All staff, from the check-in clerks to the concierge, to the shuttle bus driver and the waiters and waitresses at the bar and restaurant, were helpful, efficient and polite. They deserve a big tick because service is the strong point at the Rad Blu and you’ll notice that the minute the walk through the front door. These guys are happy to serve you; they’ll go out of their way to make sure that you’re well looked after and have everything you need. Nothing is too much trouble, you only need to ask. I would say that this is one of the SA hospitality industry’s strong points and something which gives them a competitive edge over many other places.
I had room no 510, which faced onto busy Rivonia Rd, but being high up, I wasn’t troubled by the traffic noise. The air con though made more noise than the traffic when placed on a medium or high fan setting.
The room was neat, clean and modern, with a bright and cheerful colour scheme of red and white. But it did suffer from some design flaws which seemed to indicate style over practicality:
Poor lighting: I counted nine room lights scattered all over the place, but none were powerful enough or properly positioned to make reading comfortable. The ones right over the bed were like torchlights. A few strong down lights strategically positioned would have made all the difference.
Glass bathroom door and see through bathroom wall. Since I was travelling solo this time, it didn’t matter but the problem here is that if two are travelling and one gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and puts on the light (which they would have to do) it shines right into the bedroom and is sure to wake the other person. The glass panelling on the one side (see pic) exposes the top half of the person in the shower. Now again I guess if a husband and wife are sharing the bedroom, then that wouldn’t be a problem but with other configurations I’m not too sure about how this attempt at forced intimacy would go down, because it sure is intimate watching someone else shower!
The tea and coffee-making facilities are situated in an awkward and cramped space. This made it tricky to pour yourself a cuppa and the problem is compounded by the lack of any lighting in that dark little corner. You need to move some of the surplus paraphernalia like the ice bucket out of the way completely and that may help.
But there were plenty of good points to compensate:
Comfortable, firm, new king sized bed.
Large, secure safe, conveniently placed at eye level, and easy to use.
Adequate storage space in the cupboard.
A large TV with all my fav news and entertainment channels, Easy to use remote and optimum siting of the screen on the wall facing the bed made for many hours of enjoyable TV watching.
A handy little desk for working on your computer and an easy chair and small glass table near the window made the atmosphere in the room homely and warm.
I liked the stylish and modern bathroom design. There’s no shower cubicle as such, just a large space next to the bath with a shower head on the wall. A slightly raised floor prevents water from spilling out onto the rest of the bathroom. I found the water pressure from the shower head too weak for my liking. But there’s a nice, big tub for those who prefer bathing to showering. Another problem I encountered was the lack of dry storage. Whilst there is place for your toiletries, they’re likely to get wet unless you move them as far as possible away from the basin because the water pressure in those taps was stronger than in the shower, making splashing easy. What I also didn’t like were the tiny, barely visible hot and cold markings on the taps. Perhaps this is also a new fangled idea, where it’s assumed that you don’t really need to see the markers because you’ll just figure that out for yourself. And you soon will. Turn the basin tap to the left and you’ll have lashings of hot water. Personally I prefer the old fashioned large hot and cold markers to warn me when I’m turning on the hot tap.
The hotel has a pool deck with city views. I’m sure it would be ever so pleasant to spend a few hrs out there in summer. Unfortunately I was there in winter so the closest I got was a look around. Downstairs, on the same level as the pool deck, you’ll find the bar and a restaurant. I sampled them both and was more than satisfied. The bar staff especially were always friendly and polite and ready with a bowl of my favourite salted nuts to enjoy with a drink. The hotel provides free internet which I found to be a big plus and for that they get another tick. So many hotels these days just go to town with their internet charging so it was a real breath of fresh air to be able to enjoy a fast and efficient connection 24/7 at no extra charge. There is a fitness centre but being the sedentary type I didn’t bother with it and can’t really comment.
Nutritious and filling with a varied selection of hot and cold foods. Everything tasty and freshly made. Service as always in this hotel, is absolutely the best. Whatever you want just ask for. I also loved the bright, contemporary dining room where breakfast was served with its expansive view and outlook onto Sandton and beyond. It was just a pleasure to sit there in the morning, sipping coffee whilst watching the passing parade and enjoying the view.
The Rad Blu is in the northern suburb of Sandton, about 15km from the Johannesburg CBD. It’s no coincidence that’s it’s also called the “Gautrain Hotel” because it’s directly across the road from the Sandton Gautrain station, which makes getting here from the airport a breeze. It takes about 15 mins on the safe, comfortable Gautrain. But just be aware that train prices are steep by world standards. A journey from the airport to Sandton (that’s three stops) will cost you R125 (as at June 2013) which is equivalent $US13 or about three times the cost of an equivalent journey on the Sydney or London undergrounds. And of course, you have no option but to “buy” a card, even if you’re only going to use it for one or two journeys and that’s another R12. So all up, two 15 minute train journeys (airport-Sandton-airport) will cost a whopping R262 or about $US26. But you really have no choice if you’re staying in this area because a taxi I believe costs about three times that and will probably take considerably longer.
OK, having got that off my chest, what is in the immediate vicinity of the hotel? Closest thing – about 12-15 gently sloping walk from the hotel - is Mandela Square with its oversized statue of Nelson Mandela and a collection of restaurants and cafes. Nothing really to write home about. Right next door, and connected by steps is the glitzier Sandton City complex. It’s the premier shopping centre in SA and worth a look around. You’ll find shopping a pleasure in SA, with its favourable exchange rate to just about any world currency. But apart from those two attractions, I couldn’t find much else in the near vicinity. This isn’t the kind of place that you can just saunter out in the evening have a stroll and find a bar or a place to eat, so if you don’t have a car (and I didn’t) you’re going to be hotel bound after dark. I had a meal in the restaurant one night which I enjoyed. One night I bought my own meal from the Woolworths at Sandton City. I phoned down to room service and asked them to send up some cutlery and a plate and that’s when I ended up paying a “tray chg” of R45. I could have bought my own cutlery and crockery for that!
And just a word on pedestrian safety in the area. There are numerous construction sites around the place but no proper provision has been made for pedestrian safety around them. So crossing roads to get to and from the hotel - and that’s mainly Rivonia Rd and West Street - is nightmarish. To make matters worse, the pedestrian signals stay green for about one second. Blink and it’s turned to red. But that hardly matters as most motorists seem to ignore the little green man anyway. So never mind the crime and the muggings, the biggest danger here is the traffic. No provision either has been made for “stop and drop” outside the train station which adds another dimension of danger to the hapless pedestrian trying to wend his way to Sandton City. Cars are continually pulling up and stopping illegally, creating a hazard around the station entrance where you need to traverse on your way up the road.
To be fair to the hotel, I did mention this to them on their internal feedback form and got the following prompt and encouraging response from Jaen Van Niekerk, the Front Office Manager, on 27 June ’13:
We appreciate you taking the time to complete a survey regarding your recent stay with us.
On behalf of our entire staff here at the Radisson Blu we apologize for the concerns you have with regards to accessing the hotel. The safety of our guests is a concern and we are working on finding a solution although we do not know if it will be approved by the City Council.
We appreciate the feedback and will use it to fine tune our operations in the hope that upon your next visit, we can meet or exceed your expectations.”
Another big tick here because these guys clearly take security seriously. There are guards downstairs at the concierge desk and when you get upstairs to reception, there is a smartly-attired guard in a black suit standing outside the lift lobby. I found that quite reassuring. And they’re always pleasant and friendly to boot. When I couldn’t get my card to swipe properly in the lift, a guard was promptly on hand to assist me to get a replacement and then came into the lift with me to ensure that I got to my floor safely. There are also security guards outside on the corner of West St and Rivonia Rd although I couldn’t say whether they are employed by the hotel or not. I felt quite comfortable walking up to Mandela Square and the Sandton City Shopping Centre during the day, but wouldn’t do this after dark. And as always in South Africa, be cautious and aware about personal safety. I never carried my passport, credit cards or other valuables with me unless absolutely necessary, restricting myself to a cheap, barely visible digicam, my basic, no frills mobile phone with limited credit and enough cash to get me through the day. Everything else stays locked up in the safe in my room.
On the whole and despite the drawbacks, I enjoyed my six-day stay at this hotel. It’s spotlessly clean, well maintained, efficiently managed and conveniently situated for airport access via the Gautrain. And the staff are just fantastic. I know that I’ve said this before but I can’t praise these guys enough and if service is your thing, you’re in for a treat. And hopefully, once the nearby construction ends (by the way, I didn’t hear any construction noise from my side of the hotel) and the area is properly pedestrianized then it will present as a more welcoming place too.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The rooms at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel overlook the beautiful Sandton Skyline, the epitome of South African opulence. This stylish hotel which is located a mere 55 steps from the Sandton Gautrain Station boasts 220 rooms and suites designed in varied moods and tones, ranging from warmth, earthy African tones to bold, contemporary splashes of colour. The rooms are spacious and modern with breath taking views of the city skyline. Each of our guest rooms offer satellite television with a large selection of channels to be enjoyed on a wall mounted flat screen television. Complimentary high speed wireless internet access helps guests stay connected whilst in Johannesburg for business or leisure. The Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel enjoys a premier location only 55 steps from the high speed Gautrain rapid rail station and has easy access to the Sandton Convention Centre, Sandton City and all the major banking offices in Johannesburg. The Hotels conference facilities offer unique meeting spaces which include elegant meeting rooms as well as executive boardrooms catering for any size event from large banquets to intimate board meetings. The latest audiovisual equipment, climate control, complimentary high speed internet access and natural lighting make these some of the most enviable conference facilities in Johannesburg. The Award Winning Central One Restaurant and Bar offers a unique dining experience with a wide variety of award winning dishes as well as weekly specials to make every stay a memorable one. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel Sandton, Greater Johannesburg