City Basics

Introducing Johannesburg



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. For detailed information on disabled travel in South Africa see

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.

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