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Moving to South Africa? A Guide to South African Living, An Expat’s Guide

Why Move to South Africa?

Aside from the area’s stunning beauty, there are dozens of reasons to move to South Africa. Thanks to its diverse landscape, South Africa offers hundreds of outdoor attractions ranging from surfing to hiking.
Don’t let its outdoorsy nature fool you, though. South Africa is also one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Africa and the expat population is healthy and robust. With more than 47 million people living in South Africa, hundreds of different cultures and backgrounds come together on a daily basis. Various communities from around the world live together in South Africa and it’s not difficult to find a group or culture to identify with.
When it comes to finding a job in South Africa, certain populations are in luck while others may have a more difficult time. Due to the Affirmative Action policies in place in the country, disabled people, people of color, and women have first preferences for available job openings.
While this is widely regarded as a just and progressive law, it can make finding employment difficult for expats from various regions around the world. Keep in mind, though, that there is still a high need for skilled work in the area, and qualified workers can find jobs in a variety of industries.
What’s more, South Africa is also an incredibly affordable place to live. Unlike many countries located in the European Union, South Africa allows an expat’s budget to stretch a long distance, which makes for affordable lifestyles and a relaxed pace of living.
While parts of South Africa can be dangerous due to high rates of poverty and theft, expats that find themselves in South Africa report that, with some due diligence, the area is safe, beautiful, welcoming, and friendly to all who enter it.

Residence Permit Requirements

Like virtually anywhere else in the world, South Africa requires a residence permit for expats who want to live in the country. In most cases, foreigners will need to make arrangements for a visa or permit before even traveling to South Africa.
Keep in mind that South Africa offers several various immigration and visa permits and the requirements for each are different. As a general rule, though, all applicants for South African visas and permits are required to submit an application at the nearest South African consulate or embassy. If no such facility exists within a reasonable distance, the application must be filed in the neighboring country’s consulate or embassy.
While the written application is the first step, the South African government also requires that all people applying for permits attend an in-person interview for the purpose of collecting fingerprints and other relevant biometric data.
During the application process, people interested in living in South Africa must state what they intend to do in South Africa. It’s important to remember that this is a very critical step: South Africa forbade people to make changes to their visa status once inside the country. With this in mind, you’ll need to return to your home country if you need to make changes to or apply for a new visa.

Finding Housing in South Africa

In South Africa, it’s most common for expats to rent when they first arrive in the country. In addition to being less expensive, renting also allows expats the freedom to explore South Africa without making a premature commitment to home ownership.
While South Africa has a varied and flexible housing market like all places, it’s generally easy to find affordable rentals here. Options often include flats, bachelor flats, townhouses, cluster houses (a complex-style home), cottages, and stand-alone houses – although the latter may be difficult to find in high-demand areas.
When you start looking for housing in South Africa, one of the most helpful things you can do is hire a real estate agent. Because real estate agents work on a daily basis with the housing market in South Africa, they’ll be able to help you find a quality, affordable home that suits your needs.
Be advised that many properties in South Africa require that you pay a deposit for the telephone, electricity, and water, so it’s wise to factor these expenses into your startup budget.

The 5 Best Places to Live in South Africa

While there are many beautiful places to live in South Africa, it’s critical to make your decision based on the safety, security, and prosperity of the town itself. Here are five of the top cities for expats in South Africa:

1. Cape Town
Cape Town is one of South Africa’s best-known cities. Modern, bustling, and diverse, Cape Town is every bit as beautiful as it is vibrant. The city has undergone dozens of recent renovations and the downtown center of Cape Town now boasts the signs of huge amounts of international money and bustling global prosperity. Because of this, Cape Town is now one of the cleanest, safest, and most prosperous cities for expats in all of South Africa.
Sandwiched between soaring mountains and a crashing, relaxing coastline, Cape Town is a multicultural mecca where Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Christians all exist side-by-side. Regardless of where these expats call home, virtually everyone here loves hiking in Table Mountain National Park, walking through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and enjoying the city’s iconic sunsets from Cape Point. With plenty to do and even more to see, Cape Town is the ideal city in which to put down roots.

2. The Garden Route
While not a city so much as a district, The Garden Route is the area that takes up the segment between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.  Located on the Eastern coast of the continent, The Garden Route is widely perceived as one of the most precious areas of South Africa. Dotted with safe, clean, prosperous cities and towns, The Garden Route is a fantastic place for expats who want to raise families or simply enjoy regular games of golf on any of the world-class courses in the region.

3. Cape St. Francis
Located just outside of Port Elizabeth, Cape St. Francis is a seaside town that booms with tourists during the peak months and then falls quiet in the offseason. The city is fueled by jobs in the tourism and service industries, and the city’s quaint downtown center offers dozens of excellent schools, attractions, cafes, museums, and other sights.
Ideal for anyone who wants to enjoy the perks of Cape Town without the bustle of a major city, Cape St. Francis is a fantastic place to live, work, and play.

4. Port St. John’s
Like many other areas in South Africa, Port St. John’s virtually bristles with natural beauty. Located on the banks of the Indian Ocean, Port St. John’s is one of the forgotten gems of South Africa. People who live here enjoy a sleepy, relaxing lifestyle that’s ideal for remote workers, families, or retired people.
While the area is very poor and theft is a common crime, there are plenty of safe housing situations available and dozens of community uplift programs in place to address the crime and make the area safer and more welcoming for everyone. If you’re looking for a beautiful, peaceful, scenic place to set up shop, Port St. John’s may be one of your best bets.

5. The West Coast
South Africa’s west coast is a rural, rugged area with few people. Known as one of the driest offshoots of the area, the West Coast is a relaxed, laid-back region that’s perfect for expats who want to escape from the bustle and enjoy the fishing and surfing the coast has to offer.

The Weather in South Africa

One of the main things expats love about this region is the weather. While the climate varies depending on the region in which you live, many pieces of South Africa enjoy a Mediterranean climate. The interior portions of the country are arid, semi-desert areas with cold, dry winters and plenty of summer rainfall.

The Pros and Cons of Living in South Africa

While there are many fantastic reasons to move to South Africa, being aware of the pros and cons before you commit to the change can help streamline the process and make it simpler for you:

Pros

Cons

South Africa: A Welcoming Place to Call Home

While South Africa doesn’t get as much expat attention as other areas in the world, it’s a fantastic destination that many expats simply overlook. In addition to its natural beauty, and rugged coastlines, it’s one of the most diverse, exciting, and vibrant places in all of Africa.
Regardless of what you’re looking for in an expat destination – be it good work or a high quality of life – South Africa has something to offer. From skilled jobs to positions in the tourist industry, there’s plenty to do and see in South Africa, and adventurous expats need only to take the plunge to get the story started. From the bustling streets of Cape Town to the quiet shores of The West Coast, South Africa offers many hidden gems to discover. Thanks to its friendly people, stunning natural beauty, ample attractions, and unique food, culture, heritage, and architecture, South Africa manages to be at once an interesting and a functional place to live. Move here to work, play, or relax, but one thing is for certain: you’re going to love the wide selection of people, places and experiences that South Africa has to offer you.