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Soweto Travel Guide - Travel S Helper


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Soweto is a township in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, that is bordered on the south by the city’s mining belt. Its name is an acronym for SouthWestern Townships in English.

It is currently part of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Suburbs of Johannesburg, after formerly being a distinct municipality.

Soweto is an abbreviation for South Western Townships and was originally used in 1963 to denote a set of townships to the south west of Johannesburg. These townships were founded during a bubonic plague epidemic in Johannesburg’s inner city slums in 1904, but many black South Africans were forcibly transferred from the city and its suburbs to Soweto and other townships under the apartheid administration.

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Soweto | Introduction

Soweto – Info Card

POPULATION :  1,271,628
FOUNDED :   1963
LANGUAGE : IsiZulu 350,940 40.87 IsiXhosa 88,474 10.3 Afrikaans 5,639 0.66 Sepedi 41,179 4.8 Setswana 106,419 12.39 English 3,047 0.35 Sesotho 157,263 18.32 Xitsonga 62,157 7.24 SiSwati 8,696 1.01 Tshivenda 29,498 3.44 IsiNdebele 2,801 0.33 Other 2,531 0.29
RELIGION :  Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1%
AREA :  200.03 square kilometres (77.23 sq mi)
ELEVATION :  1,600 m (5,200 ft)
COORDINATES :  26°15′58″S 27°51′57″E
SEX RATIO :  Male: 49.62
 Female: 50.38
ETHNIC : Black 1,253,037 98.54 White 1,421 0.11 Coloured 13,079 1.03 Asian 1,418 0.11 Other 2,674 0.21
WEBSITE :  Official Website

Tourism In Soweto

Soweto landmarks include:

  • Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Diepkloof
  • Soweto Wall of Fame
  • Orlando Towers
  • Mandela House
  • Tutu House
  • Credo Mutwa village, Central Western Jabavu
  • Walter Sisulu Square, Kliptown
  • Regina Mundi, Rockville
  • Freedom Towers
  • SAAF 1723, a decommissioned Avro Shackleton of the South African Air Force is on static display on the roof of Vic’s Viking Garage, a service station on the Golden Highway.

Economy of Soweto

Although local townships tend to include a mix of wealthy and poorer people, several portions of Soweto rank among the lowest in Johannesburg. Households in the northwest and southeast have lower earnings, while those in the southwest have greater incomes.

The apartheid regime greatly hampered Soweto’s economic growth by providing inadequate infrastructure and prohibiting citizens from starting their own enterprises. Roads remained unpaved, and many inhabitants, for example, had to share a single tap between four homes. Soweto was intended to serve as a dormitory town for black Africans employed in white-owned homes, factories, and businesses. Between 1923 and 1976, the Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act and its predecessors limited people in Soweto to seven self-employment categories. Sowetans might run general stores, butcher shops, restaurants, sell milk and vegetables, or hawk things. The total number of such businesses was rigorously regulated at all times. As a consequence, informal commerce arose outside of officially sanctioned operations.

Only two theatres and two motels remained in 1976, and only 83 percent of homes had power. There was no flowing water for up to 93 percent of the population. Using fire for cooking and heating caused respiratory difficulties, contributing to high infant death rates (54 per 1,000 vs. 18 for whites, according to 1976 estimates).

In 1977, the prohibitions on economic operations were eased, allowing the taxi sector to flourish as a viable alternative to Soweto’s insufficient bus and rail services.

In 1994, Sowetans earned over six and a half times less than their colleagues in Johannesburg’s affluent districts (1994 estimates). Sowetans make up less than 2% of Johannesburg’s population. [requires citation] Some Sowetans are still poor, while others live in shanty settlements with little or no amenities. Informal housing makes up to 85 percent of Kliptown. [requires citation] Soweto’s impoverished, according to the Soweto Power Crisis Committee, are unable to pay for electricity. The group thinks that the government of South Africa’s privatization efforts will exacerbate the problem. According to research, 62 percent of inhabitants in Orlando East and Pimville were either jobless or retired.

Recently, there have been hints of economic progress. The Johannesburg City Council started installing additional street lights and paving roads. The building of Protea Mall, Jabulani Mall, the development of Maponya Mall, an expensive hotel in Kliptown, and the Orlando Ekhaya entertainment complex were all planned as private ventures to tap on Sowetans’ combined purchasing power of R4.3 billion. Soweto has also evolved into a cultural and nightlife hotspot.

How To Travel To Soweto

The majority of Soweto guests take a tour from their Johannesburg accommodation. However, you may visit Soweto on your own, either by automobile or by suburban train.

Soweto is becoming a more popular location for visitors from all over the globe. Take a tour or just drive in with your GPS set at Vilakazi Street… the road infrastructure and signs are good. Alternatively, from Johannesburg Park station, take a MetroRail suburban train going for Naledi (for northern Soweto), Oberholzer, or Vereeniging (for southern Soweto). There are several stations in Soweto, so find out which one serves your location first. The Maponya Mall is close to the Nancefield station, where you may join the Sowetan middle classes in their enjoyment of shopping and cinema!

Unless you are with Soweto natives, you should generally avoid venturing beyond of the tourist-friendly Orlando West district (served by Phefeni railway station). Soweto is massive, and individuals without an African skin will stand out.

How To Get Around In Soweto

The majority of visitors opt to visit Soweto as part of an organized tour group led by a SATSA-accredited tour guide.

There are many tour providers to choose from:

  • Imbizo Tours. Tel:+27 (0)11 838-2667.
  • Joburg Taxi Cabs . Tel:+27 (0)11 039-4402.
  • Simkile . Tel:+27 (0)11 608-2640.
  • Soweto By Nite. Tel:+27 (0)82 748 1588.
  • Tel:+27 (0)11 326 1700.
  • Mandela’s Soweto. Tel:+27 (0)84 840 2847.
  • Soweto Voyage. Tel:”+27″ (0)82 818 1010.

Districts & Neighbourhoods In Soweto

By 2003, the Greater Soweto region had grown to include 87 townships divided between Johannesburg’s Administrative Regions 6 and 10.

Estimates of how many residential areas make up Soweto vary greatly. Some sources indicate Soweto has 29 townships, while others say it has 34. The disparities may be due to misunderstanding caused by the amalgamation of nearby townships (such as Lenasia and Eldorado Park) with those of Soweto into Regions 6 and 10. The overall number also depends on whether the numerous “extensions” and “zones” are considered individually or as part of one major suburb. The 2003 Regional Spatial Development Framework got at 87 names by counting different expansions (e.g., Chiawelo’s 5) and zones (e.g., Pimville’s 7) separately. The City of Johannesburg’s website aggregates the zones and additions to arrive at 32, but excludes Noordgesig and Mmesi Park.

Suburbs Of Soweto

Name Established Origin of name
Tshiawelo 1956 “Place of Rest” (Venda)
Dlamini 1956 Unknown, Nguni family name. Michael Mabaso also comes from here. This is a township with of a working class population who travel by train to work.
Dobsonville including Dobsonville Gardens
Doornkop “Hill of Thorns” (Afrikaans)
Dube 1948 Named for John Langalibalele Dube (1871–1946), educator,newspaper founder, and the first ANC president (1912–17)
Emdeni 1958 “A border, last township before Mogale City (then Krugersdorp Municipality)” (Xhosa), including extensions
Jabavu 1948 Named for Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu (1885–1959), educator and author
Jabulani 1956 “Rejoice” (Zulu)
Klipspruit 1904 “Rocky Stream” (Afrikaans), originally a farm.
Kliptown ” Rocky Town”, Constructed from Afrikaans for rock (klip), and the English word “town”.
Mapetla 1956 Someone who is angry (Setswana)
Meadowlands Also nicknamed “Ndofaya”
Mmesi Park Sotho name for somebody who burns things on fire
Mofolo 1954 Named for Thomas Mofolo (1876–1948), Sotho author, translator, and educator
Molapo 1956 Name of a Basotho tribe, Sotho name for fetique
Moletsane 1956 Name of a Bataung chief, (Bataung is a Sotho clan named after the lion, ‘tau’)
Moroka 1946 Named for Dr James Sebe Moroka (1891–1985),later ANC president (1949–52) during the 1952 Defiance Campaign
Naledi 1956 “Star” (Sotho/Pedi/Tswana), originally Mkizi
Noordgesig “North View” (Afrikaans)
Orlando 1932 Named for Edwin Orlando Leake (1860–1935), chairman of the Non-European Affairs Department (1930–31), Johannesburg mayor (1925–26)
Phiri 1956 “Hyena” (Sotho/Tswana)
Pimville 1934 Named for James Howard Pim, councillor (1903–07), Quaker, philanthropist, and patron of Fort Hare Native College; originally part of Klipspruit
Power Park In the vicinity of the power station
Protea Glen Unknown (The protea is South Africa’s national flower)
Protea North
Protea South
Senaoane 1958 Named for Solomon G Senaoane (−1942), first sports organiser in the Non-European Affairs Department
Tladi 1956 “Lightning” (Northern Sotho)
Zola 1956 “Calm” (Zulu/Xhosa)
Zondi 1956 Unknown family name (Zulu)

Prices In Soweto

Tourist (Backpacker) – 48 $ per day. Estimated cost per 1 day including:meals in cheap restaurant, public transport, cheap hotel.

Tourist (regular) – 122 $ per day. Estimated cost per 1 day including:mid-range meals and drinks,transportation, hotel.


Milk 1 liter $0.88
Tomatoes 1 kg $1.28
Cheese 0.5 kg $5.50
Apples 1 kg $1.32
Oranges 1 kg $1.35
Beer (domestic) 0.5 l $1.30
Bottle of Wine 1 bottle $4.00
Coca-Cola 2 liters $1.10
Bread 1 piece $0.60
Water 1.5 l $0.94


Dinner (Low-range) for 2 $18.00
Dinner (Mid-range) for 2 $26.00
Dinner (High-range) for 2 $36.00
Mac Meal or similar 1 meal $3.40
Water 0.33 l $0.60
Cappuccino 1 cup $1.40
Beer (Imported) 0.33 l $1.97
Beer (domestic) 0.5 l $1.47
Coca-Cola 0.33 l $0.74
Coctail drink 1 drink $4.00


Cinema 2 tickets $8.00
Gym 1 month $38.00
Men’s Haircut 1 haircut $
Theatar 2 tickets $50.00
Mobile (prepaid) 1 min. $0.13
Pack of Marlboro 1 pack $2.60


Antibiotics 1 pack $
Tampons 32 pieces $2.85
Deodorant 50 ml. $2.30
Shampoo 400 ml. $3.30
Toilet paper 4 rolls $1.55
Toothpaste 1 tube $1.05


Jeans (Levis 501 or similar) 1 $48.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M) 1 $35.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas) 1 $68.00
Leather shoes 1 $68.00


Gasoline 1 liter $0.86
Taxi Start $1.20
Taxi 1 km $0.70
Local Transport 1 ticket $0.91

Sights & Landmarks In Soweto

  • Credo Mutwa Village, Corner Ntsane and Majoeng streets, Central Western Jabavu, +27 11 930-1813. Open daily from 6AM to 6PM. Restored Zulu and Sotho villages
  • Hector Pietersen Museum, 8288 Maseko Street, Orlando West, +27 11 536-0611. Open 10AM to 5PM Mon to Sat and 10AM to 4PM on Sun.
  • Mandela Family Museum, 8115 Ngakane Street, Orlando West,  +27 11 936-7754. Open 9:30AM to 5PM daily.
  • Regina Mundi Church, 1149 Khumalo Street, Moroka,  +27 11 986-2546.The people’s parliament.

Food & Restaurants In Soweto

  • B’s Place, 5541 Shuenane Street, Orlando East, +27 11 935-4015.
  • Sakhumzi Restaurant, 6980 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West,  +27 11 536-1379, fax: +27 11 939-4427, e-mail:
  • Wandies, 618 Makhalamele Street, Dube, +27 11 982-2796, It serves some of the greatest indigenous South African cuisines, such as Mogodu (tripe) and pap. Place your business card on the wall beside those of previous guests.

Stay Safe & Healthy In Soweto

Contrary to widespread assumption, Soweto is a relatively safe destination for travelers. It’s not the simplest area to navigate on your own, so if you’re staying overnight, arrange for the bed and breakfast owner to meet you on one of the major highways and accompany you in or arrange for a transport. If you want to take a trip, contact one of the licensed tour operators (see above or contact SATSA). Ascertain that the tour operator employs a native Soweto/Johannesburg guide, since this provides a more in-depth understanding of the area and its history.



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