15 miles outside of downtown Jozi. Gautrain fares vary depending on the distance and time you travel, but expect to pay 18 to 65 rand ($1 to $4) per ride or 142 to 164 rand ($9 to $10) for each trip to and from the airport.

Sightseeing Tour Bus

To get to many of the city's top attractions — the Apartheid Museum, Gold Reef City and Constitution Hill, to name a few — and shopping areas, investing in a sightseeing tour by bus may be your best bet. Although Jozi's sightseeing buses cost significantly more than alternative transportation options (about 160 rand for a ticket versus 10 to 65 rand for bus, tuk-tuk and train fare), the cheapest ticket includes on-and-off privileges for an entire day. Sightseeing tour buses are typically much safer for tourists to ride as well. These buses, however, do not deviate from their scheduled stops, so make sure to plan your itinerary accordingly to get the most out of your ride fare. Also, anticipate using supplemental transit to get to attractions not listed as a scheduled stop.

On Foot Walking around Jo'burg attractions and popular neighborhoods like Maboneng Precinct, Melville and Rosebank is relatively safe. Travelers, though, should refrain from wandering alone and at night in poorer, less touristy parts of the city since muggings are fairly common in these parts. Visitors should also be careful when walking in central Jozi neighborhoods like the Central Business District, Braamfontein and Newton.
Taxi

Fluctuating fare rates, questionable licensing and reckless driving tendencies cause taxis to be a less than ideal choice for getting around Johannesburg. However, should you decide to take a cab, expect to arrange a pickup by phone since taxis cannot be flagged down on the street except in designated areas. (Taxi stands are only available at the airport, central Jozi's Park Station and at the Rotunda.) Another tip: determine the fare price before starting your trip to avoid overpaying.

And should you decide to pass on a taxi, another viable option is to hire a car through the smartphone app Uber. Cheaper and more reliable than a local taxi, Uber is becoming increasingly popular for getting around the city.

Tuk-Tuk Adventurous visitors may want to consider traveling by tuk-tuk. Based in neighboring Sandton and Jozi's Melville district, tuk-tuks – or glorified motorcycles – offer an affordable option for exploring Johannesburg's neighborhoods. Keep in mind, though, that tuk-tuk operators can be just as aggressive as other drivers in the area. Fares start at 30 rand (or about $2) per ride.
Metrobus

Even though Metrobus is considered one of the city's better run public transportation options, due to its transit hub's unsafe location and its prevalence of muggings, using Metrobus is not recommended. Visitors who do decide to use Metrobus should exercise extreme caution when riding. Stay away from Metrobus at night and keep cellphones, cameras and other valuables hidden at all times.

Minibus Taxi Perhaps the most unsafe transit option, minibus taxis are notorious for having poor, uncertified drivers and a confusing hand gestures signaling system. Not all minibus taxis travel to all areas, so without proper knowledge of a destination's hand sign, it can be next to impossible to determine if a minibus taxi travels to your intended location. As a result, it is best to avoid traveling by minibus taxi. 

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