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Expat Exchange - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to South Africa (Plus, Itineraries) 2024
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Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to South Africa (Plus, Itineraries)

By Betsy Burlingame

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: Considering a move to South Africa but uncertain about where to settle? Venturing on an exploratory trip to visit multiple popular expat destinations can be incredibly enlightening. Here's a list of recommended places to consider during your exploration of South Africa.

Moving to South Africa - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to South Africa (Plus, Itineraries)

Embarking on a Look-See trip to South Africa is a crucial step for anyone considering relocation. This exploratory journey offers a firsthand experience of the country's diverse cities and towns, providing insights into the local lifestyle, culture, and amenities. It's an opportunity to assess potential homes, schools, and workspaces, ensuring that the decision to move is well-informed and tailored to personal or family needs. By visiting various locations, one can gauge the cost of living, community vibe, and overall suitability for their new life in South Africa.

Recommended Itineraries

For a comprehensive Look-See trip, consider two itineraries: a 10-day quick tour and a 20-day extensive exploration. On a 10-day trip, focus on major expat hubs such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, with possible short visits to nearby towns like Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. A 20-day journey allows for a deeper dive, including the aforementioned cities, as well as the exploration of the Garden Route towns like Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, the winelands region, and perhaps a venture into the more laid-back coastal city of Port Elizabeth or the historic town of Grahamstown.


Johannesburg, often referred to as Jo'burg or Jozi, is a vibrant, fast-paced city known for its rich history and modern business district. With a population of over 5 million, it's the economic powerhouse of South Africa and offers a variety of lifestyles from trendy urban living to tranquil suburban comfort. Expats and digital nomads are drawn to areas like Sandton for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and amenities. The cost of living can vary greatly depending on the neighborhood, but generally, Johannesburg offers a reasonable standard of living compared to other global cities.

Travel Tip: While in Johannesburg, visit the Apartheid Museum to gain a deeper understanding of South Africa's history. For a culinary treat, try the local cuisine at Moyo restaurant, known for its African-inspired dishes.

Cape Town

Cape Town is a picturesque coastal city nestled between mountains and sea, boasting a more relaxed pace of life compared to Johannesburg. It's famous for its stunning landscapes, vibrant cultural scene, and outdoor activities. The city is home to a diverse population and has a strong expat community, particularly appealing to those seeking a balance between work and leisure. The cost of living is higher, especially in sought-after areas like the City Bowl, Camps Bay, and the Atlantic Seaboard. However, the quality of life is often considered worth the premium.

Travel Tip: Take a cable car ride up Table Mountain for breathtaking views of the city, and don't miss the chance to explore the historic V&A Waterfront, where you can dine at the famous Willoughby & Co for some of the best sushi in town.


Durban is known for its subtropical climate, warm Indian Ocean waters, and extensive beaches. It's a melting pot of cultures, with a significant Indian influence, evident in the city's cuisine and festivals. Expats and digital nomads enjoy the laid-back lifestyle and lower cost of living compared to Johannesburg and Cape Town. Durban is also a gateway to KwaZulu-Natal's game reserves and the Drakensberg mountains, making it ideal for nature lovers.

Travel Tip: Sample some of Durban's famous curry at the renowned restaurant, The Oyster Box, and take a stroll along the Golden Mile promenade to soak in the coastal vibe.

Garden Route Towns

The Garden Route is a scenic stretch along the south-eastern coast of South Africa, known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. Key towns to visit include Knysna, with its serene lagoon and forested surroundings, and Plettenberg Bay, a popular beach holiday destination. Both towns offer a relaxed lifestyle and are popular among retirees and those looking for a slower pace of life. The cost of living is moderate, and the quality of life is high, with access to nature and a strong sense of community.

Travel Tip: In Knysna, enjoy fresh oysters at the waterfront's 34 South restaurant, and in Plettenberg Bay, visit the Robberg Nature Reserve for a hike with stunning ocean views.

Winelands Region

The Cape Winelands region, with its rolling vineyards and historic estates, is a must-visit for wine enthusiasts and those seeking a tranquil lifestyle. Towns like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are known for their gourmet food and wine culture, as well as their picturesque settings. The area is popular among expats and retirees for its high quality of life, excellent schools, and relatively high but justifiable cost of living due to the premium environment.

Travel Tip: In Stellenbosch, visit the Tokara Wine Estate for a wine tasting with panoramic views, and in Franschhoek, dine at the world-renowned restaurant, La Petite Colombe, for an unforgettable culinary experience.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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