Johannesburg, or Joburg, is the second largest city in Africa, and offers a completely unique backpacking experience. With a diverse culture, world-class night-life and entertainment, tempting cuisine and plenty of adventure, it certainly makes for a memorable trip, and with cheap flights to Johannesburg, it is surprisingly accessible.
To make the most of a trip to Johannesburg, it is important that travellers pack a few essentials. From November to March is the rainy season, so waterproofs, a good umbrella and plastic bags to cover the backpack are essential. Between April and August, the temperature can drop quite significantly, especially overnight, even as low as freezing. Therefore some warmer clothes, including a jumper, thermals and a good jacket are essential.
Sometimes the weather can be very hot, so sun cream, sunglasses, a hat, and summer wear such as sandals are very important. Those who plan to do a lot of walking and perhaps hiking should pack a good sturdy pair of boots or shoes.
It is important to be aware that tourists in Johannesburg may become targets for crime. Therefore backpackers should ensure that their belongings are secured safely in their backpack, and nothing valuable should be taken to the city. Do not be ostentatious in public with expensive cameras, watches, etc. Good advice is to stick to the main tourist areas when in Johannesburg.
What to know before you go
To stay safe in Johannesburg, it is important to be aware of a few local customs. It is normal for local people to greet foreign travellers by shaking hands and smiling, although some women do not shake hands and will instead nod. When visiting a South African’s home, it is important to arrive on time, and take a gift of flowers, wine or chocolates. Dress is usually more formal in Johannesburg than in other South African countries, so casual does not normally include shorts or jeans.
Unfortunately Johannesburg does have a bad reputation for crime, and all backpackers to the city should take steps to protect their personal safety while visiting. Visitors should never walk around the city at night, and even daylight muggings and robberies are relatively common, especially in the inner city and inner suburbs. Despite this, most visitors enjoy their trip to Johannesburg without any problems. Being aware of your surroundings is important; take extra care when using cash machines or using cash.
What to see and where to go
A visit to Johannesburg is not complete without a visit to the Apartheid Museum, which gives an unforgettable insight into the age of segregation that used to prevail in South Africa. In addition, those interested in discovering a complete history of the city should visit Museum Africa, which gives a detailed progression of Johannesburg from the Stone Age to the present day.
Gauteng is a short trip outside of the city and it offers unbeatable hiking opportunities. Visitors can breathe in the fresh air while taking in the stunning views of the surrounding waterfalls, mountains and vegetation. Popular hiking trails involve the Magaliesburg Mountains, The Cradle of Humankind, Foothold and Castle George.