Johannesburg, also known as the City of Gold, Jo’burg, eGoli, or Jozi, is the largest city in South Africa. In a recent survey conducted by Conde Nast Traveler magazine in August 2014, Johannesburg was named world’s unfriendliest city. Despite being the economic and cultural hub of South Africa, and being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it was voted unfriendly due to the city’s serious concerns about safety and security.
It is important to take note that the survey was intended to find out which cities in the world were “friendly” and “unfriendly” for tourist travel and not necessarily to reflect the people of the cities.
One of the readers rated Johannesburg very poorly because he regards the city as a “city of crime and contrasts,” while another said it is “not safe to travel independently,” another mentioned that he was “pressured to give a tip for personal service which was not received.”
Though the survey was highly subjective, many tourists certainly don’t regard Johannesburg as one of the world’s top travel destinations. Most of the people who go to the city are on their way to other more popular tourist destinations in Africa. Known primarily as a gateway to nearby tourists hot spots such as Cape Town, the Kruger National Park, and Durban, Johannesburg mainly serves as a point of entry.
Why is this so? Why are tourists skipping this major metropolitan area and heading to other destinations with less modern amenities? Here are 4 reasons why Johannesburg is considered to be “Unfriendly” to tourists and travellers:
1. High Crime Rate
South Africa as a whole is known worldwide for its very high crime rate. The divide between the wealthy affluent families and individuals and the poor communities is very huge. And this fact is most evident in Johannesburg – South Africa’s financial hub. It’s this huge difference between the rich and the poor that accounts for the city’s incredibly high crime rate.
Although the wealthy live in gated communities in the suburbs, a lot of home invasion still take place. Theft, robbery, and violence occur in the city’s dangerous districts both day and night, and walking alone at dark is highly discouraged – even in the more affluent communities.
Show of wealth such as wearing expensive jewellery, carrying purses, and even the use of cell phones in public places is highly discouraged.
2. Poor Public Transportation
Johannesburg is a city made for cars – thus explaining its poor public transportation system. The best way to get around is by renting a car and if you don’t know how to drive, it will be very difficult for you to go around the city.
If you decide to rent a car, be prepared for aggressive drivers and possible robberies in the middle of the road – drivers must always keep their doors locked and park in safe streets since carjacking is a major occurrence in the city.
Public transportation is still in the development process, and taxis are very rare. Taxis are mostly found at the airport and a few places in the city centre. There are no taxi ranks in shopping malls and you’d have to call for a company to pick you up. Also, the taxi fares aren’t cheap either – most of them don’t use the meter and you’d have to agree on a price before you get on.
Though there are public buses and minicabs, they tend to have no designated stops and are considered unsafe.
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3. Most Shops Are Closed on Weekends
Shopping malls stay open until 5 pm in the city but independent shops, as well as art galleries, and museums close at lunchtime on Saturdays and remain closed until Monday. Galleries close around 1 – 2 pm, making sightseeing on the weekends very frustrating for travellers.
4. It Has Very Little Tourist Attractions
Tourist attractions are very few in Johannesburg. There are no seas, no mountains, and no real rivers or lakes in this generally flat city. There are also beggars in almost every intersection, and heading to tourist attractions will expose you to beggars that are most likely working for syndicates and crime rings.
The only safe downtown districts in the city are Rosebank and Sandton – which are filled with restaurants, hotels and a thriving nightlife. Anywhere else exposes you to possible theft and violence.
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Like any other city in the world, Johannesburg has its very fair share of shady and dark places but then, some are more dangerous than others. The complete lack of safety and efficient public transportation among some of these other reasons listed above are the criteria used for categorizing Johannesburg as the most Unfriendly city in the world for travellers and tourists alike.