December 27, 2012

Free Parking

Did I know about all the free parking in Johannesburg, my friend recently asked me over coffee.

No, I did not, I admitted. As I told you in a recent post, I haven't exactly been a Smart Shopper in terms of going after the free stuff, scant as it is here in South Africa.

My excuse in terms of parking is that I live in the Northern Suburbs, where you're rarely charged for parking.  Big malls are surrounded by bigger parking lots, and all you're typically asked to pay for the privilege of using them is about R2 to the parking guards waving you in and out.

Where this friend lives, on the other hand, parking comes at a premium, and she's scouted out the ways to save money. As expected, none of them is intuitive or straightforward or even advertised anywhere, so I thought I'd divulge them here for the expat shopper.

Norwood:
  • First hour is free
  • Get an extra hour by going into the PicknPay (on left hand side of the store as you come out) or to the concierge next to the barber shop and handing in your ticket to be scanned. Great way to get lots of shopping done in two hours of free parking!

Hyde Park:
  • Stay free for one hour by handing in your ticket and Woolworth receipt at the concierge downstairs next to Woolworth
  • They will scan your ticket and return it with one free hour on it, as long as you've stayed under that hour (which will then hopefully work – I did try this and my ticket ended up not working, which was just as well because the guy let me out anyway)
  • Supposedly you can also get a free hour from PicknPay, but we haven't encountered anybody alive who's figured out how

Melrose Arch:
  • Shop at Woolworth to get 30 free minutes
  • Got to the parking kiosk with your receipt to get a free ticket that lets you out

Briefly spotted at Melrose Arch Woolworths but since then taken
down, so  only shoppers "in the know" can claim their discount

Montecasino:
  • Parking at Monte is always a flat fee of R10 upon entry, which is reasonable if you stay for dinner. 
  • If you just want to drop someone off, take the first entrance and circle around the fountain (they will open the boom for you if you tell them you’re just dropping off or picking up). 
  • If you want to drop someone off but need to walk them in, you can try parking at the Palazzo hotel, but you have to be a bit thick-skinned because the parking attendant there might catch you out and give you a scolding. 
  • You can also park for free on the other side at the SunSquare Hotel (by coming from Witkoppen or circling all the way around if coming from William Nicol). I don’t know if they still serve Starbucks coffee there at the lobby bar but if they do, it’s an excellent reason to stop by and spend the money you saved on parking for a nice espresso.

O.R. Tambo International Airport:
  • While we're speaking about parking, there is a little short-term carpark at the bottom level across from Arrivals. If you time it just right (or circle around and wait for a phone call from the person being picked up) you can park there free fro 20 minutes and save the R30 or so you'll otherwise pay.


What about you? Do you have any Joburg parking secrets to divulge?

By the way, I have often found myself at the exit boom of a parking garage without my ticket being paid for, because I either couldn't find the pay station or it wasn't working. Not a problem here in Africa – someone will materialize and happily take your ticket and some money from you, go to the machine, and redeem the ticket. This is one of the situations, had you told me about it before moving here, where I would have laughed in your face and said, are you crazy to just hand another person money and let them disappear with it. But I have never been cheated on these occasions. The parking guy invariably comes back with your ticket paid for and a big smile on his face, and you can be on your way. And it’s always a reasonable sum. Sure, perhaps they might add a Rand or two without your knowledge (although I actually doubt it), but that’s the least you should tip anyway for the comfort of staying in your car.

Yet another reason why I love Africa.