The area on which Johannesburg and Tshwane (Pretoria) are located is known as the Highveld, a high plateau with an average altitude of over 1500 m. The weather here can be extreme. Summer, from October to March, can get very hot, with most of the yearly rainfall, characterized by spectacular electric storms. Temperatures drop in winter, and during June and July frosts are common. Johannesburg also suffers from unpleasant yellow-tinged hazes before the arrival of the first rains in summer, when strong winds blow loose particles from the mine workings into the atmosphere.
OR Tambo International Airport is 24 km from the city centre and 35 km from the northern suburbs on the R24, roughly halfway between Johannesburg and Tshwane (Pretoria). Both cities can be reached by car in 30 minutes. The airport has undergone steady redevelopment in recent years in-line with requirements for the World Cup, and is now a slick complex and the most important hub for air travel in the southern hemisphere. The airport had a name change in 2006 to honour late anti-Apartheid activist Oliver Reginald Tambo.
To check the status of a flight, check the website or send an SMS to T38648 with the flight number, in reply to which you’ll receive up-to-date flight details.
Facilities for international passengers include food courts, some decent shops and several banks. Master Currency and American Express branches are open 0530-2130 and there are a number of ATMs. In international arrivals, there is a cell phone and South African SIM card hire counter and a post office. Note that the airport post office can put post on the next flight to Europe for a small fee, in addition to the cost of postage. This is as close to overnight delivery you can get apart from sending via a courier service. There is also a branch of Postnet on the shopping level of the domestic terminal. The duty-free shops in international departures are extensive and the terminal now resembles a typical South African shopping mall. Excess Baggage, in the Parkade Centre (see below), T011- 3901 8044, can provide 24-hour secure luggage storage. Wi-Fi is available in international departures and there are internet cafés in all terminals.
Opposite the two terminals is the Parkade Centre, a multi-storey car park and site of all car hire offices and shuttle bus companies. Magic Bus (T011- 394 6902, http://www.magicbus.co.za, and Airport Link (T011-792 2017, http://www.airportlink.co.za), drop off at the major hotels in Johannesburg and Tshwane (Pretoria). Metered taxis can be found outside the main terminal building but tend to be more expensive than the shuttle services and drivers often do not know the way without direction to the lesser known hotels or guesthouses. Be sure to use an approved Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) taxi and ignore the touts. The taxis have the ACSA logo on them.
All the hotels located within the environs of the airport offer a free pickup shuttle service, and a drop-off service for a nominal fee. Opposite the main terminal building are a series of hotel bus stops where the hotel shuttles come and go, but at quieter times of the day you may need to phone the hotel to tell them you are waiting. Some backpacker hostels also offer pickups, so phone ahead to check.
The station for the Gautrain at the airport has now been completed and the high speed rail service running from the airport to both Tshwane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg is now running. It takes less than 15 minutes to get to Sandton.