What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport


If you are pausing at the O.R Tambo International Airport during your travels, you don’t have to stay stuck at the airport. The Gautrain is a great way to travel to the city from the airport. The airport is situated 25km (15.53 mi) from the city centre. This great train service can help you to travel quicker into the city, without worrying about traffic.

We’ve got a few ideas for you to consider during your layover, depending on how much time you have available between your flights.

Using the Gautrain to Travel into the City

You will need to buy a travel card, costing R16, to use the train. You can top up your card at the various stations. The Gautrain station is situated at the top of the airport, above the International Arrivals hall. To use the train to Sandton, it will cost you R158, to the Rosebank and Park stations it costs R170.

During peak hours (Monday to Friday from 06:00 to 08:30, and 15:30 and 18:00) the train departs every 10 minutes. During off-peak times it departs every 20 minutes. On weekends and public holidays the train departs every 30 minutes

Visit www.gautrain.co.za for more information.

Luggage Storage at the O.R Tambo International Airport

While you are exploring the city, you don’t want to be lugging your baggage along. If you are switching airlines, rather book your luggage in at A-Teck and collect before your departure. Their rates are R70 for up to 5 hours, R80 for 5 to 12 hours, and R90 for 12 to 24 hours.

3 Hours

The Gautrain is your best option for travelling quickly, without worrying about getting stuck in the city traffic. If you are adventurous and don’t mind rushing a bit, you can use it to go explore one of the Johannesburg malls. There are two options for you, the Sandton City mall (travel time with the train, 29 minutes, one way) or the Rosebank mall (travel time with the train, 35 minutes, one way)

At the Sandton City mall you can get a great selfie with the 20 foot tall bronze Nelson Mandela statue in the Nelson Mandela Square. It’s a 10 minute walk from the Gautrain station to the mall. The Rosebank mall is located closer to the Gautrain station. There is a Starbucks located 10 minutes’ walk from southern exit of the station.

nelson mandela square What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport

Photo by Pathfinda

5 Hours

Travel time from the airport: 48 minutes (one way)
Tour prices: from R80 to R100

This gives you a bit more leeway with your travel time in and out of the city. You can visit Constitution Hill from the Gautrain Park Station. It’s a 20 minute walk, or you can take an Uber. View the South African Constitutional Court and the old military fort which was also a prison. A few of the famous prisoners that spend time here include Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. There are guided tours of the Old Fort, courthouse, Women’s Jail, and Number Four. You can also do a self-guided tour using the app. This is a great place to learn more about the challenging political history of South Africa.

Book your ticket now

constitution hill What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport

Alternative Option

Travel time from the airport: 1 hour 13 minutes (one way)
Entrance Fees: R55 (kids) | R90 (adults)

Another great activity in the city, is the Johannesburg Zoo. You will be travelling with the train and the bus to reach it, with a 20 minutes’ walk from the bus stop. Alternatively, you can Uber from the Rosebank Gautrain station, which will take you 10 minutes. This option will shorten your travel time with about half an hour. The zoo was founded in 1904 and covers 55 hectares of land.

7 Hours

Travel time from the airport: 56 minutes (one way)

We all know shopping and restaurant hopping always takes longer than expected, so with a bit more time at your disposal, a trip to Maboneng is the perfect activity for your layover in Johannesburg. This gentrified neighbourhood buzzes with art and culture inspiration. It will give you a great feel for the Joburg city life. Pop in at the curio shops to buy the ultimate African souvenir. Grab some local cuisine at Pata Pata or mix it up at Mama Mexicana. Finish it off with a rooftop cocktail at Living Room for epic panoramic views of the city.

Alternative Option

Travel time from the airport: 57 minutes (one way)

Experience a different side of the city, with a more laidback suburbia feel at 44 Stanley. From the Park Gautrain Station, you will be taking the bus, and then walking about 10 minutes to reach it. Alternatively you can Uber from the Park station, which will take about 15 minutes. It’s a mixture of downtown urbanism and subtle sophistication. There’s a wide variety of restaurants to choose from including chic coffee shops, fine dining, and fancy fast food. The restaurants are complemented by various bespoke stores from stylish clothes, to quirky gifts and books. All of these are tucked away in little courtyard nooks, with olive trees as well as a central fountain feature.

44 stanley What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport

12 Hours

Travel time from the airport: 35 minutes (one way)

The City Sightseeing Johannesburg tour starts at the Rosebank mall. After you’ve travelled with the Gautrain to the Rosebank station, you can join the tour from @ The Zone. You can also buy bus tickets at the airport to save time. This is a great way to soak up the city vibe, from the comfort of the famous red double-decker tour bus, seen in various major cities across the world. There are two tour routes to choose from, the Green Suburbs Loop or the Red City Tour Loop. If you have enough time, you could do both. Stops include Zoo Lake, the Military Museum, Constitution Hill, Apartheid Museum, SAB World of Beer, and more. You can also opt to do a township tour of Soweto.

Alternative Option

If you prefer to rather dictate your own tour through the city, you can contact Explore Sideways. They specialise in special curated immersive tours. You can choose to book their Johannesburg Bucket List tour, or request your own customized tour. The Bucket List tour includes a walking tour of the artsy Maboneng Precinct, plus a visit to HAZARD Gallery and The Cosmopolitan to view inspiring contemporary African art. Next more shopping and lunch at the trendy 44 Stanley, before heading over to Victoria Yards, a uniquely integrated urban complex. And the tour ends with the Keyes Art Mile of Rosebank with famous galleries such as Everard Read, Circa, SMAC, Gallery MOMA and more.