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Layover in Johannesburg – the ultimate guide 2021

Published by: Bounce17 September, 2021

Johannesburg’s Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport is the largest airport in South Africa and the busiest airport on the continent. It services not only most of Africa but also the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Because of its wide service spread, there is every possibility that you could find yourself doing a Johannesburg International layover.

 Johannesburg Airport is very modern and competes favorably with any you would find elsewhere in the world. There are all the normal transport links to the city and to the northern suburbs but the Gautrain rapid rail system is probably the most effective way of traveling if you’re doing a short Johannesburg layover.

There will be plenty to experience in this vibrant African city but don’t even think about trying to explore if you’re carrying luggage. Instead, look for a reliable Johannesburg luggage storage service where you can leave your bags for the duration of your stay.

6 hour Johannesburg layover


Traveling at speeds of over one hundred and sixty km/h, the state-of-the-art Gautrain will have you in Sandton in fifteen minutes. That means that even on a short Johannesburg layover, you will still have enough time to get a little taste of what this dynamic city has to offer.

Sandton lies just to the north of downtown Johannesburg. Here, one of the places that you are definitely going to want to visit is Nelson Mandela Square. This is a drawcard for both locals and foreign tourists. Here you will find fabulous streetside cafés, top-end restaurants, and some of the best shopping in Africa. Even if you don't intend to buy any, you should at least stick your nose up against the windows of some of the famous diamond shops.

While in the square you will have time to grab that quintessential selfie standing at the feet of the 6 m high bronze statue of Nelson Mandela. In the vicinity, you will have no problems locating African mementos and crafts.

Though you are on a six-hour layover, the actual time that will be available to you after collecting your luggage and storing it in the locker will be vastly reduced. A visit to Nelson Mandela Square will allow you to get a taste of what the city is about, grab a bite or a coffee, and get back to the airport with enough time to clear all of the security checks without stress.

  • Don't assume that a six-hour layover equates to six hours on the ground.

  • The Gautrain is a quick, economical and efficient way to travel to and from the airport.

  • Nelson Mandela Square offers a great first experience of Johannesburg.

10 hour Johannesburg layover


On a ten-hour Johannesburg layover, you will have more of an opportunity to delve into the city. Leave the Gautrain at Park Station in Braamfontein and grab an Uber over to Constitution Hill. There you will find the South African Constitutional Court, as well as an old fort that once held such notable characters as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The tour there will start to give you some idea of the apartheid history of South Africa. 

From Braamfontein, re-join the Gautrain and continue to Sandton. It is no secret that South Africa has had a violent and turbulent past. Less known perhaps, is the fact that this country also has more than its fair share of Nobel peace laureates.

The Peacemakers Museum, situated on Mandela Square, pays tribute to the peacemakers of South Africa and other parts of the world that have been through or are currently going through tribulation. The thinking behind the museum was to take forward the message of peace, and you will certainly leave with a clearer belief that your individual actions count.

Between these two visits, you will have enough time to enjoy a meal and there are plenty of restaurants for you to choose from. South Africans are big meat eaters so steak features heavily on most menus. Don’t worry though, there are still some excellent vegetarian choices for those with less carnivorous leanings.

  • If you are going to visit attractions such as the Constitution Hill and the Peacemakers Museum, you will need to keep an eye on the time.

  • Nelson Mandela Square allows easy access to both the Peacemakers Museum and a wide choice of restaurants.

12 hour Johannesburg layover


A long Johannesburg layover might cause you to use your time differently. Soweto is home to over a million people and was once a separate city divided from the rest of South Africa by apartheid. Today the two cities have melded into one and several companies offer tours of Soweto.

The city played a crucial role during the changes that took place in South Africa as well as being home to people like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Most tours will include visits to the famous Hector Peterson memorial in the Kliptown open-air Museum.

It was in Kliptown that the 1995 freedom charter was signed, laying down a road map for the new South Africa and becoming the cornerstone of the new constitution.

The tour of Soweto will offer you a window into a very different side of South African life. It is bound to be interesting but don't allow the fact that you're on a long Johannesburg layover cause you to forget that you need time to get back to the airport and clear security before catching your next flight.

  • A Soweto tour will expose visitors to a different side of South African life.

  • Most of the Soweto Tours include a township lunch which will undoubtedly provide a memorable experience.

  • Before embarking on a tour make sure that it returns in time for you to catch your connection.

24-hour Johannesburg layover


An overnight layover in Johannesburg affords you the opportunity of experiencing some of Johannesburg’s nightlife. A good place to do this is at Montecasino. Built in an ornate Provencal style, don’t let the faux European exterior put you off. You will still be very much in Africa.

In addition to plenty of shopping opportunities, there is, of course, the casino. Here you will be able to dabble in a little bit of gambling in a casino as modern as any you might find elsewhere in the world. If gambling on your layover wasn't really what you had in mind, then you might prefer to take in a show at one of the two world-class theatres within the complex.

When on an overnight layover, it is important that you choose your hotel carefully in order to have access to both the destinations you want to visit and to the airport for your return journey. There are hotels close to the airport, or you will be able to find hotels in both Mandela Square and Montecasino that will afford you easy access to the train.

  • Johannesburg offers a wide range of overnight entertainment possibilities and there are many to be found in Mandela Square was a Montecasino complex.

  • It is a good idea to book a wake-up call in the morning in order to be sure that you catch your connecting flight.

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