Johannesburg, South Africa
Last updated on Feb 02, 2023
Summary: The approximate population of Johannesburg, South Africa is 5.6 million people. People often describe Johannesburg as a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a unique energy and a diverse culture. Expats love the city's many attractions, including its lively nightlife, its excellent restaurants, and its many cultural and historical sites. The weather in Johannesburg is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit (10-30 Celsius). The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,500 to $2,000 per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment is around $600 to $800 per month, while a two bedroom apartment is around $800 to $1,200 per month.
What do I need to know about living in Johannesburg?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Johannesburg, they said:
"Before retiring in Johannesburg, it is important to familiarize yourself with the cost of living, healthcare system, cultural atmosphere, and legal requirements surrounding expats residing in the city. You should also consider the crime rate, climate and cultural diversities, entertainment and recreational activities available, reliable internet and other necessities, active expat and retiree communities, and various expat resources available. It is also important to possess any necessary paperwork, residence permits, visas and other necessary documentation. Finally, you should coordinate any necessary financial arrangements related to investing, taxes, inheritance, and insurance," said another person in Johannesburg.
"The biggest concern for this country is crime. You have to be careful and have to sacrifice a bit of freedom in terms of moving out," remarked another expat in Johannesburg.
What do I need to know before moving to Johannesburg?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Johannesburg, they said:
"It is important to highly consider the safety in Johannesburg before making the move. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the high crime rates in certain districts and the security that is available to help protect against it. Johannesburg offers a diverse culture, however the city is quite multicultural and different languages may be present in different areas. The city has many parks and attractions to explore, but it is recommended to bring your own transportation, as public transportation is lacking. Johannesburg offers many job opportunities, however it is recommended to look into the cost of living as it can be quite expensive. Finally, it is important to also be aware of the South African visa requirements and documents that are necessary in order to legally stay in the city for long periods of time," added another person living in Johannesburg.
How do I find a place to live in Johannesburg?
We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:
"To find a place to live in Johannesburg, you can try searching on real estate websites such as Property24 or Private Property, which have listings of places to rent or buy in the city. You can also contact rental agencies that specialize in helping people to find housing in Johannesburg. Additionally, many universities and private schools will have listings of accommodation in the city, so you may want to check with those as well. Lastly, you can also conduct a search on classifieds websites, as these may have current listings for rental properties in the area," said another expat in Johannesburg.
What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Johannesburg?
"A typical expat home or apartment in Johannesburg is likely to be located in one of the more affluent neighbourhoods around the city such as Sandton, Parktown North or Houghton. The properties here are generally larger homes or spacious apartments with a range of facilities such as balconies, terraces and swimming pools. They come with a lot of privacy, parking and often boast stunning views across the city. The apartments usually come with modern, stylish interiors and interior fittings, including stainless steel appliances and designer furniture. Most buildings have a 24/7 security and CCTV for extra reassurance and safety," said another person in Johannesburg.
What is the average cost of housing in Johannesburg?
If you are thinking about moving to Johannesburg, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:
"The average cost of housing in Johannesburg varies depending on the location and type of housing. Costs generally range from moderately affordable to expensive," added another person living in Johannesburg.
How do I meet people in Johannesburg?
When we asked people living in Johannesburg about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:
"There are many activities and places to meet people in Johannesburg. Attending local events and festivals, using online platforms such as Meetup, getting involved in local hobby or sports groups, joining local clubs and organizations, checking out bars and pubs, or going to popular parks and other public areas are all great ways to meet people in Johannesburg. Networking is also key - attending professional or alumni events, or joining a local business accelerator can be great ways to make connections and expand your network," said another person in Johannesburg.
"I would suggest either an involvement with the Women's International Club or a similar group. I am not personally involved with any such groups, but have found I have met many people through going to the gym. Also, if you have children, you can always get involved with the school (generally) and meet other parents that way," remarked another expat in Johannesburg.
What should I bring when moving to Johannesburg?
People living in Johannesburg were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:
"Clothing suitable for warm weather, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellant, a universal adapter, laptop or tablet, prescription medication, important documents, small and medium-sized lockable suitcase, durable and waterproof luggage, international health insurance, credit/debit cards, accessible local currency, maps and guidebooks, flashlights/torches, flashlight/torch batteries, a first aid kit, snacks, a water bottle, camera or camera equipment, locks for suitcases, toiletry items, and any items that will add comfort to your new home," remarked another expat in Johannesburg.
Where should I setup a bank account in Johannesburg?
We asked expats in Johannesburg what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:
"Many banks in Johannesburg offer bank accounts, including Nedbank, First National Bank, Standard Bank, and Absa. It is important to shop around to find the best account and services to suit your needs. Additionally, some banks may offer special promotions or sign-up bonuses. It is also important to ensure that the bank offers the services you require, such as online banking and international money transfers, before selecting an account," remarked another expat in Johannesburg.
"None of the major UK banks have personal banking in SA and I only managed to open a non-res account via FNB on the recommendation of Intergate Immigration," explained one expat living in Johannesburg.
Will I be able to find a job in Johannesburg?
When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Johannesburg, they reponded:
"Yes, Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city and economic hub with a wide range of businesses and industries. The city has a thriving job market offering a variety of positions in finance, technology, and the corporate, hospitality and retail industries. Furthermore, there are many international and local companies with offices in Johannesburg offering employment opportunities in their specific sector," added another person living in Johannesburg.
"The main industries are extremely diverse from mining to banking as well as the fact that Joburg is probably the capital of southern Africa which brings in all the embassies, the UN, etc. I'm not sure how difficult it would be for a person trying to move here without a job. Because of affirmative action and Black Empowerment, finding a job (unless you are previously disadvantaged in this country) is probably tricky," explained one expat living in Johannesburg.
What is life like in Johannesburg?
When we asked people living in Johannesburg what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:
"Life as an expat in my area is full of opportunities and experiences. There are many cultural activities, events and outdoor activities to enjoy, from local festivals to outdoor adventure trails and camping in the wilderness. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the region is known for its hospitality and unique blend of traditional and modern lifestyles. The people are always eager to share their stories and experiences with out of towners and welcome them into their communities. Additionally, there are a wide range of coworking spaces, cafes and restaurants to explore, as well as a variety of educational and volunteer opportunities that can help get an expat connected and settled in the city. Overall, life as an expat in my area is an exciting and enjoyable experience full of discovery, connection, and opportunity," added another person living in Johannesburg.
"Work seems to be the general feel of Johannesburg..... accented with lots of holidays during the 'festive' season (Dec & Jan). People are quite social on the weekends and plan large all day 'braiis' (barbeques) with loads of families and loads of food and drink. Going to the 'bush' is also important when one can take the time," explained one expat living in Johannesburg.
What do expats in Johannesburg appreciate most about the local culture?
"Expatriates in Johannesburg tend to appreciate the hospitality of the local culture, the variety of cultures represented, the diverse range of activities available, the charm of the city’s architecture, the vibrant music and art scene, the delicious foods and cuisines, as well as the beautiful natural surroundings," said another person in Johannesburg.
What do expats find most challenging?
"Adjusting to a new culture, language barriers, understanding and following local customs, making friends and contacts, finding employment, dealing with bureaucracy, finding suitable accommodation, missing family members and friends, adapting to a different lifestyle, and dealing with differences in the cost of living," said another person in Johannesburg.
Is there a lot of crime in Johannesburg?
We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:
"Yes, Johannesburg has a high crime rate and is faced with many security challenges. The city sees a range of serious crimes, including armed robberies, muggings, burglaries, carjackings, and home invasions," added another person living in Johannesburg.
Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Johannesburg accepting of differences?
"Johannesburg is home to a diverse population, with a large percentage of South Africans of different backgrounds and a substantial number of immigrants from other African countries and around the globe. This diversity is further reflected in the variety of cultures, religions and languages that are on display in the city. The people of Johannesburg are generally welcoming and accepting of diversity. There is an open attitude towards cultural and social differences; a spirit of active participation and inclusion; and a determined effort to foster cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration," remarked another expat in Johannesburg.
"Its a very diverse culture. people are tolerant with cultural issues and do recognise the differences," explained one expat living in Johannesburg.
What are the schools in Johannesburg like?
"Schools in Johannesburg vary widely in size, type and quality. The country has a range of state-funded and private institutions including primary, secondary, and tertiary education, as well as a range of specialist and technical schools. State schools are very diverse in terms of academic performance and resources, while private schools usually boast excellent facilities and services. Johannesburg also has some of the most prestigious international schools in the world. Depending on the area, schools in Johannesburg vary in terms of infrastructure and extracurricular activities offered. Some state-funded schools are well-equipped with classrooms and equipment, while others may not have the same level of resources," explained one expat living in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"Johannesburg offers a variety of educational options for its students. The city has a number of public and private primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, as well as a large number of international schools. Public schools in Johannesburg tend to be well-maintained, modern institutions with a focus on providing students with a good education. Private schools are more exclusive and may require tuition fees. International schools often offer curriculums based on the UK, US or other countries, as well as the independent Cambridge curriculum or International Baccalaureate," said another parent with children at in Johannesburg.
About the Author
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.