The Republic of South Africa, located at the southern tip of the Black Continent, is divided into nine provinces extending over a total area of more than 1.2 million km². The nine provinces, namely Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, and Western Cape, are highly diverse, so expats moving to South Africa will have to choose wisely where they want to relocate to.
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. Little wonder, as the province is home to the Pretoria-Johannesburg metro area, which is also one of the main magnets 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 temperate climate in many regions of the country. Especially around the Cape and the western parts of the country in general, expats might think they’ve relocated straight 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.
Obviously, most expats have economic or career reasons in mind when going abroad to South Africa. As the nation’s economy is heavily localized, mainly in the areas in and around Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and the Pretoria/Johannesburg metro area, the majority of expats in South Africa opt for one of those cities. If moving to South Africa sounds like a feasible career step to you, get further info on the national economy in our article on working in South Africa.
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 will probably be able to afford renting a middle- or upper-scale place in one of the many gated communities found throughout the nation. These communities are the preferred option of many well-to-do expats moving to South Africa, as they come with many 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 escaping, or at least avoiding, the high crime rate that unfortunately plagues 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. But make sure you get a good idea of a neighborhood, preferably both during the day and at night, before making any decisions. As in any large city, there are certain parts of the big expat hotspots that should be out of bounds, or “no-go-areas”, for expats. However, as in the case of the Cape Town city center, there are also some very safe neighborhoods. If you stay vigilant and behave as you would in other cities of comparable size, there should not be much to worry about in such areas.
It is generally advisable not to try shopping around for apartments yourself. Hire an experienced, reputable real estate agent. Oftentimes, their services also include handling matters that make moving to South Africa less laborious; for example, arranging electricity and water connections. The Global Property Guide has a short list of respected realtors that might be a useful stepping stone for your upcoming move to South Africa. Another website you might want to visit is Only Rentals, an agency with franchises all over the country. Or simply ask your employer whether they know any reputable agents.
Alternatively, if you are still set on hunting for a home by yourself, you can for example start your search by looking through the numerous property listings at Gumtree.co.za.
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