Arrive like a pro at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport


There are two things I concern myself with on every airport arrival: cash and transportation. Getting some money in the local currency – preferably from an ATM machine – and finding my way into town or to my hotel – preferably on public transit – are key. Unfortunately for visitors, these tasks are not nearly as easy as they should be at South Africa‘s international gateway airport.

Sure, it looks easy enough. Just like most every other airport in the world there are money changers right outside the customs call when you arrive. But unlike most airports those money changers do not have ATMs attached. Indeed, there are no ATMs at all to be found on the arrivals level in the airport. The money change facilities all advertise “ATM Services” but you’re still almost certain to get hosed on the exchange rate. No thanks.

The key to getting cash is to head upstairs. More or less directly above the doors from which one exits customs there are ATM machines from a number of banks available. This is a WAY better deal than changing money with the folks on the ground floor and is well worth the escalator ride. It also happens to give a nice view of the arrivals hall, which is rather pretty.

Next up is finding your way into town. For me that meant a ride to Sandton on the Gautrain rail system. Finding the train platform is pretty easy – just keep heading up and follow the signs to the train.

A round-trip fare from the airport to Sandton is 200 Rand (~$30 USD at time of writing). In addition, you have to purchase the smart card that the train system uses for fare collection and debit for an extra 10 Rand. This souvenir is yours to keep. Check out the attached video for the step-by-step instructions in this video for making the purchase.

The trains are pretty new and quite a comfortable ride. As we rolled through the farms surrounding the airport, speeding past the traffic jams, I was quite happy that the Gautrain option existed. At only 25 minutes or so each way to Sandton, with several trains each hour it really is the best way to get between the airport and town.

You’ll be in Nelson Mandela Square (and likely just as disappointed by it as I was) in no time.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .
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