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Moving to Cape Town

When relocating to Cape Town, make sure you know all the details about the oldest city in all of South Africa! Our InterNations expat guide on Cape Town introduces you to the city’s neighborhoods, gives tips on the search for a new home, and offers info on visas and more.
Welcome to South Africa's Mother City.

As the city was the first permanent European settlement in southern Africa (and a flourishing seaport), there were more than enough reasons for moving to Cape Town, even shortly after its founding in 1652. Today, a steady stream of people, both from South Africa and abroad, follow the call of the city. Owing to the city’s beautiful location between the Table Mountain and the northern end of the Cape Peninsula, expats with a soft spot for picturesque landscapes and surroundings are definitely in for a treat.

The Suburbs of Cape Town

Before coming to Cape Town, you should get acquainted with an important word, as you will be hearing it a lot: suburbs. In contrast to most other large cities around the world, the latter is not a term for smaller communities surrounding the actual city, but rather an all-inclusive name for Cape Town’s neighborhoods.

The city’s wealth of neighborhoods can easily overwhelm expat newcomers moving to Cape Town. The easiest way to avoid getting lost in an endless sea of neighborhood names is sticking to the common division of eight larger general parts of town:

  • City Bowl
  • Northern Suburbs
  • Atlantic Seaboard
  • Southern Suburbs
  • South Peninsula
  • Cape Flats
  • Helderberg
  • West Coast

Expats can be found in most suburbs. There are some, however, that are less than safe for anyone, regardless of origin or ethnicity. Generally, you should probably avoid living in — or venturing into — the areas surrounding most of the eastern part of the N2 highway. Upscale neighborhoods can be found, for example, in the City Bowl or the Southern Suburbs.

Gated Communities: Helping You to Feel Safe

The many accounts of crime in the city (we have further dwelled on this issue in our article on living in Cape Town) have caused a steady demand for gated communities among many well-to-do Capetonians and foreigners. These communities usually come with a fence or wall, security personnel, and sometimes surveillance equipment. Opinions on whether all this is necessary to feel safe for people moving to Cape Town vary, but if your concerns get the best of you, this option might offer some relief.

Getting Help from Real Estate Agents

It is highly advisable that you hire a real estate agent when first moving to Cape Town. Not only will they obviously speed up the process of finding a home considerably, but oftentimes they have years of experience dealing with the needs and wishes of expats. Most importantly, however, they can help you choose a suitable, safe suburb. The last thing you want to deal with is realizing that the street that seemed fine in daylight turns into something completely different by night.

Reputable real estate agents abound in Cape Town; a simple internet search will provide you with lots and lots of contacts. If there already is a suburb or neighborhood you took a shine to, make sure to pick an agent specialized in that area.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

Pascal Tremblay

"Fortunately, I received lots of supportive tips from other InterNations members before moving to Cape Town."

Nora Godfrey

"Here in Cape Town, InterNations consists of a great crowd of expats. Not just anyone can join the site, and I am happy about that."

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