Without a doubt one of the coolest countries on the planet – how can anyone pick the BEST places to live in South Africa?

There are nine provinces in the country for expats to choose from which doesn’t make choosing where to live in South Africa easy. Helping you narrow down the selection, this guide takes a brief look at some of the main cities in South Africa along with South African security.

Well we at Nomads Nation have taken on the challenge!

Whether you are looking for beautiful mountains, modern cities, or gorgeous beaches – South Africa has some of the best places to live.

With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to figure out which of these South African cities best suits you and your personal needs. 

This guide offers advice on the safest places to live in South Africa. From the hustle and bustle of the larger townships such as Cape Town to the more tranquil pace of life on offer a little off the beaten track, learn more about your options.

Relocating to a new country can be an overwhelming experience. That’s especially the case if you’re moving to South Africa. South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world; there are plenty of opportunities for expats, but getting your head around the different areas can be confusing. If you’re planning on renting in South Africa or buying South African property, you’ll need to think carefully about which South African cities suit your needs.

Staying Safe in South Africa

South Africa has a reputation when it comes to safety – namely, that it isn’t very safe. That reputation is not unfounded. It can be very, very sketchy.

That said, it’s all about where you are. Even then, there are gated communities within so-called safe neighbourhoods. People here are on high alert.

And you will have to be too. You’ll have to be aware of your surroundings. And get used to not walking around by yourself at night – ever.

But having said that, millions of people visit and move to this amazing country every year! 

#1 Cape Town

Many expats move to Cape Town with its rich vein of history, iconic landmarks, and modern amenities. In this guide, we’ll summarize some of the most popular areas of Cape Town for expats. For a more comprehensive guide, check out our full article on where to live in Cape Town.

  • Atlantic seaboard (Camps Bay, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay, Clifton) – Popular with wealthy expats buying beachside homes, and close to the city center
  • City Bowl – An area with plenty of modern city amenities and good quality schools at the foot of Table Mountain
  • Bo Kaap/Waterkant – A blast of colour, with brightly painted houses and modern apartments. Home to the city’s Muslim community.
  • Constantia, Tokal & Bishopscourt – Grand gated properties in a prestigious area around 25 minutes from the city centre
  • Bloubergstrand/Blaauwberg Coast – Popular with watersports enthusiasts and with spectacular views
  • Hout Bay – Home to weekend commuters, pretty beaches and picturesque walking trails

#2 Durban

“South Africa’s third largest city is the place to base yourself for some of the best surf spots in the world.“

Durban is not only great for its surfing, quite possibly the best spot in the country for that, but it has some of South Africa’s best beaches, too.

The weather here is pretty much always on the good side and it seems like the sunny climate and surfer atmosphere has made its way into the laid-back ambience of the city, too.

This is a relatively small city, area-wise, so where you live isn’t totally crucial. But if you want to be by the beach, stop off in Amanzimtoti for fishing, surfing and swimming.

Or if that isn’t your vibe head to Durban Central, complete with parks, its own beach and popping nightlife.

#3 Pretoria

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa, and thus is home to most local government departments. Pretoria is a cosmopolitan city. While it has a smaller expat population than the likes of Cape Town, there are some neighbourhoods that are suitable for expats, such as Waterkloof and Brooklyn.

With its wide boulevards and government buildings, Pretoria is a fairly new city with Boer farming origins. There are leafy suburbs, universities, black students and civil servants, which has given the city a new multicultural lease of life in the past decade. The city has even changed its name.

You might want to consider living in Pretoria East, close to the National Botanical Gardens; areas such as Waterkloof and Boardwalk are safe and green.

Elsewhere in Pretoria North, try out suburbs like Wonderboom and Capital Park, close to the Wonderboom Nature Reserve.

#4 Port Elizabeth

“This coastal city is all about its heritage trails, Victorian architecture, beaches and even whale spotting.“

For somewhere you can easily get right into nature, Port Elizabeth is the place for you. Just outside of the city are a number of nature reserves, including Kragga Kamma Game Park, perfect for spotting rhinos, elephants and rare birds.

For more nature, spot the marine life: whales, dolphins and seals can be spotted throughout the year along this part of the coast.

Summer Strand is a nice place to base yourself in Port Elizabeth; close to the university as well as the beach, it also boasts less crime than other areas.

There’s also Walmer, a pretty affluent neighbourhood that’s still practically a stone’s throw from the beach.

There’s a ton of beautiful beaches to splash around on and sunbathe in Port Elizabeth. There are even some top surf spots and places for watersports.

For non-active, non-natural pursuits, your days can be spent here exploring the centuries-old heritage buildings that have undergone regeneration projects in recent years. Your new cafe could be in a Victorian building!

#5 Johannesburg

“A sprawling city with a lot going on, Johannesburg is a friendly, hipster-ready buzz of culture and regeneration.“

Johannesburg may not have the best of reputations in the past, but it’s slowly becoming a safer place to live. Urban regeneration projects around areas like Maboneng have seen the cool kids move in and take over operations, with cool cafes, bars and boutique popping up.

There are also a ton of museums where you can learn more about the country. When it comes to finding a place to live, Linden and Greenside are known for their nightlife, but these areas are also popular with families and young couples.

There are a ton of great restaurants here, too. The bohemian area of Melville is where you’ll find terraced cafes, narrow lanes and second-hand bookstores.

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