Transportation in Johannesburg is a topic which is hard to access. Like most South African cities, Johannesburg has several different bus, taxi and train operators. This makes it very hard to understand the transportation system. Moreover, only a few buses, taxis and trains are recommendable for tourists.
Johannesburg has a suburban railway system with several different connections and a decent on-time performance. Yet, the trains are mainly used by workers commuting to the city as the system is limited to rails between the poorer suburbs and the city center.
Moreover, safety is an issue with the railway services, too. Nowadays, there are several policemen at the most important stations, but tourists are still bothered when using the trains.
An exception to this is the modern Gautrain which is the first real underground railway system in South Africa. Gautrain connects Pretoria as well as Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport with the city center of Johannesburg with stops in rich suburbs like the business district Sandton.
The trains are fast, reliable and extremely modern. As Gautrain already invested heavily in security, this is not an issue using the trains either. At the moment, the system is limited to connections from the Johannesburg City Center to the north of the city as well as Pretoria.
Besides train services, Johannesburg has hundreds of different bus lines. The services are operated by different companies which offer different qualities of service. Metrobus is one of the biggest and most reliable operators.
The company offers services in some older and some modern buses including double decker buses. Other companies operating buses are including, but are not limited to Rea Vaya and Gautrain, both with modern buses and safe services.
Fares for bus rides in Johannesburg are generally quite low.
Johannesburg is one of only few business metropolises in the world where taxi services don’t play a crucial role in transportation. There are only a few metered taxis which can’t be hailed. If you want to take a taxi, you have to call it in advance or ask someone to call it for you.
Moreover, there are taxis available at special points, e.g. in front of hotels or shopping malls. As most tourists and rich inhabitants got cars or use limousine services, you won’t see many taxis in Johannesburg and not even in Sandton. Prices are higher than for buses, but low compared to European and American cities.
Transportation in Johannesburg is definitely not easy for tourists. Luckily, CitySightseeing introduced double decker sightseeing buses in the city just a few years ago. The services start at Gautrain Park Station and drive through the city center.
Compared to public transportation, CitySightseeing is a little expensive, but the investment may be worth it. If you want to dip into a real experience, you may use one of the minibus or minibus taxi services in the city. Those are mainly used by locals and don’t have official schedules, but can be an interesting way to explore the city on your own!