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Moving to Durban

As the third largest city in South Africa and the biggest city on the East Coast of Africa, Durban is hugely important to trade in the Indian Ocean. This sprawling city is full of contrasts: miles of sandy beaches amidst which sits one of the world’s busiest container ports; colonial architecture plays 21st century super casino; Zulu rickshaw pullers navigate the roads of a town where the car is king.

As well as being the major seaport for the southern African continent Durban also has a well developed manufacturing industry and busy tourism, finance and government sectors. It accounts for 15% of South Africa’s economic output. Such vibrancy has attracted many foreign settlers with Durban, the one time home of Mahatma Ghandi, boasting the highest concentration of Indians outside India.

The diversity doesn’t end there. Durban’s largest ethnic group is Zulu with White Africans or Europeans making up just 14% of the populace.

The city of Durban has seen major redevelopment in recent years - especially in the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup - leaving it with many state of the art sports stadia, hotels and shopping centres. No wonder it’s so popular with holidaymakers from Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Moving to Durban from the UK

Those moving to Durban from Britain should be aware that the city suffers from the same problems of crime that afflict Johannesburg and Cape Town. That said, it’s important not to get carried away by the sensationalist coverage you often see in Northern Hemisphere media. While it may be wise to take precautions with your home, vehicle and wanderings after dark, sensible behaviour will enable you to partake of Durban’s many delights safe from harm.

Important things to remember in the early months are: don’t openly display your valuables, don’t get lost after dark and keep your vehicle windows closed and doors locked while driving.

Many of Durban’s middle class residents live in gated communities or in homes with excellent security systems - an option you may well want to explore. It’s also vital to do plenty of research before picking an area to move to - not just for crime but commute times as well. It’s recommended to take a temporary let while you get your bearings.

Durban has a subtropical climate which can get extremely hot and humid during the months of January and February. If you don’t cope well with this kind of weather you might want to make plans to go on vacation at these times.

Property in Durban

Having lagged behind South Africa’s two larger cities for many a year, property prices in Durban are now playing catch up. Urban redevelopment around the World Cup has accelerated that process with price rises in some neighbourhoods of over 50% since 2004.

The price of a 3 bedroom house in Durban North, with sea views and a pool, is currently around ZAR 6,500,000 (£455,000).

A three bedroom home closer to the CBD, in a secure compound in Windermere, will cost closer to ZAR 3,900,000 (£273,000).

Purchasing a house in South Africa leaves you liable for transfer duty (akin to UK stamp duty). This is levied on a sliding scale of between 3% and 8% of the purchase price for properties costing more than ZAR 600,001. There is nothing to pay on properties costing ZAR 600k or less.

At nearly 9%, mortgage interest rates in SA are fairly high.

You can rent a one bedroom apartment in the CBD of Durban for close to ZAR 3,500 (£245) per month.

Neighbourhood Picks

  • Family Friendly: Kirtlington Park Estate, in Hillcrest, 30km west of the city centre is a secure estate out of the hustle and bustle but with several schools in the vicinity.
  • Hip and Trendy: Glenwood, a short hop from Durban Central, is full of shops, cafes and restaurants.
  • Upmarket: Durban North is home to the expensive properties noted above as well as excellent schools, parks and beaches.
  • Up and Coming: With the waterfront due for redevelopment in the near future, central areas like Albert Park could benefit.

Schools and Education in Durban

Raising the standard of public education in South Africa is seen as vital to redressing some of the worst injustices of the apartheid era. Every South African now has the right to education - compulsory between the ages of 7 and 15 - and 20% of state expenditure is dedicated to the educative sector. KwaZulu-Natal, of which Durban is the capital, is, on the whole, less well resourced than the richer provinces of Gauteng and the Western Cape.

School in Durban runs from January to December, covers grades from 0 (age 4) to 7 at primary school and grades 8 to 12 at secondary school where students work towards a National Senior Certificate in their last, or ‘matric’, year.

Enrolment in a Durban state school is done via the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. Every child is guaranteed a place at their catchment school. Fees may be requested by the school but are voluntary - a place cannot be denied on the basis of non-payment of fees.

Most expats in Durban send their children to independent private schools, of which there is a great deal of choice. Thomas More College is probably the most famous - principally because of it’s mock tudor ‘Great House’ - as well as being the largest. It’s co-educational, Christian and covers school grades from 0 to 12. Tuition fees climb to ZAR 69,500 (£4,865) per annum in the final year.

There are 5 tertiary institutions in Durban, including the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Durban University of Technology.

Comparing Durban vs London

While Durban experiences more rainfall by volume than London it tends to occur in concentrated downpours, leaving enough time for the city to enjoy around 60% more sunshine than the UK capital. Average low temperatures in Durban rarely drop below 10 °C even in the winter months of July and August.

The cost of living is significantly lower in Durban than in London. Rent in particular is much lower with as much as a 75% disparity between prices of similar sized homes. You’ll also pay a lot less for groceries, consumer goods and for eating out. On the less positive side, Durban sees more crime, lower quality air and poorer health care, on average, than London.

Durban is dubbed the Playground of South Africa for good reason. There are miles of unbroken beaches offering quality surfing, fishing and ray-soaking opportunities. The Aliwal Shoal, just off the coast, is a reef which plays home to an ecosystem which dazzles and captivates scuba divers. The annual sardine run takes place on Durban’s coastline - a natural spectacle where dolphins, sharks, whales and seabirds converge to feed on huge shoals of shiny fish.

The Valley of 1,000 Hills, a series of hills, cliffs and valleys through which the Umgeni river wends its way to the Indian Ocean, can be reached on a day trip from Durban and is the perfect setting for exploring the local wildlife and Zulu heritage.