South Africa is one of the most exotic and action-packed family holiday destinations in the world. It comes with the promise of adventure and thrills. There are so many facets and sides to this fascinating country that for the first-time visitor, it can be hard to know where to even begin.
If you’re planning to visit the nation’s capital Johannesburg, you’re no doubt brimming with a mixture of excitement and nerves. It’s a city that’s often spoke of in legendary tones, it is rich in history and steeped in culture. If you’re heading there for a holiday and you’re not quite sure what to expect, check out our guide with the top tips for spending a week in Johannesburg.
Be on your guard
Johannesburg has long held a reputation for being a city awash with crime and social problems. While the city certainly has a checkered past, it’s no more or less dangerous than many other major metropolitan hubs. That being said, you must remain vigilant at all times. Criminals anywhere see tourists as easy and attractive targets, both for their unfamiliarity with the local area and for their habit of carrying around valuables like cash, passports, or cameras.
Busy areas like the city’s main train station, Park Station, can be hotbeds for pickpockets and thieves. Keeping your valuables in a money-belt secured under your clothes can be an effective way of protecting them from pickpockets.
Before you set off, ensure you’re covered with a travel insurance policy. For example, a travel insurance company like Staysure will cover you if your valuables are lost or stolen, as well as offering cover for cancellations, lost baggage, or medical expenses.
Where to stay
Johannesburg is an enormous city, with a metro area population of 6 million, it is the largest land-locked city in the world. It is made up of several distinct neighbourhoods and areas, each with their own unique characteristics and quirks. Where you choose to stay will depend on the type of holiday you’re looking for.
Rosebank and Melrose are probably the cities safest areas, perfect for a relaxing holiday with no worries. If you’re looking for a little more culture, consider staying in Bryanston or Randburg, there you’ll find plenty of stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and museums.
For younger people looking for something cooler, Maboneng is trendy neighbourhood with art installations, live music, and rooftop bars.
The language barrier
You will find English speakers in South Africa. However, you’ll also encounter many more dialects, as the country has an incredible 11 official languages. The most common of these are Zulu, Xhosa, and English, so it will be worth your while learning some words and phrases before you head off.
Using the native language will help endear you to the locals in the area. It will demonstrate that you’ve made an effort and that you are appreciative of their hospitality, you should be pleasantly surprised to see that effort returned in kind.
Johannesburg is a city with many sides. It has been somewhat unfairly maligned in the past, deemed an unsafe, dangerous place where walking the streets is not advised. While, like any major city, it does have some riskier areas, there is so much Johannesburg can offer no matter what kind of holiday you’re going on. To make the most of your time there, choose the best neighbourhood to stay in, learn a few phrases in some of the many local languages, and be aware of your surroundings to guarantee yourself a memorable stay.