When Driving Around
Hey Guys , when driving around in JNB please make sure your doors are locked and that your hand bags , wallets or cellphones is not visible or laying around in the car.
You will see people begging at the Traffic lights , becareful of them because I saw beggers smashing car windows and grabbing hand bags and running off. So please be careful.
Do not accept R200 notes as fakes are rife
At the time of writing (May 2010), there has been a big problem with forged R200 notes entering circulation recently, to the point where many shops and banks refuse pointblank to accept them. These are orange/red notes with a leopard on them - and as it's difficult for even locals to spot the fakes, a tourist is simply not going to be able to identify a counterfeit.
I would therefore caution you to make sure that you don't accept any R200 notes. If you are given them by a bank or bureau de change or in your change, state politely (but firmly) that you have been informed that there has been a problem with fake notes of this denomination and are therefore sure that the other person will appreciate why you would prefer to have R100 or R50 notes instead.
Better to risk offending someone than to be landed with a lot of money that nobody else will accept (and it never hurts to show that you're an informed traveller)!
Choose correct time to see the Big Five!
I did not choose the correct time to see the animals!
Pilanesberg park is only two hours from Johannesburg, and I had my guide drive me around the huge reserve for about fours hours (starting at noontime).
But all I saw were deers, birds and a few wild pigs...I guess the big animals were still asleep...
There were no elephants. no zebras, no giraffes...no big animals...(sigh)
But, I did look at other VTers' pictures and they have great shots of the animals! It really depends on the time of day and this was my first safari and I did not know...later in the day when it is cooler is when the animals start moving around.
So, just to make sure I see elephants and not be disappointed, I went to an enclosed Safari Reserve in Cape Town the next day, hehehe...for sure I saw them now...
Hillbrow is the Crime Capital of Johannesburg. This place is filled with legal & Illegal immigrants ranging from Nigerians , Zimbabweans an so forth. There is alot of Muggings , Robberies , Murders and Prostitution that takes place there.
I Highly Recommend That You Stay Away from Hillbrow.
Meet your unintended alarm clock!
Let me introduce you to the rascal who will pose the greatest threat to your early morning sleep whilst in Johannesburg!
The hadeda ibis - which is only ever known by its first name - is a fairly new arrival from the rural areas which has colonised Johannesburg in increasing numbers over the last few decades. It uses its long, curved beak to probe beneath the ground for tasty morsels and is particularly attracted to lawns (hence its move into suburbia).
It is a surprisingly big bird - a bit bigger than a large chicken - and is extremely habituated to people. Its vicious looking beak - used for probing beneath suburban lawns for grubs and other tasty morsels - mean that it is more than a match for domestic pets such as dogs and cats, and has no real predators to speak of, hence its apparently unchecked proliferation. On first glance, it is a drab shade of brown, but in direct light, you suddenly notice that its wings have flashes of irridiscent pink which shimmer in the sun.
By far the hadeda's most unattractive feature is its call, which is a earsplitting, strangulated croak. Worse still, they generally occur in pairs or small groups, which squawk raucously back and forth in hadeda conversation, usually as they fly to and from their roosts just before dawn and towards sunset. Urban legend has it that they squawk as they fly because they're scared of heights, but this is just an old wives' tale, and the truth of the matter is that they are simply sadistic little sods who thoroughly enjoy disturbing the slumber of insomniacs and light sleepers.
When I was a sleep deprived new mother, the hadeda racket used to regularly wake me up, resulting in me being even more grumpy than I might otherwise have been. I used to console myself with pre-dawn fantasies of rushing outside and blasting the squadrons of hadedas to pieces with a shotgun as they flew overhead (not a very appropriate thought for someone who's made a career in environmental management, and not very practical either, as we don't have a gun). I believe that Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (who wrote the South African classic 'Jock of the Bushveld') actually published a recipe for roast hadeda, and so I would also conjur with the appealing thought of collecting what remained of the fallen carcasses, plucking them and ramming them into an oven as apt punishment for destroying the little sleep that I was able to snatch. I am firmly of the belief that the appropriate collective noun for a group of hadedas should be a 'cacophony'. It's no wonder that the United Nations have recognised sleep deprivation as one of the most effective forms of torture!
So, if you're a light sleeper and don't want to risk being woken by a dawntime hadeda chorus, be sure to bring some earplugs!
The hadeda's only redeeming feature is that it loves to eat the pupae of Parktown Prawns, and about the only time I have felt well disposed towards them has been when I've seen a wriggly white grub impaled on the end of that curved beak as it emerges from my lawn!
P.S. Just in case you think I'm overstating the case, the wonderful Ingrid (trekki) recently found me a web link to a site where you can hear a hadeda call for yourself (see below): you have been warned!
Taxi`s in JNB
MINIBUS taxis are by far the cheapest and most popular form of public transport in South Africa, used mainly by the urban and rural poor. But if you are a visitor to Johannesburg, using a taxi can prove bewildering and even frightening.
One thing I want to point out to you guys is that they are the worst people on the road. They don`t respect the rules of the road , they will stop anywhere at anytime to pickup or drop passangers. So please becareful when driving behind a taxi.
Beware that the days are short (even in summer)
On this website and elsewhere, there is a great deal written about South Africa that refers to what you should (or should not) do 'after dark'. However, it strikes me that I have yet to see anyone define how long the days actually are, which is obviously important for those planning their itinerary and trying to make the most of their time here.
The Tropic of Capricorn lies only a couple of hundred kilometres north of Johannesburg - as a result, we have relatively little difference between the length of days in summer and winter compared to more temperate latitudes. The other thing that often take people by surprise is that the closer you get to the Equator, the faster the sun rises and sets: thus, the dawn and twilight periods here are fairly brief.
As an indicator, at the winter solstice (21 June), the sun only rises at about 06:55 and sets about 17:20. Conversely, at the summer solstice (21 December), the sun rises at about 05:00 and sets about 18:45.
If you are travelling south (for example, to the Cape) the summer days are much longer, but the winter days are corespondingly shorter.
I would suggest that you bear these considerations in mind when you are planning your road journeys, as driving after dark is not advisable, as much due to the risk of hitting wildlife/livestock in rural areas as for concerns over security (see my transport tips).
Arriving Johannesburg at night
Johannesburg is a city with a high crime rate. But you can not lock yourselves in the hotelroom when you are visiting a new country. The best way to see a new country is to meet the people.
I came to Johannesburg with a minibus from Swasiland. It was night when the minibus arrived. The streets were more shabby as closer the bus came to the city centre. And it was less street lighting than the suburban areas. I thought the bus station would be a safe place to enter. But the minibus stopped in the dark parking area. I could see men standing outside the bus for nothing. All the rumours and advices from other people made me even more insecure. I thought about my selfdefence training, and how to defend against a possible attack.
Since I had no hotel booking, I asked the bus driver where to go and how to do it. He said: "Do you see the light on the building 100 meters away from us. That is a hotel (Hotel Formule Inn Park City). Go as fast as you can, and don't talk to people on the way".
Just outside the bus two men in green waistcoats stopped me. They said it was dangerous for a white man to go alone in the night, and offered to protect me for a small amount of money. I said no thanks, and walked fast against the hotel with my rucksack and a bag.
On the way another man came against me, and said someting like... "Mr. wealthy, I need food". But he was stopped by the two men who had offered to protect me for money. They have followed me even though I said "no thanks". Shortly after that there were more people around me. I could have lost my belongings without the men in the green waistcoats. Or was it all arranged? Anyway, I gave them 50 Rand each to follow me inside the Hotel Formule Inn.
I don't recommend to arrive Johannesburg downtown at night as I did. Talk with the busdriver in advance and ask him to stop at a safe stop before you enter the downtown.
Take a look at the two photos on this tip, and see the difference between the day photo and the spooky night photo. The place is the same, outside Hotel Formule Inn Park City.
- Adventure Travel
Crime is still somewhat of a small problem in South Africa, but if you are careful you will not be prone to anything bad happening to you. Never display money openly in public and just be aware of what is going on around you. If you excersize caution you will be fine, its not always as bad as people make it out to be.
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Update on R200 notes (and how to avoid them)
Further to my earlier warning about fake R200 notes in circulation, the Reserve Bank has issued new R200 notes. However, these are very similar in design to the old notes, and I'm not going to bother running through the subtle changes that have been made as it is unlikely that a tourist would be able to pick up the differences.
Banks claim that because the new notes have been issued and their systems have been used to eliminate fakes from their system ("trust us, we're a bank ..."), customers have no right to refuse being issued with legal tender. Thus, my previous suggestion that you refuse to accept R200 notes because you are afraid of being issued with fakes will probably not work. I would therefore suggest that a better way to avoid being given R200 notes would be to ask that you be issued with smaller denomination notes (R100 for example) because they are more convenient to use - this is true, as R200 is the biggest denomination we have, and smaller operators (such as artists at markets) will often struggle to provide change for a large note.
WATCH OUT FOR THE TAXI DRIVERS
WHEN DRIVING IN JOHANNESBURG YOU MUST BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR THE TAXI`S THEY PULL IN FRONT OF YOU BEFORE YOU BLINK AND THEY`LL ALSO STOP ANY TIME ANY PLACE IT DOES`NT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF YOUR ALLOWED TO STOP THERE THEY DONT WORRY THEY JUST STOP ................
Parktown Prawns - not as tasty as they sound!
On the face of it, Parktown Prawns sound like an attractive prospect: Parktown is an upmarket inner northern suburb of Johannesburg, and prawns in Southern Africa are usually excellent ...
However (fortunately) you won't find a Parktown Prawn on any menu - or, if you do, you should leave the restaurant without further ado - although you might find yourself unexpectedly sharing your room with one.
The Parktown Prawn (Libanasidus vittatus) is a king cricket that grows to gigantic proportions - up to 10cm (4") in length. They thrive in suburban garden environments, and unlike other crickets, they tend to be active at night and are attracted to light, which is why they are often encountered indoors.
They are particularly fierce looking beasties because they have well developed mandibles (jaw parts) and are formidable predators of other insects. To add to their (lack of) charm, they have an unhappy tendency to defecate when distressed, resulting in a malodorous black liquid which stains anything it comes into contact with - including cheap floor tiles!
Should you find yourself sharing a room with a Parktown prawn, the best thing is to usher them gently towards the door - just be aware that they jump well, which can be startling if you're not expecting it. If this isn't practical, then place your hand in a thick plastic bag, grit your teeth and use the bag as a glove to pick up the prawn firmly and remove it as quickly as possible before it has time to perform its party trick and spray fecal liquid everywhere.
Predictably the Parktown Prawn has few natural enemies, and about the only time I am well disposed to otherwise pesky hadedas are when I see them extracting a large white Parktown Prawn grub from beneath the lawn with their long curved beaks.
Anyone who has seen the brilliant South African sci fi movie 'District 9' will instantly recognise the Parktown Prawn as the prototype for the alien 'Prawns'!
Hey guys as you all know , City Traffic. Well I must say the roads leading to and from JNB is very congestured during peak hour driving.
Peak Hour is from 07h00 to 08h00 in the morning and from 16h00 to 18h00 in the afternoon but I recommend you only use the highways and main roads after 18h30. That time its not that busy cause most people seem to be at home by then.
- Road Trip
Johannesburg Art Gallery - Take a Taxi!
The Johannesburg Art Gallery is well worth a visit. It is, however, situated in a seedy part of town and even locals wouldn't walk in this area if they didn't have to.
Take a meter taxi to the gallery and phone for one to fetch you (or make arrangements in advance to be fetched).
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Be warned of cars flashing lights
In different parts of the world, customs differ. In North America, a car in the next lane flashing at you means "I am giving you space for you to change lanes." In South Africa, the flashing lights mean "*** off". In other words, DO NOT CHANGE INTO THAT LANE!