A Guide to Moving to South Africa

A Guide to Moving to South Africa

11th March, 2015

A lot of expats move to South Africa in search of a more relaxed and outdoor lifestyle. It is a place that is filled with stunning natural beauty and there is a plethora of outdoor attractions for people to enjoy, from mountains and trails, to beaches and wildlife. Another reason why a lot of expats like this destination is because they are able to benefit from a relatively high quality of living at a low cost. If this is a place that appeals to you, read on to discover some top tips for anyone that is thinking of starting a new life in South Africa…

Budgeting for your new life

As touched upon, South Africa is an attractive destination because the cost of living is relatively cheap, especially when compared to many western countries. Nevertheless, don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you do not need to budget prior to your move. You should sit down and work out how much money you are going to need. Always overestimate. It is advisable to take enough money to last you at least 18 months if you are moving there without a job lined up.

Standard of living

The standard of living in South Africa is high. Because of the cheap cost of labour, a lot of people have domestic help as a norm. You can also enjoy activities, such as dining out, without spending a lot of money.

The job market

If you are moving to South Africa without a job lined up then you will need to do a considerable amount of research prior to your move. There are some areas in the country where skills are in high demand, which will stand you in excellent stead when it comes to getting a job. Nevertheless, locals often have an advantage over foreigners when it comes to the job market. You need to be mindful of the Affirmative Action policy. This is designed to give people of colour, people with disabilities and women, preference when it comes to job opportunities. Moreover, South Africa currently has a high employment rate. Thus, there are challenges when it comes to securing a job, which is why you need to determine where in the country your skills are being sought after in order to give yourself the best chance of finding employment quickly.


You need to choose your location in care with regards to climate. As South Africa is such a large country, the climate differs depending on where you are. If you want to benefit from a Mediterranean style climate, which most people do, then you will want to relocate to the Western Cape of the country. The interior of South Africa is characterised by summer rainfall and cold, dry winters. It has a semi-desert climate.

International health insurance

When it comes to health care, the gap in standards between private and public sectors is very wide. In fact, it is probably as wide as any country in the world. The public sector is over-subscribed and under-resourced. If you walk into a public hospital you will notice that the wards are crowded. Moreover, diagnostic facilities are severely lacking. However, it is the complete opposite when it comes to the private sector. South Africa shines above all other African nations in regards to standard of care. In fact, a lot of the private hospitals actually exceed the standard that is offered in European medical centres. Because of this, it is vital that you take out an international medical insurance policy prior to your move. By doing this, you will gain access to the best network of hospitals, facilities and doctors. Relying on the state system is a risky approach to take. Instead, with a global health insurance plan you can have ultimate peace of mind that you will receive the best level of care. You will also be financially protected and of course you can use your policy all over the world, which means you will be covered when you travel to your home country.


It is always advisable to rent when you first move to a new country as opposed to buying a property outright, and South Africa is no different. A lot of expats choose to live in the gated communities that are found around the country. They come with a wide range of added extras, such as parking areas, security services and even shopping opportunities. This makes life a lot easier and makes people feel much more secure. As is the case with all countries, house and rental prices vary depending on what region or city you are planning to relocate to. So it is certainly worth doing your research beforehand and looking on letting websites for properties in the country.


If you are moving to South Africa as a family you will obviously need to enrol your children in schools. Most expats opt for private or international schools. This is something you need to consider from the very beginning of your relocation process. The spaces tend to be limited for these schools and therefore you should apply as early as possible. It is advisable to make sure your children have a place at school before you start looking for accommodation and such like.

Crime in South Africa

You may be aware of the fact that South Africa has one of the biggest crime rates in the world and therefore it is vital to touch on this if you are thinking of moving there. In certain areas, crime is rife and there is a lot of poverty. It is vital to exercise with due care when you are living in the country. This does not mean that you are going to move to South Africa and experience a hostile and unfriendly atmosphere. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Nevertheless, you need to do your research before you leave to determine the areas that may pose a risk to you as a foreigner. It is the low-income areas where most of the crimes take place. You just need to be careful. Many people will tell you that it is no different than being diligent when you are going to another large city, such as New York.

From acquiring worldwide medical insurance to securing a job, hopefully you now have a better idea of what you should do before moving to South Africa and what you can expect when you get there. This is certainly a desirable location, with a lot of attractive points. You can enjoy an improved standard of living and you won’t be short of things to do on the weekend either. Nevertheless, as is the case with any move, careful planning and preparation is imperative if you want everything to go as smoothly as possible.

Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

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