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Banking, Money and Taxes in South Africa

South Africa's banking system is sophisticated, making it easy and convenient to handle financial matters. There are numerous international and local banks in South Africa, and each of these offer expats various options and competitive rates for managing their finances.

Money in South Africa

The currency in South Africa is the South African Rand, abbreviated as ZAR or R. The rand is subdivided into 100 cents.

  • Notes: 10 ZAR, 20 ZAR, 50 ZAR, 100 ZAR and 200 ZAR

  • Coins: 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1 ZAR, 2 ZAR and 5 ZAR

Retail stores won't have trouble giving customers whatever change they need, and will happily take payment in the form of a debit or credit card, but street hawkers and small corner stores might battle to break large notes and may not have card machines.

Banking in South Africa

The four major banks are Absa, First National Bank (FNB), Standard Bank and Nedbank. Banks are typically open from 8.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, closing at 11am on Saturdays, although branches in airports often have extended hours. All four major banks have good online and mobile banking systems for customers' day-to-day banking needs. 

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account in South Africa as an expat is quite a bureaucratic process. Requirements do differ from one bank to the next, and it's often difficult to get clear information from the bank's website alone. Generally speaking, expats will need their passport and a valid work permit to open a South African bank account. In some cases, they will also require a letter from their employer as proof of income.

Some expats opt to open an international bank account before relocating to South Africa. Although these may incur various charges, they do allow expats to carry out their basic banking until they are able to get a South African bank account. If an expat's existing bank back home has a large international presence, it should be fairly easy to make the necessary arrangements. Some banks with an international presence, such as Investec and Old Mutual, are actually based in South Africa.

Foreign citizens may wish to consult with their bank about offshore account options. Many expats choose to keep a bank account open at home for mortgages and other bills, open another account in South Africa for living expenses, and open a third offshore account for savings and for financial security.


ATMs are plentiful throughout the country and all the main banks have their own ATMs, although certain brands may be lacking in smaller towns. Customers can use any ATM no matter which bank they belong to, although fees will be slightly higher for withdrawals from other banks' ATMs.

The four main banks also provide facilities to make some bill payments or cellphone airtime purchases at their ATMs, and certain machines also accept cash deposits.

Taxes in South Africa

An expat's tax obligations are to a large degree determined by their tax residency status. Those who are not residents for tax purposes are taxed on their South African income only. Residents for tax purposes are taxed on their worldwide income, but there are double-taxation agreements in place with some countries.

Expats are categorised as resident for tax purposes if they have been in South Africa for any of the following periods:

  • 91 days or more in total during the year of assessment

  • 91 days or more in each of the preceding five years

  • 915 days or more in total during the preceding five years of assessment

Income tax rates in South Africa range from 18 percent to 45 percent.

For the latest advice, it's best to consult with an expat tax specialist.

Working in South Africa

The working environment in South Africa hinges on the type of two-tiered economy generally associated with developing countries. One level is similar to a high-producing Western country, and the other is largely informal.

Despite this complex contrast, South Africa's diversified economy and highly developed infrastructure have helped to maintain optimism through continued job creation.

The 'brain drain' resulting from skilled South African workers moving overseas has created gaps in many sectors. This has encouraged companies in industries like finance, medicine, engineering and even some artisanal trades to consider employing foreigners.

Job market in South Africa

The Rainbow Nation's professional world has abundant opportunities for qualified and experienced expats. Those with a tertiary education will find that integrating into the economy won't be too difficult. South Africa is also a fertile ground for entrepreneurial activity, and expats looking to open a business in South Africa can potentially have great success.

South Africa's primary sectors include manufacturing, mining and agricultural services. The services sector remains the largest source of employment in the country, but expats will find that the greatest skills shortages in South Africa, and the most opportunities, are in fields such as engineering, IT and medicine. Temporary positions and low-income jobs are difficult to find, though, with an already high unemployment rate.

The most popular cities for expats in South Africa are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Johannesburg is renowned for its 'work hard, play hard' culture, while the coastal cities are known for a more balanced, relaxed lifestyle.

Finding a job in South Africa

Expats looking to find a job in South Africa usually turn to the many online job portals. The local classifieds can also be a valuable resource, or expats can sign up with a recruitment agency. Being proactive and approaching companies directly to express interest can also go a long way.

To legally take up employment in the country, expats will need a South African work visa. They should also be aware that salaries negotiated in the weak South African rand may make for a comfortable lifestyle within local borders but is unlikely to go far outside the continent.

Work culture in South Africa

Expats may find the work culture in South Africa to be somewhat more relaxed than they are used to, although this will vary between different industries and cities. For example, just about everything in Cape Town is approached with a more laid-back attitude than it would be in Johannesburg, and this includes the atmosphere at work.

As far as dress code goes, expats are likely to encounter more formal dress codes in business or corporate settings, while smaller companies or creative industries may have fewer regulations when it comes to what to wear at work.

South Africans are generally friendly and welcoming people, so expats shouldn't be surprised if they are invited out for after-work drinks. This is a good way to get to know new colleagues in a relaxed setting.

Healthcare in South Africa

Healthcare in South Africa is very much divided along socioeconomic lines. A massive gap in quality exists between the private and public sector and, in practice, these systems cater to different populations. The public healthcare system mainly serves a lower income bracket, while those who can afford it use the private healthcare system.

It's strongly recommended that expats take out health insurance and opt for treatment in private facilities, which generally provide world-class levels of care.

Public healthcare in South Africa

Much of the South African population uses the public healthcare system, which is heavily affected by a lack of resources and funding. The system is not yet universal, although fees are charged according to a patient's income and number of dependants.

Public hospitals, though usually manned by highly qualified professionals, are often poorly maintained. Expats will find minimal creature comforts, and will likely come across long queues, dingy exam rooms and overworked staff members.

Private healthcare in South Africa

In contrast to the public health sector, South Africa's private health sector is excellent. Most cities and towns have a good selection of clinics, hospitals and general practitioners.

The standard of treatment in South African private hospitals is some of the most highly regarded on the continent, and in the opinion of many expats, on par with that of Europe. The medical tourism industry has shown steady growth, and many foreigners travel to South Africa for plastic surgery and dental work.

That said, private healthcare in South Africa comes at a price, especially for those earning a local salary. Although it's possible to pay per treatment, medical costs can quickly add up.

Expats should take out private health insurance to protect against the hefty bills that accompany emergency situations, repeat consultations and specialist treatment.

Health insurance in South Africa

An assortment of local medical aid providers and international health insurance companies are available to expats in South Africa.

Local providers offer various schemes and charge monthly premiums on a progressive scale. Most local health insurance providers in South Africa require claims to be pre-authorised, a stipulation which makes it necessary for people to keep their medical aid card in their wallet.

Insurance plans can either be comprehensive, covering a range of services, or more basic, serving as backup in the case of an emergency. While hospital plans cover the cost of ambulance transport and hospital stays, these are essentially emergency plans which don't cover day-to-day medical expenses such as doctor consultations and treatment, dental treatments, and prescription medications.

Expats interested in getting coverage for day-to-day expenses should compare the different packages offered by local insurance providers. Alternatively, expats may opt to use international insurance providers. Emergency evacuation insurance is unnecessary, as private South African facilities are adequate.

Pharmacies and medicines in South Africa

Pharmacies are readily available in urban centres and are generally well stocked, but expats travelling to outlying rural areas for extended periods should pack basic medications. Those living in rural areas may need to travel to larger towns to fill prescriptions.

Health hazards in South Africa

Contrary to popular belief, malaria is not a wide-scale problem in South Africa. But there is a narrow high-risk area that stretches across the extreme northeast of the country along the borders with Mozambique, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Zimbabwe where taking anti-malarial medication would be wise in peak season. It should be noted that the Kruger National Park is considered a moderate-risk area.

The tap water in South Africa's cities and towns is generally safe to drink and often of good quality, but caution should be exercised in rural areas.

Though decreasing, prevalence rates remain high for HIV/AIDS, but expats who take appropriate precautions against the disease need not be concerned.

Emergency services in South Africa

Public ambulance services in South Africa are run provincially, and standards and response times vary. The close cooperation of fire and ambulance services is the norm, although they are technically separate entities. Emergency paramedics are employed by the government and often work with volunteers, especially in outlying areas.

The South African Red Cross and St John's Ambulance are run by volunteers and supplement the national system. There are also two private, profit-making national ambulance services, ER24 and Netcare 911, which are contacted via their own emergency numbers. Health insurance providers will have a preferred ambulance service and provide their customers with the corresponding contact numbers.

Ambulance contact details

  • Public ambulance services: 10177

  • Netcare 911: 082 911

  • ER24: 084 124

Shipping and Removals in South Africa

Many reputable companies offer shipping and air freight services to South Africa. The cost usually depends on the volume of goods, the distance from origin to destination, and the method of shipping. Some companies also offer storage services and insurance on goods, although it is a good idea to insure with a company external to the one carrying the goods.

Air freight services are more expensive than shipping by sea, but goods will arrive much quicker. Some expats compromise by transporting essentials by air and non-essential, bulkier items by sea.

Shipping pets to South Africa

To ship pets to South Africa, a valid import permit and veterinary health certificate will need to be presented. Dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies and implanted with a microchip.

Pets will be quarantined if the required documentation cannot be presented to the authorities. They will then only be released once the documentation has been received. In addition, dogs from certain countries are subject to a standard quarantine as a matter of course.

Embassy Contacts for South Africa

South African embassies

  • South African Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 232 4400

  • South African High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7451 7299

  • South African High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 0330

  • South African High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6272 7300

  • South African Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 661 5553

  • South African High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 815 8484

Foreign embassies in South Africa

  • United States Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 431 4000

  • British High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 421 7500

  • High Commission of Canada, Pretoria: +27 12 422 3000

  • Australian High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 423 6000

  • Irish Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 452 1000

  • New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 435 9000

Safety in South Africa

Crime and safety in South Africa are major factors for expats considering moving to the country.

Much of the country's crime is linked to income inequality. On a day-to-day basis, theft-related crimes are likely to be the most cause for concern. Violent crimes, on the other hand, are typically linked to gang activity which is concentrated in particular areas. Expats are far less likely to come across this type of crime.

Burglaries, mugging, petty theft and hijackings are usually opportunistic, with perpetrators taking advantage of what they consider to be easy targets. Expats can reduce their chances of falling victim to these types of crimes by being aware of their surroundings, avoiding isolated areas and investing in home and vehicle security.

Residential safety in South Africa

While burglaries can be a problem in some areas, expats can increase their personal safety by contracting an armed response security provider and investing in an alarm system. Many suburban estates also have controlled access, while neighbourhoods without controlled access often have neighbourhood-watch patrols instead, which can also decrease the chance of crime.

There are a few more factors that can improve the residential safety of expats:

  • Be vigilant about locking front and back doors at all times, and make sure alarm systems are set before leaving the house

  • When choosing a home, it's a good idea to opt for enclosed neighbourhoods or security villages, apartments with gated security, or areas with effective neighbourhood watches

  • The vast majority of South African properties have burglar bars installed on windows and safety gates on external doors. Sliding doors are sometimes overlooked by property owners in this respect, but it's important that they are fitted with safety gates too, as they are particularly vulnerable potential entry points. Burglars have also been known to get through even the smallest of windows, so tiny, innocuous-looking windows should also have burglar bars.

  • Extra precautions such as perimeter walls, guard dogs and electric fencing can make the property more secure and are good to have, but aren't absolutely essential

  • A common complaint is that police response is too slow, so expats should consider using private security companies with armed response units capable of responding to emergencies

Public transport safety in South Africa

A lack of safe public transport in South Africa poses a frustrating challenge. Minibus taxis, trains and even certain buses are especially vulnerable to pickpocketing and muggings. Consulting trusted locals, such as friends or co-workers, on the safest mode of transport in the area is recommended.

There are no underground trains, but the speedy Gautrain operating between Johannesburg and Pretoria provides a safe and effective means of travel, although it is somewhat expensive. The MyCiTi bus services in Cape Town are also widely regarded as a safe option, but valuables should still be kept out of sight and caution is advisable at night, especially when travelling alone.

Road safety in South Africa

Road safety in South Africa is an ongoing concern. Reckless driving, especially by minibus taxis, is the cause of many accidents. Expats in South Africa should drive defensively and be sure to obey the rules of the road and constantly be aware of their surroundings, especially at night. Car doors should be locked and windows rolled up at all times. Drivers should also stick to main routes, park in well-lit areas, keep valuables out of sight, and never pick up hitchhikers.

In certain areas, smash-and-grab thefts and hijackings are threats too; hotspots include residential driveways and traffic lights, particularly those near motorway off-ramps. When in these two situations, it is important to keep a sharp eye out for any suspicious-looking figures trying to lurk in the car's blind spot. Drivers should also make sure they have an escape route available by leaving a gap between their car and the car in front of them at traffic lights, or by rolling slowly towards the traffic light. Coming to a total stop makes it easier for criminals to approach the car and smash a window.

When parking at night, expats should choose a security-patrolled or well-lit area. Informal and formal car guarding services are common in South Africa. Should a car guard offer their assistance in keeping watch over the car once it has been parked, it’s accepted practice to pay them some change when returning.

Scams in South Africa

ATM scams in South Africa are a possibility. Never engage a stranger in conversation while drawing money. Don't count money in public, and avoid drawing large amounts of cash if strangers are watching. If the ATM withholds a card, immediately call the helpline number displayed on the ATM, and do not allow a stranger to assist.

Political and social unrest in South Africa

Protests stemming from social inequalities and labour disputes are fairly common in South Africa. These can disrupt traffic and service delivery in the affected area, and violence has erupted on occasion. Large labour union strikes are usually reported on in advance, and there is normally a notable security presence surrounding such events. Expats should keep abreast of local developments and avoid any affected areas.

Emergency telephone numbers in South Africa

  • Emergency services: 10111

  • Emergency services (from a mobile telephone): 112

  • Ambulance: 10177

Public Holidays in South Africa




New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Human Rights Day

21 March

21 March

Good Friday

7 April

29 March

Family Day

10 April

1 April

Freedom Day

27 April

27 April

Workers' Day

1 May

1 May

Youth Day

16 June

16 June

Women’s Day

9 August

9 August

Heritage Day

24 September

24 September

Day of Reconciliation

16 December

16 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Day of Goodwill

26 December

26 December

*When a public holiday in South Africa falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is a public holiday.

Culture Shock in South Africa

Given the country's complex society and eclectic nature, it is entirely natural for expats to feel a degree of culture shock in South Africa. With its sweeping geographic variations, 11 official languages and various cultures living in close proximity, the Rainbow Nation can be an easy place to blend in, but also presents expats with unique challenges.

Those expats who have been told horror stories will be relieved to know that there is no wildlife roaming the streets; that while crime is a reality, it is often sensationalised by the media; and that public infrastructure is generally good.

Inequality in South Africa

Expats moving to South Africa are often the most taken aback by the country's glaring wealth disparity. It’s not uncommon to see the newest Mercedes-Benz model parked next to someone rummaging through a rubbish bin. Guilt can overwhelm new arrivals, but expats should be careful about indulging beggars or opening their homes to those in need. The best way to make a positive difference is to donate to registered charities.

Safety in South Africa

Expats moving to Johannesburg, in particular, will encounter an obsession with personal safety. Homes are surrounded by electrified fences and high walls and, in some cases, guarded by private security firms. Walking around alone at night is discouraged. The role that crime plays in many people's lives may be the most unfamiliar and disconcerting feature of integrating into South African society.

The good news is that there has been a push towards urban renewal, with an increased emphasis on reducing crime. More and more people are enjoying Johannesburg's outdoor spaces and trendy inner-city areas. At the same time, daytime walks around the streets, beaches and parks in Cape Town are much more common, though it's still necessary to remain aware of one's surroundings and keep personal belongings out of sight.

Time in South Africa

The concept of time in South Africa takes some getting used to for expats settling into their new life. South Africans often measure moments in 'now', 'just now' and 'now now'. If expats find themselves struggling to grasp the difference, they needn't be concerned – even among South Africans, the relative lengths of time that these phrases indicate is debated. The point that remains is that, for many South Africans, there is no rush if it can be done later.

However, this is not true in the South African business world, which upholds very Western standards of punctuality and decorum. It functions relatively efficiently, although social engagements and government enterprises often function with a lot more flexibility. Expats should not take problems with punctuality or light-hearted rescheduling personally – this is a cultural norm.

Social life in South Africa

South Africans of all cultures enjoy a braai, a kind of barbecue which entails cooking meat over hot coals, often accompanied by various salads and sides. Because the hot coals need to cool to the right temperature before the food can be cooked, braais are often an all-day event with attendees relaxing and chatting over a few beers.

Braais often take place around sporting events – the country is passionate about rugby, cricket and soccer (football). While support for local rugby and cricket teams is high, especially at the national level, soccer can probably be considered the favourite national pastime, even if the national team hardly ever performs well on the international stage.

Work Permits for South Africa

Expats wishing to take up employment in South Africa will need to acquire a work permit, but getting one isn't always a consistent process. In South Africa, work permits are known as work visas and allow the bearer to enter, stay and work in the country.

Applying for a work visa for South Africa

The main consideration for work visas is still whether South African citizens are able to perform the task in question at the same level as the applicant. The documentation required to prove this is a grey area that partially depends on officials' personal discretion. As a result, patience and persistence are highly advised for expats who don't have an employer organising their permit for them.

There are several visas for expats wanting to work in South Africa, including the General Work Visa, Critical Skills Work Visa and the Intra-company Transfer Work Visa.

Either way, the first time that expats apply for a visa has to be at a South African mission outside the country. It isn't possible to change from a visit visa to a work visa while in South Africa.

Types of work visas for South Africa

General Work Visas

To apply for a General Work Visa, expats must have a job offer from a South African employer. General Work Visas are issued for the term of the work contract, up to a maximum of five years.

Prospective employers have to prove that they were unable to find a South African citizen or permanent resident for the expat's position. Linked to this, expat employees have to provide proof that they have the necessary qualifications or skills needed for the job. Expat employees are also not allowed to earn less than the average salary and benefits earned by citizens and permanent residents in similar positions.

Critical Skills Work Visas

The South African Critical Skills Work Visa enables foreigners working within certain fields to enter the country regardless of whether they have an offer of employment, as long as they have an occupation listed on the government's critical skills list.

As is the case with General Work Visas, Critical Skills Work Visas can only be issued for five years or less. Expats on this visa will need to prove to the authorities that they've obtained employment within 12 months of being issued the visa. The main sectors identified by the critical skills list include engineering, information and communications technology, science, research and medicine.

Intra-company Transfer Work Visas

Multinational businesses often use this visa for transferring personnel between branches in different countries. The Intra-company Transfer Work Visa is valid for up to four years. Required documentation includes an employment contract and letters from both the transferring company outside of South Africa and the receiving company in South Africa.

Cost of Living in South Africa

Compared to other expat destinations around the world, the cost of living in South Africa is low. But with a local currency that tends to be weak and rather volatile, expats who earn or have savings in a stronger foreign currency will be in a far better position than those being paid in South African rand. Local salaries may also be slightly on the low side in some industries, particularly in Cape Town.

That said, even if a little penny-pinching is necessary here and there, those who can afford it are sure to enjoy an exceptionally high quality of life in a country known for its sunshine, fresh produce, good wine and unrivalled landscapes.

In Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023, Johannesburg ranked 205th and Cape Town ranked 210th out of the 227 cities surveyed worldwide. This is roughly on par with the cost of living in other African countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Gambia, and is still far lower than major international destinations like New York, London and Tokyo.

As is usually the case, the cost of living in South African cities is higher than in rural towns, and most expats either move to Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Cost of accommodation in South Africa

There's an abundance of options for accommodation in South Africa, and it shouldn’t take long for expats to find a home that suits their budget and lifestyle.

Some peripheral suburbs in Cape Town and Johannesburg are an exception, but generally the further away from the CBD someone finds a home, the less expensive it will be (the CBD in Johannesburg now being Sandton). There are plenty of quieter areas for expats who'd prefer to live outside the city's hustle and bustle. Most expats buy a car, although commuting between home, work and school can take hours during peak traffic.

Expats moving to Johannesburg will get more space for their money, while a less spacious apartment or house in Cape Town may be within a short distance of the beach, vineyards and the mountain.

Given the weakness of the South African rand, buying a property in South Africa is an attractive proposition for many expats, especially in upmarket areas such as Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard.

Cost of transport in South Africa

Even in major centres like Cape Town and Johannesburg, the main form of transport is driving. Cars are relatively expensive, but petrol is cheap relative to European prices. Very few parts of the country have reliable bus or train routes, and mini-bus taxis, the most widely used mode of public transport, have garnered a reputation of being dangerous and uncomfortable.

Cost of groceries in South Africa

Thanks to ever-increasing prices, groceries in South Africa will dominate a large chunk of an expat family’s budget alongside accommodation, transport and education. Most families on a budget prefer to buy groceries from local supermarkets that stock a wide variety of local produce and imported goods. South African brands are usually cheaper than imported goods, and many of them are good quality.

Expats who'd like a taste of home will also be pleased to know that some retailers stock items from overseas, although these can be expensive.

Cost of education in South Africa

Expat parents will have several excellent schools in South Africa to choose from, but there's a big difference between private and public school fees. Most expats send their children to private or international schools, but the costs at these can be exorbitant.

In terms of public schools, quality varies widely. Generally speaking, public schools whose fees are on the higher side will offer a better standard of education owing to the additional resources they have on hand. While their fees are a little more expensive than regular public schools in South Africa, they're still well below the price of private or international schooling.

Cost of healthcare in South Africa

Though doctors are exceptional and highly trained in the public sector, public healthcare facilities are of poor to middling quality, and waiting times are long. For higher standards, better staff-to-patient ratios and more comfort, expats tend to prefer private healthcare in South Africa.

Routine costs are typically affordable, even for people who don't have health insurance. Fees can quickly add up, though, particularly when specialists are consulted or the need for emergency care arises.

Private care providers may ask for payment upfront, so it's a good idea to take out private health insurance in South Africa.

Cost of living in South Africa chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Johannesburg in September 2022.


Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 13,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 12,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 6,600

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 6,300


Eggs (dozen)

ZAR 36

Milk (1 litre)

ZAR 18

Rice (1kg)

ZAR 25

Loaf of white bread

ZAR 15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ZAR 82

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ZAR 51

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

ZAR 69

Coca-Cola (330ml)

ZAR 16


ZAR 31

Local beer (500ml)

ZAR 35

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

ZAR 600


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

ZAR 1.78

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ZAR 805

Basic utilities (per month for small household)

ZAR 2,000


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

ZAR 15.75

Bus/train fare in the city centre

ZAR 30

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

ZAR 21

Transport and Driving in South Africa

When it comes to public transport and driving in South Africa, there isn't much choice, with driving being the only feasible option for most. Even within the big cities, public transport is limited  – although efforts to improve this have been made – and virtually all expats moving to South Africa purchase a car.

Driving in South Africa

Cars in South Africa are somewhat expensive, even though petrol prices are still fairly low compared to Europe.

South Africa’s road network is extensive and is generally in good condition. However, in some of the more rural parts of the country, potholes can be a problem and can cause severe damage to cars.

In South Africa, driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Traffic, especially in the big cities, might be a bit more chaotic than expats are used to, but still far from the level of danger in countries with high road-fatality rates such as Thailand.

Drivers usually stick to their lanes, and when traffic lights (or 'robots' as they are referred to in South Africa) aren't working, the ensuing four-way-stop traffic is usually quite orderly. But don’t be surprised if minibus taxis illegally overtake on the left or perform other alarming and illegal manoeuvres during heavy traffic.

Once they are granted permanent residence, expats have one year to convert their driving licence to a South African one. Until then, they can legally drive in South Africa using their own country’s driver's licence as long as it has a photograph of the driver, is valid and is in English. If one's driver's licence doesn't meet these requirements, an International Driving Permit (IDP) can be used instead. Some traffic police will try to tell unsuspecting expats that their licences are invalid in hopes of soliciting a bribe, but if expats stay firm and know their rights, there is nothing to fear.

Renting a car

While an expat is still in the process of buying a car, or whenever they are travelling in other cities, renting a car in South Africa is a fairly inexpensive option. Most of the major international car rental companies are represented at airports and throughout the main cities. There are also several local car rental companies that might offer more competitive prices, especially for longer-term rentals.

Public transport in South Africa


The high-speed Gautrain has been operating in the greater Johannesburg area since 2010 and has been a big success on the few routes available – it is clean, safe and on time. But for the most part, it isn't developed enough yet to be a viable form of city-wide transport.


Metrobus is the official bus service provider in Johannesburg, but routes are limited. Unless one lives in or near the city centre, which most expats stay away from, they won't be able to use the Metrobus system to get to work. Another option is the Gautrain bus services, although designed to link commuters to the Gautrain, this is still a useful system on its own and can be used independently of the Gautrain itself.

Cape Town has a rapid bus service called MyCiTi, which also offers a shuttle service from the airport to the city. Ordinary buses in Cape Town are run by Golden Arrow Bus Services and aren't particularly reliable. Those more interested in sightseeing than commuting should consider a bus tour. Cape Town's red Hop-on, Hop-off Tour Bus is a popular way to go sightseeing.

Intercity bus travel is not particularly comfortable or fast, but those who wish to travel this way should go for companies such as Greyhound and Intercape.

Minibus taxis

Minibus taxis represent a cross between a bus and taxi service, and are used by some locals as their only form of public transport. There is an informal route system accompanied by various hand signals given by people waiting for a taxi at the roadside. However, taxis are generally considered unsafe and uncomfortable. Most of them don’t look especially roadworthy, and the hair-raising style of driving typical of taxis causes frequent accidents. As a result, these are rarely used by expats.

Luxury trains

A wonderful way for expats to discover South Africa and its sweeping landscapes, if they have time, is by way of one of the luxury trains operating mainly between Johannesburg and Cape Town and a few other routes. It’s not the cheapest way to travel, but it’s a highly luxurious one. Taking a car along is an option on some routes.

The Blue Train, Premier Classe and Rovos Rail are the most prominent luxury train providers.

Air travel in South Africa

The easiest way to get around South Africa (and to its neighbouring countries) is by air. Domestic flights to all major cities are readily (and often affordably) available on the local airlines. South African Airways is the national carrier, while FlySafair, CemAir and Airlink offer low-cost options between major cities.

Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport is a modern and well-organised major hub for all of Southern Africa. Lanseria, a second, smaller airport on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg, offers daily flights to several destinations, often at a cheaper price, and Cape Town and Durban also have international airports.

Keeping in Touch in South Africa

With some of the continent's best communications infrastructure, expats shouldn't have too much trouble with keeping in touch in South Africa. While there is room for improvement, there is easy access to moderately fast internet and comprehensive mobile and fixed-line telephone networks.

Internet in South Africa

While South Africa is placed in the top 100 broadband speeds in the world, it still falls below the standard of a number of European and Asian destinations.

ADSL is widely available in South Africa but requires a fixed phone line. The physical infrastructure of telephone lines throughout the country is owned by Telkom (a largely state-owned enterprise). ADSL users must therefore pay Telkom for line rental as well as their internet service provider for network access. This can prove to be expensive.

The good news is that fibre, a faster and often better-value alternative, is becoming increasingly accessible in South Africa as fibre networks are extended.

Major fibre networks include Openserve (owned by Telkom), Vumatel and Frogfoot. These companies lay down and own the fibre lines in various areas. Consumers do not pay fibre networks directly but rather purchase fibre via an internet service provider. Cost is determined largely by speed and usage. Recommended internet service providers include Afrihost, RSAWEB and Cool Ideas.

Another option for those looking to get online fast is mobile broadband, powered by South Africa's mobile providers.

Mobile phones in South Africa

There are four major mobile providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom Mobile. Expats can get a pay-as-you-go SIM card if they only plan to be in South Africa for the short term. It's commonplace to use mobile data to access the internet in South Africa. In the past, prices have been high, but these are slowly starting to come down due to competition between mobile providers.

Mobile phones can be bought at numerous places, including department stores and speciality cellular phone shops. Costs are reasonable, and people from a variety of backgrounds have mobile phones.

Expats unsure of how long they'll be in the country should be wary of signing an extended contract – sizeable fees can be attached to early termination, although call rates may be better than pay-as-you-go options. However, expats staying in the country for two years or more should take advantage of one of the many competitively priced contract deals available. These usually come complete with a brand-new phone.

Landline telephones in South Africa

Landlines in South Africa are also provided by Telkom. Long-distance rates aren't cheap, but expats can have a prepaid phone line installed with monthly rental charges and packages to suit various budgets. Expats with broadband can also utilise VoIP services such as Skype.

Setting up a landline isn't difficult – in addition to the fee, only a passport and proof of residence are required. The biggest downside is that expats could wait for as little as a day or as long as a month for a technician to arrive and install it.

Television in South Africa

Basic television in South Africa consists of the SABC, a public broadcaster that often lacks quality and depth, and eTV, a privately owned enterprise that offers a higher standard of news service but is generally lacking in the entertainment division.

M-Net is a paid provider and has the occasional good programme, but most expats subscribe to DSTV – the country's biggest satellite service which has dozens of international channel options, including M-Net. To purchase satellite television, customers need to buy a decoder and have their satellite installed for a once-off fee. Various packages are available at different monthly rates.

Streaming services offering viewing on demand are a newer addition to the country's entertainment options. The two main services are Netflix and Showmax, and Disney+, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime have more recently become available. These include plenty of international movies and television shows, while Showmax also has some local offerings.

Visas for South Africa

Depending on where they're from and how long they intend to stay, most expats will need a visa for South Africa. Citizens of visa-exempt countries such as the UK, Canada, the US and several others won't need a visa if they're staying for 90 days or less and are in the country for tourism or business purposes.

Holders of passports from non-exempt countries and those wanting to stay longer to study, volunteer or work in South Africa will have to apply for a visa beforehand.

It's worth noting that only visa renewals or extensions can be done in South Africa – expats won't be able to change from, for example, a visitor's visa to a work visa from within the country. To change to a new visa category, an expat would need to return to their country of origin and submit the relevant application at a South African embassy.

Temporary residence visas for South Africa

Expats planning to stay in South Africa for more than three months will need a temporary residence visa. This is sorted into different categories depending on what the applicant intends to do, such as moving to study, work, start their own business or receive medical treatment. Each type of temporary resident visa has its own specified period of validity. Work visas, for instance, are valid for up to a maximum of five years, while medical treatment visas are issued for six months at a time and are eligible for extension.

Permanent residence permits for South Africa

Expats who want to stay long-term will need a permanent residence permit for South Africa. The application process varies according to what they want to do in the country. The first thing to determine is which category the application falls under.

Direct residence permits are applied for on the basis of having been in the country on a work visa for the past five years. Residency-on-other-grounds permits cover other reasons for permanent residency, such as retiring, starting a business or moving to the country to join a family member or spouse.

Though some permanent residence applications can be made on a standalone basis in theory, most expats get a temporary residence visa first. This is often because permanent residence applications can take a long time to be processed and granted.

Benefits of permanent residency in South Africa

One of the most obvious benefits of a permanent residence permit is the fact that it is valid for life if the holder abides by the permit's conditions. All other permits in South Africa require renewal or re-application at some point. Permanent residents can also sponsor qualifying relatives.

Permanent residence applications

Permanent residence applications can be made either in South Africa or in the applicant's country of origin, but expats should get advice from an immigration agent. The process takes several months and might cause applicants in South Africa to overstay on their current visas.

Using a registered immigration practitioner

Applicants can apply directly to a South African mission or through a South African visa application centre. But certain offices might not be easily accessible, and getting advice is difficult. The process is often confusing, time-consuming and frustrating – South African Home Affairs is notorious for disorganisation and shifting standards.

Applications aren't points-based but are assessed on a case-by-case basis. This policy creates a large grey area that's often best navigated with the knowledge that an immigration practitioner provides.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Articles about South Africa

Weather in South Africa

With close to 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, the warm climate in South Africa is likely to be a welcome adjustment for expats from colder countries. In fact, the pleasant weather in South Africa is one of the main reasons holidaymakers and expats are drawn to the country every year.

The best times of the year are arguably the brief transitional seasons. Autumn, reddening the trees from March to May, and spring, lasting from September to late November, offer pleasant temperatures with little rain in most of the country. These mild seasons are in contrast to summer in South Africa, when temperatures of over 86°F (30°C) are common and can soar up to 104°F (40°C) in some of the country's hotter areas.

Each region has its own distinct character, however, with its own average temperatures and rainfall. The warmest areas in winter are around the coast. That said, KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast and the Western Cape maintain different climates and are influenced by the two oceans on opposite sides of the country. The Atlantic brings a Mediterranean climate to Cape Town and surrounds, while the Indian Ocean's warmer current creates a more tropical climate in Durban.

In summer, the interior of the country, which sits at a higher altitude, is not quite as humid as Durban but generally has more rainfall than South Africa's coastal regions, with landlocked cities such as Johannesburg and Pretoria enjoying frequent afternoon thunderstorms.

Expats are likely to enjoy the South African climate, although they may want to purchase fans and heaters – many houses don't have central heating or air conditioning.



Pros and Cons of Moving to South Africa

As with any expat destination, life in South Africa comes with its own unique set of perks and challenges. Still, many expats will agree that in this case, the pros outweigh the cons, and they end up staying in the country long term. Below are some of the pros and cons of living in South Africa.

Accommodation in South Africa

+ PRO: Spacious options are available

In cities like Pretoria and Johannesburg, expats can easily rent sizeable freestanding houses in the suburbs with large gardens and often private swimming pools. Townhouses are also popular options for expats looking for something smaller, as they also usually have a small garden to relax in. Even apartment blocks often come with communal spaces that include swimming pools and braai (barbecue) areas.

- CON: Renting in major cities can be expensive

As in many countries, renting accommodation in major cities in South Africa can be expensive. With Cape Town, in particular, being a popular tourist destination, many investors buy up properties, which drives monthly rental fees even higher. Expats could end up spending over a third of their income on rent every month. The good news for expats heading to Johannesburg is that, although it doesn't have Cape Town's oceans or mountains, money goes a lot further here in terms of rent.

- CON: Rotational blackouts

Since 2007, South Africa has experienced electricity supply shortages, and the national electricity supplier, Eskom, has implemented a system of rotational blackouts known as 'load shedding'. The level of load shedding applied can change on a weekly or daily basis and varies from making daily life inconvenient to making it nearly impossible.

Lifestyle in South Africa

+ PRO: Lovely weather

With plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures throughout most of the year, South Africa's pleasant climate makes the country perfect for expats who enjoy being outdoors.

+ PRO: Easy to make friends

South Africans are known to be some of the friendliest people in the world, so expats should have no problem making friends and finding help when they are lost in their new city. Many South Africans also enjoy being active, meaning there are tons of opportunities for expats to join local hiking, running or sports clubs.

- CON: Very laid-back approach to time

Sometimes the lifestyle in South Africa can be a little too laid back. The famous South African term 'now-now' is a vague and ambiguous way of measuring time. If someone says they'll do something 'now-now', that could mean immediately, in a few minutes or a few hours. This could frustrate expats as things may not happen as quickly as they are used to.

Safety in South Africa

+ PRO: Safe for LGBTQ+ community

South Africa has enshrined equal treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in its constitution and recognises same-sex marriage. Cape Town, in particular, has a thriving LGBTQ+ culture and is often referred to as the 'gay capital of Africa'. All of this has made South Africa a safe destination for queer travellers. Of course, there will always be exceptions in any country, and some areas are more conservative than others – however, in general, LGBTQ+ expats shouldn’t experience serious homophobia here.

- CON: High crime rates

Expats do need to be aware that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. It is important to take sensible safety precautions to reduce the chance of being seen as an 'easy target' to crimes such as robbery, muggings, smash-and-grabs and hijackings.

Working in South Africa

+ PRO: Relaxed work culture

In keeping with the generally laid-back attitude of the country, work culture in South Africa tends to be relaxed and informal. South Africans have a 'work to live' mindset rather than 'live to work' – they're hard workers while on the job, but personal time is generally respected once the workday ends.

- CON: Visas can take long

It isn’t possible for expats to get a job in South Africa without a visa. Unfortunately, paperwork in the country is notorious for moving slowly, and it can be difficult to predict how long a visa approval will take. Many employers prefer to avoid this complex and frustrating process, rather opting to hire someone local if possible. That said, expats with critical skills will have a much easier time with this.

- CON: Low wages and limited perks

Wages are low if one earns in the local currency. Employers are only required to give 15 days of annual leave a year, which may come as a shock to expats from countries with more generous leave policies. Many companies don’t offer standard perks like a pension or medical aid assistance, which means workers have added stress to cover these needs on their own.

Healthcare in South Africa

- CON: Inadequate public healthcare

Public healthcare in South Africa may be inexpensive, but it is generally not up to the standards that most expats are used to. Public hospitals are understaffed, under-resourced and overcrowded. This makes for a long and arduous process, regardless of whether one is there for something as innocuous as a medication pick-up or for more serious situations such as surgeries and emergencies. Creature comforts are few and privacy is lacking.

+ PRO: Excellent private healthcare

Fortunately, high-quality private healthcare is readily available. This makes up for the lack of public healthcare facilities. Visits to a private general practitioner are reasonably priced. South Africa also has various health insurance schemes for expats to choose from.

Accommodation in South Africa

Expats moving to South Africa can look forward to finding an abundance of reasonably priced, comfortable housing options. Whether relocating to Johannesburg, Cape Town or anywhere else in the country, the range, quality and affordability of accommodation will make adjusting to life on the African continent that much smoother.

Most expats rent accommodation initially, at least while they get to know the various areas and suburbs of their new city. Expats looking to settle down for good will be able to purchase property fairly easily, as there are no property-ownership restrictions for foreigners in South Africa.

Types of accommodation in South Africa

The country has a vast selection of rental accommodation. The standard of accommodation in South Africa varies in direct proportion to income but is generally quite high.

On the whole, houses are more spacious than in most European countries, and finding relatively inexpensive properties with big gardens and swimming pools isn't uncommon. The South African institution of braaiing (barbecuing) ensures that most properties have some kind of outdoor entertainment area.


In South Africa, apartment buildings are known as blocks of flats. Individual apartments can be multi-room or may take the form of bachelor or studio apartments with one main room acting as a living area, bedroom and kitchenette.

Freestanding houses

Mostly found in the suburbs, freestanding houses are favoured by families for the indoor and outdoor space they afford. Though pricier than other types of accommodation, freestanding houses offer space, comfort and privacy.


Townhouses, rowhouses, and semi-detached houses are all terms used to refer to compact multi-storey homes that are joined to an adjacent house on one or two sides. These usually have small gardens and are more affordable than large freestanding houses.

Security complexes

Security complexes, also known as gated communities, are secure housing developments with controlled entry. Complexes typically have a variety of housing types, ranging from apartments to townhouses to standalone family homes. There are also often shared facilities such as communal pools, outdoor braai areas, parks and clubhouses.

Garden cottages

Also known as granny flats, these small homes can be found on the properties of larger freestanding houses. They typically have a studio-style open-plan layout, sometimes with the addition of a separate bedroom.

Loadshedding in South Africa

Loadshedding is the practice of deliberately turning off electricity supply to different zones on a rotational basis – also known as rolling or rotational blackouts. This is done by the national electricity supplier, Eskom, in response to electricity supply shortages resulting from maintenance issues and breakdowns at power plants.

The loadshedding schedule has eight stages of intensity. The higher the stage, the longer the outages and the more frequent they become. At Stage 1, residents can expect one two-hour outage per day, and with each higher stage the number of outages increases until Stage 4, when there are four outages. From Stage 5, an increasing number of these outages are bumped up to four hours, with four four-hour outages at Stage 8. There are a number of apps for keeping track of the loadshedding schedule, as loadshedding zones and stages can be difficult to figure out.

To cope with loadshedding, those who can afford it invest in alternative power sources such as generators, solar panels and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). These provide temporary backup power to keep essential appliances and electronics running during outages. For example, many people use UPS systems to keep their internet running, while others rely on batteries and inverters or generators to power their homes and businesses during extended periods of loadshedding.

For more information about loadshedding in the country's major cities, see Accommodation in Cape Town and Accommodation in Johannesburg

Useful links

Finding accommodation in South Africa

When looking for accommodation in South Africa, many make use of local estate agents. This is a useful approach for expats especially, as estate agents can guide them through the rental process. Much of the legwork of renting accommodation is done by real estate agents, including picking out listings, arranging viewings and setting up a contract.

For those who prefer to go it alone, there are also listings in a number of local newspapers and on various online property portals.

Renting accommodation in South Africa


Once a potential tenant finds a place they wish to rent, they will need to fill out an application form. They will also be asked to submit proof of identity (such as a passport) and proof of income.


If the application is successful, the next step is that the tenant will be required to pay the first month of rent upfront, along with a deposit of one or two months' rent. At the end of the rental period, the tenant will receive the deposit back in full as long as the property is returned without any damages.


Leases are typically signed on a one-year renewable basis. It may be possible to rent for a shorter period, but this is generally more expensive and can be limiting in terms of what's available.


Utilities like electricity and water are not usually included in the rental price, so expats should ensure that they plan for this extra expense in their monthly budget.

Home security

Home security in South Africa is a concern; however, it often isn't as paralysing a preoccupation as some might imagine it to be. While opportunistic and sometimes violent crime occurs in South Africa, taking consistent common-sense precautions lowers the chance of being an easy target.

When viewing a potential new home, expats should ensure there are adequate security measures, including burglar bars, security gates and an alarm system. Glass sliding doors are particularly vulnerable points of entry, so it's important that they are properly secured with a gate.

Buying property in South Africa

Attracted by competitive property rates and enormous investment potential, many expats – especially those planning to stay for a few years – end up buying property in South Africa.

The good news is that there are no restrictions on non-residents owning property in South Africa. However, there is a restriction on the amount of financing non-South African residents can apply for. Foreign citizens are only granted up to 50 percent of a house's value and have to provide the balance themselves. Expats in South Africa on a work permit, however, may be granted more funding, subject to the bank's decision.

Diversity and inclusion in South Africa

South Africa is a vibrant country filled with people from all walks of life – however, as with other countries, it does have some social issues to cope with.

Many of today's issues have roots in South Africa's turbulent history, most notably the Apartheid era, which began in 1948 and ended in the early 1990s. Under the leadership of the Afrikaner-led National Party, the country passed a succession of discriminatory laws targeting non-white South Africans (including black, Indian and coloured South Africans, who made up around 80 percent of the population combined). After a long struggle for freedom, the first democratic elections were held in 1994 and the African National Congress was voted into power. Though South Africa has been on the road to reconciliation for many years now, decades of discrimination is hard to undo and scars of the country's difficult past remain. In addition, inefficient governance and corruption issues are rife. Regardless, many South Africans are proud of the country's diversity, lovingly nicknaming South Africa 'the Rainbow Nation', and efforts toward a brighter future continue.

Below are a few facts and resources about diversity and inclusion in South Africa.

Accessibility in South Africa

South Africa’s Bill of Rights guarantees equality and non-discrimination to those with disabilities. This includes ensuring accessibility in the built environment and providing funding for areas that need improvement.

Although there are codes and regulations requiring all new buildings to adhere to a certain standard of accessibility, the language used is often vague, allowing loopholes and making it difficult to enforce these standards in practice.

Useful resources

Accessible South Africa
Disability Info SA
National Council of and for Persons with Disabilties

LGBTQ+ in South Africa

South Africa has been praised for having one of the most progressive and rights-focused constitutions in the world. In fact, in 1996, South Africa became the first country in the world to provide specific constitutional protection to its LGBTQ+ population by prohibiting unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2006. South Africa was the sixth country in the world to recognise same-sex marriage, and remains the only African country to do so to this day.

Transgender individuals are able to legally change their sex in the population registry, thereafter receiving identity documents reflecting the change. To do so, the individual must have medical or surgical intervention, such as hormone-replacement therapy. Sex-reassignment surgery is, however, not required.

Although the law aims for equality for the LGBTQ+ population, changing social norms proves to be more difficult. Traditional gender roles are strongly held values in some parts of South Africa. Most large cities are actively LGBTQ+ friendly, however. Every year, Pride Parades are held throughout South Africa, including in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Soweto.

Useful resources

OUT LGBT Wellbeing
Triangle Project
Department of Justice – LGBTI FAQ

Gender equality in South Africa

Historically, gender equality in South Africa has been fairly low, but in recent years the country has begun to rise in measurements of gender equality such as parliamentary representation.

There remains a massive pay gap between men and women in South Africa, with men earning anywhere from 54 to 68 percent more than women in the same position with the same level of education.

Useful resources

Commission for Gender Equality
Sonke Gender Justice
Women's Empowerment Foundation for Southern Africa

Women in leadership in South Africa

Approximately 47 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women in South Africa in 2022. Prior to 1994, a mere 2.7 percent of parliament representatives were women. It’s clear that major leaps have been made for women in the political sphere, but other major issues remain.

Management positions, for example, are occupied by 5.8 percent of employed women, compared to 9.8 percent of employed men.

Statistics SA reports that, in the fourth quarter of 2021, 43.4 percent of employed South Africans were women. Men occupied 66.9 percent of managerial positions, with just 33.1 percent of managers being female. In the 2020 edition of Business Africa’s report on the state of gender on JSE-listed boards, findings indicate that, out of SA’s top 100 listed companies, only 26 percent of board seats are reserved for women.

Mental health awareness in South Africa

Mental health awareness in South Africa is limited. The government does little to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues, and public psychiatric services are underfunded. There are numerous excellent private practitioners, but they are prohibitively expensive for the average South African. Health insurance is vital to access these services. 

In a 2021 poll by UNICEF South Africa, 65 percent of young people surveyed stated that they had mental health problems. Roughly 20 percent did not know where to get help, and 18 percent said they were afraid of how they would be perceived.

There are a number of non-profit organisations working hard to raise awareness and provide resources. The most prominent of these is the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), which runs a toll-free helpline manned by trained volunteer counsellors. This includes a 24-hour suicide hotline.

SADAG volunteers can provide callers with immediate support as well as referrals to important resources, including SADAG-run support groups and free or low-cost therapy. For callers with access to medical aid or other funding, they are also able to recommend private practitioners.

Useful resources

South African Depression and Anxiety Group

Unconscious bias training in South Africa

Human beings are shaped by their social surroundings, and everyone holds unconscious biases to some degree. Unconscious biases can be influenced by family, friends, school, work and other group settings where a strong sense of identity is formed.

To start the process of unlearning these assumptions, self-awareness is a key tool, as is understanding the nature of bias. Identifying biased thoughts and making a conscious decision to behave differently is one important strategy. Interacting with those outside one’s social group is also helpful, as is partaking in unconscious bias training.

Many businesses offer unconscious bias training for their employees in order to curb the damage that unconscious biases can do, such as creating conflict in the workplace, negatively affecting the company’s reputation and limiting employee retention.

In South Africa, unconscious bias based on race is a big problem. Older people in SA society, such as those who lived through Apartheid’s active years, often carry unconscious biases based on race because of things they witnessed or experienced during that time. Many young South Africans have family members, such as parents or grandparents, who hold outdated views.

Unconscious bias training is, therefore, particularly important in South Africa. Individuals may receive training at work, but if not, there are numerous resources that can be used to challenge one’s own views.

Useful resources

Project Implicit 
Unconscious Bias Training

Diversification in the workplace in South Africa

A diverse workplace is one in which employees have a collective mixture of similarities and differences. This can include aspects such as age, sexual orientation, language, race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, religious beliefs, physical abilities and disabilities, and socio-economic status.

Studies have shown a correlation between workplace diversity and employee wellbeing, as workers feel valued and comfortable to be themselves. This leads to innovation and better decision-making, as everyone’s voice is heard.

In South Africa, companies are incentivised, and in some cases required, to diversify their workforce in terms of race under Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE). The system was introduced in 2003 as an effort to compensate black workers for previous injustices endured under the Apartheid government.

B-BBEE regulations mostly affect state-owned and government entities, as well as large corporate companies, which are legally required to comply with B-BBEE. This is not the case with small to medium privately owned businesses, for which compliance is optional.

However, in practice, not being B-BBEE certified limits opportunities for company growth as B-BBEE-compliant businesses only do business with other B-BBEE-compliant businesses.

Useful resources

Department of Trade, Industry and Competition – Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment

Safety in South Africa

South Africa has a high crime rate, with theft being particularly prevalent – specifically home robberies, muggings, hijackings and petty theft. This need not affect a person’s experience of the country; however, certain precautions should be taken to reduce the chance of becoming a victim.

Residents should invest in home security, with 24/7 monitoring, keep homes and cars locked at all times, not walk alone late at night, keep valuables out of sight, and always stay aware of their surroundings. When driving, keep to main roads and park in well-lit areas. Some places are safer than others, and it’s important to find out which areas to avoid.

Calendar initiatives in South Africa

  • 4 February – World Cancer Day
  • March – Human Rights Month (including Human Rights Day public holiday on 21 March)
  • March – TB Awareness Month
  • 19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
  • 18 July – Mandela Day
  • August – Women’s Month (including Women’s Day public holiday on Aug 16)
  • 10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
  • October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • 8 October –World Mental Health Day
  • 14 November – World Diabetes Day
  • 25 November to 10 December – 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children
  • 1 December – World AIDS Day

Doing Business in South Africa

With its famous reputation for cultural diversity, doing business in South Africa is an eye-opening experience. The myriad different practices and customs expats may come across can be daunting, but a few generalities do exist, and Western expats shouldn't experience too much of a culture shock in the South African business world.

When opting to do business in 'Mzansi', it won't take long for expats to fit in with a local populace that has learned that the most direct path to success is the one that people carve out for themselves.

Fast facts

Business hours 

Generally, Monday to Friday, from 8.30am or 9am to 5pm.

Business language

English is widely spoken. It's beneficial but not necessary to know some isiXhosa, isiZulu or Afrikaans.


Dress is conservative, but not formal. Suits are the exception to the rule, not the norm, and are reserved for more corporate environments.


Not expected, but generally welcome. Gifts are often opened in front of the giver.

Gender equality

Women in South Africa are entitled to the same opportunities as men, but female representation in senior management remains relatively low.


Handshakes are the norm in professional settings.

Racial equality

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) is an affirmative action policy that aims to redress the socio-economic imbalances caused by apartheid by helping to bring the black majority into the economic mainstream. This affects hiring processes, as certain population groups are given preference for BBBEE jobs. Though the programme is not compulsory, BBBEE-certified businesses are given certain benefits.

Business culture in South Africa

South African business culture is marked by striking differences in ethnicity, language and customs. The most important thing for expats doing business in the country is to try to understand the complexities of business culture in South Africa. Over time, a few common practices will emerge.

Cultural nuances

The working world of one urban centre contrasts not only with rural counterparts but also with other cities. South Africans love stereotyping Johannesburg as being hard-working and full of opportunity, while Cape Town is said to be more relaxed but also more insular.

South Africans tend to prefer doing business with people they've met before. They are also known for being warm and inviting, and a bit of relationship-building will go a long way in cementing business arrangements. South Africans value hard work and applaud those who have succeeded – but they tend to prioritise other aspects of life such as family, good living and friendship.

Punctuality is also important; however, depending on the client's culture, it may be necessary to wait patiently. Government figures, for instance, are often late.

Work environment

The South African work environment tends to be more relaxed and personable than expats may be used to, with the possible exception of some larger corporations and more established financial institutions. That said, a clear management hierarchy still exists, and showing respect for senior executives and colleagues is essential. In exchange, decisions are often made in a somewhat egalitarian manner.

Dos and don'ts of business in South Africa

  • Do schedule appointments a fair amount of time in advance and confirm the day before the meeting

  • Do be punctual, even if expecting to wait

  • Don't be surprised if local colleagues ask personal questions or discuss their personal lives. South Africans are friendly by nature, and this is common.

  • Don't be afraid to join colleagues for an after-work event. This is rarely seen as an obligation but instead as a fun way to get to know one another.

  • Do dress conservatively when initially joining an office, cementing relationships with clients or associates, or attending an interview, even in casual offices

A Brief History of South Africa

Early history

  • The earliest known human habitation in South Africa dates back to around 2 million years ago, with the discovery of hominin fossils in the Cradle of Humankind. The San people, who are believed to be the descendants of these early human inhabitants, have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years.

European colonisation

  • 1652: Dutch settlers establish a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope, marking the beginning of the European colonisation of South Africa. The Dutch come in tow with slaves from Madagascar, Indonesia, and India to work on the farms.

  • 1795: The British take control of the Cape of Good Hope, marking the beginning of British rule in South Africa. The British establish a system of segregation, with the Dutch settlers (known as Afrikaners) given more rights and privileges than the indigenous peoples and slaves.

  • 1830s and 1840s: Afrikaners begin a series of migrations away from British rule known as the Great Trek. These migrants establish independent states in the interior of South Africa.

  • 1867: Diamonds are discovered in the interior of South Africa, leading to the beginning of the mineral revolution. The discovery of gold soon follows, and South Africa becomes one of the world's biggest producers of gold and diamonds.

  • 1877: The Transvaal Boer republic is forcibly annexed by the British.

  • 1880–1881: The Transvaal Boers attempt to take the land back from the British, resulting in the first Anglo-Boer War. The Transvaal Boers ultimately declare victory, regaining independence and renaming the area the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic).

  • 1899–1902: The Second Anglo-Boer War is fought between the British Empire and two Boer republics (the Orange Free State and the South African Republic) over control of the region. The British emerge victorious.

  • 1910: The Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State are consolidated into one nation: the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion within the British Empire. 

  • 1911: The Mines and Works Act passes and codifies the racial segregation already present in South African society. The Act requires that all miners and other workers are divided into separate categories based on race, with white workers receiving the best jobs and highest wages.

  • 1913: The Natives Land Act passes, delegating less than 10 percent of available land to black South Africans, who make up 80 percent of the population at the time. Despite being a much smaller group, the country's white population is allocated the majority of the land (80 to 90 percent).

  • 1914–1918: During World War I, South Africa is automatically tied to the Allies in fighting against Germany due to its status as a British colony. Out of a population of 6 million, 250,000 South Africans volunteer to join the war and 7,000 are killed.

  • 1939–1945: Throughout World War II, the British Navy used numerous South African ports strategically. 334,000 South Africans volunteer to fight abroad, suffering a casualty of 9,000.

Apartheid Era

  • 1948: The National Party (NP), an Afrikaner nationalist party, comes to power in South Africa and implements a system of apartheid ("apartness"), which institutionalises racial segregation and discrimination. Under apartheid, black South Africans are denied fundamental political and civil rights, and forced to live in separate, underfunded areas known as townships.

  • 1950s: An anti-apartheid sentiment quietly brews in the country as certain political groups, including the African National Congress (ANC), begin to plan and execute protest and resistance operations.

  • 1952: The Pass Laws Act is instituted, requiring all black South Africans over 16 to carry a pass (known as a 'dompas') with them at all times. The pass system is used to restrict movement and segregate the nation.

  • 1952: Future president Nelson Mandela, a member of the ANC, is chosen as the leader of the group's Defiance Campaign, a plan to protest against six unjust laws under apartheid. Mandela and 19 others are arrested and sentenced to nine months of hard labour for their role in the campaign.

  • 1956: A massive police round-up takes place across the country, during which Mandela is captured and called to the 1956 Treason Trial. After a lengthy trial, he and others are acquitted in 1961.

  • 1960: A referendum is held to determine whether the Union of South Africa should withdraw from the British Commonwealth. The population votes for independence, and the Republic of South Africa is formed as a fully autonomous nation.

  • 1960s: The anti-apartheid movement gains momentum globally, as the United Nations issues a 1962 resolution condemning apartheid and calling for trade sanctions on South Africa. In 1963 an additional resolution is passed, calling for a voluntary arms embargo on the country.

  • 1960: Police fire at a crowd protesting against pass laws, killing 69 and injuring 180 unarmed citizens in what would become known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

  • 1961: In the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre, and with the government still refusing to take action to end apartheid, the ANC establishes a paramilitary wing known as Umkhonto weSizwe, or MK. After launching bomb attacks against government infrastructure, MK is declared a terrorist organisation by the government and banned. Despite this, the group does not disband.

  • 1962: MK leadership is captured at their headquarters, and the group goes somewhat dormant for the next decade. In the same year, Mandela returns to South Africa from a secret trip abroad. He's arrested at a police roadblock and charged with inciting strike action and leaving the country without a permit. He is sentenced to five years of imprisonment.

  • 1963: Mandela and 10 others charged with sabotage face the possibility of receiving the death penalty in what becomes known as the Rivonia Trial. In 1964, most of the accused, including Mandela, are sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Robben Island.

  • 1976: Students lead protests against the forced Afrikaans language policies in schools. Known as the Soweto Uprisings, the protests turn violent as police try to control the crowd. At least 176 die as a result,  including 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. A picture of the dying Pieterson being carried to the hospital becomes a symbol of the resistance. As further protests and more government crackdowns occur, MK re-establishes itself with more members, more support and better military training.

  • 1977: The UN's arms embargo against South Africa becomes compulsory, and a voluntary oil embargo is also declared.

  • 1980s and 1990s: Internal and international pressure leads to the gradual dismantling of apartheid.

  • 1990: Nelson Mandela is released from prison after 27 years and is elected ANC president in 1991.

  • 1994: Negotiations between the ANC and the National Party lead to the first democratic elections, with the ANC claiming a resounding victory.


  • 1994: Mandela takes office and begins implementing the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) to address the social and economic inequalities created by apartheid.

  • 1995: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), chaired by Desmond Tutu, is established to investigate human rights abuses committed during the apartheid era.

  • 1996: South Africa adopts a new constitution, guaranteeing a wide range of individual rights and freedoms for all, including freedom of speech and religion.

  • 1997: The economy begins to grow, driven by the development of new industries and an influx of foreign investment.

  • 1999: Thabo Mbeki succeeds Mandela as president and continues many of the policies initiated by his predecessor, including the RDP and the TRC.

  • 2000–2008: The country faces several challenges, including high crime rates, widespread poverty, failing electricity infrastructure and increasing income inequality, while Mbeki's presidency is marked by controversy, including allegations of corruption and a highly criticised response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

  • 2009: Jacob Zuma becomes president after winning the ANC's presidential election.

  • 2010: South Africa hosts the successful 2010 FIFA World Cup, showcasing the country's infrastructure and unity to the world.

  • 20102017: The country experiences steady economic growth but also faces persistent social and economic challenges, including high levels of unemployment and inequality. Zuma's presidency is also marred by corruption scandals, leading to calls for his resignation and a decline in public trust in the government.

  • 2018: Zuma resigns as president and is succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa. Under Ramaphosa's leadership, the government takes steps to address corruption and boost the economy, but many challenges remain.

  • 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic hits South Africa, with significant economic and social impacts. Over the next few years, 4 million cases of Covid-19 are confirmed and over 100,000 die.

  • 2023: Facing increasing blackouts, Ramaphosa declares a state of disaster in an effort to expedite the response to South Africa's energy crisis.

Education and Schools in South Africa

The South African education system consists of independent schools and government schools.

Private education is far more expensive than public education, but generally offers high standards and ample resources. Fees are steep, though, and these schools are attended mostly by children from middle- and high-income families.

Government schools are funded by provincial education departments, and standards vary widely. Schools wholly dependent on government funding are typically short of resources and provide a poor standard of education. On the other hand, there are fee-paying government schools run by governing bodies consisting of parents and alumni. These schools are in a much better position to offer high-quality education. Some of the country's best schools fall into this category, though in some cases fees can be almost as expensive as private schools.

Public schools in South Africa

Many of South Africa's public schools depend on the government for funding and supplies. Each province is responsible for ensuring its schools are equipped and have enough money to run properly. As a result, standards vary immensely, depending on the efficiency and wealth of the province.

Many children receive low standards of education through a lack of qualified teachers and sometimes an outright absence of equipment in classrooms. Due to these shortcomings, parents that can afford it prefer to send their children to private schools.

In the bigger cities, public school standards are generally better and, in some cases, may meet expat requirements. Public schools draw students and funds from their suburbs and, in general, wealthier areas have better schools. The best government schools tend to be those that are partially administrated and funded by parents and a governing body.

Private schools in South Africa

Except for some expats living in high-income areas, most seek private education for their children. Depending on their location, expats are spoilt for choice when it comes to private schools.

Many private schools have religious origins and aim to provide pupils with a spiritual foundation to complement their academic offerings. Others subscribe to a particular teaching philosophy.

Similar to other countries, private schools typically have better facilities, smaller classes and a more extensive selection of extracurricular activities. This is also true of international schools in South Africa.

International schools in South Africa

There are several international schools in South Africa that offer a variety of globally recognised curricula, such as that of the UK, the US or the International Baccalaureate. Many expat parents find that international schools offer a sense of familiarity and continuity to children who can carry on with their home curriculum. International schools are also a great way to meet fellow expat families.

However, there are two major downsides to international schooling. Firstly, fees can be exorbitant, and secondly, it can often be difficult to secure a place in some of the more popular schools. To stand the best chance of being admitted, parents should start the application process as early as possible. To mitigate costs, expats moving to South Africa for work should try asking for provision for school fees as part of their relocation package.

Homeschooling in South Africa

Homeschooling is increasingly popular with expat parents wanting to educate their children in South Africa. To do this, they have to apply to the head of the relevant provincial Department of Education and register their child. The lessons they offer must follow Department guidelines, and records of the child’s coursework must be maintained.

Special educational needs in South Africa

There are several special-needs schools across South Africa, both public and private, catering for a variety of conditions. However, parents of children with special needs generally find that government schooling, in practice, offers few resources and little support. For this reason, it's best to opt for a private school if possible.

Many mainstream private schools cater for special-needs students alongside the general student population in an inclusive approach, providing extra support where necessary. This may come with extra charges over and above annual school fees. Should a more specialised environment be required, private special-needs schools should be considered.

Tutors in South Africa

In South Africa, tutors are frequently hired to assist students with subjects that they find difficult, such as maths or science. They are also often enlisted to help students prepare for the final school-leaving exams in Grade 12.

Tutors can be particularly helpful for expat children adjusting to a new curriculum or new language, providing extra support through the transition period.

There are a number of reputable tutoring agencies and companies throughout South Africa. TeachMe2 and Tutor Elite both come highly recommended and have tutors all over the country who can assist with a variety of subjects.

Buying a Car in South Africa

Buying a car in South Africa won't be the easiest item to check off an expat's moving list, but it is certainly one of the most necessary tasks to undertake. The country's lack of reliable, safe and comprehensive public transport means that expats have little other choice than to drive.

The task of acquiring a car is best approached with the mindset that it will take several weeks, if not longer. There is some extra paperwork required of foreigners in addition to what is required of locals. In addition, the notoriously slow South African bureaucracy slows things down, making this process more time-consuming than it would likely be in an expat's home country.

On the bright side, one thing many expats won't need to get immediately is a driving licence. Until they're a permanent resident, an expat's foreign licence is perfectly fine, as long the licence is issued in one of South Africa's 11 official languages (most likely in English), has a picture of the applicant attached to it, and has not expired. Once they have been granted permanent residence, they'll have a year to convert their licence.

Contrary to popular belief, expats will not even need an International Driving Permit in addition to their licence unless their original licence isn't in English.

Choosing a car in South Africa

It's a good idea for expats to get started on the car-buying process while still in their home country by making a few decisions upfront. New or used car? What size? What make? Diesel or petrol? To make a decision, there are a few things that should be known about South Africa.

  • Cars are notoriously expensive in South Africa, and expats will certainly pay a lot more for a car here than they would expect.

  • Petrol (gasoline) is about one-third more expensive than in the United States, but still well below European prices.

  • Most roads are good, especially in metropolitan areas. Should an expat decide to venture into the bush during their stay, a four-wheel drive will come in handy.

New vs used cars

Given the high cost of cars, many expats are tempted to buy a used car. The advantage of new cars, however, is that they typically include a motor plan that allows owners to get free services for a number of years. Some used-car dealerships will also offer a service plan of some type, but many do not. If a service plan is offered, find out the terms regarding validity, as service plans typically expire after a certain mileage or number of years.

Expats should also be wary that used cars in South Africa sold by private sellers may have questionable maintenance histories. If someone decides to buy from a private seller, they should arrange for the car to be inspected at a dealership or by a mechanic of their choice, just to make sure there aren't any hidden problems. The dealership can also run the chassis number through their system to find out if the car being considered has ever been in an accident. Also, buyers should make sure the car has a roadworthiness certificate before they make the purchase.

Size and make

Regarding size, an expat would have to consider the intended day-to-day usage of the car. Naturally, a family of four or five will require more space than a single expat.

When it comes to the make of car, do consider that purchasing a car make with little representation in South Africa will make it difficult to service. In addition, it will mean that spare parts will be expensive and may need to be sourced from abroad.

If a buyer is going to live in South Africa for a defined period of time, then it's worthwhile to consider the resale value of the vehicle they buy. To maximise resale value, expats should ensure that they have their car serviced regularly and should keep rigorous records of the car's history. Naturally, popular brands of cars will sell more easily than less well-known makes.

Smash-and-grab protection

Unfortunately, given the high rate of theft from cars in South Africa, one added amenity to look for when car-shopping is smash-and-grab protection. This film protects the windscreen and windows against smash-and-grabs which may occur while cars are stopped at traffic lights. Most higher-end cars come already equipped with smash-and-grab protection, but if not, it can be added later.

Finding a car in South Africa

If buying a used car, expats should check used-car websites and online classified portals to get a better idea of what's out there. Another option for more knowledgeable car buyers is auction houses. Auctions are an opportunity to pick up a real bargain. New cars, as is the case in all countries, are found at car dealerships.

Registering a car in South Africa

In South Africa, a buyer gains possession of their car once they've paid for it, but they still need to register the vehicle to formally gain title ownership. The place to do this is at the nearest licencing office.

Once the car has been registered, buyers will need to cut out the car's licence disc (which is renewable every year) and affix it to their windscreen from the inside. For new cars, licence plates should be ordered (the dealership will usually do this on behalf of the buyer) and must be affixed to the front and back of the car. While waiting for licence plates to be made, a temporary car licence certificate is placed inside the car's rear window.

Car insurance in South Africa

Once the car has been registered and the licence plates affixed, expats will have one last hurdle left before they can hit the road: insurance.

Most car insurance companies in South Africa will insure a vehicle over the phone and book an appointment for the car to be inspected at a registered dealership.

Cost of insurance

The price of car insurance in South Africa, as in most countries, varies according to a number of factors. This includes the model and make of the car, the age of the driver, and the relative safety of where the car is stored during the day and night.

When obtaining insurance quotes, expats should make sure they enquire about roadside assistance. Most insurance companies do provide it, and it will take one more item off the checklist to have this already covered.

Car accidents

Typically, if an accident occurs, expats should exchange contact details with the other driver involved and take pictures of their licence as well as of both cars from various angles to document the damage. The accident would then need to be reported at a police station in order to get a case number. The case number is used to make claims from insurance. If the accident is of a serious nature, expats can call their insurance provider while at the scene. The insurance provider will then contact emergency services on the expat's behalf.

Tracking services

Some insurance companies will also give customers a discount on their monthly premium if they have a tracking service that electronically keeps tabs on the location of one's car through a GPS system. This service has evolved due to the high incidence of carjackings in South Africa. Most tracking companies offer various levels of support, such as the addition of a panic button or upgraded tracking services.

Moving to South Africa

Expats moving to South Africa will find a world of wonders within the borders of a single country. From its incredibly diverse topography to its 11 official languages, there is much to be enjoyed in the range and rhythm of life in Africa’s southernmost country.

Living in South Africa as an expat

Retirees, ambitious young adults and established professionals are drawn by the wonderful climate, the relatively low living costs and the easy access to a luxurious lifestyle, all against an immensely scenic African backdrop. From bustling cities and quaint rural villages to sweeping game reserves with world-class lodges and pristine beaches all around its coast, South Africa offers expats an excellent quality of life and plenty to see and do. What's more, adapting to the culture is fairly easy and enjoying the South African lifestyle is effortless.

As a result of skill shortages in sectors such as engineering, education, executive management and information technology, expats with the right skills and experience shouldn’t struggle to find employment.

Cost of living in South Africa

The cost of living in South Africa is low compared to many destinations overseas, and roughly on par with the other more developed African countries. Expats with foreign-currency incomes will be in an excellent position, while those who earn South African rand may find local salaries not as competitive as they are used to.

The cost of accommodation in the population centres like Cape Town and Johannesburg can be high, but South Africa's property prices are mainly quite reasonable. Petrol is cheap relative to European prices; a blessing, because driving cars is the main form of transport. Local groceries are good quality and well-priced, but imported items (including electronics and cars) are costly. Most expat parents go for private education and healthcare, and these costs vary depending on quality. Expats typically opt for health insurance.

Expat families and children in South Africa

Despite issues in the respective public sectors, private healthcare in South Africa is world-class. Expat parents will also be glad to know that several of its universities are internationally ranked. The country's private schools offer a level of education comparable to the best schools around the world, and there are even some public schools that should meet the expectations of expats.

Unfortunately, there is still some way to go in addressing the disparities entrenched by the apartheid era, and crime in South Africa continues to be a problem that affects many citizens and businesses. Private security is a necessary precaution and, with a booming security industry, can easily be contracted for affordable rates.

Climate in South Africa

South Africa's sunny weather attracts expats and tourists from colder countries every year. It's a large country with coastal areas, plateaus, deserts and forests, and each area has its own climate.

The coastal regions are given to milder summers and winters. The west coast's Atlantic brings a Mediterranean feel to Cape Town, while the east coast's Indian Ocean makes Durban and Port Elizabeth more tropical. Winters are wet, and summers generally dry.

Inland, the inverse is true. Summers bring afternoon thunderstorms to Johannesburg, while winters are dry. Temperatures in the inland are also given to higher highs and lower lows – highs of up to or exceeding 104°F (40°C) are possible in the summer, and frost in the winter is not unheard of.

While life in the southernmost African country is far from perfect, South Africa's wonderful weather, reasonable cost of living, friendly population and high quality of life often lure many an expat to stay far longer than they intended. 

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of South Africa

Population: 58 million

Capital cities: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial)

Neighbouring countries: Along South Africa's northern border from west to east are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Mozambique. Lesotho is situated in the eastern side of South Africa, and is entirely surrounded by the Republic.

Geography: South Africa has a long coastline of 1,600 miles (2,500 kms) that hugs the south of the country from east to west. The inland area of the country is characterised by a vast plateau, while a large portion of the south is occupied by a semidesert shrubland called the Karoo.

Political system: Constitutional parliamentary republic

Major religions: Freedom of religion is enshrined in the South African constitution. Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are the most prominent religions.

Main languages: South Africa has 11 official languages, though English is the standard form of communication. Afrikaans and the Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho languages are also widely spoken and vary in prevalence depending on geographic location.

Money: The South African Rand (ZAR) is divided into 100 cents. Opening a bank account is usually easy and possible with identification and proof of address. ATMs are widespread but might be scarcer in some rural areas. Internet banking is widely available.

Tipping: 10 percent (or more for good service) is common.

Time: GMT+2

Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Typically, three-pin round plugs are standard.

Internet domain: .za

International dialling code: +27

Emergency contacts: 10111

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left. Despite the introduction of rapid transport systems in some areas, public transport is generally of a low standard and most expats purchase a vehicle. Roads are generally of good quality, but certain rural roads may be in disrepair.

Frequently Asked Questions about South Africa

Expats considering moving to South Africa are sure to have plenty of questions – so we've put together a list of the most common queries about 'Mzansi' along with some answers.

What is the speed and cost of internet access in South Africa?

South Africa may lag behind the US and Europe in terms of fast and affordable internet access, but not by much, and the country has adequate infrastructure that should allow expats to keep in touch with those back home without hassle. The cost of high-speed, uncapped internet access has been high in the past but is gradually becoming cheaper.

How bad is crime in South Africa?

Much of the crime in South Africa finds its root cause in a society that is deeply divided by income and race. On the one hand, this means most expats are less likely to be on the receiving end of violent crimes, but on the other hand, crimes of theft such as burglary and hijacking are a possibility. For this reason, we advise taking safety precautions and maintaining an overall sense of awareness.

Is it worth learning an African language?

Expats won't need to learn Afrikaans, isiXhosa or isiZulu to get by, as just about everyone can speak at least some English. However, it's worth mentioning that by making the effort to learn a local language, expats can deepen their experience of the country, given that the majority of the population speak one of these three languages as a mother tongue.

Is it affordable and easy to hire domestic staff?

Many expats find the affordability of domestic staff and nannies to be a big advantage of living in South Africa. There are numerous agencies to assist with screening and recruiting.