Things to Know Before Going to Johannesburg

Johannesburg, often referred to as Jo’burg or Jozi, is the largest city in South Africa and one of the largest urban areas in Africa. Situated in the northeastern part of the country, Johannesburg serves as the economic, financial, and cultural hub of South Africa. With a rich history, diverse population, and vibrant culture, Johannesburg is a city of contrasts, blending the old and the new in a dynamic urban landscape.


Johannesburg was founded in 1886 following the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand region, sparking a gold rush that attracted prospectors from around the world. The city quickly grew into a booming mining town, attracting migrants from across South Africa and beyond. However, the rapid growth also led to social and political tensions, culminating in the establishment of apartheid policies in the mid-20th century, which enforced racial segregation and inequality.

Understanding the City’s Layout

Johannesburg is a sprawling metropolis, and navigating its streets can be daunting for newcomers. The city is divided into several neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and attractions. From the vibrant streets of downtown Johannesburg to the upscale suburb of Sandton, each area offers something unique for visitors to explore. Understanding the layout of the city can help you plan your itinerary more efficiently and make the most of your time in Johannesburg.

Safety Precautions

While Johannesburg has much to offer in terms of culture and entertainment, it’s also important to be aware of safety concerns. Like any major city, Johannesburg has its share of crime, and visitors should take precautions to ensure their safety. Avoid displaying valuables openly, be cautious when using ATMs, and stick to well-lit areas, especially at night. It’s also advisable to research safe transportation options and use reputable taxi services or ride-sharing apps when getting around the city.

 Cultural Sensitivity

South Africa is a diverse country with a complex history, and Johannesburg reflects this diversity in its population and culture. Visitors should be respectful of the country’s multicultural heritage and take the time to learn about its people and traditions. It’s important to be sensitive to cultural differences and avoid making assumptions or judgments based on stereotypes. Engaging with locals in a respectful and open-minded manner can enrich your experience and help you gain a deeper understanding of Johannesburg’s rich tapestry of cultures.

Currency and Payment Methods

The currency used in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR). While credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Johannesburg, especially in major tourist areas and upscale establishments, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller purchases and transactions. ATMs are readily available throughout the city, but it’s essential to use caution when withdrawing money and to avoid isolated or poorly lit ATMs, especially at night.


South Africa is a multilingual country with 11 official languages, reflecting its diverse population. While English is widely spoken and understood in Johannesburg, especially in tourist areas and business districts, it’s always appreciated when visitors make an effort to learn a few basic phrases in the local languages, such as isiZulu, isiXhosa, or Sesotho. This gesture of respect can go a long way in fostering positive interactions with locals and immersing yourself in the cultural fabric of the city.

Health and Safety

Before traveling to Johannesburg, it’s essential to take appropriate health precautions. Ensure that your vaccinations are up-to-date and consider taking precautions against mosquito-borne diseases if you plan to visit during the warmer months. It’s also advisable to drink bottled water and avoid consuming tap water, especially if you have a sensitive stomach. Additionally, travelers should have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any unexpected medical expenses or emergencies during their stay.


Getting around Johannesburg can be challenging, especially for first-time visitors. While the city does have a public transportation system, including buses and trains, these options may not always be the most convenient or safest choice for tourists. Renting a car or using ride-sharing services like Uber or Bolt can offer more flexibility and convenience, especially for exploring attractions outside of the city center. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local driving laws and customs before hitting the road.

Must-See Attractions

Johannesburg boasts a wealth of attractions and landmarks for visitors to explore. From the poignant history of apartheid at the Apartheid Museum to the vibrant street art of the Maboneng Precinct, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Other must-see attractions include the iconic Ponte Tower, the sprawling Johannesburg Zoo, and the picturesque Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. Be sure to do your research and prioritize the attractions that align with your interests and preferences.

Local Cuisine

No visit to Johannesburg would be complete without sampling some of the city’s delicious cuisine. From hearty traditional dishes like bobotie and boerewors to flavorful street food like bunny chow and samoosas, Johannesburg offers a tantalizing array of culinary delights. Be sure to explore the city’s diverse dining scene, from trendy cafes and bistros to lively markets and food stalls. Don’t be afraid to try something new and immerse yourself in the flavors of South African cuisine.

 Embrace the Spirit of Ubuntu

Finally, one of the most important things to know before visiting Johannesburg is the concept of Ubuntu, an African philosophy that emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity and the importance of compassion and community. Embracing the spirit of Ubuntu can enhance your experience in Johannesburg and foster meaningful connections with the people you encounter. Whether you’re exploring the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, interacting with locals, or simply taking in the sights and sounds of Johannesburg, remember to approach each experience with an open heart and a spirit of empathy and understanding.


Johannesburg is a dynamic and diverse city that offers visitors a wealth of experiences to discover and enjoy. By being informed and prepared before your visit, you can make the most of your time in this vibrant metropolis and create memories that will last a lifetime. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to explore all that Johannesburg has to offer!

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