Getting around Johannesburg & Sandton
The geography of Johannesburg can take some time to get used to. Everything used to be centered around the CBD, but since the end of apartheid this almost became a no-go area and lots of business’s have moved to Sandton, which is just north of the nice suburbs north of the CBD. (It’s important to note that Parktown is part of the CBD and not part of The Parks residential area unlike Parktown North.)
The result is that there are two business areas, downtown Johannesburg and Sandton, which is where most of the banks have moved to. There are lots of smaller neighbourhood’s divided between the major thoroughfares.
- There are 2 main North-South roads that will help you fit everything together. On the west side is Jan Smuts/William Nicol and on the east side is Rivonia/Oxford Road.
- Directly north of CBD are Westcliff and Houghton, which have some stunning and huge houses and was home to Johannesburg’s rich and famous in the city’s early days, both have remained prime suburbs since then.
- North from there you get to the Parks area (Parkview, Parkwood, Parktown & Parkhurst) – all close to Zoo lake, the Johannesburg Zoo and several other parks.
- From there, the neighbourhood’s tend to group around different sized shopping malls (Rosebank; Dunkeld West; Hyde Park; Illovo) until you get to Sandton City and Grayston Drive.
- North from there are areas such as Bryanston and Morningside eventually getting to Fourways, Dainfern and beyond.
Pros of Living in Johannesburg
- It has one of the best climates in the world. In winter you can enjoy clear blue skies and beautiful warm sunshine almost every day. It doesn’t rain for around 4 months of the year! However, evenings and mornings are cold in winter and there is no central heating or double glazing, so you will need to wear warm clothes, buy heaters/electric blankets and slippers….probably not what you expected from Africa!
- Summer days are hot and generally create amazing thunder storms in the late afternoons. It does get dark around 7pm in mid summer and by 6pm in winter.
- People (both expats and locals) are mostly friendly and welcoming. Most people have come to Johannesburg for work reasons and are generally looking to make friends.
- Travel opportunities are fantastic – South Africa is an incredibly beautiful country in itself and Johannesburg is close to amazing safari opportunities, the majestic Drakensberg mountains and Cape Town is only a 2 hour flight away. Johannesburg is the gateway to the rest of Southern Africa.
- The standard of living for expats is high – houses are spacious and many have pools and decks, eating and drinking out is not expensive.
- Uber and Taxify are here and the same as everywhere else in the world. You just need to download the apps and then wait for your ride. All drivers undergo a screening process before their profile is activated on the service including criminal background checks.
- A world class public transport system was launched just before the Football World Cup in 2010. The Gautrain buses have routes around Santdton and the Gautrain routes go between the airport, Sandton and Pretoria. www.gautrain.co.za
Cons of living in Johannesburg
- Security is an issue, but you can take precautions to maximise your safety as crime is an issue in all big cities.
- Minibus taxis are not used by expats and a car is a necessity (and they’re expensive by UK standards), so if you’re coming from a place where you can walk everywhere, you may feel slightly restricted.
- You have to have private health insurance (e.g /www.discovery.co.za/) it is a must.
- Education is at a cost here too whether you send your children to a private or government school you will have to pay fees. A lot of expat work packages cover these.
- If you are coming here with your partners/husbands work, and you also want to work, it is wise to check if you qualify for a work visa before you arrive. It can be hard to get a work visa unless you have a specialist skill. It is possible to get one eventually after a lot of paperwork especially if you are married to a South African!!
- Much of Johannesburg’s social scene is centered around big shopping malls, which can feel a bit soulless. There are areas with restaurants/ bars outside of the malls and more fabulous restaurants out of town.