The 5 Best Places To Live In South Africa

Wondering where the best places to live in South Africa are? Then keep reading!

Where can you find more beautiful landscapes and breathtaking wildlife than in South Africa? This nature-rich part of the globe is not just gorgeous to look at; it has a cool, multicultural vibe and many jobs and business opportunities for foreigners.

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However, the best South African cities differ significantly. From the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg to the peaceful coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the country offers much diversity in terms of character and scenery.

Here are the five best places to live in South Africa for expats to help you decide where is best for you in this colorful country.

south africa flag

Cape Town

The vibrant city of Cape Town is easily one of the most popular places among expats living and working in South Africa. The port city on the southwest coast has an ideal blend of old and new, with many historical landmarks and plenty of modern amenities.

As Cape Town is a global business hub, finding work here is easy. There are opportunities in all sectors, such as Tourism, hospitality, and transport.

Plus, as there are many international companies, there are also plenty of jobs in marketing and finance.

There is so much to do here, so Cape Town offers a fun and existing lifestyle for expats and digital nomads. Moreover, several safe neighborhoods provide a comfortable life to foreigners, including those with children.

City Bowl is one of the most popular districts at the foot of Table Mountain. It has all the amenities you’ll need and is close to some of the best international schools. 

Waterkant is close to the CBD, making it a favored choice among young, single professionals. Or, if you prefer to be away from all the hustle and bustle, check out Hout Bay, which has gorgeous beaches and walking trails.

Cape Town also offers fantastic landscapes, with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. The climate is also delightful, as it rarely gets too hot or cold.

In addition, the cost of living here is affordable, and you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for around $450 to $650.

cape town

Johannesburg

As the biggest city in the country and a vast economic center, Johannesburg is naturally another of the best places to live in South Africa for expats. 

Johannesburg has a relatively mild and pleasant climate as it is located in the Gauteng province in the northeast of the country.

Nicknamed the “city of gold,” Johannesburg was a 19th-century gold-mining settlement. But, today is a bustling metropolis home to around 4.4 million people.

There is always a lot going on and plenty of cool places to hang out. As a result, many parts of the city have a hipster vibe, and new cafes, bars, and boutique stores are constantly popping up.

Ongoing urban regeneration projects occur in many of the city’s districts, resulting in all types of accommodation, such as trendy loft-style apartments.

However, some parts of the inner city are high-crime areas, so it’s best to base yourself in the suburbs like Rosebank or Parkhurst. Many of these districts have gated communities for extra safety.

As South Africa’s economic hub, many international and South African businesses have headquarters here. So there are plenty of job opportunities for foreigners in many industries.  

If you’re trying to decide between Cape Town or Johannesburg, the significantly lower living costs may sway you towards the latter. In Johannesburg, you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for less than $400 or a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs for around $700.

johannesburg

Durban

Although lesser known than Cape Town and Johannesburg, Durban is one of the best cities in South Africa for those who want to enjoy sunny weather and beautiful beaches.

It is on the east coast, boasting a tropical climate with all-year-round warmth and sunshine.

Durban has many gorgeous beaches and exhilarating nightlife, perfect additions to the weather. It’s also among the safest South African cities, especially if you live in one of the gated communities.

Morningside is one of the most popular neighborhoods among expats as it’s close to the financial district yet still has a peaceful vibe. There is also Glenwood, adored by young, trendy professionals, and Queensburgh, favored by families for its housing availability and proximity to schools.

Durban offers a more relaxed and nature-rich lifestyle than Cape Town and Johannesburg. Still, as the third-largest city in the country, there are plenty of jobs and business opportunities, especially in finance and tourism.

What’s more, as the country’s most significant seaport, Durban has a thriving manufacturing industry. The cost of living is aligned with Johannesburg, and renting a one-bedroom apartment typically costs between $300 and $400 a month.

durban

Pretoria

As the administrative capital and a one-hour drive from Johannesburg, Pretoria is another of the best cities to live in South Africa.

Pretoria is also smaller, quieter, and less crowded than its bustling neighbor, making it an excellent alternative for foreigners who prefer a slower pace of life.

Another reason why expats like Pretoria is because it is full of culture and history with plenty of monuments and museums to visit. It is also full of beautiful flowers and trees, such as bright purple jacaranda trees.

In fact, there are so many that it is nicknamed “Jacaranda City.” In addition, there are some lovely parks and other nature-rich outdoor spaces.

Pretoria is home to three top-class universities and numerous research centers, resulting in many jobs in the education and science fields.

Moreover, because of all the government offices, plenty of government positions are available. In fact, the majority of the 2 million people living here are either civil servants or students.

The cost of living and rental prices are the same as in nearby Johannesburg. The best areas to live are in the north, such as Wonderboom and Capital Park, which are close to the beautiful Wonderboom Nature Reserve.

Alternatively, Waterkloof in the east is very safe and green, located close to the botanical gardens.

pretoria

Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is a smaller city located in Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape. It is one of the best South African cities for those who love nature and wildlife.

This is because this part of the coast has year-round whale, dolphin, and seal sightings and several nature reserves.

Port Elizabeth is known for its friendly community vibe and windy weather. It is one of the most laid-back cities in South Africa and the sunniest, with, on average, 300 days of sunshine each year. 

Because of its relaxed vibe and nature-rich setting, Port Elizabeth is particularly popular among families. In addition, there is so much in town to keep you entertained.

For example, the boardwalk seaside entertainment complex has a five-screen cinema, amphitheater, and adventure golf park. Summer Strand and Walmer are two of the safer neighborhoods in Port Elizabeth and are both close to the beach. 

The cost of living is higher than in Johannesburg and Durban but slightly cheaper than in Cape Town. Here you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for $450 to $550 a month or a 3-bedroom house for $800 to $1000.

port elizabeth

Final Thoughts On The Best Places To Live In South Africa

As you can see, South Africa has something for everyone. So whether you prefer a cosmopolitan lifestyle or living close to nature, one of these five best places to live in South Africa will be the perfect fit for you. 

Moreover, although these are generally safe places, I recommend living in one of the many gated, secure communities in whichever city you choose. 

Not sure if South Africa is the right place for you? Read one of the following guides:

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