Moving to South Africa
Your in-depth guide to relocating to South Africa
If a work opportunity is taking you to South Africa, or you are drawn to its natural beauty and want to relocate for a better work-life balance, it pays to be prepared before the big move.
South Africa is a huge expanse with both modern, cosmopolitan cities, and remote rural communities alike. Most British expatriates will live and work in one of the main cities, where the lifestyle is vibrant, exciting and culturally diverse. The cost of living is low, as are house prices, while the career opportunities are plentiful.
For those moving from London to South Africa, it can take time to settle into the way of life. While many customs and business practices will feel familiar, there are just as many differences. Cadogan Tate has the information and advice you need to help you get prepared before you move.
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Here at Cadogan Tate we have decades of experience when it comes to international removals. We know what to expect and understand the potential problems that can occur along the way – meaning we can deal with these pitfalls, so you don’t have to.
We put our customers at the heart of everything we do. No two moves are the same, so we tailor our services to meet your exact needs. We use our extensive knowledge and experience, as well as your personal requirements, to help you achieve a stress-free relocation to South Africa.
From the very start of the process, we will help you plan for your move with total precision. Once you contact us to request a no-obligation free quote, we will be in touch to assist you with your removals. One of our experienced surveyors will visit you and assess the nature of your belongings.
We can advise you on the best methods of transportation, packaging and storage to suit your needs. We can then assign the right resources for your individual move.
If you choose to take up our competitive and thorough quote, you will be assigned a Move Co-ordinator who will plan and manage your relocation from start to finish. This leaves you free to focus on the other factors of your move to South Africa.
If you need storage for any items while you are in South Africa, we can also arrange this at one of our own or partner high-class storage facilities.
Enquire now or call us on +44 (0) 20 8963 4000
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Guide to moving to South Africa
There are both pros and cons of moving to South Africa as an expatriate. On one hand, you can’t beat the stunning natural landscape, with the immense coastline along one border and the towering mountains further inland. The climate is exceptional, encouraging an outdoors lifestyle, and the main cities offer a cosmopolitan and modern way of living.
However, there are large socio-economic divides across the expansive country, and there is abject poverty noticeable alongside affluence. There are some deep-rooted issues with inequality that the country is working hard to overcome, as well as high unemployment rates among locals.
Yet the country has much to offer expatriates from the UK. There are skills shortages in some areas, meaning that there are many high-level employment opportunities. It’s also a country that is very welcoming to families, with many provisions and attractions for children.
We have been moving families and individuals to South Africa for many years and in that time have got to know the country well. We have used our vast knowledge to put together a library of useful articles on all aspects of life in South Africa to help you prepare for your relocation.
South Africa is a very ethnically diverse country. This is not surprising giving its location at the southern-most tip of Africa and its many borders. It is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and in the east and north east by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland).
The large country is populated with over 57 million people with a huge number of ethnic groups, the majority of Sub-Saharan African ancestry (around 80% of the population). As such, there are 11 official languages in the country, of which English is one. But there are hundreds of other dialects spoken across the region.
Geographically, South Africa has a coastline that stretches over 1,500 miles along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian) and it is the 25th largest country in the world – five times the size of the UK. This vastness means that British expatriates can have very different experiences in South Africa, depending which region they settle in. Most expats live in the main cities of Pretoria (the executive capital), Cape Town (the legislative capital) or Johannesburg. These cities are modern and cosmopolitan, in contrast to the wild nature reserves a short journey away.
South African Lifestyle
Moving to South Africa is a big step for British expatriates. The culture and way of life can be very different, which can make it harder to acclimatise initially. There are large expatriate communities, and many families and individuals who move to the country for work gravitate towards these.
There are distinct benefits when it comes to lifestyle in South Africa. For one, the weather is a real plus point – it’s warm, sunny and dry for the most part, and generally very pleasant. With the spectacular beauty of the landscape, it’s only natural that both locals and expatriates alike spend plenty of time outside, both on the coast and inland towards the more mountainous regions. Sport is very important, both watching and playing, and the locals are very sociable.
For those moving to South Africa with children, it’s reassuring to know that the country offers quality childcare options, excellent healthcare and a good work-life balance. There are some exceptional private schools, which helps children settle into life, and there is no real language barrier as most South Africans will speak English.
There are concerns regarding personal safety and security. There are widespread problems with opportunistic crime, which is why many expatriates (and wealthy nationals) will opt to live in large gated communities, with perimeter fences, alarm systems and on-site security.
Buying a home in South Africa is fairly straightforward and, as a country, home ownership rates are relatively high at 60%. As an expatriate, there are no restrictions on buying a property, though there are limits on mortgages – usually these are capped at 50% of the property price.
At the moment, the value of the South African Rand (ZAR) is low and therefore there are definite financial incentives for foreign investors. It is possible to pick up a premium property in a desirable location at a very good price. However, it is worth calculating the transfer duty, which can be up to 15% of the value of your home, and factor that into your overall budget. There is also a Capital Gains Tax owed on profits when you choose to sell the property on.
Private sales are uncommon, therefore you should engage the services of a real-estate agent in South Africa, checking that they are registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board. Some real estate services will specialise in purchases by foreign nationals.
Many expatriates live in private gated communities, whether buying or renting, which offer extra security. These communities usually offer a choice of property types, from large sprawling villas with landscaped gardens, to single-level family homes. There may also be communal areas and facilities. Outside of these complexes, there are beachfront luxury apartments and large farmhouses set inside acres of land.
Expatriates in South Africa almost exclusively use the private healthcare system, while many South Africans rely on public healthcare. The standards between the two vary wildly – public healthcare is massively underfunded and waiting times are long. Public hospitals lack resources and have very basic amenities.
In contrast, the private healthcare system is excellent, with world-class facilities. British expatriates should have comprehensive medical cover for all consultations and treatments necessary. This should also cover ambulance services, as the public emergency vehicles are not always as responsive. The quality of service in the private sector is comparable to what you would expect in Europe and the UK.
There are both local health insurance providers and international schemes. It is important to shop around, as the policies can vary a great deal in price and coverage. A plan should cover all day-to-day services, dental treatment, hospital stays, treatments, consultations, prescription medicines and maternity services, where relevant.
Money and Utilities
The official currency in South Africa is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. At the time of writing, the exchange rate was 18.08 South Africa Rand to the Pound. In general, the cost of living is quite low, especially in comparison to London. Local wages are also low, however many expatriates work for international corporations on high salaries, meaning that they have high disposable income. This is especially true if they are paid in a stronger currency, as the South African Rand is weak against the Pound, Euro and US Dollar.
The tax year runs from 1 March to the end of February, with returns due by November (non-provisional taxpayers) or January (provisional taxpayers). Tax is charged at a progressive rate. The National Income Tax Rates vary from 18% to 45%, and is liable on worldwide income (a double tax agreement is in place).
There are four major banks in South Africa: ABSA, First National Bank (FNB), Standard Bank and Nedbank. You should have no trouble opening an account with any of these four banks, though you will need to provide documentation, such as your work permit and a letter from your employer. Many expatriates opt to use offshore accounts or international banks for their financial needs.
How long should you allow for shipping to South Africa?
You will need to allow quite a long time for shipping to South Africa, due to the logistics of transportation and the distance involved. The quickest service is to use a dedicated container, for which you should allow 7-10 weeks for door-to-door transit. Groupage, or shared containers, is more economical, though you should allow 11-14 weeks for delivery to your new home. Your Move Co-ordinator can give you the most up-to-date timings for shipping to South Africa when you request a quotation for your belongings.
What can you take?
You are able to ship most of your common household belongings to South Africa duty free, though there are some restrictions. You should consult with your Surveyor or Move Co-ordinator in order to decide what to take with you. There are some prohibited items and restricted items, such as alcohol, firearms, walkie-talkies and animal products from endangered species. Your shipment may be checked and this could attract a cost.
However, the most complex part of shipping to South Africa is getting through Customs and Excise. You are required to be present in the country before your shipment arrives at the port, so you will need to make your plans for arrival in advance and in conjunction with your estimated shipping times. You will need to provide a copy of your passport, residence permit or work permit and inventory list (which we can compile on your behalf). You will also be required to fill in customs documentation at the port.
For South African residents who are returning to the country from the UK, you need to have been out of the country for at least six continuous months to import household effects duty free.
Taking a car or motor vehicle
If you are a first-time resident of South Africa, you are able to import your own vehicle duty free, as long as you have been using it personally for at least 12 months and it is intended for personal use after relocation. You will need to have the right paperwork in place before your vehicle is shipped to ensure that it clears customs. There may be Goods and Service Tax and Customs duties to pay in some circumstances.
Returning residents will be liable for stricter checks, so talk to your Move Co-ordinator who will aid you through the process. You may have to pay duty fees if you don’t meet the criteria.
Moving to the South Africa with pets
In most cases, you will be able to take your household cat or dog with you when you move to South Africa. Your pet should be microchipped, and you will need to apply for a permit through the Director of Animal Health. This involves completing an Import Application form in advance of your arrival, and you will be supplied with a Veterinary Import Permit, which is valid for six months.
Some animals, dogs in particular, will need to undergo certain health tests within 30 days of entering the country. Dogs are not required to undergo quarantine if they have come directly from the UK, as long as all the required paperwork and permits are complete.
At Cadogan Tate we can organise all of the requirements for moving your pet to South Africa, so do please discuss this with your Move Co-ordinator.
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South Africa Regional Information
South Africa can offer a unique experience for British expatriates, quite unlike living in the UK. Made up of nine provinces and bordered by a number of distinct African countries, South Africa’s culture is varied and your experience can be very different depending on where you settle in the country.
We have compiled a series of guides to the main expatriate destinations in South Africa. We hope this will help you to learn more about your new home and what you can expect as an expat.
We have moved many families and individuals to South Africa, so we can support you through every step of your journey. Call us today to find out more.
Enquire now or call us on +44 (0) 20 8963 4000