Moving to Johannesburg?

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Moving to Johannesburg

It is always wise to take some time to plan and prepare before diving in to the moving process. Our expat guide to Johannesburg introduces you to the city’s main expat hotspots and lists some of the relevant residency visas and their requirements.
Sandton is one of the prime choices for expats in the Johannesburg area.

At a Glance:

  • Popular expat locations to live include Sandton, Hyde Park, Hurlingham, or Rivonia.
  • When it comes to renting, you can expect to pay anything between 5,000 and 15,000 ZAR, depending on the quality and size of the apartment.
  • Before moving to Johannesburg you might want to first visit. Depending on your country of origin you may or may not need a visitor’s visa to do this.
  • There are many different work- and business-related visas available for expats wanting to move to Johannesburg. The most common being the general work visa, critical skills visa, and the intra-company transfer visa.

Johannesburg: A City of Extremes

Johannesburg, located in the northeastern part of South Africa, is a place of extremes. As well as being the country’s largest city, it is also the largest contributor to the GDP of the nation’s most prosperous — and at the same time, smallest — province, Gauteng. Spreading out over a large expanse, Johannesburg alongside its immediate surroundings covers most of the Gauteng region. Other notable cities in the province include, for example, Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities.

A Different Type of Suburb

When first moving to Johannesburg, you might find the local day to day language to be somewhat confusing. In South Africa, the term “suburb” does not necessarily mean a residential area on the outskirts of town, but in fact all neighborhoods within the city. With that said, there are only a few suburbs that expats commonly choose as their new homes — many others are not desirable for safety reasons, or for a lack of desirable housing. In the past, the city’s Central Business District (CBD) was seen as one of the undesirable areas to live, due to its high crime rate. In recent years, however, the CBD has been slowly but surely shedding its skin and rejuvenating bit by bit. Home to the University of Johannesburg and plenty of bars, and nightlife, it has become a popular spot for students, professionals, and young couples without children.

Among the more notorious parts of town, Soweto definitely has earned a reputation for itself. While this was not without a reason, the former township has made big steps toward a better future. Expats considering moving to this suburb shouldn’t put off, however, they should be mindful when making decisions.

The Places to Be as an Expat

One of the most renowned clusters of suburbs is located around the Sandton area to the north of the city. As Sandton has developed into the center of the city’s economy and commerce, many well-to-do residents and expats have been moving to Johannesburg’s prime location, as well as neighboring communities such as Hyde Park, Hurlingham, or Rivonia. All amenities of metropolitan life can be found within the area, from luxurious shopping opportunities and restaurants to recreational areas and parks. If you are moving to Johannesburg with your kids, the Sandton area might also be one of the best choices, as the schooling options are fit to cater to the expat community. For further details on Sandton and its powerful economy, please see our article on working in Johannesburg.

A bit farther outside of town, but almost equally popular with expats are the suburbs of Fourways, Sunninghill, and Lonehill. These suburbs are usually a bit less pricey to live in, if your housing budget is a factor. They also have great access to medical facilities, with various hospitals and clinics nearby.

When choosing a suburb, you should take your daily commute into consideration. Often, the situation on the streets is rather dire, and alternatives to driving, though existent, are often insufficient or unreliable. For more information about getting around, check out our detailed guide on living in Johannesburg.

Finding Accommodation in Johannesburg

There are plenty of options when it comes to finding accommodation in Johannesburg. For those not looking to purchase property, there are many furnished apartments and houses available to rent in the popular expat areas. You can expect to pay anything between 5,000 and 15,000 ZAR, depending on the quality and size of the apartment.  

Security is also an important aspect to consider when looking for somewhere to buy or rent. Due to the city’s high levels of crime, many of the well-to-do population decide to live in gated communities. These residential estates provide an added layer of security, with its 24-hour surveillance and guard personnel.

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.

Claude Maurin

"After I followed my wife to Johannesburg, InterNations and its expat circles helped me find free-lance work with South African clients. "

Rikke Johansen

"The InterNations community is just so large that you can easily find a like-minded expat sharing professional or personal interests."

Global Expat Guide