City Basics

Introducing Johannesburg



South Africa is paradise for wine lovers. The country has countless different producers and brands, and the bottles you will find in stores and supermarkets are more than affordable, especially compared with European prices. Wine can be bought in supermarkets and 'bottle stores', while local and imported beers and spirits can only be bought at bottle stores. There is a wide variety of local beers produced by the beer giant South African Breweries (SAB) and a rapidly emerging craft beer industry.
See Restaurants , Nightlife and Shopping for more on where to drink and buy booze.


CURRENCY South Africa’s unit of currency is the Rand, known informally as the “randela” because new banknotes bear the image of former president Nelson Mandela. The currency code is ZAR and there are 100 cents in each rand. Banknotes are issued in denominations of R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10. Coins come in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c units. Prices are usually rounded off to the nearest 5c.
BANKING South Africa has a modern and sophisticated banking system. Foreign currency can be exchanged at most retail banks and bureaux de change. Retail bank outlets can be found in all major shopping centres, and ATMs are available in malls, some supermarkets and at petrol stations. Major credit and debit cards (Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted) can be used at most retail and hospitality establishments and to withdraw cash at ATMs. The four major retail banks are Absa, First National Bank (FNB), Nedbank and Standard Bank.
VAT Value Added Tax (VAT) is an indirect tax of 14% levied on all consumer goods and services, except some basic foodstuffs. Price tags generally include VAT unless this amount is separately stated. Non-resident foreign passport holders visiting South Africa can claim a VAT refund – two refund offices are located in the international departures hall of O.R. Tambo International Airport. Present your purchases and tax invoices for inspection. See for more details.


Johannesburg has sunny days and not-as-sunny days. The seasons mostly blend into one another, with summer stretching from November to March and milder temperatures setting in from April to May. Winter starts in June and lasts until August. Spring in September and October is brief, and you’ll know it by the distinctive purple haze that the blooming jacaranda trees cast across the northern suburbs of the city.
Summer temperatures average 25C° (77F°), with winter days dropping to a low of around 16C° (60F°). Winter nights can dip to 3C° (37F°), and each year you’ll hear locals complain that it is the coldest winter ever. The reason Joburgers feel the cold so intensely is because many homes and hospitality establishments are not designed with adequate insulation and winter weather in mind.
Summer is when it rains and the city has its trademark afternoon thundershowers, with spectacular lightning displays and the occasional rainbow to match.


Joburg can be the friendliest city but, like its summer weather which switches suddenly from sunshine to a thunderstorm, it also has a tempestuous streak. Be aware, rather than paranoid. Use your head, know where you’re going, and do not flash your cash or valuables around. Consult a local to get a head’s up. For a first encounter with the inner-city consider a guided walking tour or a trip on the City Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off Red Bus to get the lay of the land.

When driving, always keep valuables in the boot of the car rather than on the passenger seat.
Pay attention to what is going on around you
Don’t show off expensive jewellery, watches or cameras
Opt for using an ATM inside a bank or mall
Areas such as Alexandra, Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville and Joubert Park are best visited with a tour guide or experienced local.

Dial 10111 to contact a national call centre that can assign a patrol vehicle to attend to a crime incident
Fire and ambulance Dial 10177 for emergency services
Cell phone networks Dial 112 from any cellphone to be connected to a 24-hour emergency service operator. This is a free call
Medical emergency Dial 082 911 to connect to Netcare 911's 24-hour operations centre or 084 124 for ER24. Both are private emergency medical services


Electricity is supplied at 220 volts and 50 hertz throughout South Africa by the state-owned company Eskom, and is subject to occasional shortages, and planned outages which are referred to as 'loadshedding'. Valuable electronics should be used in combination with a surge protector, available at large supermarkets, where you can also find converters for the bulky three-pronged plugs used locally.


South Africa is ruled by the African National Congress (ANC), a liberation movement, and now political party, that fought against Apartheid and for a non-racial democracy. The country has a multiparty political system and more than 10 political parties have representation in Parliament with a number of new parties recently formed, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters who won a number of seats in parliament in the 2014 national elections. The country's first democratically elected president was Nelson Mandela. The current president is Jacob Zuma.

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