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Excerpted from the South Africa Career Guide

Cost of Living

South Africa is very affordable for expatriates. The cost of living (including rent) in Johannesburg, for example, is 57 percent cheaper than in New York City. Domestic purchasing power (which compares prices to average wages to assess a country’s affordability) in South Africa is less than two-thirds of that in the US. But while a pint of beer costs only 25 percent of what it does in the US, a pair of Levis jeans costs a bit more than in the US.


The cost of housing in South Africa varies substantially depending on the region. As one would expect, city housing is more expensive than rural lodging, and gated expatriate housing is far costlier than housing outside those compounds. Nonetheless, living in South Africa remains eminently affordable for expats.

Many expatriates rent accommodations when living in South Africa. While furnished apartments and unfurnished houses are readily available for foreign nationals in South Africa, it can be hard to find a furnished house. The biggest challenge for expatriates, however, can be finding suitable quality property in a secure location.


South Africa boasts one of the most modern and extensive transportation infrastructures on the African continent in terms of roads, railway systems and seaports. But, it is still very much a developing country, and that fact is evident in the country’s lack of infrastructure for public transportation. Although there are rail links between major cities and airports, sometimes a car is the only way to get from one location to another.

The majority of South Africans depend on public transportation (by minibus taxi, railway or bus). Still, public transportation is, in many instances, not suitable for international travelers.

Medical Care and Insurance

South Africa offers both private and public health care systems, but the gap between the two is large. Although the public system serves the vast majority of the population, it is chronically underfunded and understaffed. Anyone moving to South Africa should have a private health insurance plan in place in the event of a health emergency. Malaria risks exist in some provinces, and tuberculosis has become an increasingly serious health concern. More than 10 percent of adults are HIV positive, and young women are disproportionately affected.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete South Africa Guide.

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