There’s nothing worse than getting off a 15 hour flight and having to spend another 12 hours at Africa’s busiest airport. Because O.R Tambo International Airport is not as close to the city centre as we would like it to be – and with peak time traffic setting people back by a couple of hours, staying at the airport can sometimes be your best bet. But even with the many duty-free shops, restaurants and lounges, it can be cumbersome when you need to occupy yourself for half a day. But long layovers make managing your time easier and allow you to explore a city you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Make sure you consider the time it will take to get through passport control, collect your luggage and check in again; and set aside at least an hour travel time from and to the airport. Before planning your layover itinerary, look at what time you land. Consider the time and distance as certain activities will be closed and tours will not operate after dark. Whether you’re in the City of Gold for the day or staying over at one of the airport hotels, here are our top suggestions to do on a layover in Johannesburg:
The airport is situated approximately 25 kilometres from the city centre. Don’t get too excited… Johannesburg is known for its congested traffic and these 25 kilometers can sometimes take up to 2 hours by car. The quickest way to get to the CBD is with the Gautrain – getting you to Sandton within 20 minutes. The travel card is available for purchase and can be topped up at the airport and stations.
A stone’s throw away from the airport is Emperor’s Palace Casino and Entertainment Resort – home to the “Codesa Walk”. Whether you’re travelling solo and need some pampering or with small children, Emperor’s Palace has something for everyone. Relax and have a sit-down meal, play some Russian roulette or try not to have more fun than the kids in the entertainment area. This wonderland has some retail therapy options for the ladies, a live theatre and a cinema.
Take the Gautrain to Sandton – one of the most upmarket areas in Johannesburg with some of the most exquisite hotels. Enjoy a meal at Mandela Square and stroll around the Sandton City Mall.
The Carlton Centre
Gather panoramic views of Johannesburg from the fiftieth floor in Africa’s tallest building – The Carlton Centre at an astounding 202 meters high. The Centre also has a hotel, cinemas and Johannesburg’s biggest shopping centre.
If you have the day at leisure, book a tour through Soweto, the South Arica’s most popular township. Soweto is home to more than one million people, which once included Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. You will get to see the Hector Pietersen Memorial and the Kliptown Open Air Museum.
There’s no better time than layover time to get up close and personal with some big cats. Visit the Lion Park about 45 minutes away by car. You can pet the cubs also see ostriches, zebras and giraffes.
Catch the Gautrain to Park Station in Braamfontein from where you can walk to Constitution Hill. Here rests the South African Constitutional Court, an old military fort Women’s Jail and the prison where Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others were held.
Gold Reef City
Depending on the time of day, you can take a 40 minute drive east and visit Gold Reef City. This is the ultimate fun town suitable for both adults and children. Right next door is the Apartheid Museum which is also worth a visit!
Regardless of all O.R Tambo has to offer, why hang around an airport when you can see the beauty of Johannesburg!