Expats Guide to South Africa


The country which is found on the southernmost tip of Africa and the most developed country on the continent is South Africa. It possesses a diverse, welcoming and friendly population of 54 million with eleven official languages spoken in and around the country. Origins, languages and beliefs are from African, White and Asian people who have come from all around the world.
Expats moving to this country will be offered a high quality of life and working environment with many opportunities of adapting to the cultures and lifestyle.

South Africa has natural beauty and skilled workers, retirees and youngsters moving here to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. There is much more to the country than wild animals and safari with many outdoor attractions, sandy beaches, wine lands and mountains to see, those who move here will not be disappointed. The cost of living is comparative and individuals who move here will find their money goes further than in other western countries.

The economy of the country is constant due to the exchange control but that being said the country does suffer from high unemployment and unproductive government. Despite this, the health care and education is of a good standard with internationally ranked universities around the country.


Popular Destinations

Many expats moving here are drawn by the low living costs, climate and the easy access to a great lifestyle. The cities in the country have extensive skyscrapers, international restaurants and bars, as well as shopping malls to suit your own budgets.

The popular cities for expats to move to are Cape Town and Johannesburg, two completely different cities, with Cape town offering beaches, mountains and a laid back life style but ‘Joburg’ is an inland with the hustle and bustle of a business centre. There are also private and public game parks to be able to see extraordinary wildlife.

When moving to a country like South Africa, you must ensure that you take care due to it being known as an unsafe area. Generally the people are very welcoming and friendly and you won’t have problems socialising and getting to know other expats and residents of the country. Research should be done before moving to recognise what major cities are the best for you to move to as a foreigner especially if moving with children.

South Africans are multilingual and are able to speak more than one language. In total there are eleven official languages of the country, these include: English, Afrikaans, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, Sepedi, Siswati, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Majority of the citizens do however speak English and Afrikaans.

South Africa remains a cheap country compared to other western countries and the cheap labour costs will ensure that expats have a high standard of living and will be able to get domestic help. The restaurants, alcohol and service costs are also quite low.

The climate varies from region to region; it is generally sunny with some dry days. The western cape has a Mediterranean type climate whilst other parts of the country has a semi-desert climate which results in being cold, winters being dry and rainfall in the summer. The coldest days are in June – August.

Cape Town

Cape Town, the capital city of South Africa which is well known for the Table Mountain and Robben Island which is one of the most diverse floral kingdoms in the world. In addition to this, the city is also on the list of best cities in the world due to its natural beauty, climate and relaxed lifestyle which expats take advantage of by staying in the country for a longer period of time than expected.

Expats moving here can anticipate an environment which provides a balanced and healthy stress free work environment with a laid back ambience. Although the city is small it has the same facilities as other international cities with fine dining, high quality private health care and outstanding shopping malls.

When looking at accommodation in the city, there are many options available but it is best to decide on what you want before moving to the country as house prices are amongst the highest in South Africa, and the more close you are to the city centre the more expensive it will be

If you haven’t found work before moving to Cape Town, it may prove a little difficult to find with the few job opportunities and low salaries that are available. Sectors such as IT, finance, Asset management, media are the industries that expats usually find work in. In 2014 the city was selected to be the Worlds Design Capital for the growing digital and creative sector.

The public transport system in Cape Town has improved over the last few years with the services of MyCiti Rapid bus transport making it easier for individuals to get around; however most people do prefer to get their own car to be able to travel around freely

Whether you are moving with your children, or if you are coming to the country on a study visa there is a variety of schools in Cape Town with public schools, private schools and international schools with some of them having outstanding achievements. Not only this, but the city is home to the University of Cape Town which is ranked the best university in Africa.


With a Mediterranean style climate expats will be able to experience the dry and warm weather with wet and cool winters throughout the year. February is the hottest month with temperatures of 23°C and the coldest is June with temperatures at 13°C.

Popular tourist attractions in the city of Cape Town

  1. Table Mountain
  2. Robben Island
  3. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
  4. Boulders Beach
  5. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
  6. Table Mountain national park
  7. Lions head


Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city with a population of around more than 7 million people and more commonly known as Jozi or Jo’burg. The city is well known for its play hard, work hard culture and there is a friendly lively city which has lots to do from visiting the museums to socialising to visiting the cities mega malls. Expats moving will find themselves in the country’s growing city but also in the financial centre of Africa. Whether you are moving to country for business, or want to relax for a few days, the city of Johannesburg has the whole lot.

The city was recognised in 1886 where gold was discovered on a farm and the name Egoli (Place of Gold) was given to it by the residents which refers to the gold found below the ground and the increase of wealth above it. The people working here have managed to protect the position within the economy and it is the largest contribution to the large areas of employment. Working in Johannesburg can be a wise career step for many expatriates with many sectors such as, financial, IT, media and broadcasting services for employment available. Other than this, mining and manufacturing play a large role in the economy with major international employers in the city and the land of opportunity continues to attract locals and people abroad for professional advancement and for a better lifestyle. The average salary is rather lower than other cities but this city is ranked one of the cheapest expat destinations in the world.

Families moving here can benefit from the outdoor activities and tourist sites to a range of gardens, wildlife and the Melville Koppies. Expats can also visit the nature reserves to view the beautiful natural scenery in the city, go to the theatres and even head to the city’s mega shopping malls. Other than this there is a variety of choice when it comes to the education with many government run public schools, international schools and independent private schools. Majority of the expats moving to the city do send their children to private or international schools because of the quality of teaching.

Although, there are lots of places to visit in the city, public transport is not that great, so owning your own private car will prove essential and walking to places is not advised due to the safety concerns
Finding accommodation is straightforward in the city with furnished apartments and houses for rent in popular expat areas. Prices for properties do vary depending on how many rooms you want but you will see most communities have their own security cameras, walls and fences.

Another important factor which is to be considered is health care, majority of the people in the city choose to get private health care due to the public healthcare system not being funded. Most expats can get help from their employers to pay for health insurance if this is stated in their contract and private health care has a high standard in Johannesburg with highly trained medical professionals and specialists.
Overall, Johannesburg offers a high standard of living with a great land of opportunities which is available to all.


Expats will enjoy the weather in Johannesburg with hot clear days in the summer and thunderstorms in the late afternoons. The temperatures in Johannesburg are mild due to the city’s high elevation, temperatures in January are at between 21°C – 25.6 °C with the maximum average of 10°C – 16 °C in June. January is the hottest and wettest month.

Popular Tourist Attractions in Johannesburg

  1. Apartheid Museum
  2. Gold Reef city
  3. Constitution Hill
  4. Montecasino
  5. Lion Park
  6. SAB World of Beer
  7. South African National Museum of Military history
  8. Johannesburg botanical gardens

General Information

Population: There is a population of about 54 million
Official Name: Republic of South Africa
Capital of South Africa: Cape Town
Official Language: There are 11 official languages but English is the standard language spoken in the country. Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho are also spoken widely depending on the region
Major Cities: Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Bloemfontein
Popular Expat cities: Cape Town and Johannesburg
Nearest Neighbours: Along the northern border from west to easy are Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland Namibia and Mozambique. On the eastern side there is Lesotho which is surrounded by the Republic
Provinces: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo and North West.
Time Zone: GMT + 2
Money: South African Rand (ZAR) divided into 100 cents
Popular attractions: Kruger national park, Table Mountain, Robben Island, Victoria & Alfred waterfront, Cango Caves, Cradle of Human Kind and much more
Public Holidays: New Years Day, Human Rights Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Freedom Day, Worker’s Day, Youth Day, Women’s Day, Heritage Day, Day of Reconciliation, Christmas Day and Day of Goodwill
Religions: The well known religions are Christianity, Islam and Hinduism; however freedom of religion is encouraged
International Dialling code: +27, with the relevant city code: Cape Town (0)21 and Johannesburg (0)11
Emergency contact: 10111
Visa: There are different types of visa for the purposes you are coming to the country


The rates of gas, electricity and water in the country are quite high and the prices are different depending on the authorities in the area you are living. Whether you are renting or purchasing your own property it is important to know the utility services. If you are renting, a tenant and landlord both have the responsibility to pay for the electricity, water and for those who are buying property you will need to set up all the accounts yourself.


The electricity in South Africa uses 230 volts and the charges are based on the usage and the standard household supply.

Eskom is the main provider of electricity in the country and expats will find that there are many blackouts in particular areas in the winter months.

To get the electricity connected you will need to contact the service provider and you will receive bills monthly or if you have pre-paid meters these are topped up with vouchers.


South Africa does not have any gas supply through pipes and people purchase bottled gas from local shops and service stations. You may be able to find a gas delivery service in your area


Water is supplied by the South African borough and is charged on a scale depending on how much you have used. Bills are issued on a monthly basis and can be paid via post, online or at a post office. You must note that
charges differ from the metropolitan areas.

Waste Disposal

Property owners are given a black wheelie bin by the authorities to dispose of their waste; this is then collected regularly usually once a week, however this may be different in other areas. There is a monthly charge for this and if you require another bin these can be purchased.

For things you want to recycle there are depots where you can recycle or you can contact a company who collects recyclables items.

Formal Entry Requirements for South Africa

Expat’s who want to live, study, work or visit South Africa will be required to have a Visa to enter the country. The requirements are different depending on what country you are from and these do change. It is advised that expats obtain the correct information from the South African missions or consulate office abroad or any Department of Home Affairs offices. They will also be able to tell you if you are exempt to get a visa or not. Some of these countries include: Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, Jamaica, Ireland and many more.

The documents you need to apply for a visa are:

  • A passport or travel document for no less than 30 days after expiry of visit
  • Passport must have two blank pages for entry and departure
  • BI-84 application form (Completed)
  • Prescribed payment fee
  • A vaccination certificate for yellow fever (If required)
  • Two passport photos in colour
  • Document which confirms the duration and reason you are visiting the country
  • Return ticket
  • Proof of financial funds to pay for living expenses i.e. Bank statements, Medical cover, salary advances or cash
  • If travelling with children you will need to provide a proof of guardianship and consent from the guardian in the case of an unaccompanied minor

If you want to visit South Africa you will need the following:

  • A valid passport or travel document
  • A valid visa (If required)
  • One blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A return ticket
  • Funds to pay for day to day expenses during the period of stay

Types of Visa for South Africa

Expats will need to have a visa to visit South Africa, depending on where they are from and how long they will be staying in the country.

Foreign nationals from UK, USA, Canada and many others will not need to have a visa if they are staying for less than 30 or 90 days as tourists. This will give expats time to decide if they want to immigrate in South Africa or if they have an interview, they will need to apply for a work seekers permit which is valid for three months.

Other nationals from countries that are not exempt and want to stay longer to work volunteer or study will need to apply for a visa.

There are different types of visas that expats can apply for depending on why they are entering South Africa. These are listed below

Visitor’s Visa

Expats who want to see what South Africa is like before relocating to the country you will be able to get a visitor’s visa. This is usually issued for less than three months.

If the visit to South Africa goes beyond 90 days or if you are travelling to study or work, a temporary residence visa will be required rather than a visitor’s visa.

Temporary Residency Visa

A temporary residency visa is necessary for expats who are planning to stay in the country between three months – three years. The visa has different categories depending on what you will be coming in the country to do i.e. Work, Study or opening own business.

Requirements of a temporary visa:

  • A valid passport which expires no less than 30 days after the intended stay
  • Temporary resident permit must be valid and not expired
  • You must submit an application online with the fee

If you need to extend the validity of temporary residency visa it must be done 60 days before the expiry of the current permit/visa. A fee will need to be paid.

To apply for a temporary residence visa it will need to be finalised at the Department of Home affairs. Once the visa has been granted only then travel arrangements should be done.

The different types of temporary residence visas are:

Study Visa: This is issued to foreign nationals who are wanting to study in the country

Relatives Visa: This is for relatives/spouses of citizens or residents who want to move to the country for permanent residency

Treaty Visa:  This visa is for those who are conducting activities in the country for an international agreement.

Medical Visa: For those who are going to the country for medical purposes/treatment

Retired Visa: Issued to retired people who want to live in the country for limited periods

Business Visa: If you are investing in or establishing a business in the country an application for this type of visa should be done

Family Visas

Expats who are moving with their family to the country will also have some requirements.

Partners will need to show that they have been in a relationship for two years or more. Spouses are usually exempt

Children will need to have their own passports and parents will need to show a complete birth certificate in English

Permanent Residence Visas

If you are planning on staying in South Africa for a longer period of time you will need a permanent residence visa. This varies on what you want to do in the country and will fall in different categories. Most of time foreign nationals will get a temporary residence visa due to permanent residency visa taking 36 months or more for it to be processed. Expats who are a permanent resident in the country will get benefits such as: access to the local banking, a local drivers licence and they will be able to sponsor a relative.

The categories are:

Work: If you are working in the country with a temporary work visa for five years or more you will be eligible to apply for permanent residency

Retired:  For those expats who are retired applications can be made on a standalone basis

Business: Expats who have a business permit can make an application for permanent residency

Relatives: An immediate family member or someone who is married to a South African can sponsor an applicant

To apply for a permanent residency visa this can be done in South Africa or the home country, it is recommended that expats get some assistance from an immigration agent before applying for this.  You also must be on the same visa for five years in a row before making a permanent residency application.

Medical Visa

Citizens from other countries may need to go to South Africa for medical treatment and for this a medical treatment visa will be required. This is usually issued for six months at a time and when applying a letter should be submitted from a medical institution within the Republic to confirm a space is available, how much the treatment costs, if the medical condition is curable, the schedule and the time period of treatment. It is important the patient submits who is responsible for expenses and hospital fees, proof of financial cover for medical costs and other costs for the treatment.

Business Visa

Expats wanting to invest or open a business in the country will need to apply for a business visa if their purpose is to be employed in the business.

You will need the following documents for a business visa application:

  • A recommendation from Department of Trade about the possibility of the business and contribution of the business to the national interest of the Republic
  • A chartered or professional accountant will need to issue a certificate to confirm you have at least R500 000 in cash to be invested
  • An undertaking of 60% of the total staff to be employed in the operations of the businesses will be citizens or permanent residents of the country

If you have a business visa you can also study part time, and will not need to apply for permission from Department of Home Affairs.

Study Visa

A study visa is issued for foreigners wanting to study in South Africa in primary, secondary or even tertiary education. It is important to apply for the study permit before applying for admission in the educational institute.

Parents who are bringing along their children with them to South Africa will also need to apply for a study permit.

Students must provide proof of medical cover which is renewed each year for the period of their study.

When a study permit has been applied for, it will take around six weeks for the application to be processed. When you are renewing a study permit you should do these 30 days before the expiry date.

Work Visas/ Work Permit

A work permit will be required if you are going to work in South Africa. A new law was introduced where work permits were introduced as work visas so that the applicant can stay and work in the country.

To obtain a work visa expats will have skills and qualifications that a citizen in the country does not have and documentation must be shown to prove this. Expats are not able to change from a visitor’s visa to a work visa

When you are applying for a work visa, you will need to show the following documentation:

  • BI-159: A & C application form
  • Marriage certificate (If applicable)
  • Full birth certificate(s) of children (If applicable)
  • Employment contract which shows information about the occupation and capacity in which you will be employed, the duration and salary
  • Qualifications
  • Certificates from previous employers which show competencies or skills
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Clearance certificate from the police
  • Medical certificate
  • Proof of registration
  • Proof of advertisement in national media of the job post

There are different types of work visas available and these are explained below.

General Work Visa

A general work visa is a permit which is issued to those who want to work in the country that has general qualifications.  Expats must show that they have the qualifications and skills and will be evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority.

Employees will be permitted this visa for five years but the process will take longer than usual under the new law due to the application going through to the Department of Labour.

Critical Skills Work Visa

Expats who have excellent skills and qualifications which are limited in South African citizens can apply for this permit. However, you will need to show proof of the skills that you have from former employers or certificates from institutions.

If you have an offer of employment this work visa will be issued for no more than five years, but for those who don’t have work secured it will be issued for no longer than one year.

The visa is issued for five years or less and the sectors people work in on this visa are architecture, financial, IT, science and medical fields.

If you are on this visa your spouse and dependent children will be provided with the appropriate visa which will be issued for the same time as the critical skills workers visa.

Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa

This visa is issued to those who are transferred from their home country to a South African based office. If you apply for this visa you must include the original employment contract and a written confirmation of the transfer along with the occupation from both offices.

The applicant must have been employed by the company for six months before they are transferred over to South Africa.

An Intra company transfer work visa is issued for four years and cannot be extended.

Working in South Africa

In general many of the expats moving to live and work in the country do already have a job offer. But if you are a professional who has skills and qualifications that citizens in the country do not have along with five years of work experience, you can be eligible to come to South Africa for one year just to find work.

Currently there is shortage of employment opportunities but if you are skilled or highly skilled you may be able to find beneficial jobs relating to your profession.  Most of the jobs that are available are in sectors such as: IT, tourism, engineering, science and research along with management. Majority of the employers in the country favour a citizen rather than a foreign national, and the companies which do employ people from abroad must prove they were unable to find a South African citizen who doesn’t have skills required for the job.

Many job opportunities for people who have qualifications and are experienced can be found at the Rainbow Nations professional world, and those who have degrees and higher education won’t find it difficult to integrate into the economy of South Africa. In addition to this, many expats do come to the country to open up their own business and generally have a big success in doing so.

Finding Work

Whether you are looking for work in your home country or when you have reached South Africa, there are many ways that work can be found. All the jobs are usually advertised all over the country and then will only be shown worldwide if no suitable South African citizen has been found for the particular position.

Other ways in finding work include, online, networking, word of mouth, newspapers,recruitment agencies and by sending application to companies.  You can register on job portals online or you can sign up with recruitment agencies who will advise you on what job positions are available.

The government also wants to employ highly skilled foreign nationals with skills in the shortage occupations there are in the country and some of these jobs are in agriculture, business, economics, health and medicine, life sciences and many more.  If you are an expat looking for work in any of these sectors you will find a list of the jobs and qualifications on the DHA Government Gazette website.

If you are looking for work in rural areas and have experience in teaching science, maths or technology you may be able to find work in teaching.

Here are some of the top job websites that expats use to find work

When applying for a job you should send a covering letter along with a CV which details all your skills, education, employment history and qualifications. You may also be required to fill out an application form for the company or organisation you are applying at.

If you are struggling to look for work, some towns in the country have government sponsored labour centres which can assist you in finding a job as well as provide some training.

Facts about working in South Africa

  • Business hours: Working hours are 8.30-9am – 5pm Monday to Fridays
  • Business language: The main language spoken is English but some people do speak Afrikaans or Zulu
  • Dress Code: The dress code is smart but not formal. Suits are generally worn in professional environments and meetings.
  • Greeting: A handshake is the usual greeting in business

Opening your own business

If you are considering opening up your own business in South Africa you need to be aware of the processes and procedures that are in place.

It is recommended that before you commit time and money into a business, you should have an assessment or circumstances and requirements carried out by enlisting professional help. You will also need to have a business visa.

When you are submitting a visa application you must attached supporting evidence of a business plan, this is to show that the business will be successful and to highlight the requirements. You must also employ 50-60% of South African citizens on a permanent basis.

There are five procedures you must go through and this generally takes less than four weeks and you must decide the legal structure in terms of if your business will be a sole trader, partnership or if it will be a private company.

Expats will then need to register their company with the CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) by giving a notice of incorporation. Once this has been done a separate bank account will need to be opened solely for the business.

Social Security System

When you are working in South Africa as a resident or a non-resident you will be liable to make social security contributions. These are usually taken from your monthly pay by your employer.

The services from social security are only provided to permanent residents and citizens of the country, if you are on a temporary resident permit you will not receive any social security benefits. The rate is calculated depending on how much you earn and what sector you are working.

Some of the benefits include: Healthcare, unemployment and pensions.

You will need to apply for a social security card and this can be done at the local security office, you must show documents which prove your immigration status and identity.

Housing and Accomodation

If you are looking for property to rent or purchase you will find that most of the properties are reasonably priced and you will find unfurnished and furnished accommodation to suit individual budgets.

The process of renting properties is similar to those in other countries, but you must ensure that you have all the information such as rental regulations, rights and responsibilities. There is however different types of properties available in the country and depending on what you choose the prices will also vary.

Flat: Flats vary in size and are available with 1-3 bedrooms

Town Houses: This is found in a complex of 20-30 homes and can be one floor or two floors. You will have a garden which is maintained by the complex and separate living quarters

Cluster Houses: This is also found in a complex but has facilities that are shared i.e. pools and club houses. It usually comes with a garden which needs to be maintained by the tenant.

Cottages: This is part of a large property usually rented or brought by families who are moving to the country.

Detached houses: A standard size property for families which are generally single stories

Bachelor Flat: One bedroom flat with a lounge, kitchen and bathroom

Villas: These are mainly in the suburbs of South Africa and have gardens

How to find property

Finding property in South Africa is quite straight forward and most advertisements are shown in local newspapers or online. Some expats do look for property online whilst in their home country as it enables them to get an idea of what the properties are like and what the prices are in different cities.

To assist you in your property search there are also many national and local estate agents that you can contact. Most of the lettings are done through real estate agents

Some estate agents include: Aida, National ink, Rawson, Seeff and Pam Golding.

South Africa has a large quantity of options and it shouldn’t take too long to find an apporppiate place which fits your lifestyle and budget.


South Africa has a selection of rental properties which can be found in local newspapers and on websites. Prices are reasonable and furnished properties comes with most things you would need such as washing machine, sofa, fridge etc, whereas unfurnished property comes with an oven and other goods.

When you have decided on an area to rent out a property, you will need to contact an estate agent although if you have found property some do prefer to do it privately with the landlord. When contacting an estate agent about an area and your budget, they will be able to give you a list of accommodation and schedule viewing for properties. You must keep in mind that estate agents do charge additional fees for registration and reference checks.

Once you have decided on a property that you like, you will be required to fill out a lease application and you must be able to prove that your monthly income is three times more than the rent each month. To secure the transaction you will need to pay one – two months deposits and the lease will be signed on either a one year which can be extended. If you want to rent for a shorter time you must inform the estate agent.

As well as the accommodation deposit, expats may be expected to pay for utilities such as electricity, telephone and water.

Buying property

Majority of the foreign nationals who move to South Africa will rent out accommodation whilst looking for housing properties to purchase especially the ones who are staying for a few years. Some expats would say that the process of buying property is more complicated and long than renting out accommodation but the benefit of moving to South Africa is that there are no limitations for foreign nationals to purchase property.

  1. When you are buying property it is highly recommended that you get a lawyer to represent you and assist you with the conveyance process, the estate agents and lawyer will then help investigate the property to make sure there are no outstanding payments or mortgages.
  2. Here are some steps to assist you in purchasing property in South Africa
  3. Expats will contact an estate agent for assistance on finding property that you may have seen. This will allow them to find out more information about it, the prices and mortgages.
  4. You may need to register with the local government before purchasing a property
  5. Once this has done, you can make a purchase offer and then pay a deposit on the property. The final price and deposit is usually agreed by the owner and buyer. The seller will then request a guarantee.
  6. A Voetstoets will be given which shows the deed of sale, once this is completed it transfers the ownership from the seller to the buyer
  7. Expat may be required to pay capital gains taxes on property if you are a non-resident. You will also pay a transfer duty which is up to 8% on the sale price along with a bond fee and a conveyance fee

Expats buying a property will need to take into consideration that they may be paying extra costs for bank fees, deeds office levies, transfer duties and conveyance fees.

If you decide to sell the house in the future you will need to pay capital gains tax which is subtracted from the selling price by the buyer who transfers this to the revenue services. You must also keep your deals receipt for it to be documented.

Mortgages in South Africa

If you need assistance in purchasing a house you may be eligible to get a mortgage also known as mortgage bond or bond in South Africa.

If you are granted a mortgage it will be no more than 30-33% of your gross income and rental income can be included if you have provided a copy of the tenancy agreement. The interest rates for mortgages are quite high and the maximum repayment is usually 20 years.

When you apply for a mortgage you will need to provide the following documents

  • Passport
  • Proof of address
  • South African reserve bank certificate
  • Proof of Income

Once an application has been made the lender will offer you a deal, and if you agree on this they will want to confirm income and the value of the property. The lawyer will then receive the loan and pay the vendor.

Education and Study in South Africa

Expats who are taking their children to South Africa will want to consider the types of education institutes available in the country.

There are three types of schools in the country

  • Independent schools
  • Governing body funded public schools
  • Government schools

The general education and training is essential and this covers both primary and secondary education. Children who are in General education and training are categorised within grades from grade zero – nine.

  • Primary School: Grade 0-6
  • Grade 0 – 3 is the foundation phase and Grade 0 is for children from the age of four
  • Grade 1 – Essential education for children from ages 5-6
  • Grades 4-6 – Intermediate phase

Children in the foundation phase will cover education in literacy, numeracy and life skills. When they reach grade 4 they will then be taught reading, maths, writing and another language. They will also be introduced to subjects such as science, history and geography.

Secondary School: Grade 7-9 (senior phase)

Grades in the senior phase are separated into junior and senior phases. Education is completed at grade 9 but students can study further in their career choices and will go onto Grades 10 – 12

Children then will go on to secondary education where they get to gain more knowledge in subjects that will help with further education or going into a career.

Expats have the option to also send their child to private schools which offers outstanding education although it is quite expensive than public schools.

The Former model C schools (government funded) are funded by governing bodies of parents and former students. Most of the best schools are in this category, have high educational standards and the fees are similar to private schools.

On the other hand there are also government schools which are controlled by the local education departments.

Majority of the schools in South Africa teach in the English language but International schools teach in the language which is linked to the country’s the foreign nationals are from. Most expats do prefer to send their child to an international school or a private school and in some cases the company you may work for will cover school fees.

Children are usually given priority for registration in a public school if they live within the school area or have parents working in the school. As well as this, there must be spaces in the schools.

When registering your child into a South African school you must provide:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Document showing immunisations
  • Study and temporary residence permit
  • Previous schools records
  • Registration fees

When searching for a school, you should find out if the school takes part in national and international examinations.

The school year for all schools start in January and finishes in December, however international schools will follow the same academic year as their home country which is usually August to June. Holidays are generally given between April – August but international schools follow the home countries holidays

Public Schools

The public schools in South Africa do vary in standards depending on what area you are living in and the government that is funding it. The authorities of the area must ensure that schools are capable of running the school well having the correct equipment. Some children may receive a low standard of education due to the financing from the government and less qualified teachers. This is another reason why parents send their child to a private school.

In the main cities, public schools have a high standard so expat parents do send their children there.

Private Schools

Majority of the expats moving to South Africa will enrol their child into a private school and these are generally based in the major cities.

The reason for this is that private schools have an outstanding reputation and also offer exams which are recognised in other countries. Those who go to these schools are offered positions in tertiary education abroad.  Along with this there are better qualified teachers, great facilities and extracurricular activities.

Some private schools offer British based education and other international schools are based in the big cities.

The hours of private schools for children are from 7.30am – 2.00, many children do opt to take part in after school activities from 2pm-4pm.

International Schools

Along with private schools there  are many international schools in the country  that accommodate students education abroad, they usually teach the same curriculum of the institution it is sponsored by or it teaches the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge International examinations.

Many expats send their children to an international school because of the same curriculum, so if they were moving back to their home country the child won’t have problems adjusting.

International schools tend to have their own admissions criteria and documentation will need to be shown such as completed application form, proof of vaccinations, previous school records and a passport. As well as this those who are not citizens of the country will need to have a study visa and a temporary permit.

It is advised that when you look for an international school you do your research as some schools teach their curriculum in the native language of the host country following the local curriculum.

Home Schooling

Expat parents who don’t want to send their child to a public or private school have the option of home schooling their children. If this is the case you must send an application to the head of the local department of education to register your child. You also must follow the department guidelines to teach the lessons and coursework must be completed.


South Africa has many reputed universities and the three best ones are the University of Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town and The University of Stellenbosch.  The higher education institutes do offer undergraduate, doctoral and postgraduate degrees and there are many institutions to choose from. In addition to this there are many private colleges and universities around the country which may ask for higher fees.

The training is on a global level and subjects are taught in either Afrikaans or the English language.

Some of the universities will have additional requirements for enrolment and expats will need to research this by looking on the institutions websites. Basic requirements include – Birth certificate, proof of immunisations, study permit and temporary permit.

The costs for universities also vary depending on the institution and you can contact the institution directly to find this out.

Health & Medical Care in South Africa

The healthcare in South Africa is divided by the public and private care, those who have a low income get public health care, but those who have a high income manage to afford private healthcare. Expats who get private health care do so because it offers full medical coverage along with hospital and emergency care.

Treatment is not free of charge in the country unless you are eligible for a fee waiver or a rebate test

Public Healthcare

The South African citizens and residents use the public health care system which is affected by the lack of funding that is provided. Some services are free of charge but majority of the services you will have to pay for which generally depends on the patient’s income and the number of dependants.

There are three main categories of patients:

  1. Fully subsidised patients: Patients who are on benefits, are pregnant or children under the age of 6
  2. Full paying patients: For patients who are earning more than ZAR6,000 per month
  3. Partly paying patients: These are able to get subsidised treatment because of low income

If you aren’t eligible for subsidised treatment the hospital will follow a uniform patient fee scheme, especially if you are unable to pay for the fees necessary.

The benefit of public hospitals is that there are qualified skills professionals but unfortunately are badly maintained, patients could be waiting days/months for treatments in long queues to see specialists and there may over worked staff.

Private Healthcare in South Africa

South Africa has an excellent private healthcare system and those people who can afford it prefer to get this. There are more than 200 private hospitals in the country and majority of the best health professional’s work here. The private healthcare goes beyond the standard of care and the system caters to European/foreigners for treatments in plastic surgery and cosmetic dental work.

Whatever city or town you are living in, you will be sure to find many private health care facilities in terms of hospitals, GP’s and clinics. However, if you are living in the rural areas you may be required to travel to the towns

Private healthcare however is expensive especially for those individuals who are on a low/middle income. Expats are able to pay per treatments and if you visit the GP regularly you may need to pay insurance for medical costs.

It is recommended to take out private health insurance to protect against the big bills that come with emergency and regular visits.

Health Insurance

Private health insurance is worth getting and there are many international and local health insurance companies which are available to expats moving to the country. The hospitals expect you to have health insurance before you are admitted as their patient, this is not necessary if you can pay upfront.

Before applying for health insurance, you should check on what you will be paying for as you may be entitled for treatment which is paid by the government and also check if you are able to get subsidised treatment in the public health care services

There are different schemes and monthly charges with each health insurance company and individuals must keep their medical aid card with them at all times.

Most expats get the basic hospital plan which covers hospital and ambulance transport, but there may be a limit on the private hospitals.  This will also not cover day to day medical expenses for dental treatments, specialist consultations or prescription medications so it is important to research and compare the different packages that there are with the health insurance company.

Some health insurance companies include: Bonitas, Medshield, Fedhealth and Discovery

Expats who don’t want to get health insurance in South Africa should consider using international insurance providers.

International health insurance would cover you against:

  • Medical costs in South Africa
  • Medical costs in your home country or another foreign country
  • Medical evacuation costs (Depending on how much you pay for insurance)

If you already have a foreign policy but not on an international insurance cover then this will not valid in South Africa. You must let your insurance provider know that you will be moving to the country so you are able to change your policy to an international cover.


There are many pharmacies available in the cities and towns but for those who are in rural areas it is advised to pack basic medications as you will need to travel to the larger towns to get prescriptions

Emergency Services

Ambulance services are provided in South Africa but the standards and response times do vary. Emergency paramedics are employed by the government who usually work with volunteers this is mainly St John’s Ambulance and The South African Red Cross.

In addition to this there are two private national ambulance services – Netcare911 and ER24, these both have their own contact numbers and health insurance providers will have a preferred ambulance service which their customers use and are provided the emergency numbers

  • NetCare911: 082 911
  • SA Ambulance Service: 10177
  • ER24: 084 124

Health Hazards in South Africa

There are some health hazards that you need to be aware of when travelling to South Africa. These include:

  • Malaria: It is important to take anti-malarial medication or have a vaccination as there is a high risk along the borders of Kruger National Park, Mozambique and Swaziland. Other measures you can take to avoid being bitten by a mosquito is to use insect repellent and wear loose clothing in the dark
  • Tap Water: In cities and towns the water is safe to drink but if in rural areas you should ensure that water has been boiled and ice should be avoided in drinks
  • HIV/AIDS: It has been estimated that around 18% of the adult population carry the HIV virus, those who take precautions and are using protection do not need to be concerned
  • Typhoid Fever, TB, Rabies

Banking in South Africa

South Africa has many international banks and local banks which expats can open accounts with them offering many options and rates to manage their finances.

There are four main major banks in the country as well as local private banks which offer better services and professional advice to citizens and foreigners. These are regularly open Monday – Friday 8am-3.30pm and Saturdays till 11am. The banks at the airports change their hours of opening for all the international flights. All the banks provide different services such as mobile and online banking

Major Banks include: First National Bank, Ned Bank, ABSA and Standard Bank

Private Banks: RMB (Rand Merchant Bank) and Investec

If you need to change money, this can be done at Bureaux de change with branches available in many cities, in addition to this visa and MasterCard’s are widely accepted in all the ATM’s around the cities and towns.

South African Currency

The official currency in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR or R) which is divided into 100 cents.

Coins: 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2, R5

Notes: R10, R20, R50, R100, R200

The exchange rate is quite reasonable for international currencies and banking is refined in the country

Opening a bank account in South Africa

Expats moving to South Africa will find it possible to open a bank account before relocating as this tends to be quicker than opening one when in the country due to not having a South African credit record. Most banks have international branches such as HSBC, Barclays and Natwest and you can open an account for international use with them.

If you decide to open an account when you are in South Africa you will need to provide some documents for the process to be completed such as Passport and proof of address.

Money which is transferred to a South African bank can be repatriates, so expats are advised to keep a record of transactions made.

Majority of the expats open an account for living expenses in the country and then keep a separate account open at home for their bills and mortgages.


The main banks in South Africa all have their own ATM along with smaller bank ATM’s in the small towns. As with your home country, you are able to use any ATM but there may be different fees for withdrawals from other banks.

The ATM’s also have a facility for customer to be able to drop a cheque or cash, this is called a drop box. As well as this bill payments can be made using an ATM too.

Tax system in South Africa

When working in another country it is important to find out the tax system to ensure you are paying the correct amount. Residents in South Africa are taxed on their income worldwide but non-residents are only taxed on their income based in the country.  This does include taxation on rent from properties, interest from loans and compensation for services used in the country.

An expat will become a full resident after five years and will be required to pay tax on their worldwide income.

Expats will be taxed on their income worldwide if:

  • They are in South Africa for 915 days or more during the five years assessment
  • They are in South Africa for 91 days or more continuously during the year of assessment
  • They are in South Africa for 91 days or more continuously in each of the five years

Income tax is governed by the Income Tax Act and is collected by SARS (South African Revenue Services).  Expats who are residents living and working in the country are legally responsible to pay for income tax although the SARS income tax depends on the tax residency status and how much you are earning. Expats who have been in the country for 183 days in one tax year, you will be considered a temporary resident of the country so will need to pay tax on income in South Africa.

Working expats must get a SARS income tax number and submit a tax return annually. The tax year runs from 1st March – 28th February. The SARS income tax is usually taken from your salary but you will still be required to complete a South African income tax return. If you are earning less than ZAR 350,000 gross salary you may be exempt from doing so.

South African has tax treaties with over 70 countries and withholding taxes can be reduced. This also means that the amount of withholding tax charged by the home country flowing into South Africa is reduced; this is generally between 0-15percent

It is highly advised to take tax advice from an accountant before moving to South Africa so they can explain the procedure.

Transport and Travel in South Africa

South Africa does have different types of public transport however it is very limited in the local towns and big cities. This is the reason why most expats prefer to purchase their own car to get around.


Many of the bus services are provided in the main cities of the country and expats may find it difficult to find a service in the rural areas.

The official bus provider in Johannesburg is Metrobus but the routes for this are quite limited and some may not be able to get to work using this service.

MyCiti is a bus service used in Cape Town which also has a shuttle bus service operating from the airport to the city. Another bus service in the country is run by the Golden Arrow and these are not very reliable just like the Inner city bus services as they generally do not come on time and it is recommended not to use these in the dark.

Greyhound, Intercape and Translux are coach companies used in South Africa which cover the major cities and some even offer coach rides to the neighbouring countries. Tickets must be brought in advance on the Compu ticket site.


The railway network is developed and has around 31,000Km of track with most part of the country being served.

The city Johannesburg has a high speed train ‘Gautrain’ which is reliable and has been running successfully since 2010. There are few routes available between Sandton, Pretoria and OR Tambo International airport but the disadvantage is that it is not a form of city wide transport.  This is very popular for commuters.

Many people no longer travel long distances because there are domestic cheap flights available. However, for tourists who want to see the countryside will use a train as the Blue train connects Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Luxury train providers include The blue train, Premier Classe and Rovos Rail.

Cape Town has its own rail services – IRT (Integrated Rapid Transit), these are fairly cheap and passengers get to see beautiful scenery on the train rides.

A bus link is also available in the northern suburbs but expats will find a lot of traffic.

Mini Bus Taxis

These are highly used by locals as public transport due to other modes of transport not being so reliable. The services are a cross between a bus and taxi service and it has an informal route system. For the mini bus taxi queues are long and spaced are cramped

Air Travel

Air travel is the best and easiest way to get around South Africa and the neighbouring countries with domestic flights available on the local airlines. There are eight main airlines which have domestic flights and the largest is National South African Airlines. The major cities are all connected and flight times are regular.

To travel by air expats will be able to book their tickets online.

Private planes are also available for expats flying to the bush, and if you want to get a private pilot’s license, this is the best place to so

Driving Rules and Regulations in South Africa

Due to the public transport not being so reliable, many expats choose to buy their own car to get around the country. Driving is on the left hand side of the road and foreign nationals are able to drive in the country using their home country’s driving license. The license must be English or in one of the country’s 10 official languages, valid and should have a photo of the driver. It is recommended that you apply for an international drivers permit before leaving your home country.

The roads in South Africa are chaotic with the amount of traffic there is and with the constant traffic lights not working. It is important to drive with care although the roads are in good condition but in many areas do not have maintained roads. The road network is quite large with around 40% being metalled; you will find that many of the roads are tolled including N1, N2, N3 and N4 sections.

Road tax and car insurance is not a legal requirement in South Africa and does not need to be paid for.

Expats wanting to buy a car, will find that they are quite expensive but petrol prices are quite low especially for diesel.

When driving in South Africa you will need to have your vehicle registration documents as well as a valid driving license.

Speed Limits

  • Speed limits must be followed when driving in South Africa. The general speed limits are:
  • Public Road within urban area: 37mph
  • Public road outside an urban area which is not a freeway : 62mph
  • Freeways/Motorways: 75mph

Shipping and Removal Services

Shipping furniture to the country can be quite unreliable and expensive, so expats must think about whether they want to move their possessions or not. Regardless of this, there are different companies which offer shipping services and the expenses depend on how many goods and how much time it will take to move the furniture. As well as this companies offer storage services and insurance.

Many expats when renting accommodation do look for furnished accommodation or buy the furniture.

Air freight services are expensive, but generally are more expensive. There is a cargo division which will transfer motor vehicles across the country

Communications Technology in South Africa

South Africa communications consist of easy access to fast internet, mobile packages and fixed line telephone networks. Expats won’t have problems in connecting to these.


Internet services are available in the country and the broadband has good standards, although the fixed line speed is generally slow.

Telkom is the main service provider in the country and it is a largely state owned enterprise which owns the infrastructure to deliver the data. Other service providers are Neotel and Vodacom who offer different services and introduce lower prices than Telkom. Prices for bandwidth packages vary depending on if the data is capper or uncapped.

Due to the local call costs not being free, customers will be charged for dial up connections as well as ISP fees. Broadband is available but only in the urban centres with a high charge. Those who need additional bandwidth can purchase it for an extra cost and can make use of online VOIP services such as Skype.

Before connecting to the internet, you will be required to have installed a residential line and pay a monthly rental fee.

If you choose not to get internet at home, you can access the internet services at internet cafes.

Mobile Telephones

Expats moving to South Africa may opt to change their phones if their home country one does not work. Different mobile phone providers are in the country such as: Vodacom, Cell C, MTN, Telkom mobile and Virgin mobile. There are many packages that you can choose from i.e. pay as you go if you will only be in the country for a short period of time, multitude contracts and 3G services.

The larger cities have the 3G coverage along with highways and smaller towns. Expats can purchase mobile phones at stores and cellular phone shops with costs varying.

To register with a mobile phone provide, you must provide the following

  • Cell phone number and the SIM card which needs to be registered
  • Proof of ID
  • Forename and surname
  • Proof of address


Telkom provides the country’s land line services and it is extensive covering all the major areas with charges costing the highest in the world. When calling long distances it is advised to have a prepaid phone line which has monthly rent charges due to long distance calls being expensive. There are however a variety of calling plans available.

When setting up a landline, you will need to register by contacting customer services or by visiting the retail stores. You must show proof of residence, proof of ID and will need to provide a fee; you should note that it can take up to one month for someone from the company to install it.

Leisure and Recreational Activities

The climate in South Africa allows people to take part in many activities including outdoor activities and sports. The major national sports are cricket, rugby and soccer which has made the company host in major sporting events as in the World cup and this has seen citizens play sports sincerely.

South Africa has a Sports and Recreation organisation which is mainly responsible for all sports events and recreations in the country. There are many clubs around the country which offer teams and leagues that you or your children may be able to join.

Leisure activities: From camping, hiking, surfboarding and scuba diving, there are a variety of leisure activities that you can take part in. Other activities include hot air ballooning

Fitness: Expats who want to keep up the normal routine such as going to gym can do so in South Africa. There are many gyms and fitness centres available around the cities and before you join a gym, it is advised that you visit before making a decision. You should also find out about the best services and costs.

With the citizens and residents of the country being rather welcoming, there are many expat clubs and groups that you can join to make new friends and make your move easier.

Gambling: This is legal in the country and if this is something you enjoy, you will find many casinos in the major cities.

Wildlife: This is one of the greatest treasures in the country and there are many parks and lodges where expats can enjoy safaris and bush oriented activities.

Shopping: Expats who enjoy shopping will find many shopping malls and boutiques available. The range of products and services are similar to western malls but you may not be able to find the same things as other countries. High end boutiques can be found at the larger cities such as Cape town and Johannesburg.

Braai: This is a barbecue where people cook meat over hot coals which are given with salads and alcohol. It generally takes place around the sporting events.

Arts and Theatre: The country has a thriving arts culture with international and local productions which are shown in theatres.

Nightlife: Nightlife is very popular especially amongst the youngsters and in Cape Town there are many nightclubs you can visit. However, if you prefer to have a quiet night out with a relaxing meal then there are many restaurants in the cities.

South African Cuisine and Influences

The cuisine in the country is very diverse and has been influenced by different cuisines such as British, Dutch, German, Malay, Indian, Portuguese and indigenous tribes. Most families prefer to buy groceries from stores and cook at home with the imported and local produce which are of good quality. Some of the most popular foods in the South Africa include:

Braaivleis: This is when meat is cooked over an open wood or fire which is done at social events and on weekends.

Pap: A porridge which is made with corn meal and is usually eaten at breakfast. Krummelpap is a crumby porridge which is served covered with a saucy tomato dish.

Boerewors: A spicy sausage eaten by many as well as rolls which are hotdog buns and are garnished with an onion and tomato relish.

Potjiekos: Meat and vegetable stew made in an iron pot over an open fire. Also popular at Braai

Biltong and Droewors: Seasoned meat or sausage which has been dried. Other meats used are Beef and Game.

Bobotie: A meatlone with a cape malay flavour, seasoned with curry and spices

Fast Foods: There are different international fast food outlets available in the country worldwide such as KFC, McDonalds, Nandos and Wimpy. Pizza delivery is also available but in most urban areas

Alcohol: Expats must be over 18 to purchase and drink alcohol and this is served in most restaurants. There is also a local beer production which is controlled by SABmiller. Imported beers are available such as Stella Artois, Heineken and Grolsh. Prices however do vary

Annual Events for Meeting and Socialising

Moving to another country sees some people finding it difficult to adjust especially when on their own. However, with the events that are on and other expats in the country you will be able to find ways to meet others and socialise.

Here is a list of the top events which take places on a yearly basis

Kaapse Klopse: This event takes place in Cape town on the 2nd of January to celebrate Tweede Nuew Jaar. Cape Minstrels wear bright outfits, sporting umbrellas and sing traditional songs.

Randfontein Show: A four day event held in March which has food, and top entertainment for the whole family. Hundreds of people come here to celebrate the West Rand’s food and music festival.

Hobby-X Joburg: the leading hobby crafts expo held in Mach which has equipment, supplies and ideas for South Africans to take up a hobby.

Human Rights Day: A national day which is held on the 21st March to remember the sacrifices taken to attain democracy for the country. On this day 69 people died and 180 people injured when the police fired on a peaceful crowd which were holding a protest.

Freedom Day: Remembers the day when the first election was held in the country. It is celebrated to mark the liberation of the country

Women’s Day:  A national holiday which commemorates the national march of women to petition against legislation that was necessary for African people to carry the pass.

Dance Umbrella: A festival of modern dance which presents community based dance groups to international companies.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival: Two day festival in April which features over 40 international and African acts which perform live on stage to around 15,000 visitors. It also holds photographic and art exhibitions

Afrika Burn: This is a festival which is based on the burning man festival which grew out of a loose group of individuals. It is about self expression

National Arts Festival: Held in June or July and is one of the biggest arts festivals in the country. It is a 10 day event which showcases music,dance, film more.

Kynsna Oyster Festival: A festival held for the town of Knysna which is known for its oysters to celebrate them. If you enjoy sea food this is an event for you where you can enjoy live entertainment and sporting events.

Arts Alive: An event which has been held from 1992 and it hosts a mix of dance, visual arts, poetry and music. A conecert is geld in the stadium which has many international artists. It is a four day festival to enjoy

Herman Charles Bosman Weekend: This celebrates the work of Herman who was the country’s greatest writers.