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Arriving

By Plane -- Most flights to South Africa arrive at Johannesburg International Airport, now known as O.R. Tambo International Airport (tel. 011/921-6262, or 086/727-7888 for flight inquiries), Africa's busiest hub, and now extensively expanded and upgraded in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament. (Note that even if your baggage has been checked through to another South African destination, you must pick up your luggage and clear Customs continuing to your connecting flight.) The Gauteng Tourism Authority has a branch in the airport's International Arrivals hall (tel. 011/390-3614; daily 6am-10pm). Foreign exchange is available 24 hours and there are many credit-card-friendly ATMs.

The Gautrain, South Africa's first-ever rapid rail system, linking the airport to Sandton Station, is due to be completed by the end of 2009 or early 2010; the airport link will be similar to that offered by other major international airports, and the price of a trip is estimated at press time to be around R80.

If you prefer a door-to-door service from the airport, prebook a shuttle for the 30- to 40-minute drive to the northern suburbs. Taxi lines queue up directly outside the exit, and drivers will approach you as you walk through Customs; at the risk of sounding paranoid, I'd avoid getting into a vehicle with a stranger in this city. Either shell out for the rates charged by your hotel or host (prices are included in reviews) or prebook. If you're on a budget, the best deal in the city is a prebooked Monane's Shuttle (tel. 012/323-7706, after hours 072/251-5156 or 083/770-5757; monashuttle@yahoo.com): Transfers to Sandton/Rosebank area cost R230/250, every additional passenger R50. You will be met by a driver with your name on a board at Arrivals; if you'd like assistance withdrawing foreign currency from an ATM on arrival, ask the driver. Alternatively, big outfit Ulysses (www.ulysses.co.za) offers reliable and efficient transfers to Sandton for R300 (R320 for two); again, they meet-and-greet at Arrivals.

By Train -- If you have to recover from jet lag (or simply have a penchant for being rocked to sleep), I can think of nothing better than trundling to Cape Town by train, particularly on the legendary Blue Train or the even more luxurious Rovos Rail. Alternatively, choose to arrive in Gauteng this way. Both roll in to Tshwane (Pretoria) from Cape Town (taking around 28 hr.). Rovos also operates other luxury trips throughout the country and as far afield as Dar es Salaam. If you like the romance of rail but can't face the steep fares, a good option is to book the Premier Classe coupe from Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth on Shozoloza Meyl, South Africa's main-line passenger services (tel. 086/000-8888; www.spoornet.co.za). Warning: Because Johannesburg's Park Station is a major center for people arriving from all over Africa, the consequent rich pickings for criminals have made it a hot area, so watch your belongings when you alight, and prebook a transfer to your host/hotel or with Monane's Shuttle.

By Car -- Traveling by car in Johannesburg is nerve-wracking, and because the city is almost entirely flat, there are very few landmarks, so getting lost is virtually guaranteed. It's best to fly or train into the city, then use taxis, tour guides, and/or hotel transfers for the duration of your stay.

Visitor Information

Besides the office in the airport, the Gauteng Tourism Authority has its head office opposite the Market Theatre in Newtown (1 Central Place, corner of Jeppe and Henry Nxumalo sts.; tel. 011/832-2780 or 011/639-1600; www.gauteng.net) -- part of the regeneration of downtown Jozi.

Getting Around

By Car -- Besides the completion of the long-awaited Gautrain (the rapid rail service that will ultimately link the airport to the city and Tshwane), public transport remains sketchy and, after hours, nonexistent. Getting around Johannesburg is best done by car, but self-driving is not a good idea: Jo'burg drivers are notoriously impatient, as the myriad skid marks on the roads will attest, and you will need an excellent map and innate sense of direction. If you're comfortable with self-driving, all the major car hire companies are represented here. Those heading off on an independent safari might want to look at Britz Africa (tel. 011/396-1860; www.britz.co.za). They specialize in fully equipped four-wheel-drives (with tents on the roof and cooking equipment) and camper vans, and will pick you up at the airport. Hire a Land Rover (contact Neil Kemp, tel. 011/608-3442 or 082/929-9237; www.hirealandrover.co.za) rents a wide range of "Landies" in good condition.

By Taxi -- Taxis generally don't cruise the streets, so you'll have to call for one. Try Rose Taxi (tel. 011/403-9625) and Maxi Taxi (tel. 011/648-1212). In Tshwane, call Rixi Mini Cabs (tel. 012/325-8072) or SA Taxi (tel. 012/320-2075). Charges are around R9 to R10 per kilometer.

Staying Safe

Crime -- much of it violent and senseless -- forms the mainstay of conversation among Jozi's privileged and poor. While the government insists that crime statistics are improving, the city is a hothouse for those who have realized that the easiest way to make it is to take it, as is evidenced in the plethora of private security companies and fortresslike barricading of homes and businesses. Johannesburg continues to have some of the highest incidences of crime in the world, and visitors are strongly urged to keep on their toes. Carjackings are less common now, but keep your car doors locked while traveling and windows up. Don't get suckered into stopping your vehicle for strangers; scams involving mock accidents and breakdowns are designed to lure unsuspecting Samaritans. If you sense a potential threat, keep in mind that crossing against a red light -- carefully, of course -- is allowed. Don't leave valuables in plain sight in the car, even when you're in it, and it's a good idea to be alert at traffic lights; pay attention to what's going on around you.

Generally speaking, inconspicuous consumption is the order of the day: People who have nothing worth stealing are less likely to attract criminals. Don't carry or wear anything of obvious value (though some say it's worth carrying a small sum of cash to satisfy a demand), and don't look lost. Hillbrow, Berea, and Yeoville are no-go areas unless you're accompanied by a guide who is totally familiar with the area and prepared to walk tall. If you are ever mugged, don't protest -- hand over the goods or money and walk away.

If this sort of talk makes you nervous, it may be wise to tour in a group with a guide. Alternatively, you can book one of the lodging options recommended below -- situated in Jo'burg's safest areas -- and spend your time like the locals, sampling the city's many fine restaurants and shopping.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.