Moving to South Africa from the US

For a lot of Americans, Texas is the benchmark for size. While its official state motto is simply “friendship,” it might as well be “everything’s bigger in Texas,” since that’s what most people think when someone mentions the state. But did you know that South Africa is over double the size of Texas?

With a country that big, you can be sure there’s a lot to talk about, and loads of things to take into consideration when you’re looking to move there. That’s why we’re here to help separate the wheat from the chaff, and tell you what you need to know when it comes to moving to South Africa.

For more extensive breakdowns of the capital cities listed above, you can read our article on the best places to live in South Africa. In this article, we’ll be looking at the country as a whole, averaging the statistics of every city to give you a solid impression of South African life. For more little tidbits and fun facts, see our article on things you should know before moving to South Africa.

Cost of shipping to South Africa

We’ll dive right in where it matters – how much will it cost you to move to South Africa from the US? We’ll assume that your contents fall around the average cost of a household’s belongings, which, according to Admiral Insurance, is around $53,000. The shipping rates themselves are from, based off of the sea freight rates for a 20ft container of used furniture. Durations were sourced from

OriginDestination20ft Container CostDuration
New York City, USACape Town, South Africa$3,412.863-4 weeks
New York City, USADurban, South Africa$3,321.473-4 weeks
Los Angeles, USACape Town, South Africa$1,961.395-6 weeks
Los Angeles, USADurban, South Africa$2,015.345-6 weeks

Data updated as of August 2019

Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.

Cost of flying to South Africa

Shipping is all well and good, but sometimes, you need your stuff ASAP. We get that. The longer your favourite toys are out of your sight, the more anxious you might feel. While flying is more expensive than shipping (up to 18 times more expensive!), sometimes there’s no way around needing your belongings as soon as possible.

Moving to South Africa

Cape Town is a lush, bustling port town that is responsible for a large portion of South Africa's trade

Once again, we’re using our $53,000 benchmark and rates from to find out how much it might cost you to have your belongings defy gravity in order to reach you faster. These estimates are based off of a single meter-cubed 250kg container of household goods. Keep in mind, it’s a lot harder to transport a heavier shipment by air than by sea.

New YorkJohannesburg$3,087.171-3 days
Los AngelesJohannesburg$3,113.311-3 days

Data updated as of August 2019

Cost of living in South Africa

Now that the big initial cost is out of the way, let’s look at how you’d fare spending your days – and money – in South Africa. Overall, South Africa is about 50% cheaper than the US, which is a massive boon for your wallet.

MetricSouth AfricaUSA
Basic groceries (milk, bread, eggs, cheese)$11.66$20.01
Basic restaurant meal$8.02$15.00
Single beer$1.77$2.84
Movie ticket$5.35$12
Monthly gym membership$32.92$36.11

Data updated as of August 2019

Public transport in South Africa

When discussing a country with three separate capitals – as well as a fourth city, Johannesburg, which is bigger than each capital – you’d hope the public transport was able to keep up with the sheer volume of hustle and bustle.

Well, the good news is that most of the big cities have a functioning bus and train system. While none of them are perfect, they all work well, and have great feedback from locals and tourists alike. They’re also pretty cheap!

Cape Town★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

If you aren’t seeing Bloemfontein on this table, that’s because they’ve only just committed to building a public transport system, and it’s in a bit of an uncertain state. As you can see in the table below, all of the other major cities have affordable, speedy public transport, but Johannesburg takes the crown when it comes to availability.

South African climate

If the “Africa” part of the name is ringing humid, steamy alarm bells, worry not. As far as temperature goes, even in summer, many parts of South Africa remain fairly temperate. It rarely, if ever, breaks 40°C, which is 104°F (if you’re moving to South Africa, you’ll have to study up on the metric system.) Oftentimes, the temperature won’t even reach 30°C (86°F.)

South Africa Climate

These giraffes could use their long legs to walk anywhere, but they've decided to settle in South Africa's Kruger National Park

Rain is also pretty infrequent, with an annual average of around 464 mm, compared to a global land average of 715 mm. It’s enough to keep the greenery going, but not enough to keep you cooped up for days on end.

South African expat healthcare

When it comes to staying alive and healthy in South Africa, you have a couple of options. While there is public healthcare, it’s a bit underfed, and unfortunately held back by poor management.

When it comes to the private sector, however, South Africa’s healthcare is just as good as other countries’. Many expats are very impressed with South Africa’s private healthcare, claiming it to be just as good as the top European healthcare. There are also plenty of insurance options, so you can pick and choose what works best for you.

Best places to live in South Africa

Like we mentioned earlier, we’re discussing the country as a whole in this article. For a deeper look at individual cities, you should peruse our article on the best places to live in South Africa.

Working in South Africa

Finally, let’s look at the average South African salary. Once you’re in the country, what kind of money is going to be coming in? While the answer lies in the table below, we’re first going to have a quick look at working visas for South Africa.

South Africa’s a bit strict when it comes to work visas. You (or your company) need to be able to prove that the job you’ll be working needs you, and can’t be filled with a pre-existing South African citizen. However, it will be a bit more lenient if you fall under the categorization of “critical skills visa.” These skills include medicine, agriculture, engineering, and a few other key societal roles.

CountryAverage monthly salary (USD)
South Africa$1,092.21

Data updated as of August 2019

Living in South Africa

Now that we’ve looked at the money coming in, let’s look at salary’s eternal archnemesis, the dreaded bill. Once you’re in the country, what kind of money is going to be going out?

Compared to average salaries and utility bills in the US, basically everything in South Africa takes a significant drop. The average person will be making about a third of what they normally make, but also be spending two thirds less on rent, and half as much on bills. Couple this with the significant drop in cost for almost everything else you’re likely to spend money on, and your savings would make up for the lower income rates.

CountryAverage rent (1 BD)Average utility bills
South Africa$421.66$80.30

Data updated as of August 2019

South Africa overall

As you can hopefully see from this article, South Africa is a great choice for an international relocation. If you’re at all interested in moving from hemisphere to hemisphere, fill out our form to get free quotes from our professional suppliers. Safe travels!