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Best Places to Live in South Africa | 10 Most Outstanding Cities

Nicknamed the “Rainbow Nation” for its cultural diversity, South Africa is home to some of its most unique and outstanding natural landscapes. Choosing to live in South Africa gives you many options to stay in amazing cities, each with its unique personalities and living standards, but which city is best for you?

Don’t be overwhelmed; we are here to help. This guide breaks down the pros and cons of each of our favorite cities and gives you a brief on the cost of living so that you can make an informed decision on the best places to live in South Africa.

Best Places to Live in South Africa for…

  • Expats: Johannesburg 
  • English Speakers:  Cape Town
  • Digital Nomads: Langebaan
  • Solo Travelers: Knysna 
  • Couples: Franschhoek 
  • Groups: Port Elizabeth

Top 10 Places to Live in South Africa

1. Cape Town

The Best City for English Speakers

Cost of Living: $$$

As it’s called locally, the “Mother City” is not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world but also has a thriving tourism industry and high standard of living. Cape Town is the go-to city for beautiful views, sandy beaches, and luxury housing.

Tip: Car guards are standard in Cape Town, they patrol public parking and watch over vehicles in exchange for tips. 

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats, English Speakers.

Pros:

  • Exceptional nightlife.
  • The weather in Cape Town matches its beauty. 
  • Prosperous creative industries.

Cons:

  • The “taxis”. A common form of public transport, often seen driving recklessly and sometimes aggressive on the roads.
  • Poor public healthcare.
  • Certain areas can be expensive.

 2. Johannesburg 

Best City for Expats

Cost of Living: $

Johannesburg may not share the same level of beauty as other cities in South Africa, but it does boast a booming economic sector. Being the largest trade center in Africa, “Jozi” opens the door to profitable job opportunities and entrepreneurial opportunities. 

Tip: Johannesburg is a perfect base of operations to be able to explore the rest of South Africa. 

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats, Digital nomads.

Pros:

  • Excellent economy
  • Private security is top class
  • Johannesburg has amazing weather year-round.

Cons:

  • Johannesburg has a strong reputation for high crime rates and high unemployment.
  • Lack of public transportation.
  • Expect long drives to and from work if you live outside of the city.

3. Langebaan

Best City for Digital Nomads

Kite Surfers

Cost of Living:$$

Langebaan is a pretty coastal town that has a place in the hearts of all those in the Western Cape. Although a popular holiday destination, Langebaan has some of the best value-for-money property rates in South Africa. No matter where you are, you are within walking distance from the beach, and locals are always smiling. Not to forget that the food culture is excellent too. Langebaan is one of our favorite places to live in South Africa.

Tip: Langebaan is world-famous for its beaches and lagoons, perfect for surfing and kitesurfing.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads, watersport enthusiasts.

Pros:

  • Low crime rate.
  • Booming nightlife.
  • Affordable property.

Cons:

  • Lack of public transport.
  • Langebaan gets crowded during the holidays.
  • Poor job market.

4. George

Best City for South Coast Exploration

George Sunset

Cost of Living: $$

George is the largest city in the Garden Route and is considered its “Central Hub.” It is very well developed and has an excellent infrastructure of schools, hospitals, and shopping centers. Being over 200 years old, George has incredible Victorian architecture and rich history. George is the closest you get to big city life with a “small-town” feel.

Tip: George is the center hub of the Garden Route, and you can easily explore the West Coast with George as your base camp for exploring the Garden Route.

Who Would Like to Live There: Solo Travelers, English Speakers

Pros:

  • Good infrastructure.
  • Good tourism economy.
  • Good municipality.

Cons:

  • Low wages.
  • Limited entertainment.
  • ‘Taxis’ are disruptive and aggressive.

5. Durban

Best City for Tropical Weather

Durban City

Cost of Living: $$

The atmosphere of Durban is exciting and adventurous, with a significant focus on arts and outdoor lifestyle. Having tropical weather and being on the coast makes Durban ideal for ‘holiday living.’ It is praised for its rich food culture and ocean-based social focus. With the world’s largest Indian community outside of India, Durban has a blend of all cultures and lifestyles. 

Tip: Durban is famous for its shark-cage diving.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads, Groups.

Pros:

  • Great weather.
  • Affordability.
  • Plentiful recreational offerings.

Cons:

  • Overcrowding during the holidays.
  • Growing crime rates.
  • Lack of reliable public transport.

6. Franschhoek

Best City for Couples

Franschoek Vinyard

Cost of Living: $$$

Franschhoek is a picturesque Wineland town neatly tucked away in the Drakenstein Mountains. Dutch architecture and centuries-old vineyards have made Franschhoek famous for producing fantastic wines and beautiful scenery. Residents live high-quality, peaceful lives and enjoy the luxury side of country living in the charming valley. Franschhoek also makes a great weekend away for non-residents.

Tip: There are forty-five different wine farms in Franschhoek to explore.

Who Would Like to Live There: Couples, digital nomads.

Pros:

  • A wide array of restaurants and Wine farms.
  • Beautiful views all around.
  • It’s quick and easy to get around.

Cons:

  • High cost of living.
  • Lack of quality medical facilities.
  • Tourist orientated.

7. Gqeberha

Best City for Groups

 Gqeberha coast line

Cost of Living:$$

Gqeberha offers a well-balanced synergy between outdoor adventure and city living. Surrounded by several game reserves and being on the coast means that Gqeberha is perfect for those looking to connect more with nature while still living close to good hospitals, schools, and shopping centers. 

Tip: Whale and dolphin watching is a popular attraction here.

Who Would Like to Live There: Adventure lovers, Digital Nomads.

Pros:

  • Affordable housing.
  • Friendly communities.
  • Clean and well-maintained streets.

Cons:

  • Congestion is common.
  • Increasing crime rates.
  • Lack of culture.

8. Jeffreys Bay

Best City for Surfers

surfer

Cost of Living: $

South Africa’s beloved Jeffreys Bay is internationally recognized as the best place to surf. Besides that, this delightful little coastal town is dirt-cheap to live in, remarkably safe and crammed full of character. Locals have developed a friendly and ocean-passionate community that thrives on tourism and fishing. The sunsets as well, are unlike any other.

Tip: Jeffreys Bay annually hosts the ‘J-bay Open’ where top surfers worldwide come to compete, with money and significant bragging rights on the line.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads, Surfers.

Pros:

  • Affordable living.
  • Great outdoor itinerary.
  • Low crime rates.

Cons:

  • Lack of developed infrastructure.
  • Minimal public transport.
  • Crowded during December holidays and festivals.

9. Knysna

Best City for Solo Travelers

Knysna cliffs

Cost of Living: $$

Yet another city with an outdoor focus, Knysna is South Africa’s hidden gem. Knysna is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, rivers, mountain ranges, lagoons, and rich forests. It is challenging to stay inside. This small community is close-knit and focuses on keeping Knysna as well maintained and prosperous as possible. Being safe and affordable makes Knysna an all-round winner. Not to mention the accommodation in Knysna is spectacular.

Tip: Although Knysna is very safe, petty thefts are common on hiking trails in surrounding areas.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads, Couples.

Pros:

  • Low crime rates.
  • Affordable living.
  • Unmatched scenery.

Cons:

  • Property outside of the city is expensive.
  • Maintenance of homes is difficult.
  • Winters in South Africa can get quite cold.

10. Mossel Bay

Best City for Retirement

Mossel bay Coast Line

Cost of Living: $$

Mossel Bay is a quiet city. Its primary focus is on its beautiful beaches and peaceful neighborhoods. Where it lacks nightlife, it makes up for tranquil living conditions and an excellent municipality. The city is clean and safe, and the property is very affordable. Mossel Bay is a popular place to retire, and its sense of community is impeccable.

Tip: Mossel bay is one of South Africa’s oldest towns, with its heritage perfectly preserved in the Diaz Museum

Who Would Like to Live There: Couples, Digital Nomads.

Pros:

  • Excellent weather.
  • Great municipality.
  • Proactive community.

Cons:

  • Lack of nightlife.
  • Rapid increase of residents – and road traffic.
  • Low wages/ poor job market.

FAQs

1. Is It Safe in South Africa?

South Africa has a generally high crime rate. However, this varies from city to city.

2.  What Currency Do They Use in South Africa?

The South African Rand (ZAR).

3. What Language Do They Speak in South Africa?

South Africa has 11 official languages. However, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and Zulu are the most commonly spoken languages.

4. How to Travel Around South Africa?

Several bus and train companies operate across South Africa.

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