Best cities to live in South Africa

Best cities to live in South Africa - Cape Town

The best cities to live in South Africa, is not such a straight forward issue. With a fast-growing economy and a comfortable standard of living, it is easy to see why the number of ex-pats in South Africa has doubled over the past decade

Thanks to its unparalleled natural beauty, lovely weather, and thriving communities, continental Africa’s richest country offers far more than just a career boost. People from every corner of the globe are flocking here to find opportunities that simply don’t exist in Europe and North America anymore.

It is easy to see why so many smart and talented people are flocking to South Africa but where is the best place to get started with a new life in South Africa? From Cape Town to Durban and beyond, let’s look at the best cities to live in South Africa.

Expat Life in Durban

Durban has consistently ranked at the top of the South African cities with the highest standard of living. In fact, just after the capital of the famously luxurious Mauritius, Port Louis, Durban has the very best quality of life in the entire continent of Africa, making it one of the best cities to live in South Africa.

At just under 600,000 residents, it is a relatively small city in terms of the population so it is not the kind of place where you can simply arrive and find a job without much preparation. For digital nomads, however, and those who are lucky enough to find a Durban-based job, it is a true paradise.

The gorgeous climate and world-class beaches would make anyone feel like they are on a permanent holiday in Durban. Those ex-pat families who are lucky enough to call the city home have been flocking to neighbourhoods like Morningside and Durban North, which offer the perfect base for tranquil home life.

Best cities to live in South Africa - Durban, South Africa

Insider Tip: If you are working remotely from South Africa, Durban is an absolute top pick. You will find prices that are 30 per cent lower than other hotspots like Cape Town yet the quality of life is second to none in South Africa.

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Moving to Johannesburg

As the country’s economic centre, ex-pats commonly arrive in Johannesburg with incredible job offers from international companies. These newcomers will be met with a heady experience in the non-stop city locals fondly call Joburg. This thriving city is, in fact, one of the biggest metro areas on the planet, and there is truly never a dull moment.

While the career opportunities in Johannesburg are outstanding, if you are, in fact, looking for a dull moment and a quiet place to call home, look to lovely ex-pat neighbourhoods in the city like Maboneng, Sandton, Linden, and Parkhurst.

Located between Joburg and Pretoria, you will also find great options for living in the Midrand, with welcoming neighbourhoods like Waterfall, Kyalami, and Beaulieu.

Best-cities-in-South-Africa - Johannesburg, South Africa

A laid back life - Port Elizabeth

The next location has to be a contender for the best cities to live in South Africa. Located in the Eastern Province, at the end of the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth is nicknamed, the “windy city”. If you are looking for a quieter pace of life the Port Elizabeth might be for you. It’s a relatively relaxed coastal location with a mild climate. It is also one of the cheapest places to live in South Africa and has become increasingly popular with young families and with retirees.

The beaches are pristine and Port Elizabeth has become the waterports capital with an amazing array of activities including, scuba diving, surfing, sea kayaking, kite-surfing, and whale-watching. There are also deep-sea fishing charters available and Port Elizabeth also hosts South African Ironman events.

This has made Port Elizabeth, also known as PE, a very popular tourist destination. The city has a relaxed, warm and friendly vibe and a cosmopolitan feel. 

Porth Elizabeth has a lot going for it, with affordable housing, good infrastructure, a growing number of bars and dining areas and some excellent schools.

Best-Cities-to-live-in-South Africa - Port Elizabeth

The Expat Life in Pretoria/ Tshwane

As the administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria/Tshwane is one of the country’s most important cities. It’s also closely connected with Joburg as the cities are so close geographically. There is barely 60 km between Pretoria city centre and the Johannesburg city centre and there is an endless flow of traffic between the two regions.

Many residents may work in one city while opting to live in the other. For locals, there’s a great debate between which city is better. If you prefer an area that is quieter and more laidback, Pretoria definitely might be the best pick for you.

The suburban areas and commuter towns of Pretoria/ Tshwane and Joburg are highly interconnected and well worth exploring. For those who love to get out of the dense urban space, you’ll actually find the best cities in South Africa in the space between the two metro areas.

Best-places-to-live-in-South Africa - Pretoria

Note: While you will see the name “Pretoria” widely referred to online and off, the official name of the city has actually changed. In honour of the black native leader, the city has officially changed its name to Tshwane. While it happened a few years ago, it remains a politically hot topic.

Winner of the Best Cities to Live in South Africa: Cape Town

Nestled between the sea and the mountains, Cape Town is the most popular city for ex-pats from around the world. With countless business opportunities and a high standard of living, you’ll also be able to enjoy weekend trips some of the world’s best safari parks or go explore the some of the most prestigious vineyards on the globe. These are just a few of the countless reasons why Cape Town is considered the best city in South Africa.

When it comes to Cape Town, however, it is essential to choose the right neighbourhood. For a modern, urban space with a beautiful mountain view, it’s all about City Bowl. If you want to be in the city and close to the beach, Clifton, Bantry Bay, Camps Bay, and Fresnaye are all lovely areas. Bo-Kaap and Waterkant are much-loved tourist hotspots thanks to their colourful architecture and are also good long-term bases within the city.

For a greener space that is still an easy commute, the areas of Bishopscourt, Constantia, and Tokai will keep you within 30 minutes of the city.

Best-places-to-live-in-South Africa - Cape Town

Now that you have a sense of the best cities for ex-pats to live in South Africa, it’s time to start digging into the serious planning details. Keep reading here for our complete guide to moving to South Africa. From visas to taxes to healthcare and beyond, we will give you an insider look at what it’s really like and how you can prepare.

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