Living In South Africa: Pros and Cons

South Africa is a beautiful country with amazing weather, incredible wildlife, places of cultural importance, and a laid-back vibe. Often described as a “world in one country,” South Africa offers it all. It has forests and mountains, beaches, deserts, beautiful cities, and wildlife reserves.

People who have been there will tell you that they will return to South Africa in a heartbeat. But moving to a new country is a big commitment, so it is important to do thorough research before making the move. To help you out, here are some of the key pros and cons of living in South Africa.

So what are you waiting for? Whether you are a nomad or an expat, here is what you need to know about living in South Africa.

South Africa Pros

1. Low Cost Of Living

The most appealing part of living in South Africa is the low cost of living. If you are a single person, your monthly cost will be just around $518.4, and if you are a family of four, expect a monthly expenditure of around $1,805.5 (both figures exclude rent). This is a lot less than many neighboring countries.

The cost of living in South Africa is 50.9% lower than in the USA, and the rent is 71.9% lower. So, if you are a nomad or an expat earning an income in dollars or euros, South Africa will provide you with a high quality of life at a lower cost.

2. Great Food

People who have visited South Africa never get over the amazing variety of meat dishes available. The cuisine is a blend of different cultures, and you will love the combination.

One thing to look out for is a braai (barbecue), a social event where locals gather in the evening to meet up with friends and family, chat, laugh, and enjoy the delicious meal prepared. There is air-dried meat, barbecued meat, traditional boerewors (farmer’s sausages), bunny chow, and much more.

3. People

Most South Africans are friendly people who will lovingly welcome you. The general vibe of the people here is very easy-going and relaxed. They are respectful, polite, and helpful. Socializing and making new friends is not going to be a task.

4. Great Weather

If you are an outdoor person who loves sunshine, you will love South Africa. Many cities here receive around 3,200 hours of sunshine every year. The country has four seasons— winter, spring, summer, and autumn. The winters are not that cold, and you can still enjoy going out.

5. Diverse Employment Opportunities

If you are a skilled professional looking for a job in South Africa, you will have plenty of options. But if you are unskilled and looking forward to working, the place is not for you.

Plenty of unskilled people here are looking for jobs, and the wages are very low—around $200 per month. But there is a shortage of highly skilled laborers, so their salaries are very high.

Also, speaking English can get you fantastic job opportunities in multinational companies, tourism, law, and other fields.

6. Clean Air And Water

This may seem unimportant, but it must be a top priority. If you have ever lived in a place where the quality of either of the two was subpar, you will realize how good it feels to open the faucet and drink water or open a window and take in a breath of fresh air.

As South Africa is a developing country, natural resources are still abundant, and the quality of water and air is much better than in many parts of the world.

7. Nature And Wildlife

You can engage in a variety of outdoor activities in South Africa, including surfing, hiking, and more.

Also, let’s not forget South Africa’s renowned and amazing wildlife. It is home to the big 7— African Elephant, Lion, Cape Buffalo, Rhinoceros, Leopard, Great White Shark, and Southern Right Whale. National parks abound, but the Kruger National Park—the largest and most well-known—is a must-visit.

8. Relaxed Work Culture

South Africans are very laid-back—something that is inherent in their work culture as well. The people here are very hardworking, and considering the sparse work options, they stay with the same company throughout their working careers.

But as soon as the office hours end, people here like to enjoy their personal time and respect others’ time as well. Although this requires incoming foreign companies to make adjustments, you can find business meetings and people working on their laptops in small coffee shops.

Additionally, there are about 12 public holidays, so you occasionally get a day off.

9. English Is Widely Spoken

The most important part of living in a foreign country is communication. If you are not able to communicate locally or at work, survival can become a bit difficult.

South Africa has many languages, 11 of which are designated as official, with English ranking sixth. While it is not used much in private, it is a very important part of South Africa’s global commerce.

10. Exceptional Private Healthcare

If you are thinking of availing yourself of public healthcare services, that is a no-go. But private healthcare is excellent and affordably priced. When you go to private facilities, you can be sure that you’re in safe hands. Additionally, there are many healthcare insurances for expats that you can choose from.

South Africa Cons

1. Load Shedding

Load shedding may result in daily power outages of 1 to 6 hours every day for a few weeks. However, it is only carried out when the demand for electricity exceeds the capacity of the source. You could always buy a generator to deal with this.

2. High Crime Rate

South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Also, we are not just talking about petty crimes like shoplifting and failure to pay traffic tickets but also violent crimes like murder and rape.

3. Inadequate Public Transport

If you live in metropolitan cities, public transport may not be that big of an issue. But anywhere else, the transport is inadequate, with some remote areas having no access to public transport, Uber, or taxis.

Some areas may have weekly or biweekly buses and that’s it. So, if you plan on working as an expat, you must either choose the location very carefully or have access to a private vehicle.

4. Unemployment

Illiteracy and unemployment rates are very high in South Africa. Around 35% of the population is unemployed. This makes it difficult for them to make ends meet and fuels crime.

5. Poverty

The high unemployment rate is one of the reasons why people are poor. Unemployment also knocks off the economy of the country as a whole, complicating things further. Inequality is another reason why so many people are below the poverty line. The country has a large wealth disparity, with the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer.


Anywhere else in the world, it is easy to forget about the ongoing war with HIV, but not on the African continent. Thousands of people die each year due to this immunodeficiency syndrome, and inadequate public healthcare does not help.

7. Low Wages

If you are going to earn local currency and do not have a specialized degree, your chances of staying in the country for long are very slim. Also, many companies do not offer benefits like medical aid and pensions, adding to the stress.

8. Inadequate Public Healthcare

The public healthcare system in South Africa is very bad. The hospitals and clinics are understaffed, heavily crowded, and underequipped, and the employees are overworked. You may have to wait for hours in line for the simplest of treatments.

Top 3 Cities To Live In South Africa As An Expat

If you intend to make South Africa your home, here are top 3 cities to live in.

1. Cape Town

Cape Town is unquestionably the most popular destination for expats. Located in the southwestern part of the country, Cape Town has a rich history, offers modern amenities, and has iconic landmarks. The city has beautiful neighborhoods with lower crime rates, good education and healthcare facilities, and lots of opportunities for fun and entertainment.

2. Durban

The third-largest city in South Africa, Durban is another well-known expat hotspot thanks to its warm, sunny climate, and amazing beaches. However, surfing is not the only good thing about Durban; the city has a cool mix of cultures and a thriving nightlife. Durban is cheaper than Cape Town but noisier. However, it has many peaceful districts that you can make your new home.

3. Johannesburg

The economic center and largest city of the country, Johannesburg is perfect for immigrants planning to get a job in South Africa. Although it had a high crime rate, the stats are slowly but steadily shifting towards the positive. Also, there are safe and exclusive areas that expats prefer that offer a high quality of life.

Tip: Interested in buying a property in South Africa? We have created a sending money to and from South Africa guide that showcases the best companies to work with if you need to send large sums of money between the two countries.


Moving to a new country is a matter that requires careful consideration. Carefully weigh the pros and cons before you decide whether living in South Africa is for you.


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