Crime and safety

Joburg has a poor reputation for safety – sometimes

deservedly so. The police force (the SAPS) isn’t always as

top-notch or as present as it needs to be, and the city’s Metro

Police often seem more intent on meeting targets for issuing

speeding fines than on bearing down on other dangerous

driving habits, like flying through red traffic lights, not wearing

safety belts, and driving on sidewalks or in emergency lanes

(a quirk of minibus taxi-drivers now emulated by impatient

drivers, often in four-wheel-drive vehicles). The truth about

safety is a shifting reality. A lot of opportunistic crime

takes place in dense city neighbourhoods and in suburban

neighbourhoods, where homes are targeted. You’ll notice the

ubiquitous guard huts, electric fencing and private-security

patrol cars in the wealthier northern suburbs, and the razor

wire in less affluent areas. Over the years people have

become unselfconscious about adding security features to

their homes. Our advice is to be aware rather than paranoid.

As in any other modern metropolis, you need to use your

head, know where you’re going, and not flash your cash or

valuables around. Consult a local to get a head’s up, but walk

away if they’re the type to tell you that the city is a no-go

area – you have just chosen the wrong local. When you plan

your first walk around the inner-city, consider a tour with one

of the many knowledgeable guides who offer them, or a City

Sightseeing Red Bus hop-on, hop-off tour to get the lay of

the land (see Tours and Getting Around).

24-hour city

The relentless pace slows in the evening, and many

restaurant kitchens close well before 22:00. Sunday nights

are quiet, and many restaurants, galleries and museums are

closed on Mondays. The city’s nightlife is scattered so plan

your night out in advance and call restaurants to check on

kitchen closing times. Convenience stores at petrol stations

are the most likely places to be open after hours if you need

basics like airtime for your cell phone.

Basic supplies: Caltex Petrol Station Cnr 4th St and 17th

Ave, Oaklands, tel. +27 11 483 3233. Pick ‘n Pay Express

BP Petrol Station Melrose Arch, 116 Corlett Dr, Birnam, tel.

+27 11 786 8644. Engen Petrol Station 270 Rivonia Rd,

Rivonia, tel. +27 11 803 0935. Engen Oxford Convenience

Centre 120 Oxford Rd, Rosebank, tel. +27 11 327 2448/9.

This branch has a Woolworths grocery store.

Pizza: Andiccio 24 3 Corlett Dr, Illovo, tel. +27 11 447

4603. Closes 02:00 most weekday nights and open 24

hours at weekends.

Fast food: McDonald’s, 157 Rivonia Rd, cnr Grayston Dr,

Sandton, tel. +27 11 883 0712. Drive-thru open 24 hours.

Restaurant 05:00–23:00.

Melville and Greenside are traditionally late-night haunts,

but staying out until the early hours doesn‘t deter Joburgers

from rising with the birds. Car traffic increases soon after

dawn, and you’ll see joggers, cyclists, domestic workers

and dog-walkers making their way through the suburbs in

the early morning.


Joburg has sunny days and, less frequently, not-so-sunny

days. The seasons mostly blend into each other, with

summer stretching from November to March and milder

temperatures setting in from April to May. Winter starts in

June and lasts until August. Spring (September and October)

is brief, and you’ll know it by the distinctive purple haze that

the blooming jacaranda trees cast across the city’s northern

suburbs. Summer temperatures average 25 °C (77 °F), with

winter days dropping to a low of around 15 °C (59 °F). Winter

Johannesburg In Your Pocket

nights can dip to 4 °C (39 °F), and each year you’ll hear

locals complain that it is the coldest winter ever. The reason

Joburgers feel the cold so intensely is because homes and

hospitality establishments generally are not designed with

adequate insulation and winter weather in mind. Summer

is when it rains and Joburg has its trademark afternoon

thundershowers, with spectacular lightning displays and the

occasional rainbow to match.


Safety tips

• If you’re staying in a hotel, lock up valuables in the

room or hotel safe

• When driving, always keep valuables in the boot of

the car rather than on the passenger seat. Keep the

windows up and the doors locked

• Don’t leave valuable items visible in a parked car

• Don’t stroll down a street talking on your cellphone

• Pay attention to what is going on around you

• Don’t show off expensive jewellery, watches or


• Never accept help from strangers at an ATM

• Opt for using an ATM inside a bank or mall

• Areas such as Alexandra, Hillbrow, Yeoville and

Joubert Park should only be visited with a tour guide

Emergency numbers

Police emergency Dial 10111 to contact a national

call centre that can assign a patrol vehicle to attend to

a crime incident

Fire and ambulance Dial 10177

Cellphone networks Dial 112 from any cellphone to

be connected to a 24-hour emergency-service operator.

This is a free call

Medical emergency Dial 082 911 to connect to Netcare

911’s 24-hour operations centre, or 084 124 for

ER24. Both are private emergency medical services

The telephone code is +27 11, or

011 from a landline.

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