Johannesburg and Pretoria for low cost travelers.

We visited South Africa during a 3 months roadtrip through Southern Africa (with Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland). Starting the route in the north of South Africa on the way to Botswana, in October 6th  2014.

We arrived at Johannesburg`s airport and picked up the car, rented in advance online from Spain, for 3 months. 

It´s our first time in Sub-Saharan Africa and want to enjoy and relax. So we didn´t visit this two big cities, just there at our arrival, because we don´t have special interest in big towns. We prefered to jump, go and discover the nature in the parks and rural areas.

  Cheap international flights to South Africa  

Just use one of the online flight scanners as we did.
Usually the cheapest connecting continents flights are through the Middle East (Dubai-Emirates, Abu Dhabi-Etihad, Doha-Qatar, Jeddah-Saudia...) connecting with Europe, Asia, Australia, America... Johannesburg airport is one of the most important in Africa and is well connected with most of the African capital cities.

We flew with SAUDIA, Madrid-Jeddah & Jeddah-Johannesburg, around 24 hours trip (long night in Saudi Arabia airport). Price: 301 €/person (one-way ticket).

  Johannesburg´s airport  (O.R.Tambo)  

It´s 25 km north of Joburg (as people call Johannesburg), on the way to Pretoria (also around 25 km south of the capital city).

It´s a modern international airport, renew for 2010 soccer world cup. We don´t understand why it has bad reputation. Everything was clean, safe, easy… You can find banks and ATMs, tourist information, shops, free wifi, etc.

On arrival, with spanish passport (similar for all UE), we got a 90 days stamp, no visa needed. 

Now connected with Johannesburg and Pretoria by train (, easy for the traveler, but there´s an airport surcharge (tickets are around 125-145 R depending on where you are going; the normal price between Johannesburg to Pretoria is just around 20 R).

Many car rental companies  at the airport, very well organised. South Africa is one of the cheapest places to rent a car in Southern Africa and you get real good deals at Johannesburg´s airport. For around 200 R/day (15 €)! So we hired a car!

We booked our rental car in advance, online, from Spain. We used They are borkers. Very good, really recommended. They allowed 3 months rental and unlimited km. The rental was with Hertz, very good service, they upgraded our car (from a Chevrolet Spark to a Ford Fiesta).
We paid only 11,75 €/day!

  Around Johannesburg and Pretoria by car  

The airport is well connected by highways with Johannesbourg and Pretoria.

Around Johannesburg and Pretoria, there´s an automatic toll system, no gates.You have 24 hours to pay but if driving a rental car, don´t worry, the cars have a control system and it will be directly charged to your credit card after doing the drop off of the car.  

Toll sections are around 3-5 R each.The total toll price from the airport to reach Johannesburg or Pretoria is around 15 R (1 €).
You can find the complete toll and road information online, checking, or

 The highways are very good, well signed, traffic but good to drive, even after a 24 hours flight trip. Easy!

Public transport in Gauteng:
There´s a new train, Gautrain, great to connect Johannesburg and Pretoria.
But to go to most of the places, you will have to use buses or vans. Local people still complain about the lack of transports but things seem to get better. Ask around and be patient. 
You can find some information on the internet.

   Cheap accomodation in Johannesburg and Pretoria  

South Africa is a tourist destination and the accommodation offer is usually big and can suit every budget. The quality of accommodation is really high.

There are many backpackers traveling around the country and you will find a dorm or a place to camp in the main tourist destinations of South Africa.  Quite easy and convenient for the low-cost traveller. 

Just keep in mind that South Africa is a developped country and the average prices for a dorm are around 130-150 R (10 €) and camping is around 75-90 R (5 €)/person. So no as expensive as Europe!

In Johannesburg and Pretoria, there are many backpackers, with dormitory from150 R (10 €) and campsite from 70 R/pp (4 €). You can check online, most of them have websites and are in hostel scanners.

We did Couchsurfing in Pretoria. Big community in both Johannesburg and Pretoria, so quite easy to find a host.
We stayed with Deidre and Abie, in a private estate south of Pretoria. Very nice couple!


We follow the N4 (toll, 8 R) and R556.
All the roads are tarred and good, except some inside the park.

Pilanesberg is northwest of Pretoria-Johannesburg, and only a short distance. Easy! Great moments watching wild life there! Really recommended for Africa safari beginners!