Although hire cars are very reasonably priced, it is unwise to head out on your own without decent local knowledge.
Virgin, South African Airlines and BA have direct daily flights from London. Another option is to fly to Cape Town and catch an internal flight. The airport is located 12 miles east of the city. Have your hotel arrange for a taxi to pick you up from the airport, or catch an authorised shuttle bus.
Country code for South Africa: 27. Johannesburg: 11.
Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee; A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; Gold Mine by Wilbur Smith. My Mother's Lovers by Christopher Hope.
Do go / Don't Go
October is when the city's purple jacaranda trees are in full bloom. The Southern Hemisphere summer from November to February is hot, with late afternoon thunderstorms. Autumn, from late February till April is pleasantly warm and a good time to see the city. June, July and August are winter months with dry, cool weather. Temperatures can fall below freezing at night.
South African cooking reflects the myriad of indigenous and migrant peoples who have settled there. Indian-influenced dishes include achaar and chakalaka salads and samoosas. Bobotie - a spicy dish of baked minced meat - has Malay origins. European introductions include boerewors (spicy sausages), frikkadel (meatballs) and the highly addictive biltong - salted and dried beef…or any other red meat, from antelope to ostrich. Johannesburg is not a wine producing area but there are always excellent South African wines available to accompany your meal.
It's wise to be safety conscious: always use a taxi ordered by your hotel; don't just pick them up in the street. Get the taxi driver's phone number and have him pick you up at an agreed time and place.
Generally 15 per cent, but check that a service charge has not already been added to your bill.
At an altitude of almost 2,000 metres, Johannesburg can be chilly at night. Some warm layers are a good idea, particularly in winter months.
The Apartheid Museum gives a fascinating look at South Africa's troubled history. Visitors are randomly assigned white and non-white status and proceed to different entrances at the start of this poignant exhibition (www.apartheidmuseum.org). Constitution Hill in the city centre houses the Consitutional Court and the Old Fort Prison Complex where both Mandela and Ghandi were once incarcerated. The Market Theatre is an arts complex in the regenerated Newtown area, and stages excellent performances. Go on a Saturday when there's also a market.
Although much safer than it used to be, it's best not to travel around the city with any expensive jewellery or watches. Always be vigilant and cautious, and take note of the advice from your hotel. A local guide will ensure you avoid any difficulties and get the most out of your visit.
Johannesburg is a city where shopping malls take centre stage. The vast Sandton City and the neighbouring Mandela Square is a gargantuan complex of boutiques, department stores, restaurants and cinemas. Rosebank Mall is notable for the African craft market outside; it's a good place to pick up some souvenirs and Afro-chic outfits. There's a separate craft market on Sundays held on the rooftop. Amatuli Fine Art on Corlett Drive in Bramley is a wonderfully chaotic art gallery with a mixture of African and Asian artefacts for sale, collected by the owners on their extensive travels. On 7th Avenue in Parktown North there are several good lifestyle and homewares shops.
The Polo Lounge at the Westcliff Hotel on Jan Smuts Avenue has fantastic views over the city and the wealthy suburbs of Westcliff. The bar itself is also very good, and popular with the movers and shakers of Johannesburg's commercial and political scene. Enjoy a daiquiri to the sound of the big cats in the zoo on the slopes below. You can also get a great view from the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre in the central business district.
Muti shops are run by traditional African healers and stock all kinds of ingredients, from plants and herbs to animal parts. The shops are a great spectacle, where time-honoured rituals are performed. There are several shops in Diagonal Street in the city centre, including KwaZulu Muti Shop and the Museum of Man and Science (which incidentally isn't a museum).
September The month-long Arts Alive Festival is a celebration of music, dance and visual arts, with performances and exhibitions at numerous venues. South African artists predominate but the event attracts international names, too (www.artsalive.co.za).