South Africa
Dec 2023
2 Weeks

Johannesburg

The city of gold, large electric fences and an abundance of trees.

[Local Time}
{Temperature}
°C ·
[Description}

South Africa's "City of Gold" traces it's origins back to the late 19th century when gold was discovered in the area.

Today, the city serves as the economic and financial heart of South Africa, offering a vibrant mix of modern skyscrapers, historical landmarks, and diverse cultural experiences.

Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

If heading to Cape Town, it's worth extending your trip for a couple of days of leisure or working there for a week. Otherwise, wouldn't prioritize it.

🌎
Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

If heading to Cape Town, it's worth extending your trip for a couple of days of leisure or working there for a week. Otherwise, wouldn't prioritize it.

Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

If heading to Cape Town, it's worth extending your trip for a couple of days of leisure or working there for a week. Otherwise, wouldn't prioritize it.

👎
Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

If heading to Cape Town, it's worth extending your trip for a couple of days of leisure or working there for a week. Otherwise, wouldn't prioritize it.

🛫
Rand (ZAR)
5.635 million
💰 Great value

Summary

After a 10-week trip to Cape Town and without venturing beyond the Western Cape region, I felt the need to experience another part of South Africa to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the country.

Having only heard (rightly or wrongly) negative things about Durban, I opted for Johannesburg. My prior knowledge of the city was limited to it being a large, crime-ridden metropolis.

Accommodation
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

There isn't quite as an impressive array of options compared to Cape Town, but good value accommodation can be found in most of the suburban areas and especially in those close to the main commercial hubs of Rosebank and Sandton. 

You should be able to find a great quality apartment for under $1,000 per month with more demand for places coming between the peak months of November to February.

info
New legislation
Recent changes introduced by the Turkish government has made short-term rentals for under 100 days more restricted. Keep an eye on Reddit threads for up-to-date assessments of how the new legislation is impacting short-term rentals in practice.
Places to work
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

You'll find a decent number of coworking spaces across the city, with most of them centered around the commercial centers of Rosebank or Sandton. Workshop 17 offers a variety of top-quality options around the Rosebank area and would top my list for exploring.

Value
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Very similar prices to Cape Town, making it an affordable destination if coming from Western Europe. Eating out is relatively affordable and transport around town is easy thanks to inexpensive ride hailing options.

info
The yen is currently at a 34-year low
While this is undoubtedly a negative for the Japanese, it makes for an exceptionally good time to visit Japan from abroad. Although this trend is unlikely to reverse significantly in the short term, it's still worth checking before visiting.
Read more
View the cost of living
open_in_new
Working hours
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2); South Africa doesn't operate daylight saving time, so there's no time difference between the summer and winter months.

A view from the 11th floor of Workshop 17 looking over the northern suburbs.
A view from the 11th floor of Workshop 17 looking over the northern suburbs.
Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.
Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.

Where to stay

Like most places in South Africa, it's worth thinking deeply about where you want to base yourself throughout your stay. Unlike Cape Town where the CBD is a viable option for living, all reasonable advice would suggest you avoid it here.

Would avoid
Recommended
Rosebank
I would 100% return to Rosebank if I were to return - everything you need is on your doorstep and it is equidistant between Sandton and the CBD. Safe, secure and vibrant.
Would avoid
Recommended
Melville
A popular suburb, but having visited I would see no reason to stay there, with a lack of any places to work from in the immediate vicinity.
Would avoid
Recommended
Sandton
The new commercial centre of the city, Sandton is home to numerous high rise office blocks and a large mall. A safe, modern area, but lacking any distinct character.
Would avoid
Recommended
CBD
You'd struggle to find anyone suggesting you should stay or even set foot in the CBD. An embodiment of urban decay, most commerce has subsequently moved to Sandon.
Would avoid
Recommended
Braamfontein
Close to the CBD and adjacent to Hillbrow, it felt noticeably less secure than the more suburban neighbourhoods to the north. Some night life options, but no reason to stay there.

Where to work

Workshop 17 - Rosebank Fire Station
Top Choice
☕️ Good Coffee
📍 Top Location
🥗 On Site Cafe
🧍Community Focused
⭐️ Quality Fit Out
🌳 Outdoor Space

This particular outlet of the popular nationwide chain is based adjacent to the Rosebank Mall, with the ground floor still operating as a (remarkably quiet) fire station.

Hot desking is spread out over the 10th and 11th floors providing panoramic views of the green northern suburbs of the city, with cafes both inside the working space and on the ground floor of the building. 24/7 access is available via the security entrance.

The quality of the fit out is top notch, with large spacious desks and comfortable chairs. Meeting pods are dispersed throughout each floor.

If only there for a short time, they may consider offering you a pro-rata'd monthly rate, which comes in less expensive than multiple day passes. Helpful and friendly team running both the building and the office itself.

Remote work visa

No remote work visa
Remote work visa available
Remote work visa coming soon
If staying for a prolonged period, you may want to consider a dedicated visa for this destination.
This country is actively working on a visa support for remote workers.
Check your government website for details of how to obtain a tourist visa.

In April 2022, South Africa announced plans for a digital nomad visa to attract more foreign visitors and boost its economy following the impacts of COVID-19 travel restrictions. The proposed visa will allow remote workers, freelancers for foreign companies, and business owners to stay in South Africa for an extended period, initially one year with the possibility of renewal.

While foreigners can currently stay for 90 days, the digital nomad visa aims to enable longer stays. It will also include attractive provisions for dependents of visa applicants. However, full details are still forthcoming as the visa is not yet available. Updates will be provided once more information is released by South African authorities.

View full details
To the best of my knowledge this information was correct as of 27th April 2024. If you notice something has changed drop me a message and I'll update it!

Citizen Remote is a great source of up to date knowledge for everything to do with remote work visas.

Safety

  • Safety varies enormously where you are in the city.It's difficult to make meaningful overall statements about the city due to the high variance of crime rates. Areas like Yeovllie and Hillbrow are highly insecure and especially as someone unfamiliar with the city, should be outright avoided.
  • The Northern Suburbs generally felt safe to walk around.During the day time, there are security guards periodically dotted around street corners and private security vans are routinely monitoring the streets. This presence noticeably drops off from the late afternoon onwards. Even though it feels safe, take precautions, keep your headphones out and stay vigilant.
  • Running in these areas also felt safe.In the early mornings and before sunset you are likely to see lots of other people on the road, especially near the parks.
  • Uber & Bolt are essentials.Throughout the city they were reliable, inexpensive and frequently available.
  • The Gautrain is considered to be reasonably safe.I didn't use it as Ubers were so convenient, but having read up about it, is considered to be a well maintained and secured piece of infrastructure. For certain routes, including getting to and from the airport, it could be a viable option.
  • Electric fences are everywhere.Most residential buildings feature substantial gates and high walls, with electrified fences all along their high-gated perimeters.

Off-work

Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum, established in 2001, serves as an unparalleled museum, emphasising the narrative of apartheid's emergence, progression, and eventual dissolution acoss South Africa.

Learn more
No items found.
Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum, established in 2001, serves as an unparalleled museum, emphasising the narrative of apartheid's emergence, progression, and eventual dissolution acoss South Africa.

Duration & season

December saw a bizarre mix of intense heat, dense cloud cover and the occasional hailstorm. Sometimes all in one day. Compared to Cape Town, there were few clear days and given it's more northern latitude, has a noticeably earlier sunset.

There was a progressive emptying out of the city from the 12th December onwards as people made their way out of the city for Christmas, making it something of a ghost town by the 25th. If you are planning a visit, I would outright avoid this period due to shop closures and a real lack of ambience.

Two weeks was plenty of time and there was nothing remaining on my list after that period. It would be hard to make a compelling argument for why you should stay any longer than one month unless you have specific cause to be there.

Food & drink

Delta Park
·
Run
Large, hilly, open park bordered by several good neighbourhoods. Running here felt relatively secure during the early morning with several other people out jogging and walking dogs.
Botanical Gardens
·
Run
The park borders the Emmarentia Dam, an artificial lake featuring canoes and fishing. What felt like one of the most safest areas to run in.
Zoo Park Lake
·
Run
Situated to the North West of the Zoo, the lake and surrounding parks are another good place to run. Less prominent security than at the Botanical Gardens.

People

In a similar vein to Cape Town, I had a thoroughly positive experience of everyone I met in Johannesburg. South Africans are drawn from across the country mainly for work, while also attracting workers from neighboring African countries and further afield with a sizeable Chinese community.

There were no discernible signs of a remote working community within the city. That being said, there is a reasonable number of expats in the city and people visiting the city for work due to its status as an international hub for commerce.

Exercise

Delta Park
Large, hilly, open park bordered by several good neighbourhoods. Running here felt relatively secure during the early morning with several other people out jogging and walking dogs.
keyboard_arrow_down
Botanical Gardens
The park borders the Emmarentia Dam, an artificial lake featuring canoes and fishing. What felt like one of the most safest areas to run in.
keyboard_arrow_down
Zoo Park Lake
Situated to the North West of the Zoo, the lake and surrounding parks are another good place to run. Less prominent security than at the Botanical Gardens.
keyboard_arrow_down
Delta Park
Large, hilly, open park bordered by several good neighbourhoods. Running here felt relatively secure during the early morning with several other people out jogging and walking dogs.
Botanical Gardens
The park borders the Emmarentia Dam, an artificial lake featuring canoes and fishing. What felt like one of the most safest areas to run in.
Zoo Park Lake
Situated to the North West of the Zoo, the lake and surrounding parks are another good place to run. Less prominent security than at the Botanical Gardens.

Verdict

Positives
  • Not as dangerous as you may fear.Compared to all of the hysteria surrounding crime in the city, the suburban areas, whilst not immune to trouble, are relatively safe and pleasant places to base yourself.
  • An unexpectedly green cityscape.With over 10 million trees supposedly in the city and 600 parks, it is far from the concrete jungle I anticipated, with it laying claim to be the world's biggest urban forest. The parks and outdoor places make for good places to explore over the weekend.
  • Lots of good options for food and drink.An even match with Cape Town when it comes to eating out, with a vast variety of International cuisines well catered for.
  • A regional and international hub.People are drawn to Joburg for work and you are likely to meet people from across the country who have relocated there. There is a saying that people "Come to Joburg to earn their money, but go to Cape Town to spend it".
Negatives
  • An unstimulating experience in your free time.Even though you are visiting the largest city in the country, there's a very high chance you'll be staying in the quiet, safe but rather dull suburbs. Compared to Cape Town where the CBD is a viable option to stay and explore, that is not the case here.
  • Limited routes for walking and exploring on foot.In Cape Town you can comfortably walk for several miles with a good degree of ambience of people around you, with coffee shops and restaurants to explore. In Joburg, you are likely to be walking from suburb to suburb along seemingly endless residential streets, providing to be both underwhelming and also from a security perspective, isolating.
  • No real remote work community.If you are looking to prioritise meeting other people in a similar position, you can safely cross this off as a destination from your list.
  • Highly temperamental weather.My time overlapped with what is considered to be peak summertime, yet most days were cloudy with relatively frequent torrential downpours.
Tips
  • It can be a little tricky getting to the Airport Uber pick up area.Request your ride when you get to it as depending on where you are in the airport it can be difficult to navigate to. The area is well attended to and secure so there is nothing to worry about there.
  • Think hard about where you will live and work from.Some routes are certainly feasible on foot, but there's a possibility that you might become entirely dependent on Ubers, which can become tiring after a while.
  • Be mindful of where you are running.Have an idea of the route you are intending to take and stick to it. Everywhere seems to blur into a suburban malaise and if you're not fully attentive, you may inadvertently end up somewhere you don't want to be.
  • Rosebank & Sandton Malls are great for shopping.If you need to pick anything up, you're best off heading to one of these.
  • Watch out for loadshedding.It didn't appear as prevalent as it did during my time in Cape Town, but like all areas in South Africa, there is energy scarcity across the country.
Planning a trip?
I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.
Johannesburg Botanical Garden in Emmarentia.
A typical residential suburban road in Joburg.
If there's any data missing that you would like to see in these articles please leave some feedback and I'll aim to add it in.