How Long Can You Last With $500 in Johannesburg?

Johannesburg might seem pricey, but can definitely be enjoyed on a budget | © Vitaly/Unsplash
Johannesburg might seem pricey, but can definitely be enjoyed on a budget | © Vitaly/Unsplash
Johannesburg might be South Africa’s financial hub but there are many activities to do in the City of Gold that won’t deplete your budget. Here’s our guide to making the best of your budget.

When visiting Johannesburg, there are a few outings you shouldn’t miss out on. You’ll also have to eat and pay for accommodation, so depending on just how tight your budget is, $500 can take you a long way to seeing what this vibrant city has to offer. For reference, $500 is equivalent to approximately R6500, which stretches quite far if you don’t splurge on unnecessary items.

Accommodation: $120

Airbnb is one of the best options when booking long-term, budget accommodation in the city. There are many options – from apartments with views of the Johannesburg skyline, to garden cottages, single rooms and more. A week’s accommodation via Airbnb can range between $100 (R1300) and $200 (R2600) dollars, depending on the location, size and amenities. Staying in an Airbnb rental will allow you to get to grips with how locals live, plus you’ll be able to cook for yourself, which will definitely cut costs.

If you’re after more catered-for accommodation, the city boats many top boutique hotels, guest houses and backpacker lodges. You might want to mix it up by spending one or two nights in a different suburb and different accommodation setup. For example, you can stay at this Airbnb for five days for $95 (R1250), then move on to Africa’s Zoo Lodge Backpackers for the weekend for $13 (R170).

Live like the locals by renting an apartment through Airbnb ©HS LEE/Unsplash

Food and drink: $100

Johannesburg boasts tonnes of restaurants, cafés, markets and street food vendors, and amazing meals aren’t hard to come by at all. Dinner at a top restaurant will put a dent in your pocket and can cost up to $100 (R1300), so it’s better to avoid fine dining unless you’re on a foodie-cation. The food options in Johannesburg are endless and visitors should try shisa nyama – a local barbecuing method best enjoyed in the townships. A small plate can cost as little as R20 ($1.55). Grocery stores sell ready made lunches and butcheries stock a wide variety of meats. One of the best options when visiting South Africa is to cook meals yourself, as this is by far the cheapest option. A general grocery shop will cost you about $10 (R130) a day, which is great for budgeting, you should however visit some of the many food markets, cafés and restaurants.

Alcohol in South Africa is well priced, with a good bottle of wine selling for approximately R70 ($5) and beers starting at R20 ($1.55), depending on where you enjoy it.

Food and drink for a week should work out to approximately $100 (R1300) if you cook at home, eat out and consume alcohol.

South African wine is some of the best in the world ©JP Valery/Unsplash

Transport: $90

Uber is in general use in South Africa but other modes of public transport are not for the faint at heart. Depending on where you stay in the city, you might not need to make use of much public transport. If you decide to stay in gentrified neighbourhoods of the inner city, such as Maboneng, you’ll be able to walk around freely during the day and Uber in the evenings.

There are also tours operating throughout the city and your best bet would be to buy a pass for the hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing bus service. You’ll get to visit all the must-see sights and won’t spend a fortune of public transport, petrol and parking.

A two-day city tour and Soweto combo on the hop-on hop-off bus costs R520 ($40). Uber in Johannesburg is not the cheapest option but definitely one of the safest, and a trip from one neighbourhood to another shouldn’t cost much more than R100 ($8). Ultimately you should be able to get around the city for no more than $90 (R1180) a week, if that.

Sights and activities: $100

Most museums, like the Apartheid Museum (which is a must-visit) charge a small entrance fee of between $5 (R70) and $10 (R130). If you plan your itinerary well, you’ll be able to see all the recommended sites in and around Johannesburg – many of which will be part of the hop-on hop-off bus tour. Most art galleries and museums have no entrance fee, making sticking to your budget a breeze.

Constitution Hill is one of the many historically relevant sights you'll visit on your tour Courtesy of Constitution Hill

All in all, visiting Johannesburg can be a very affordable experience and, if following the above guidelines, you’ll have $90 left to extend your trip, to buy souvenirs, go shopping or dine out.