Moving to South Africa

Move to South Africa and you soon find it is a land of natural wonders, cosmopolitan cities, and rich cultures. The spirit of “uBuntu” is so much more than community, and “Sawubona!” is one of the warmest welcomes you’ll ever hear. Sure it has its troubles, but South Africa is a young nation, with just 20 years of democracy behind it and an exciting future ahead.

You’ll also be able to enjoy South Africa’s incredible landscapes, flora and fauna with the benefit of world class tourism facilities and infrastructure. The awe-inspiring beauty of sights such as Table Mountain, the Garden Route, the Drakensberg Mountains, the Karoo Desert and South Africa’s many game parks make this country a joy to live in. No matter where you choose to reside, whether you move to Pretoria or Durban, you’ll never be far from natural splendour.

Living in South Africa

South Africa’s cost of living is remarkably low compared to Europe and the UK. Salaries are often a little lower too, but you get far more for your money. Property prices are especially affordable, enticing many a foreign visitor to purchase a holiday home or two!

Crime remains a concern in South Africa, however you can reduce your risk by taking simple precautions. There will often also be a friendly car guard keeping an eye on public parking areas outside supermarkets, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, etc.

Nevertheless, becoming one of the 1 million plus foreign born inhabitants of South Africa will allow you to benefit from low living costs, very affordable property, a wonderful climate and access to some of the best safari country in the world.

Visas for South Africa

All residents of the UK traveling to South Africa for more than 90 days require a visa. A work visa is mandatory for UK citizens who wish to work in South Africa (valid for up to 5 years). You will need to provide proof of identification, passport, and documents from the relevant employer verifying your employment and details of the business.

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Different requirement apply to work visas for general employment, critical skills, medical personnel and entertainment staff, among other specialities.Please visit VFS Global for comprehensive lists of documents required for the various types of working visa.

Permanent residence can also be applied for, generally after working on South Africa for five years.

NB: Anyone traveling to or from South Africa with a child (under 18 years old) must provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate. If only one parent is traveling with the child, a letter of consent is also required. For further information on traveling with children, please visit your local South African consulate.


The public health care here offers only the very basics, and it is vital to take out your own health insurance policy in South Africa. Opting for private health care is strongly recommended.

Commonly known as “medical aid” policies, these range from basic hospital plans through to comprehensive screening cover. All will include certain chronic medication, however limitations for pre-existing conditions apply so make sure you’re aware of all the details of your particular package.

It is advisable to investigate “gap cover” options in addition to your plan, as many medical aids will only pay a limited amount – known as medical aid rates – which are far less than those charged by private hospitals and surgeons.

Many plans offer popular extras, such as low costs on gym membership, discounts from partner stores, and savings for proactive healthy living – going to the gym, buying healthy food, regular health checks, etc.

Jobs market

Business, entertainment, tourism and the arts are on a growth trajectory, and this is the perfect time to take your place among visionaries and entrepreneurs.

South Africa was a trading port a few centuries ago, and its position along major global shipping routes makes it an excellent business centre to this day. Current infrastructure developments focus on making South Africa a hub for offshore oil and gas exploration, and infrastructure is undergoing major upgrades to meet global demands across various sectors.

While it can be daunting to apply for a job in tough economic conditions and constantly changing business landscapes, many sectors are experiencing growth and creating new opportunities.

Critical skills required for South Africa’s effective development have been identified by the Department of Home Affairs. These include Engineering, Agriculture, Telecommunications, IT, Healthcare, Life and Earth Sciences, various trades, and Academia. The South African consulate should be able to provide an up to date list.

Entrepreneurship and innovation are actively encouraged in all sectors – even more so if you can help to create additional jobs and teach South Africans new skills.

Essential information for South Africa

Official LanguageSouth Africa has 11 official languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Northern Sotho, Venda, Tsonga, Swati, and Ndebele. English is generally used in the business environment.
Capital CityCape Town (Legislative capital), Pretoria (Administrative capital) and Bloemfontein (Judicial capital).
CurrencyRands (ZAR)
TimezoneGMT +2
International Dialling Code+27
Emergency Numbers
10111 (police)

10177 (ambulance)

082 911 (Netcare911 – private emergency response)
Population47 million
Electricity220/230 volts AC 50 HZ
DrivingOn the left
Tipping10 – 15% is standard. Some restaurants add a service charge to bills for larger groups, and it isn’t necessary to add a tip on top of this.

Car guards appreciate R3 – R5 or even R10 if you’re feeling generous, but don’t feel compelled to tip every street vendor who claims to have been watching your car while you were away!
Unusual facts
South Africa is home to the world’s largest land mammal – the elephant – and the smallest – the dwarf shrew. It is also home to the famous “Big 5”: lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant.

Property information

South Africa’s property market – like any other – features budget options, absolute luxury and everything in between. Certain areas such as Sandhurst in Johannesburg and Llandudno in Cape Town are notoriously expensive, with homes priced in multiple millions.

In a more modest part of town, such as trendy Woodstock, prices can range from R1 million for a 1-bedroom apartment. Monthly rental of a similar apartment would start at R7500.

House shares are a great option if you’re on a tight budget, and R4000 – R6500 per month for a room in a decent house is considered reasonable, depending on the area.

It’s important to remember that the majority of South Africans are a peaceful and peace-loving nation, and do not condone crime or violence. Many communities organise their own patrol groups to enhance safety and provide peace of mind, and being involved in these can be a rewarding experience.

Cost of moving

Brisbane to Durban£3,300 GBP
London to Cape Town£4,300 GBP
Sydney to Pretoria£4,300 GBP
Paris to Cape Town£4,575 GBP
Barcelona to Johannesburg£5,000 GBP
New York City to Johannesburg£5,500 GBP

Living costs

South Africa is one of the most affordable countries in the world, and it’s easy to live well there.

Rent is low compared to similar cities around the world so it’s relatively easy to treat yourself to a lovely dinner or take the family somewhere special for the weekend.

Food and entertainment

SA’s fresh fruit and vegetables are in high demand around the world, and South Africans pride themselves on the excellent quality of all food types.

Supermarkets are well-stocked with local and imported goods, and organic produce is available in most cities.

1kg of apples will set you back R15 – R20, while a loaf of bread and a litre of milk are around R10 each. Microwaveable meals for one from Woolworths (SA equivalent of M&S) cost R25 – R45.

Food markets have become a weekend staple and you’ll find delicious local and international flavours. A burger can cost R25 – R40 depending on your location and add-ons.

Restaurants are a must! New gems are constantly springing up and South African chefs are making a name for themselves around the world. A meal for two in a not-too-fancy Cape Town restaurant, including a bottle of wine, is R250 – R450. You’ll find far cheaper and far more expensive options, such as wine pairing dinners at R1500 a head. A boerewors roll (traditional South African sausage in a roll with ketchup) is around R25 from a street vendor, and absolutely delicious.


Having your own car is advisable. Public transport has improved a great deal in the past few years but is limited.

The Gautrain is a handy method of transport between O R Tambo International Airport and Johannesburg/Pretoria (up to R164 one way) and additional routes will be added in the future.

Cape Town’s MyCiti bus service operates across the city. It’s quite reliable during off-peak times, but traffic during rush hours and throughout holiday seasons often causes delays. Mover packs can be purchased for R10 – R1000 according to your requirements. A single fare from the V&A Waterfront to Sea Point (10km) costs R13.30

New cars range from R120 000 and fuel is a great deal cheaper than you’ll find in the UK or Europe.

Schools and education

Many government-funded (public) schools offer excellent standards of education, but demand is high. Private primary and secondary schools are extremely popular but can be expensive.

Children generally begin school (Grade 0 or Grade R) at age 5 or 6. Pre-school and aftercare are widely used and there will be numerous options in your area. Always check references and speak to other parents as well as the school itself to determine the best option for your child.

Matric (grade 12) is the final year of schooling for South African learners, who must obtain a Matric Exemption to enter university. Most undergraduate university courses will also have their own set of specific entrance criteria.

There are many other tertiary education options in technical fields at Universities of Technology (previously called Technikons) and private college campuses such as Varsity College. Unisa is South Africa’s primary distance learning institution.

Driving in South Africa

Keep left, pass right!

Standard speed limits are 120km/h on national roads, and 60km/h in cities and residential areas. Further reductions in speed are in place near schools, with speed bumps placed to prevent speeding – look out for these!

You will sometimes see cars speeding along an emergency lane when there’s a lot of traffic. Please note, this is illegal and extremely dangerous… don’t follow suit.

Drivers’ licences can be obtained at Driver’s Licence Testing Centres. You will need to do a driving test, an eye test, and provide passport-size photos. If you are going to take a driving test, book a lesson with a local driving instructor first to familiarise yourself with requirements, particularly specific parking methods.

Expat communities

Many countries and cultures have community centres in major cities. There are Greek schools, Portuguese clubs, Scottish Highland games events, and a host of other ways in which to connect. Check your local listings for details.

Ranking against the world

South Africa’s international status continues to improve, and while it still has some climbing to do, it offers what’s arguably one of the most comfortable lifestyles available to expats. Low property prices and living costs mean a lot more disposable income, and setting up in Johannesburg can cost a fraction of a comparable lifestyle in London, New York or Sydney.

Without a doubt, leisure is one of this country’s biggest advantages. There are few places in the world with such abundant wildlife and such a variety of natural environments. Alongside rich cultural diversity and world class art, theatre and entertainment.

Cape Town is regularly voted one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and is rated the most liveable city in Africa, with Johannesburg in second place. There are also a number of other options such as Durban, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein, each with its own energy and personality. Whichever you choose, you’ll be saying “Sawubona!” to the good life!