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.


South Africa was way ahead of most countries in banning smoking in public places. The threat of hefty fines has ensured that most establishments abide by the smoking laws – probably one of the few rules that most South Africans follow. Smoking is banned on all domestic flights and in all airport terminals; in restaurants, bars and offices with no designated smoking areas; on all public transport; in shopping malls and cinemas.Smoking in cars in the presence of children under the age of 12 is forbidden, while children under the age of 18 are prohibited from entering designated smoking areas and purchasing cigarettes.


South Africa is UTC/GMT +2 hours, and the entire country is in the same time zone. You might find that some applications pick this up as ‘Harare' time as Zimbabwe's capital is in the same time zone. There is no daylight saving time.


If your religion encourages charity, you have arrived at a blessed destination. Apart from the usual recipients, such as restaurant servers and petrol attendants, there’s a plethora of people waiting for (and depending on) a tip: baggage handlers, car guards, security guards, beggars, newspaper sellers, roadside salespeople. Most will happily accept a few rand (small coins may be sniffed at and possibly even rejected). For good service at restaurants, 10% of the bill is the minimum tip, and expect to dole out between R5 and R10 to petrol attendants.


The tap water provided by Johannesburg Water, is among the cleanest, safest and healthiest in the world. It also tastes good.


Disabled travellers

The rights of the disabled are enshrined in the South African constitution meaning that by law all public buildings must be made accessible for the disabled. Many of the country's hotels, restaurants, museums and national parks are wheelchair-friendly. 

Cellphones and internet access

The local dialling code for Johannesburg landline numbers is 011. From outside the country it is +27 11. Numbers starting with 086 can only be dialled locally. For directory information, dial 1023 from a landline. There are four major cell phone networks and each offers pay-as-you-go as well as contract call and data options. The network providers have stores in all major shopping centres, and airtime can be purchased at supermarkets and garage stores.

Cell phone networks: Vodacom MTN Cell C 8.ta Telkom
IT Website My Broadband offers price comparisons on call and data packages. Check the site regularly because costs change frequently.

RICA It’s not the name of a woman but the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act. All cell phone SIM cards must be registered. The law is aimed at assisting law enforcement agencies to identify the users of cell phone numbers. To purchase and register a South African SIM card you will need to show your passport at the store.

Internet Access An increasing number of cafes and restaurants offer free wireless along with hotels and other accommodation establishments. Look for the {WIFI} icon in our listings. Speeds are decent but can vary by provider. There are ongoing attempts to speed up access and connection speeds and you’ll notice the patchwork evidence on sidewalks of fibre-optic cables being laid. Pay-as-you-go data packages can be bought in conjunction with your local SIM card and allow you to surf the internet on your smart phone.

Vodacom Rentaphone International Arrivals Hall, O.R. Tambo International Airport, tel. +27 11 394 8834
Rent SIM cards, phones, GPS devices, routers, USB modems and satellite phones. Advanced bookings can be made. Open 06:00–22:00

Embassies and Consulates

Most countries are represented by embassies in South Africa. Embassies are generally located in Pretoria, a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg, while consulates of many countries can also be found in Johannesburg. For a list of local embassies and consulates see Expat Directory.

Gay Joburg

South Africa has one of the world's most progressive constitutions specifically giving gays and lesbians equal rights and it was was one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. For citizens and foreign visitors it is the most gay-friendly country in Africa. There is no one part of the city which can be considered as a gay neighbourhood, with the city's gay bars and gay-friendly venues scattered throughout Joburg.


South Africa has a free press (although controversial government attempts to pass a Protection of Information Bill into law could result in restrictions) with plenty of local and national newspaper titles, public and commercial radio stations and TV channels. The country was ranked 52nd out of 179 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2013 press freedom index.
Business Day, the business newspaper
The Star, a crime and grime obsessed broadsheet with an events listing section
The Times, a daily upmarket tabloid
Mail & Guardian, the leader in investigative reporting, published Fridays, with daily online news
City Press, a Sunday broadsheet for news, political commentary and opinion
Sunday Times, a broadsheet for news, opinion and lifestyle-related content (online for subscribers only)

Radio & TV
There are more than 30 local radio stations. for talk radio
94.7 Highveld Stereo, Kaya FM 95.9 or 5FM are popular music radio options
SABC, the public TV broadcaster
ETV and ENews Channel Africa (ENCA), free-to-air TV channels
M-NET and DStv, satellite TV provider

Public Holidays in South Africa

South Africa has 12 public holidays. No matter how solemn their intention, they are regarded by most as shopping-extravaganza days. The city slows down dramatically from around December 16 each year until early January, with the shopping frenzy tapering off between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day when locals take a break, often heading for the coast or to family in other provinces. Most big malls are open on public holidays (see Shopping for details). Whenever a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following it is also a public holiday.

January 1 – New Year’s Day
March 21 – Human Rights Day
April 3 – Good Friday
April 6 – Family Day
April 27 – Freedom Day
May 1 – Workers’ Day
June 16 – Youth Day
August 9 – National Women’s Day
September 24 – Heritage Day
December 16 – Day of Reconciliation
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – Day of Goodwill

Postage and printing

The South African Post Office is not the mostly highly regarded postal service in terms of speed and efficiency and unfortunately it is often on strike, so don't expect postcards or parcels to arrive quickly. If you are mailing parcels using 'surface mail' (the cheapest option) be aware that they may take up to three months to arrive. Post Office branches can be found in most shopping malls, as can their commercial rival Postnet. For sending packages and letters in a hurry or for courier services, Postnet is your best bet. Note there is a South African Post Office branch in OR Tambo airport (Terminal A1 International Arrivals. Open 07:00-21:00, Sat and Sun 07:00–20:00), useful for sending any excess baggage home.


Christians are in the majority in South Africa, but there is a great deal of religious tolerance and diversity. Johannesburg has many places of worship and spiritual sites. Some are made of bricks and mortar while others are public spaces that on weekends are commissioned as 'houses' of worship. In suburbs like Yeoville and Hillbrow you can follow the sounds of the charismatic preachers from Nigeria and Cameroon who set up in backyards and under makeshift tarpaulins. The city also has many public parks that on weekends are commandeered by followers of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), one of the largest African initiated churches in Southern Africa. You will see groups of people dressed in matching blue and white, green and white or khaki suits, a trademark silver star identifying their allegiance to the church. The Shembe Church, whose followers dress in white robes also commands millions of followers. Atop Yeoville Ridge different preachers mark out territory for worship as this is the highest green space in the inner city, believed to bring followers closer to their God.
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