South Africa

Moving to South Africa?

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Moving to South Africa

If you have chosen to go to South Africa, go well prepared! Not only is the national immigration legislation important for expats moving to South Africa: you should also brief yourself on the provinces and how to find a new home after your move. We have all the info on these topics.
Pretoria is among the top destinations for expats in South Africa.

At a Glance:

  • South Africa is a country of diversity: the people, the regions, and the climate. Expats planning to move to the Cape or western parts of the country can expect weather similar to that in the Mediterranean.
  • For safety reasons, many expats live in gated communities known as “estates”. When looking for your new home, it is a good idea to use an experienced real estate agent.
  • If you’re planning on visiting South Africa on vacation before you move, you might need a visitor’s visa. However, due to the government encouraging tourism, many nationalities are exempt.
  • Those planning to move to South Africa will need a temporary residence permit — of which there are eleven various kinds available, ranging from exchange permits to critical skills work permits.

South Africa: It’s Diverse Regions

As the name of the country might suggest, The Republic of South Africa is located at the southern tip of the African Continent. The country is divided into nine provinces extending over a total area of more than 1.2 million km². The nine provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, and Western Cape, differ greatly, and expats moving to South Africa should be aware of the differences in regions before they relocate.

Not only do the provinces differ in size and climatic characteristics, but also in terms of population and economic strength. Gauteng, the smallest of the provinces, is home to almost a quarter of the population and contributes a very respectable chunk of the nation’s GDP. This comes as no surprise, as the province is home to two of the country’s largest cities, Pretoria and Johannesburg, both of which are a magnet for expats.


With the country being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to the east, south, and west, expatriates moving to South Africa will enjoy a warm and sunny climate in many regions of the country. If you’re planning to move to the Cape or the western parts of the country in general, you might feel like you’ve relocated to the Mediterranean. If you relocate to the eastern part of the country, your experience will probably be a closer match to your mental image of sub-Saharan Africa.

Expat Hotspots

Most expats tend to have economic or career reasons in mind when moving to South Africa. The nation’s economy is heavily localized, primarily in the areas in and around Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth, as well as Pretoria and Johannesburg. As a result, the majority of expats in South Africa opt for one of those cities. If you are considering moving for career-related reasons, find out more information on the national economy in our article on working in South Africa.

Finding Your New Home

As anywhere in the world, prices for rental apartments and houses vary, depending on the city or region you move to. In general, most expats can afford to rent a place in one of the many gated communities found throughout the nation. These communities are the preferred option for many expats, as they come with various added amenities such as a security service, shopping opportunities, and park areas.

Those are, however, not the only reasons for the popularity of gated communities, often called “estates”: many locals and foreigners see the estates as a way of protecting themselves from the high crime rate which is intrinsic to many parts of the country. For more on crime and safety, please see our article on living in South Africa.

Of course, moving into a gated estate is not for everyone, and it is not the only option. Some ungated neighborhoods, such as the Cape Town city center, are perfectly safe. But make sure you get a good idea of the neighborhood, both during the day and at night, before making any decisions.

Like in most large cities, expats in certain neighborhoods should take sensible precautions to ensure their safety. So long as you stay vigilant and behave as you would in other cities of comparable size, you should be mostly secure.

Real Estate Agents

Generally, house hunting is handled by experienced, and reputable real estate agents. Often, they also handle matters such as arranging electricity and water connections, making your move less laborious. A useful website to find respected realtors is the Global Property Guide. Alternatively, Only Rentals is another great agency, with franchises all over the country. If you would like further recommendations, a good idea might be to ask your employer whether they know any reputable agents.

If you are set on house hunting by yourself, there are a few good internet sites available; usually has numerous property listings, and Rightmove’s overseas section is reliable for those wanting to purchase a home abroad in South Africa.


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.

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