Tips from Trine when visiting MINTEK in South Africa

During my stay I became friends with a couple of people at Mintek that I used to have lunch with on a daily basis. It can however be difficult to meet people that are interested in being social outside of work when you go to a company instead of a university, as people may be living far away or have families to get home to. I got the impression that a lot of people commute. It can be hard to explore the city/country on your own, particularly as a woman, due to safety issues. I was lucky enough to get a visit from Norway on two different occasions, which made it more fun and easier to explore the different things one could do in South-Africa. You feel a lot more safe if you are more than one person.

Some of the things you could do close to Johannesburg:

Lion and Rhino park: Not a very long drive from Randburg/Mintek, so you can use an Uber to get there, however the internet reception there is approximately non-existent, so it would be better to arrange for someone to take you there and pick you up. We booked a driver through my landlords that were with us the whole day. It is also possible to do game drives in the park with your own vehicles, so our driver took us around in his car so that we could see some lions, rhinos etc.

Apartheid museum

Zoo Lake: Outside swimming pool close to Randburg/Mintek

Cradle of Human Kind

Shopping centres: There are several large shopping centres within a 20 minute car ride from Mintek, including Sandton, Cresta and Rosebank. Rosebank also does Sunday markets on the roof which can be worth checking out.

Cape Town: We took the cable cart up to Table Mountain (, went to Robben Island, Wine Tour, Boulders Beach  and Cape The Good Hope, to mention some. We booked an Uber that drove us along the coast to Cape Point and made a stop at Boulders beach on our way there.

Safari: The Kruger National Park is known to be the best, so if you have the time you should definitely go there. We went to Pilanesberg National Park, which is also a good option. One can either stay at the park in tent, cottage etc., or rent an apartment through AirBnB, which is what we did.

Safety: In general Johannesburg is very unsafe compared to Norway, but as long as you are aware of what you can’t/shouldn’t do it will be fine. I did not encounter any situations that were uncomfortable. In general, all houses are gated and has a large wall surrounding the house/complex. Mine also had a wire fence on top of the wall, and grids on doors and windows. It can feel a bit weird in the beginning, but considering the contrast compared to Norway and the crime being what it is, it is probably necessary. In general I was recommended to not walk anywhere by my self. This also applies for most places even though you are not by yourself. The only place I actually walked to was the supermarket just up the street, and that was OK since there normally was a lot of traffic there. Would not be okey if it was dark outside though. You should not walk down a street that looks empty and you should never carry any valuables in sight.

Transportation: The easiest way to get around if you don’t rent your own car is by Uber. It is also considered the safest. I was recommended to not use regular taxi and bus, and was highly recommended to not walk. To get Uber, just download the app, enter your payment details and start booking your trips. I always check that the car arriving has the same number plate as stated in the app. You can also follow the travel on the app to see that the driver is headed where you are going, but it’s normally not necessary as the drivers usually use GPS to get directions to your location. I typically paid 37 rand (24 Kr) for a 10-12 minute trip. I got the people I was renting from to arrange transportation for my from the airport to the residence. To get from the airport to your accommodation when you first arrive, I recommend either using an Uber or maybe get someone (f. ex the place where you are staying) to arrange transportation for you.

Cell phone: You should get a South-African SIM-card while you are there. It’s best to get one as soon as possible, as you will need it to either book an Uber for transportation, or like in my case where I needed a SA number to be able to open the gate where I stayed. If they don’t hand them out for free at the airport (as they did in my case), you would need “proof of residence” in order to get one from the stores. The people of which you rent from can assist you with that.

Accommodation: Most likely your supervisor would help you or recommend accommodation for you. It’s important to stay somewhere where you feel safe, and that is not a given here. I worked at MINTEK in Randburg, approximately 30 minutes outside of Johannesburg city centre, and my supervisor recommended that I stay at Fern Glen Guest Cottages. This was a very nice place with fencing and a gate that only opens for registered numbers. The landlords were very nice and helpful people. There was also a nice outside area.

Copyright © 2017, Trine Asklund Larssen, Trondheim, Norway (Last updated on 30 August 2017)

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