Safety in Johannesburg

Dec 13th, 2017, 03:15 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 239
Safety in Johannesburg

We (ages 68 & 71) are planning a four week trip to Southern Africa, which will include 3-4 days in Johannesburg. There seems to be a lot of chatter about crime, both online as well as in guidebooks, so we are interested in learning more about this matter.
1 - Where would be the best places to stay to avoid high-crime areas?
2 - Recommendations for a reliable transfer from the airport?
3 - Any recommendations for a tour company/guide service that could assist us in developing a plan?
4 - Any thoughts on "don't miss" places?

gpotvin is offline  
Dec 13th, 2017, 10:57 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,286
The HopOn HopOff bus with Soweto hits most of the “don’t miss” sights. It’s a good option but if you choose to do them on your own it’s a good place to start. Don’t miss the Apartheid Museum. We spent a few hours there but could have spent more. Very well done. And there’s a bike tour of Soweto that is excellent.

Will you have a car? If so, the Cradle of a Humankind and caves was a great day! We stayed at the adjacent Maropeng Boutique Hotel. Really nice hotel, excellent restaurant, very convenient to the museum.

If you’re into horses and will be there on a Sunday, don’t miss the Lipizzaner Horse Show. I’ve done all of them and it’s my favorite by far! Well done but more casual than the expensive stuffy one in Vienna and the traveling show. Better than Lipica, though I enjoyed that too. Then hit the street markets afterwards.

We have used the Gautrain. Easy, fast, convenient. You can ask your hotel to arrange a transfer or taxi. Uber is there too. If you prefer a private transfer or tour, Hylton Ross and Wilco are reliable.

Yes, people talk about crime in S Africa a lot (often for reasons I won’t go into here but you know). You’ll know pretty quickly if you’re in a neighborhood you might not feel comfortable with. Just turn around. The US State Department even warns about sharks even though more shark incidents take place in Florida than S Africa - just for a little perspective. Many people stay in the high end suburbs. Sandton and Rosebank. Lots of good hotels. We usually stay for just a night so stay by the airport and do a day trip from there before our flights home.

If you’re there in spring, the jacaranda trees around the city are beautiful.

4 days might be a little long. I’ve gotten to like the city a lot but it’s not like a Cape Town.

Where else are you going? I hope you’re not missing KwaZulu Natal and Kruger.
christabir is offline  
Dec 14th, 2017, 04:29 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 4,786
1. Sandton and Rosebank - Sandton City has several good hotels and restaurants in walking distance. I've stayed in several: DaVinci, Intercontinental, Marriott Balalaika which I like because of the gardens and the Bull Run restaurant onsite, Holiday Inn, Hilton Sandton, Hyatt Rosebank.

2. Gautrain is great, efficient but pricey. Some hotels in Sandton offer a shuttle service from the station to the hotel. Otherwise renting a car from the airport and parking it at the hotel is fine.

3. You don't need a tour company IMO. The interesting sights of Joburg and area are easily drivable.

4. If you are not doing a safari elsewhere, Pilanesburg is well worth a day trip. Last visit we saw 4 rhinos amongst other animals although I understand 2 rhinos have been recently poached. Rent a car and drive yourself there and back with the aid of GPS. You can drive yourselves around the park or take a guide. You can have lunch at one of the lodges.Lion and Safari Park is worth a visit which you could do the same day as Maropeng.

Regarding crime, some do try to down play it which is as bad as overstating it. You do have to be careful, I would not drive at night in JNB (but ok in Cape Town main tourist areas) or go out walking at night unless it is in Sandton City, stopping at traffic lights (robots as they are called there) can be intimidating, last visit some guys sat on the hood of our rental car asking for money and this was in Sandton in daytime. GPS can take you through areas that don't look great. And yes, some beaches are not swimmable due to danger from sharks and they are signposted as such.
Odin is offline  
Dec 14th, 2017, 12:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,286
Sitting on a car isn’t a crime. Neither is begging. Maybe intimidating but living in fear does nothing but perpetuate more fear. It’s like saying Chicago is unsafe. Sure, lots of gun violence but not where I’m going to visit as a tourist. Don’t go to Detroit - too dangerous! Don’t go to Buenos Aires, too scary. Somehow I survived NYC in the 70’s and ‘80’s too....

I have driven at night in many areas of Johannesburg (it’s pretty) and millions of people live there and go about their lives, including driving at night. Please follow the rules of the road and don’t let the fear mongers cause you to run red lights.

This is one of my favorite blog posts. It tries to avoid the obvious (racism) but describes things pretty well and the way I’ve experienced S Africa except for not walking around much (granted, she’s solo).

Officially, 1054 rhinos were poached in 2016 and the rate is higher in 2017. See them while you can. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time humans have tried to hunt rhinos to extinction. We were almost successful the last time. Hopefully not this time.

Anyone who suggests visiting the Lion Park just has no respect for wildlife. Please avoid as the animals, when too old to bring in tourists, are sold to hunting establishments or worse. There are so many respectable reserves all over the country, especially the national parks.

I can’t name one beach that isn’t swimmable. Even Second Beach is open to swimming and surfing. Maybe near Gansbaai where they teach sharks to associate people with food? That’s self-fulfilling. There are very, very few shark attacks worldwide so for the US State Dept to call it out on their website is just fear mongering.
christabir is offline  
Dec 14th, 2017, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,743
Unless you are using time in Johannesburg to recover from jetlag, most tourists are happy with 1-2 days of sightseeing in the city at the beginning or end of their time in SA using JNB.

I regularly stay in Rosebank Holiday Inn because it is convenient for my work, has Gautrain station (one change train airport), adjoining shops and restaurants, and nice neighborhood across street to walk in for exercise during daylight.

I don't like to drive anywhere if I don't have to (took a combo drive and train in the city near home today when I could have driven entire way in same amount of time), so I use the train and a taxi driver (same one every trip), and sometimes driver arranged by hotel. I can give you any anyone else Victor's phone number, though making arrangements with him the first time can be a little difficult to communicate. He is reliable and honest. I'll check my cellphone for his number and post.

I've used the following company to arrange a day tour. They were responsive and everything went OK. I believe they are based in Pretoria.
Phone:+2712 654 5308 Fax:+2712 349 8343
Email:[email protected]

Agreed that Apartheid Museum is the must see.
Kay2 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2017, 06:35 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,866
We stayed here and found it a great place to spend 2 days, 3 nights.

There are lots of great restaurants within a short, safe walk.

We took a private car to and from the hotel to the start of the HOHO bus. That area was a bit iffy, young men wanting our earplugs from the tour when we got off the bus.

Be sure to do the add on of the Soweto tour.
DebitNM is offline  
Dec 19th, 2017, 08:16 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,743
Victor (taxi driver) phone number is +27 71 385 5179
I voice call him and text.
Very nice man with clean, modern SUV whose work is dwindling because of Uber.
Kay2 is offline  
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