The best place to buy maps and travel books
Favorite thing: (work in progress)
For those travelling into Southern Africa from overseas, Johannesburg is often their port of arrival because stiff competition on this route usually results in the keenest fares.
If you're planning a trip to Africa - especially one that will take you off the well beaten tourist track - it can often be difficult to get your hands on detailed and recent maps of Africa, which is why Maps 4 Africa is such a splendid resource.
Maps 4 Africa stocks a terrific range of maps that both my husband and I raid regularly for both business and personal travel purposes. I was interested to discover that the owner does the majority of his trade via his Maps 4 Africa website. However, Leon is a delightful and knowlegeable chap for whom nothing is too much trouble, so as he is conveniently located about a kilometre from where we live, I much prefer to drop in to his shop at 354 Jan Smuts Avenue in Craighall (close to the corner with Rothesay Avenue).
In addition to his splendid map resources, he also stocks a nice range of travel guides.
It will hardly come as news that we are considered among his favourite (and more eccentric) customers, and his standard welcome to us as we step through the door is a wry, twinkly smile and the amused query, "Where to now?"
A few ideas for Johannesburg itineraries
Favorite thing: I always find that one of the hardest challenges in planning time in an unfamiliar place is working out what elements to combine together: especially true in a city as spread out as Johannesburg with relatively little public transport.
So, for what it's worth, here are a few ideas for places/activities that you can group together to make the best use of your time. These are not 'hard and fast' tours, so regard them as suggestions which can be customised and/or combined to match your interests, budget and available time.
THE DEEP SOUTH: The wonderful Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City are located south of the CBD, are literally next door and provide a wonderful contrast to one another. Allow the best part of a day to do both (more if you intend to spend time in the casino and/or attend a show at the Lyric Theatre).
SOWETO: Taking a guided tour to Soweto usually takes at least half a day - more if your tour includes a visit to a shebeen (tavern) for lunch. If being ferried around in a minibus sounds a little too tame for your taste, consider taking a more unusual tour of Soweto - by bike, for example - or combine this with bungee jumping at the Orlando Towers (best to do this one before lunch!). Whatever tour you choose, make sure it leaves sufficient time to fully appreciate the extraordinary Hector Pieterson Memorial.
NEWTOWN: MuseumAfrica, Mary Fitzgerald Square, World of Beer, Workers' Museum, the Sci Bono Science centre and other cultural aspects of the precinct such as the Brenda Fassie statue and the iconic Bassline club could keep you busy for most of the day. The Indian suburb of Fordsburg is also close to Newtown, use this as an excuse to explore the retail pleasures of the Oriental Plaza or enjoy a genuine Indian meal.
BRAAMFONTEIN AND SURROUNDINGS: Constitution Hill (incorporating the Constitutional Court, Women's Prison, Number Four prison and the old Johannesburg Fort, Park Halt railway station, Nelson Mandela Bridge, Origins Centre, the Firewalker statue, Wits Art Museum, Miners' Memorial, the giant eland, James Kitching Museum, Planetarium, Johannesburg Zoo, Zoo Lake and High tea at the Westcliff Hotel. Note that Newtown and Braamfontein are very close, so you could easily combine elements of both itineraries to suit your time and interests.
CBD: Jo'burg is simply a mining camp that survived despite the odds, and what's here owes its origins to mining industry. To gain an understanding of what shaped our city into the commercial heart of a continent, explore the recently gentrified Main Street precinct with its rich mining heritage, including the BHP Billiton building and the Hollard Street mall, the Mapungubwe rhino, Anglo American buildings at 44 Main and 45 Main, the impala fountain, the mine headframe and the mine stopes of the Ferriera mine in Standard Bank's mine shaft museum.
Other attractions in the area include Diagonal Street, the charmingly homely statue of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Nelson Mandela's original office at Chancellor House just next to the Magistrates' Court, the Kerk Street mosque and the statue of Gandhi at Ghandi Square. And don't miss the opportunity to look down on Johannesburg from the Top of Africa on the top floor of the Carlton Centre, which, though now shabby, still offers a cracking vantage point.
PERFORMING ARTS: Theatre at the Montecasino complex, shows and pantomime at the Johannesburg Civic (Nelson Mandela) theatre, Lippizaner stallion performances in Kyalami
JO'BURG WITH CHILDREN: Johannesburg offers a surprising amount of things to do with kids - or maybe it's just that I've conducted in depth research on this issue, having two of my own to entertain!
Indoor activities include the shabbily endearing James Kitching Museum of mammal like reptiles, Planetarium, the Sci Bono Science centre, Gold Reef City, open air concerts at Emmarentia, the dancing Lippizaners at Kyalami
and matinees of child-focused shows at the Civic Theatre and Montecasino.
Child friendly outdoor activities include guided walks at Delta Park, a range of nature focused activities at Kloofendal nature reserve, Johannesburg Zoo, Zoo Lake, foefie (zipline) slides at Acrobranch, hominid fossil picnic at Cooper's Cave, RSME model railway and skateboarding at Brightwater Commons.
And be sure to check out the most recent copy of Johannesburg Child magazine online for information on current events and activities.
THINGS TO DO OVER WEEKENDS: People watching on Sundays at Zoo Lake, Zoo Trot at the Johannesburg Zoo, Artists Under the Sun (first weekend of every month), Melville Koppies, Rosebank Rooftop Market, Walking tours with the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust, go shopping for real estate, escorted walks around Delta Park
Fondest memory: HARTBEESPOORT AND SURROUNDINGS: Maropeng, Sterkfontein Caves, various activities around Hartbeespoort Dam, including the wonderful Anne van Dyk Cheetah Breeding Station could all be combined in a busy day (but note that the Anne van Dyk Centre can only be visited at certain times). If you are particularly interested in our hominid history, then there are various guided tours in the Cradle of Humankind reserve such as the Cooper's Cave fossil picnic which take up to half a day.
PRETORIA: Voortrekker Monument, Freedom Park, Church Square, Heroes' Acre at the Church Street cemetery, Union Buildings, Pretoria Zoo, Jan Smuts' House and the Transvaal Museum (Ditsong) will take you at least a day (Pretoria is only 60km from Johannesburg).
DAY TRIPS FURTHER AFIELD: Sun City, Magaliesberg, Warmbaths, Potchefstroom, Fochville
Traveling to Johannesburg alone.
Favorite thing: From a tourist's perspective I think I can only add a comment or two to Cathy's posts.
Firstly, I have been through the Johannesburg airport eight or nine times and have never had anything stolen. Just know that it is big and it's a good idea to have some idea of the different parts of the airport so you know approximately in which direction to go. I believe they have added people to help you find your way.
In my four trips to South Africa I have never had a shot. As Cathy pointed out, some people think shots when they think Africa. It really is a very civilised country with modern shopping malls.
I heartily endorse the idea of Pilanesberg as you don't want to leave South Africa without seeing a game reserve and the magnificent animals.
I have always stayed with friends but on the odd occasion when we were gone overnight, we used B and B's and they were excellent.
You will love South Africa but it's too bad you can't bring a friend to share in this awesome experience. Diane
Fondest memory: My best memory of Johannesburg is the busyness of the city, it's uniqueness and the very friendly people. Also, there is much to see.
South African plugs are like no other!
Favorite thing: If you're planning to bring any electrical appliances with you, be warned that South African plugs are utterly unique (see adjacent photo)! We use three pin Type M plugs, but unlike those in the UK, our pins have a round (rather than rectangular) cross section.
The good news for travellers is that we work on 220v voltage which is compatible with most appliances from the UK, Europe and Australia, so all that you need to do is to buy a plug adaptor. These are probably relatively difficult to find overseas (especially in countries where few people are likely to travel to South Africa), but very easy to find once you arrive: look in any electrical supply shop or tourist-focused outlet, particularly at airports (including duty free shops and newsagents such as CNA).
Visitors from the US will need to bear in mind that they will need to bring along gubbins to convert the voltage as well - anything that works in the UK, Europe and Australia will probably work fine here, but bear in mind that you mess with voltages at your own peril, as certain sensitive devices may react badly.
Useful website for Gauteng Tourism Authority
Favorite thing: Listed below is the website of the Gauteng Tourism Authority, which I have only found fairly recently.
It's clearly been developed by people who know a thing or two about travel and is actually quite a good resource for planning purposes, since it contains details of tourist attractions in the Johannesburg and Pretoria region
The telephone number of the Gauteng Tourism Authority is +27 11 639 1600, but I would hesitate to suggest that you call them unless you have no choice. My experience of dealing with them by phone is that the staff are badly trained, with little personal knowledge of the tourist attractions and very limited capacity to anticipate a tourist's needs. Rather rely on the Tourism Authority website and contact the place you're interested in directly (or, more reliably, consult their websites, which are usually also listed)
When is it best to visit the Highveld?
Favorite thing: Frankly there is never a bad time to visit the Highveld (the inland plateau that dominates much of the central part of South Africa): we are blessed with a glorious climate, and our weather is pretty good compared to most other places. However, bearing in mind that most of the tourist attractions in South Africa are outdoors, it is advisable to plan so that you maximise your chance of good weather. That doesn't just mean avoiding rain, but also avoiding extremes of temperature (especially heat) and humidity.
Our rain on the Highveld takes place in the summer months (October to April), and usually falls as intense thunderstorms - or at least it used to, although in recent years, we have seen a distinct shift away from that pattern to more sustained periods of rain. Summer daytime temperatures seldom exceed 30C in Johannesburg - Pretoria is on average about 2C warmer - and the nights cool down enough to allow you to sleep comfortably even without air conditioning.
Winter weather is more predictable, as we seldom get rain and the skies are stunningly blue and cloudless: however, bear in mind that the nights can get downright cold (often below freezing in Johannesburg), with quite a wind chill. The days are mild, with temperatures up to the high teens (C).
Humidity is generally not a problem over the inland portion of the country, but does increase as you descend towards the coast and/or lower altitudes (eg. the Limpopo valley on the Zimbabwe border or the Lowveld, where Kruger Park is located).
In terms of packing, I recommend that you aim to layer your clothing so that you can add or remove layers to suit the weather, rather than bringing really heavy items that you may not use (which take up space and add unnecessary weight). Natural fabrics work best, particularly in summer. A light waterproof jacket is probably all that you will need. If all else fails, the shopping is good (and affordable) in Johannesburg and Pretoria, so you can always buy something if you are really caught out.
If you are intending to do game viewing during your trip, bear in mind that you will see much more when it is dry - not only because there is less vegetation in the way, but also because the animals will congregate around water holes. Thus, visiting during the later winter months (say June to October) is probably best if this is your prime motivation.
Safety issues in South Africa
Favorite thing: I am from Canada and I have visited friends in South Africa three times in the past 6 years. I am no hero and would definitely not go there if I was afraid of being attacked and or mugged. As I have said in this forum before, at no time was I nervous no matter where I was in South Africa.
Yes, there is a lot of crime but this usually takes places in the more questionable area of the city as happens in most large cities.
Note...This was in answer to a question in the South African Forum.
Johannesburg in June/July
Favorite thing: I. June and July can be quite cool in the mornings and evenings.
I would not wear shorts (hardly saw any when I was there) or short skirts. You will for sure need long pants (light) and a light jacket. Running shoes (takkies in SA) would be appropriate for seeing the sights.
The water is very safe to drink. You don't need bottled water.
I really don't think you ever want to get really dressed up as drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is never a good thing. Keep your jewelry out of sight and also cell phones and cameras. Only carry a small amount of money.
If you google weather in Johannesburg for June/July you will get a good idea of the temps and the usual amount of rain.
Note....The above was in answer to a question posted in the South African Forum
Fondest memory: The people are very friendly and Johannesburg is an interesting, vibrant and cosmopolitan city.
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Living in Johannesburg.
Favorite thing: That sounds like a great experience to me. I would ask at Wits and the hospitals for advice on where to live that is safe and convenient for you and your wife. It would be ideal if you could introduce her to some wives at the university and/or hospitals who could show her around and make her feel comfortable.
South African doctors are very well thought of. Most of our GPs in my town are from South Africa.
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Your private guide for daytrips from Johannesburg
Favorite thing: Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, is a popular place for visitors to South Africa. But this doesn’t come from the attractions in the city – the attractions outside are much more interesting. For wildlife, make a trip to the Pilanesberg national park or the Lion park, for culture, the cradle of humankind or the Lesedi cultural village are interesting places. This means, that you have to take a rental car, take organized tours or go with your private guide.
We did the tours with Annekie and Henry from Catz Tours. They are surely among the most friendly people I’ve ever met and they did the best to show us their country. They have their standard tours, but as it your private tour, they are fexible when it comes to date and time. And of course, they can also show you around in Johannesburg or take you on a tour through Soweto.
Check out: http://www.catztours.co.za
- Historical Travel
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Johannesburg and 2010 World Cup
Favorite thing: Hi.
I live in Joburg, so hopefully can help. Rosebank is a good area to stay - not too far from Soccer City, in an old, affluent part of time (lots of trees, safer) and with tourist attractions around. Rosebank Mall itself is probably the nicest Mall in Joburg - large variety of shops, restaurants and a permanent craft market (with a really big 'rooftop market' on Sundays.
However I believe all the large hotels around Rosebank / Joburg will have already sold all their rooms for the World Cup. Your best chance will be to find a smaller guesthouse in the suburbs in the area (search in areas such as Parktown, Parkhurst, Parkview, Melrose Estate, Illovo) . Several of my friends are setting these up now in advance of next year, so perhaps I can help.
In terms of attractions, there's probably too much to cover here. Really depends what you're interested in. I recommend The Apartheid Museum, De Widt Cheetah Reserve (just north of town), Maropeng / The Cradle of Humankind (where some of oldest human skeletons in world found). However during the World Cup these could be pretty booked up as well. On the other hand I'm sure they'll be a lot of other activities going on.
If you're into a nice, relaxed evening out with some interesting restaurants (and not in a mall, like most Joburg restaurants are) - try Parkhurst. Very close to Rosebank and a really nice atmosphere. Plus the Jolly Roger Pub is the best in SA!!!!
Happy to help more if you have further questions...
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Favorite thing: Jacaranda is a big tree with blue flowers. Jacarandas prefer a warm coastal climate that is frost-free. And is naturally found in the southern part of Africa, Australia and Brazil. The streets of Johannesburg has a lot of them.
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Clowns stopping by your car for a smile!
Favorite thing: I got the services of a sixty year old local (man of Zulu tribe) to drive me around Joahnnesburg. I noticed that at street lights there's a lot of people sometimes with cans for collecting coins - some are probably fundraisers and some just for personal income. I saw this man dressed as a clown and what the heck, I waved at him to come over since the car was at a traffioc light and I took a picture and gave him a little token of appreciation. He was thankful and did some nice dance moves for me on the street!
ATM - minibank
Favorite thing: The ATM service in South-Africa is very good. The terminals are located outside the banks, bus stations, airports, etc. I had no problem using a credit card in Johannesburg, and recommend using it because I got a better rate than changing USD into Rand.
- Adventure Travel
Why do we love visiting Joburg?
Favorite thing: Many people don't have much good to say about Johannesburg.
They hear all the bad press, always compare its beauty to Cape Town's (which is hardly fair, as Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so hardly a comparison!).
But there is a lot to do here, with family and elsewhere. And Johannesburg, with it's minedumps and lush gardens, rolling hills and lakes, has so much to offer too.
We enjoy spending time with family, we also enjoy going to botanical gardens, game parks, going out for dinner (Johannesburg has some awesome restaurants!).
The people are generally friendly and welcoming.
When I have been away for a while, it's only when I chat to the passport controller at Oliver Thambo International (used to be Johannesburg International), that I say 'I am home'.
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