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Know Before You Go
- If you hear someone talking about robots, it's South African slang for traffic lights. You'll find street sellers at almost every robot in Johannesburg selling everything from car chargers to pirated DVDs.
- South Africa has 11 official languages, but English is widely spoken throughout the country. All street signs are in English and most South Africans you will meet speak it as their second language.
- The tap water in Johannesburg is drinkable. You don't need to worry about using filtration tablets, but bottled water is also on sale at any shop.
- While a lot of South African dishes revolve around meat, it's still a vegetarian and vegan-friendly destination. In Greenside, you'll find plenty of restaurants catering to dietary preferences.
- You don't need to worry about any specific vaccinations for South Africa unless you are coming from a country with Yellow Fever. If this is the case, you will need to have proof that you have had the vaccination.
Getting Around Johannesburg
- Johannesburg doesn't have an extensive public transport system like other countries in the world. If you want the freedom of going around and less hassle, it's easier to use Uber or rent a car.
- While Uber's are one of the most popular ways to get around, it's not the best option for budget travellers, as distances in the city are large.
- The Gautrain is a rapid transit railway system with stops in Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport. Apart from the Rosebank and Sandton stops, you'll need to catch a bus or order an Uber to get to town or your final destination.
- One of the cheapest ways to see Johannesburg is with the City Sightseeing Bus. These Hop-on, hop-off buses stop at 11 of the city's major tourist sites including the Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City. The buses run from 9 am to 6 pm and one-day tickets cost ZAR 190 per person.
- If you are feeling adventurous, you can catch a minibus taxi. These shared taxis are mainly used by locals and work on a complicated hand signal system to tell the driver where you want to go. For traveller, this can be confusing as there is no signage. If you want to give it a go, fares are ZAR 8 - 12 per ride.
When is The Best Time to Visit Johannesburg?
The best time to visit Johannesburg is during its low season. From March to May (autumn) and September to November (spring) the weather is warm, hotel prices are low, and crowds are at a minimum. Airfare is also cheaper around autumn and spring making it an ideal time to visit for budget travellers.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the drier months of April to September are the best time for Big 5 viewings at the renowned Kruger National Park.
December to February is the city's summer months and its peak season. Travellers flock down to escape their winter and enjoy the warmer weather, driving up hotel prices, tours and airfare tickets. It's also the city's rainy season, so bring an umbrella or raincoat in case you get caught in Johannesburg's famous thunder showers.
If you don't mind bundling up for Johannesburg' winter months (June to August), you'll find the best deals as tourist season dies down.
From August onwards there are also a string of music festivals. The biggest is OppiKoppi which features international headliners and a slew of local musicians.
Airports in Johannesburg
OR Tambo International Airport
OR Tambo is an international airport in Kempton Park, Gauteng. It is the primary domestic and international airport to and from South Africa and the continent's busiest airport. OR Tambo is a hub for South African Airways and smaller airlines such as FlySafair, Mango and Kulula. It has non-stop flights to all continents except Antarctica and handled over 20 million passengers in 2016.
Getting to and from OR Tambo International Airport
The fastest way to get from the airport to destinations around Johannesburg and Pretoria is via the Gautrain. This rapid rail system runs every day from 05:15 to 22:00 every 12 minutes.
Check with your hotel to see if they offer shuttle bus services to the airport. It's the most direct way to get to your hotel without having to figure out public transportation.
You can also hire cars at the airport without booking ahead. It's the best way to get around the city, but if you aren't used to driving on the left-hand side of the road be careful on the highways.
Metered taxis are available right outside of the arrivals terminal. However, they are more expensive than other forms of public transportation. Check the fare estimate with Uber to compare prices and see which service will be the most affordable.