Gauteng is one of the provinces in the northeast of South Africa. The word "Gauteng" is a Sesotho phrase meaning "Place of gold", referencing to the thriving gold industry following the 1886 discovery of gold in Johannesburg. The province is the centre of South Africa's industrial and commerce sectors.
Gauteng is divided into five regional districts, though the central part of Gauteng (Johannesburg, the southwest quarter of Tshwane, western half of Ekurhuleni and northeast of the West Rand) forms one continuous urban area.
- 1 Johannesburg — economic heart of Africa and most likely any traveller's entry point to South Africa (and the provincial capital)
- 2 Pretoria — the national administrative capital has elegant architecture, historical sites and museums, and beautiful gardens
- 3 Vereeniging — industrial centre, water sports centre on the Vaal river and site of the Sharpeville Massacre
- 4 Krugersdorp — a good base for visiting the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, and home of the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
- Carltonville — mining town on the West Rand
Gauteng is considered the gateway to Southern Africa. Many spectacular destinations are a short flight or drive away. It is a small province, flanked by four other provinces in South Africa.
- The Cradle of Humankind, , on the West Rand is an UNESCO World Heritage Site where a large number of human ancestry fossil finds have been made.
- The Tswaing Meteorite Crater, , in Tshwane is a very well preserved meteor crater.
A summer rainfall area, Gauteng experiences hot summer days that often result in short but intense afternoon thunderstorms, commonly accompanied by thunder and lightning. Summers nights are also hot.
The real-time Irene radar map provided by the South African weather service is a great tool to help you plan any afternoon outdoor activity in summer. It gives ample warning of any approaching thunder storms.
Winter is dry and cold with temperatures dropping to a little above freezing at night, however, winter days are beautiful with comfortable temperatures.
Xhosa, Pedi, Venda and Xtshitsonga are common. Don't be surprised to hear noises as people around Gauteng usually speak louder.
English is widely spoken in Gauteng and you will rarely meet someone who can't speak it. Afrikaans, Sotho and Zulu are also common.
Almost all international flights arrive at Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport, so it's highly likely that Gauteng will be your first destination on a holiday to Southern Africa.
Gauteng is bordered by four provinces:
- North-West to the west, connected via the N4 (northern North-West), N14 (central North-West) and N12 (southern North-West)
- Limpopo to the north, connected via the N1
- Mpumalanga to the east, connected via the N12/N4 (northern Mpumalanga) and N17 (southern Mpumalanga)
- Free State to the south, connected via the N1 (western Free State) and N3 (eastern Free State)
Public transport is non-existent by international standards, so it is best to rent a car. All the national car rental agencies are well represented.
Road are generally in good condition, but peak hour traffic (7AM to 9AM and 4PM to 6PM) can be very busy and slow. Congestion is very common on the N1 between the west of Johannesburg and Pretoria, the N3 between Alberton and the Buccleuch interchange where it joins the N1 and the N12 and R24 between Johannesburg and O.R. Tambo Airport.
Make sure to have an GPS available, as the signage on the roads is not always adequate.
A rapid rail link (Gautrain) is completed and operational between Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport. The rapid rail system offers travel between the major centres and has a substantial bus route supporting the stations and covering most of the suburban and business areas surrounding the stations. The service is affordable and safe and the train times convenient to business and tourist hours.
Being a major metropolitan area there are a large number of museums and galleries that one can visit.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery is the largest on the African continent and offers a good collection of both local and international work.
Johannesburg is also home to the only officially recognized Lipizzaners school outside of Vienna
- Rock Climbing
- Enjoy some of South Africa's best wines at the Soweto Wine Festival, the most successful trend-setting annual lifestyle event held in Soweto.
There are small nature reserves located throughout Gauteng. These are surprisingly underutilized by the local population and offers a good quite getaway from the busy city life. The exception to the rule would be the Lion Park in the north of Johannesburg as it has become a bit of a tourist trap and will be very busy over weekends.
Much of Gauteng's wealth originally came from the Main Reef of gold that runs east to west through the province. A visit to one of the preserved goldmines in Johannesburg and the West Rand is both interesting and educational.
In Gauteng the locals eat out a lot, so there are plenty of restaurants & take-away places around. Johannesburg, Pretoria & surrounding areas are filled with places offering a variety of cuisine. From traditional African to American, Asian & European foods.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a non-licensed restaurant in Gauteng. There are many coffee shops, most of which are unlicensed since they serve hot beverages.
It might be helpful to ask someone, perhaps several people, who would seem to know, what are or are not safe activities in a particular area. If you are staying in a hotel, for instance, you might ask the management where and when it is okay to walk or drive in the area. Even upscale parts of Johannesburg can be dangerous to drive through. As a general rule, to leave yourself an opening when travelling in traffic. If you are threatened or even feel that you will be, run a red light if it is your means of escape.
Certain sections of the major cities (Pretoria and Johannesburg) are best visited in a group with an experienced guide, while others can be safely visited by the individual. Though many tourists are keen to visit a township, the only safe option is to go with a tour operator that offers the service, do not go into a township by yourself or without an experienced guide.
Petty theft is a problem everywhere in South Africa, so keep an eye on your belongings. Never, for example, leave your mobile phone lying unattended on a table at a restaurant. Make sure, if you are carrying a handbag, that it is secure and cannot be easily grabbed off your shoulder or out of your hands. Also make sure that your belongings are not visible when in your car, as smash-and-grab incidents do occur, particularly at traffic lights.
If you are travelling with a laptop or camera, use a bag that does not advertise its contents. Disguise your laptop by using a normal backpack bag instead of a laptop bag and do the same with your camera.
HIV infection rate is high, do not have unprotected sex.
Municipal water is safe to drink.
It is best to avoid public hospitals when possible, but private hospitals are of world-class standard.
The following hospitals provide 24-hour accident and emergency treatment:
- Sunninghill Hospital, Cnr Witkoppen & Nanyuki Rds, Sunninghill, Johannesburg, ph:+27 11 806-1500
- Millpark Hospital, 9 Guild Road, Parktown West, Johannesburg, ph:+27 11 480-5600
- Unitas Hospital, Clifton Avenue, Lyttelton, Centurion, ph:+27 12 421-6700
- Mpumalanga Escarpment in a weekend
- Go east to Mozambique and the world-famous Kruger National Park (around 4-5 hours drive).
- Sun City and the Pilanesberg National Park in the North-West Province are not far away.
- The Drakensberg mountain range is a three-hour drive away.