Despite being the financial and cultural hub of South Africa, Johannesburg is a city that tourists tend to overlook by visitors due to the “Is Johannesburg safe” stereotype held by many. The correct term is fear, as many people – particularly women travelers – are afraid of exploring Johannesburg.
The city’s reputation has been tarnished over the years by the exponentially increasing crime stats, especially gang crime and drug trafficking. Nevertheless, many people speculate that Johannesburg is a unique city that everyone should experience.
South Africa has a notably high crime rate when compared to many countries in Africa all thanks to some criminal parts of Johannesburg. Vices such as credit card theft and robbery are predominant in some parts of Johannesburg. Nonetheless, J’bourg is still the financial capital of the country with a rich cultural and scenic viewings.
The jury is out about the ongoing Cape Town versus Johannesburg on which city is “better.” Although Cape Town trumps the argument as the best of both worlds with its scenic views of the mountains and ocean, Johannesburg is often considered to be a business hub.
Not only does life in Johannesburg provide valuable insight into the country’s past, but it also presents a melting pot of various cultures. So, is Johannesburg safe for tourists? Below is a detailed guide on staying safe in Johannesburg.
How Safe is Johannesburg?
Your safety in Johannesburg will depend on the areas you are visiting. In general, the northern suburbs like Rosebank and Sandton are the new financial hubs, so they are safer.
On the other hand, the old city center became home to overpopulation and drug-related gang crimes over time. It resulted in a shift of the city center to northern suburbs, as business owners moved the headquarters. Let’s have a detailed look district by district.
Is Johannesburg Safe? [By Neighborhood]
Home to many middle and upper-middle-class families, Johannesburg’s Northern Suburbs are decent and safe. Sunninghill, Lonehill, and Fourways are peaceful areas full of security estates, as well as a large ex-pat community.
This area is known for the entertainment complex Montecasino, which offers various attractions, such as a casino, luxury hotels, a bowling alley, a comedy club, movie theaters, shops, and restaurants. Thanks to the guards always on duty, the complex is safe to walk around.
With a high concentration of business and shopping centers, travelers and tourists do ask questions like, “Is Sandton in Johannesburg safe for visitors?” Sandton is the most developed part of Johannesburg. Due to the high level of protection, it is usually safe to walk around, especially inside the shopping malls. You should be careful about pickpocketing around Nelson Mandela Square, as it can get very crowded.
Rosebank is another touristic and safe area. On Sundays, you can enjoy exploring the famous Rooftop Market for buying African souvenirs and watching street performers.
Melville is a bohemian district, where a lot of students and ex-pats live. It is generally safe to walk around during the day, but nighttime can be dodgy due to the vibrant nightlife that might be appealing to criminals.
Is Johannesburg Safe: Central Business District
Johannesburg’s central business district has a bad reputation that it doesn’t fully deserve. In the old days, people moved their business headquarters away from the area because of an increasingly violent crime rate, but this is no longer the case. Lots of business owners have started coming back to the district. That said, petty theft is still a threat even during the day, so you should be vigilant and keep hotel or lodge doors locked at night.
Braamfontein is one of the districts undergoing gentrification. It is quickly becoming one of the most vibrant areas in the city due to the University of Witwatersrand. Having the biggest Saturday Market in Joburg, Braamfontein has gained significant popularity.
Although it sounds appealing, the criminals still have a foot in the district, especially at night. Pickpocketing is a prominent issue throughout the day.
It is a friendly and alcohol-free neighborhood, as the majority of the inhabitants are Muslim. The locals are quite friendly and helpful, which will make you feel safer than most places in Johannesburg.
The artsy neighborhood of Joburg is home to art museums, theaters, and art galleries. While it is safe to walk around during the day, pickpocketing is a possibility, especially around Market Theatre, which is a popular gathering area.
The first no-go area on our list is Hillbrow. With the former residents moving elsewhere, the district has become overrun by drug dealers, prostitutes, and human traffickers. We recommend that you find a reliable local to give you a tour if you really must go.
Deeply affected by the gang wars ever since the 1980s, Alexandria is known as Johannesburg’s most dangerous township in South Africa. The gang wars can be so severe that the military would intervene at times. It is still possible to visit the township, but with a South African tour guide.
Once home to military ceremonies, Joubert Park suffers from a severe case of gang violence and robberies, which increased dramatically in the last two years.
Vehicle thefts, mugging, and robbery are extremely prevalent, so this is a no-go area.
Is Johannesburg Safe? Safest Places To Stay Near Johannesburg
The safest areas to stay are Sandton, Melrose, Melville, Rosebank Mall, and Norwood. Here are a few hotel recommendations.
The Residence Boutique Hotel
Located in the hearts of Houghton, Johannesburg. The Residence is a boutique hotel that offers spacious suites with a spa bath, and a balcony overlooking the garden, with a mowed lawn, and tennis court as well as an outdoor pool.
There is an immediate awareness of the sophisticated splendor of the interior and an all-pervading atmosphere of total tranquillity, giving it a 4-star hotel rating.
In the luxurious Westcliff residential area, Four Seasons Hotel Westcliff Johannesburg invites you to a self-contained haven. This urban retreat, situated on a cliffside, provides panoramic views of the thick tree canopy of the affluent northern suburbs of the capital.
The environment is like a sunny Mediterranean village filled with patios, fountains, and gardens a great feature that enlist it as one of the best hotels in Johannesburg.
African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel
African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel, Autograph Collection has become a popular destination for discerning guests who appreciate elegance and satisfaction. It offers a perfect place for a formal business lunch, a nice drink with a friend and a perfect suite for relaxation of the jet-lagged body.
Garden Court Milpark, Melville
A Milpark accommodation includes a range of trendy rooms that are an expression of city loft living, and provide views of the iconic Johannesburg city skyline. Guests are assured of comfort, spaciousness, and privacy, with rooms that reflect a philosophy of urban practicality.
This is enhanced by the bold graphic elements of the room, the skyline print on the curtains, and a map of the city underfoot
Motel Mi Pi Chi, Mellville
As one of the top 4 star hotels, Mi Pi Chi Motel is located in the heart of Melville, a Cafe district in Johannesburg’s, ideal for business and leisure stays. The trendy restaurants, designer boutiques, and interior design stores await visitors.
The hotel has secure parking, a safe deposit box, separate courtyards, and a public satellite TV. Nearby landmarks include the Africa Center, the Market Theatre, the Kippies Jaz Bar and the Constitution Hill. The Parkview Golf Course is situated in the area
The Best Things to Do in Johannesburg
The story of the tumultuous history of South Africa and its remarkable transition to democracy can be told nowhere, as it is at Constitution Hill. Constitutional hill is the birthplace of the Constitutional Court of South Africa-the nation’s highest court in constitutional affairs and a National Heritage of the Johannesburg CBD.
Once South African leaders of the political activists, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi included, had been detained in an environment of poverty and violence, the site became a place of unity and democracy, a home for the Women’s Gaol, the Number Four Museum and the Old Fort Museum.
Bungee Jumping on a Soweto Tours
Diving off a high tower with an elastic rope tied to the ankles sounds like something created by tourist entrepreneurs to attract modern thrill-seekers for a swift adrenalin rush.
Bungee jumping in Johannesburg is one of the most looked out for activity that satiates every adventurer’s desires. There are different places that offer this once in a lifetime opportunity to you one of these places is Orlando Towers in Soweto.
Gold Reef City
This is an exciting park, casino, a live concert venue with live music, and a historical tour center. Only 8 kilometers from Johannesburg, you can go to one of the underground mines that have made it “the City of Gold”. It’s both a good source of historical information, where you can visit a real gold mine at the time and a fun-filled entertainment complex.
The Apartheid Museum is popular with tourists seeking to get to know the history of the city like the gold rush and South Africa as a whole. The Apartheid Museum portrays the rise and fall of the racial segregation and inequality era in South Africa and is a must-see.
It uses a wide range of media to provide a chilling insight into the architecture and implementation of the apartheid system, as well as inspiring stories of the struggle for democracy.
Nelson Mandela’s modest house in Orlando West, Soweto, now called the Mandela Family Museum, is a fascinating stopover for those who are keen to imbibe the world’s most famous former prisoner of conscience and freedom fighter with an abode of authentic history.
The house though racked with bullet holes and petrol bomb scars all over it while he was in prison. Mandela still decides to come back to this house after he left prison. To him, the house held memories he held dearly. Today the house is a tourist center for people looking to come ravel in the history of Mandiba and his fight against Apartheid.
Johannesburg Safety Tips
Being one of the most diverse and largest cities in South Africa, Is Johannesburg safe; can sound scary due to stories of crime. However, it is definitely possible to have a safe trip by taking a few precautions.
- Whether you are walking on the street or driving, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Certain types of behavior will make you an instant target.
- Taking out your phone or wallet on the street is one of them. Another invitation for the criminals is a confused look on your face, so always have confidence even if you are not sure where you are going.
- Carjacking is one of the biggest issues in South Africa. Wherever you drive to, always make sure to find a safe parking space. Parking inside the malls is usually a good idea.
- You should never leave valuables in sight, whether it is in the car or by your window. Burglars will take what they see.
- The hotel you are staying in should have safety measures, such as a 24 h reception, security gates, safe parking, and a safe in the room for your valuables.
- The safest ways to explore the city are walking tours and the City Sightseeing bus. For walking tours, you should check out established agencies like Past Experience and Main Street Walks. City Sightseeing is quick, fast, and provides armed guards waiting at every destination.
- Uber and Gautrain are the safest ways to travel around the city.
- Unfortunate events can be inevitable, but you can still minimize the damage with proper travel insurance that covers you for lost and stolen items.
- Watch out against robbers impersonating police. They can ask to pull you over at secluded sections of highways. Under normal circumstances, cops are not allowed to do that unless there is a roadblock.
FAQ for Johannesburg Safety
It is not the safest country, but it is not a war zone either. There are areas that you should avoid, such as the townships, and some central business districts. Although Johannesburg and crime are almost synonymous, crimes mainly take place in townships amongst gangs. See the detailed post on the areas to avoid during your visit/sightseeing.
Absolutely! Johannesburg has a rich history of gold (pun intended) popularly known as the gold reef city, as well as several sights dating back to the Apartheid Era. Visiting Johannesburg is a very informative and eye-opening experience.
Being near the seat of the parliament, and having fewer touristic sights, Pretoria is often more peaceful, humble, and safer than Johannesburg.
Conclusion: Is Johannesburg Safe?
As much as it sounds notoriously dangerous, Johannesburg is not a wild Western movie or a zombie apocalypse set as you imagined. With due diligence, common sense and the above-mentioned precautions, you should be trouble-free.
Once you conquer your fear, Johannesburg will open up like a lotus flower, and you will find the perfect harmony of the chaos and contrasting cultures. Traveling to Johannesburg is much easier than you think since it has one of the busiest airports in Africa. We hope you found this post helpful. Now go out there and explore the best Johannesburg has to offer without the usual ‘Is Johannesburg Safe’ Stereotype.