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Moving to South Africa

Moving to South Africa

Moving to South Africa from Dubai in 2021 takes careful planning and attention to details and documentation. We provide everything you need to know before moving from Dubai to South Africa. Start your move today by obtaining up to 6 competitive moving to South Africa quotations FREE.

Moving to South Africa conjures up world-class wine and cuisine, incredible and wildly varying landscapes, a diverse and culturally rich melting pot. But what are the key challenges people face when relocating to South Africa?

The key when relocating to South Africa is research and preparation. The cost of living in a major South African city is 50-60% cheaper than in London, however, immigrations permits and visas can be tricky and security can be a genuine concern. Healthcare, schooling and finances are all notable considerations ahead of your move to this amazing country. 

Fortunately, we cover all this and much more in our ultimate moving to South Africa guide.


South Africa as its name suggests is located at the continent's southern tip. It is divided into nine different provinces, with a total land area of approximately 1.2 million square kilometers.

These nine provinces include the following - Western Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State, and Eastern Cape. Fortunately, these provinces are so diverse that the ex-pats who intend to move and settle here won't have a hard time relocating.

These provinces, however, differ in climatic characteristics and size. Aside from that, they differ in economic strength and population, too. For example, Gauteng is one of the smaller provinces, with a quarter of the country's population.

Despite its size, this province contributes a large chunk of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here, you'll find the metro area that's Pretoria-Johannesburg, the country's main ex-pat magnet.

Most ex-pats travelling and settling in the country are usually bound by career or economic reasons. Since the country's economy is largely localized, most of the areas within and around Pretoria-Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Cape Town are prime candidates for ex-pat relocation areas. 

If you plan to move to South Africa, now is the perfect time to start planning your resettlement. This guide aims to inform you about how you can move your personal and household effects, pets, and your family. 

We'll also share what kind of visa or work permit you should apply for, along with information on how your rent or purchase a property, where you should enrol your kids, how much it would cost to survive in the country, and what kind of healthcare system you can expect.

We will also share some advantages and disadvantages to give you a balanced perspective of your plan to move to South Africa.

Living/Lifestyle - South Africa

Anyone moving to South Africa will witness the most progressive, wealthy, and westernized facets of the continent. Conversely, you'll also see some of the African continent's dire problems. Amidst all these, one thing is certain for ex-pats - they can't find another culture or country with the same lifestyle as the South Africans. 

The 2010 FIFA World Cup offered the rest of the world a glimpse of modern South African life. Then again, the same event was heavily criticized for its alleged failure to portray South African living means for the bigger parts of its population.

Country Facts

Capital City: Pretoria
Population: 60 Million
Languages: English, Zulu, Xhosa, Africaans (and 7 others)
Currency: Rand (ZAR)
Time: GMT +2
Driving Lane: Left Hand Side
Domain: .za
Dialing Code: +27

How are things socially in South Africa?

In general terms, South Africa is diverse in religion, language, and other possible life aspects. This is the direct result of the unified ethnicities in the nation. Before 1991, the South African government divided the country's population into four ethnic categories - white, Asian, colored, and black. Since the apartheid's abolishment in the 90s, all these categories became moot and academic, especially for official purposes.

What is life like as an ex-pat?

South Africa is an incredible place to live as an ex-pat. The climate is fantastic, although being southern hemisphere, December and January are the warmer months and June July is winter. Housing is reasonably priced and you are likely to find a house or apartment which is larger than you might be used to. People are friendly and welcoming. The country has so much to offer when it comes to an outdoor/actively lifestyle. There are amazing beaches, wildlife and every landscape imaginable.

In addition, South Africans love to socialise with a Braai (BBQ) and are also sports mad! Football, cricket and rugby are particular favourites, but just about every type of sport is played here.

Moving to South Africa - Diverse group of friends

Will I struggle to make new friends in South Africa?

Highly unlikely! South Africans are very friendly and accomodating to newcomers. Your work colleagues are likely to take you under their wing until you find your feet. There is a good chance you will make a variety of friends with people from several ethnic groups too.

Whilst South Africa is far from perfect, the majority of ethnic groups get along well and hostility is unusual. South African are generally fun-loving and upbeat, and you are almost certain to be invited to a social event of some kind within a short time of your arrival.

What is the crime and safety situation in South Africa?

Let's not sugarcoat the fact, the country's crime rate is high. It affects large areas of society. These crimes include petty ones like pickpocketing and theft and serious felonies like sexual assault and murder.

Though there is no elevated or special threat for ex-pats, it is advisable always to be alert. There are definite no-go areas of a city or town which pose higher threat risks than others. This is also one of the reasons why most ex-pats and middle and upper classes live in gated communities.

If you do fall victim to the robbery for some reason, just comply with the robber's demands. Since things like carjacking are fairly commonplace in some parts of South Africa, robbers hardly think twice about using violence. 

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Cost of Living in South Africa

Your cost of living will largely depend on the city you choose to settle in. If you live in city centers, expect that the cost of living is more expensive than a simple life in the suburbs. The cost of living in Johannesburg, for example, is 13% more expensive than the cost of living in Port Elizabeth. On the other hand, Johannesburg is 4% cheaper compared to the cost of living in Cape Town.

How much do basic products  & services cost in South Africa?

  • A meal at the typical restaurant is likely to cost roughly ZAR100-150 per person with a beer priced around ZAR30 and soft drinks around ZAR12 per can. A reasonable bottle of wine costs approximately ZAR50-60, and a coffee typically sets you back around ZAR20
  • At the local supermarkets, a loaf of bread is priced around ZAR12, a litre of milk approximately ZAR13 and a dozen eggs roughly ZAR22.
  • Public transport in most cities is reasonable, with monthly passes at around ZAR400. Taxis start around is ZAR25 and then around ZAR10 per kilometre after that. Petrol is around ZAR13 per litre.
  • Accommodation is reasonably priced in most cities. A typical 1-2 bedroom apartment in the city would be approximately ZAR7,000. Outside of the city rent would reduce to around ZAR5,000.
  • Essential utilities for an average two-bedroom apartment will be around ZAR1,200. Prepaid mobile phone charges are approximately ZAR2 per minutes and broadband Internet us roughly ZAR800 per month.


It offers great opportunities for skilled workers
There are still remnants of the apartheid and injustice
The cost of living is much lower than in other countries
The country has a high crime index for petty and serious crimes
The country also has a highly-efficient  health infrastructure
The national healthcare program is non-existent
It is home to some great schools and the best state universities
Cost of medical supplies and medical service are high
Expats can live in gated communities at a cheaper cost
Getting a visa is not exactly straight forward
The climate and the multitude of outdoor pursuits
There is red-tape and corruption to contend with

Moving to South Africa - Requirements

When moving to South Africa from Dubai, importing Household Goods and Personal Effects, you require

  • Original passport (incl. entry stamp)
  • Affidavit (returning citizen only)
  • Customs Form DA 302 and P1.160
  • Permanent/temporary residence permit / Work permit / student visa
  • Detailed Packing list in English
  • Bill of lading / AWB
For a more in-depth look at documentation please check the International Association of Movers.

Can I bring my pets with me as I settle in South Africa?

Yes, you can bring your dog and cat with you to South Africa. However, the Directorate Animal Health of the country requires the said pets to have a corresponding veterinary import permit. Cats, specifically, should also have a complete health certificate signed and stamped by the government veterinarian of your country of origin.

This certificate is an additional requirement on top of the veterinary import permit. Both pets should also have valid rabies vaccinations before you bring them over.

For a complete list of the requirements you need to comply with before you bring your pets over, you can get in touch with South Africa's Chief State Veterinarian through this number +27-12-319-7540 or the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries' website.

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Visas / Legal

Generally, there are nine types of South African visas, and they are provided as follows: 

  • e-Visa or Tourist visa: Presently, this visa is not yet available. However, the authorities are rushing to launch this type of visa. You can apply for this visa online, and ideally, it will be quick to complete. Once your application gets approved, the visa will be automatically sent to the applicant's email. 
  • Visit visa: This visa is applicable for people from non-visa exempt countries and those living in visa-exempt countries who intend to stay in the country longer than the prescribed exemption period. This is also applicable for visitors who wish to enter the country for business or tourism purposes and stay there for 90 days. 
  • Business visa: This is another visa type that gives the applicant 90 days to invest or work in South Africa. 
  • Work visa: If you have a specific skill that is in demand in South Africa, and you want to work in the country, you can apply for a work visa. The duration of your visa will depend on the type of work you will do there. 
  • Medical visa: If you need to undergo medical treatment in the country, you can apply for a medical visa. This will give you access to the country's doctor and medical institution for a maximum of six months. For this visa, you need to show your financial capacity to support yourself and your medical expenses during your stay in the country. 
  • Study visa: If you want to study in the country, you should file for a student visa by filling up a form known as BI-1738. It doesn't matter if you're pursuing tertiary, secondary, or primary education, if you want to study in a South African educational institution, this is the visa you should apply for. This visa is valid for the entire duration of the course you're taking.
  • Relative's visa: If you are an immediate family member of a resident or citizen of South Africa, you can apply for this type of visa. If your application is approved, you can stay in the country for two years. 
  • Exchange visa: If you're 25 years old and below and you want to go to South Africa to participate in a social, economic, or cultural exchange program, this is the visa you should apply for. This visa will grant the bearer the right to stay in the country for its duration. It can neither be extended nor renewed.
  • Retired person's visa: As its name suggests, this is the visa for retired individuals who wish to settle or retire in South Africa. You need to have a minimum monthly pension of around R37,000,00 per month.
Moving to South Africa - Rand

Money & Taxes

All residents of South Africa are required to pay taxes. For ex-pats, they will be treated as residents if they spend at least 91 days within the country's applicable tax year. If you're earning below 181,900 ZAR a year, your tax is only 18%, flat rate. However, if your salary exceeds this limit, you will be taxed based on six different income levels. 

The taxes that you will pay for each level is a fixed rate plus a certain income percentage of your take-home pay that went over the said level's lower limit. Say, for instance, you earn around 400,00 ZAR a year, your income is above the 393,201 ZAR level, but below the 550,100 ZAR level. You will have to pay the fixed tax rate of 93,135 ZAR, plus another36% of the amount exceeding the 393,201 ZAR tax level.

Can a foreigner open a South African bank account?

In short, the answer to this question is yes; you definitely can. But, before you can open one, you need to be above 18 years old. Aside from that, you need to provide a minimum deposit, a certified copy of your passport, bank statements for the last three months, and proof of your earning.


The country is surrounded by both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, making the expatriates enjoy a temperate climate in many countries. If you settle in the western part of the country, or around the Cape, you might feel like you're living in the Mediterranean. If you decide to move to the east of the country, you can expect a sub-Saharan Africa experience.

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Housing - Rent/Buy

How much is the monthly rent of apartments in South Africa?

The rental price of apartments and houses in South Africa would largely depend on the house's location and size. A single-room apartment within the center of the city may cost you around 7,330 ZAR per month.

Outside the city, the same apartment would only cost 6,115 ZAR. If you want a bigger house, say a three-bedroom apartment, within the city, it will cost you 14,230 ZAR per month. Outside the city, the same three-bedroom apartment will cost you 11,700 ZAR per month.

How much will it cost to buy a house in South Africa?

If you are keen on buying an apartment for yourself in South Africa, know that the price of a standard-sized apartment as around 18-20,000 ZAR per square meter within the city center. For apartments in the suburbs, the price is approximately 11-13,000 ZAR per square meter.

Moving to South Africa - Beautiful apartment building overlooking a marina in Cape Town
Marina apartment building in Cape Town South Africa

Healthcare in South Africa

If you're wondering what the status of the South African health infrastructure is, you'll be pleasantly surprised to know that their health infrastructures are excellent, especially in bigger cities.

Staff in clinics and hospitals are highly-trained. The country has top-notch clinics for eye conditions and heart disease.

The pharmacies are well-stocked, too. You can find common medications available in these pharmacies. However, if you are taking regular prescription drugs, know that some pharmacies are expensive. Bring all your medicines in their original packaging. Don't forget to bring your doctor's prescription, too.

Is it better to buy insurance in South Africa?

Expats who are already well-settled in South Africa strongly advise those planning to relocate to the country to buy their insurance with full coverage before relocating to South Africa. If this is not an option, you can talk to your employer about including a group healthcare plan in your company's employee benefits package.

The national health plan is non-existent in South Africa. Even if you have existing insurance, it's not a guarantee that your medical expenses will completely be taken care of by your provider.

The healthcare cost in the country is steadily increasing, while the insurance providers are setting a cap on their services. As a result, consumers like you are most likely to pay the extra cost once you reach the said cap.

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Moving to South Africa with Kids

The school year runs from mid-January through mid-December. Some international schools follow the August to June year.

South African education starts typically around the age of 6 or 7 with 6 years of primary education followed by 5 or 6 years of secondary education.

How are public schools in South Africa?

The quality of state school education in South Africa can vary greatly. For one, government schools are regulated even at the provincial level. This only means that wealthier areas usually get bigger funding and better local school equipment. And though the apartheid era is long gone, there are still remnants of this era in the form of government-owned Former C schools. These schools are funded by parents, along with a specific governing body. These schools have higher educational standards.

How are private schools in South Africa?

Most ex-pats choose to enrol their kids at private schools since they are easily accessible and highly favoured by those who can afford them. Private schools in the country usually have religious affiliations. They offer a great education at an extremely high price. 

Top South African schools

What about college in South Africa?

When your child needs to go to a university, you will be pleased to know that the country is home to over 20 public universities. Three universities are internationally-known for its uncompromising educational standards, and these include the University of Stellenbosch, University of the Witwatersrand, and the University of Cape Town.

Moving to South Africa - South African Education

Final Thoughts

Moving to a different country can be daunting, and if you don’t get on top of things it can become quite stressful. Moving to South Africa presents its own set of unique challenges, but if you follow the guidelines we have provided we are certain you can experience a smooth relocation to South Africa.

You can start the ball rolling by completing our simple form, allowing international movers to get started on your quotation, today!

Note: This document is provided as a guide for people moving to South Africa and for information purposes only. Customs regulations can and do change at any time, usually without notice. Your mover will provide you with more information.