The good news is I have the opportunity to live in “Joburg” next summer (I’m teaching there for a semester!). The bad news is: I’ll be traveling alone which I never like doing. Anywhere. Totally freaks me out.
Any tips? I’d like to know which neighborhoods to avoid, if it’s safe to take public transportation at night, day trips, etc. I’ve been hearing some scary things about the city, but I don’t want to scare myself into not exploring. Advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!
Hi Georgia. Congrats on venturing out to South Africa! There are parts of "Joburg" which have become safer in the last couple of years but unfortunately crime is still a big part of the living in SA. You just have to be vigilant.
Where in Joburg will you be based?
Areas like Sandton and Rivonia are fairly affluent and relatively safe to travel around. In general, the public transport system is not reliable or safe enough to use on a daily basis, especially not for a single white female or at night. The only reliable public transport service is the "Gautrain" rail network and connection bus services which runs between Oliver Thambo Intl. Airport and the CBDs (Central Business District). It travels between there, Sandton, Midrand and Pretoria etc (check out www.gautrain.co.za for more info).
My advice is, if you are planning on training around/doing sightseeing, stick to the following rules where possible:
1. Refrain from traveling into
Johannesburg city centre and avoid any public transport unless it's a reputable, registered company ie. those who shuttle you between airport and destination ie. rental car companies etc.
2. At all times, where possible, try to travel around with colleagues/peers/friends if you're in an unfamiliar area.
3. If no. 2 isn't possible, get a rental car with a Satnav so you don't have to stop and ask for directions. Foreigners are easy targets especially if you don't know your way around.
4. Make sure you have a local emergency no. programmed into your mobile phone and determine beforehand if you have the facility to roam on your cell network using the carrier you use in the US or if you're just going to use a local PAYG SIM in SA.
In SA, the mobile phone carriers use GSM networks (like AT&T & T-Mobile) as opposed CDMA (like Verizon & Sprint), so check beforehand that you're able to use your phone over there. If not, you can pick up a cheap one at the airport, but it could be a bit of a hassle getting a local PAYG SIM card (depending on which carrier you're dealing with and what kind of mood the person is on the day :-). See, in SA, because of the sheer amount of crime taking place, every person who purchases a SIM card, needs to register all their personal details with an organization called 'RICA'. As a foreigner, you'd need to provide your passport as proof of identity, and most likely a proof of address - where you'll be staying for the duration of you visit. It could be a very easy or slightly troublesome process, depending on who you deal with, so be prepared for it :-) You can find out a bit more about the RICA requirements here:
4. Last but not least, do *not* walk around by yourself, at night.
If you follow these rules, you'll be fine :-) You might find this site useful for further travel advice:
If you're into nature and all that, I'd recommend visiting the '
Pilanesberg Game Reserve', which is about an hour's drive out of Joburg. A fairly popular hotel resort -
The Palace Of The Lost City Hotel - is fairly close to it as well.
Take a look here for details:
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Use the Gautrain bus and train service to get around without anxiety about safety. That will get you to and from the airport too, and to all the "mainstream" places until you find your feet. Gautrain service. There are a couple of nice apps to download to help you with times.
Neighborhoods to avoid in JHB:
Safest public transport at night would be private cab services such as:
JHB is a beautiful city, you definitely should explore it but just be wise about how you go about it. Make a friend where you'l be teaching and in no time you'll know all the do's and donts of JHB. Enjoy your stay :-)
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