Spotlight on South Africa

For many travelers and would-be ex-patriates, there are some locations in the world that seem a go-to for living: Southeast Asia for the beautiful weather, low cost of living and friendly people; South America, perhaps, for the excellent food and economic opportunities there. But another excellent destination for foreigners is South Africa, a country with a history as turbulent as the landscape is beautiful.



South Africa is located at the very southern tip of the African continent and boasts vibrant and extensive coastal region as well as arid desert. The population is quite diverse and is comprised of people who identify as Black Africans, White, Asian, Indian and Colored. It is also a country rich in languages, with 11 being officially recognized by the government (but don’t worry, English is widely spoken so most Westerners looking to move here will do just fine – and perhaps even pick up the wonderful South African accent).

As is the case with most countries, those seeking to settle in South Africa for a time will need to secure the appropriate visas and documentation. These will be determined by the length of time you plan to stay in the country, the kind of work you’ll be doing there and the circumstances under which you’re arriving – are you coming with a company, or seeking employment once you arrive? There are several types of visas available, including the immigration study permit, work permit and retirement visa. There is also a permanent residence visa ex-pats can apply for, an essential if they hope to become naturalized South African citizens.

The cost of living in South Africa is on par with places such as London and major U.S. cities. Therefore, ex-pats should carefully consider their financial plans before making the leap to move here. While there are other countries in which it is easy to land and live cheaply until you are established, South Africa is one that requires a bit more preparation.

As of 2011, the website cited costs for dining out, going to the movies and purchasing clothes and other goods as being moderately to less than half the price of the same in the UK. Naturally, the cost of living will vary depending on each person’s or family’s lifestyle and spending and living preferences. However, all should anticipate that they will spend roughly the same on day-to-day expenses as they would in any major Western city, especially if they are planning to live in Cape Town or Johannesburg. Commenters on ex-pat forums have indicated that prices for major items, such as cars, are rather high and that unexpected taxes and insurance costs do add quite a bit to the average cost of living.

Of course, living in as diverse and exciting a place as South Africa affords one the perks of having plenty of adventures and sights to see on the weekends. When you’re not working or settling into your new community, you can go shark cage diving, skydiving, tour the townships and visit an ostrich farm. It’s certain that your time in South Africa will not be dull, however you choose to spend it.