Are you thinking of moving to Cape Town? The coastal city is regularly voted among the most beautiful cities in the world. It has a vibrant, vital art scene, a melting-pot mix of cultures, a landscape like no other.
Cape Town is also a lot cheaper to live in than many international cities and has a climate many Northerners can only dream of. South Africans, too, have good reason to make the move. For adventure activities and culture, work opportunities, world-class education, and a good bit more. Of course, there are some cons along with the pros, which are vital to know when making such a big decision.
I’ve put together everything you need to consider in deciding whether or not to move to Cape Town, from education and work to safety and lifestyle. Along with the best neighbourhoods to move to!
There is so much to consider when moving to a new city, whether its in your home country or an entirely new country. There’s so much you want to know, so many questions!
If you’ve visited Cape Town before, you’ll know the answers to some of these – but visiting and staying in a place are two very different things. So, let’s jump into the internet’s most frequently asked questions about moving to Cape Town.
Cape Town is not the safest city in the world – that’s a fact. However, it’s a sprawling city, and most areas you’ll be considering are actually very safe, with good infrastructure, regular patrolling, and community support (like neighbourhood Whatsapp groups). If you know what to avoid, what to look out for, and where to stay, you’ll find it a safe and comfortable city!
If you’re considering the move to Cape Town, I’d recommend reading our full guide to safety in Cape Town.
People in Cape Town are very friendly. We’re a city of warm welcomes and bright smiles. Of course, not everyone will be friendly. There are tensions here that simmer at times, and like every city, we have rude people too. But you’ll find the overall atmosphere very open and positive!
Cape Town is a bit clicky. A fair few of the people you come across have enough friends and aren’t in search of more. However, there are also a lot of ways to make new friends here. Climbing gyms, trail running groups, community beach cleanups, and regular music festivals are a few great options!
In general, the work-life balance here is great. So if you have a hobby that can be done with others, you’ll find spaces where you can do that.
Expats predominantly live in neighbourhoods along the Atlantic Seaboard. If you’re young and social, Camps Bay , Zonnebloem and Gardens are fantastic suburbs. If you’re an expat looking for a family-minded, peaceful neighbourhood, you’ll want to look a little further out of the city, like Noordhoek or Kalk Bay.
The best places to live in Cape Town are along the Atlantic Seaboard, and in central neighbourhoods like Sea Point and Gardens. You’ll find a lot more info in the Where to live section below!
This very much depends on your lifestyle and whether you’re looking to buy or rent, as well as the neighbourhood you’re interested in. In general, though, consumer prices (rent included) are roughly 65% cheaper than in New York, 45% cheaper than in Munich, and 10% cheaper than in Lisbon. For more nuance, I find the crowdsourced data of Numbeo very helpful.
Finding a job in the city isn’t easy. South Africans are encouraged to prioritise our own population for employment opportunities – especially previously disadvantaged persons. The country also has a very high unemployment rate, so there are just not a lot of fields where you’ll find a gap.
However, the world of online work is growing exponentially! If you’re a digital nomad, you’ll find plenty of coworking spaces, shared offices, and cafes where you can work happily.
Cape Town is a very special place. Its restaurants and cafes are world-class, its wine estates and beer breweries are award-winning. The natural scenery is awe-inspiring, whether you’re looking out over ocean or mountain. Its people are friendly and inventive. The Cederberg, a mountain range just a little outside the city, offers world-renowned Rocklands bouldering, and such beautiful campsites. Honestly, the list goes on, but I think you get the picture!
Pros & cons of moving to South Africa
Moving to Cape Town certainly has its pros and cons. As someone with a German and a South African passport, I’ve given it a lot of thought, whether to live here or leave. So I’ve put together a deeply thought-through list that applies to the whole country and doesn’t hold back punches, so that you can make a well-informed decision.
- It’s fantastically beautiful for nature lovers
- We have mountains for climbing and hiking within the city
- And oceans for swimming, snorkelling, and world-class surfing
- The Western Cape alone has as much plant variety as the whole of Eurasia!
- Our marine life is exquisite
- Areas like Rocklands and the wider Cederberg are w0rld-renowned for climbing and hiking
- South Africans are hospitable, with a sense of humour sharpened by difficulty
- Property prices are very affordable by international standards
- Rental prices are also comparatively good
- Local vineyards, breweries and gin distilleries are world-class
- We have really good farmers, including ethical, pesticide-free and free-range farming, so you have access to fresh produce that doesn’t travel far and can be trusted
- Restaurants and cafes are super varied and of fantastic quality
- Locals are often involved in community improvement, with regular beach cleanups, marches, and initiatives
- There is relatively little governmental involvement in personal freedoms
- The city is relatively unsafe, although most threats are limited to certain spaces
- There’s a massive wealth disparity
- Corruption is present in all levels of government
- We have regular power outages, euphemistically called ‘loadshedding’
- The city is large and sprawling, with an incomplete public transport system
- We have far less visual history than Europe, so no ‘Old Town’ from centuries or millennia back
- Economic opportunities are limited and often feel stagnant, leading to young educated professionals leaving to seek work outside the country – called the ‘brain drain’
- Frustration with poverty and corruption, compounded by misinformation and racial tensions, can lead to rioting and looting, like the July 2021 riots
Moving to Cape Town, South Africa
Views of Cape Town from a Waterfront cruise
Now that you have the short of it, let’s go into the long! These are some of the factors you need to consider when making the move.
Of course, these considerations will look very different if you’re a broke student looking to study here for a few years, or a millionaire interested in settling down somewhere beautiful. But I’ve been both poor and well off in Cape Town, so I’ve done my best to provide handy information for everyone.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Cape Town very much depends on your habits and preferences. We’ve managed on R12 000 (760$) for two including rent. But for a more lavish lifestyle, a reasonable estimation is about R35 000 (1260$) for two.
Rent for one person ranges between R5 500 and R13 000, while for a family of four you can expect to pay R15 000 to R40 000.
A week’s worth of shopping for one costs up to R1 000 (although during my student days I could make R100 stretch two weeks, so it’s all relative!). A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs about R250 for two people, while a mid-range restaurant will put you back around R900. You can check out Numbeo for a pretty good estimation of the various costs.
I’ve updated these prices in February 2024.
Cape Town is mostly geared towards cars, with wide roads and easy to navigate routes. Because of the focus on private transport, there can be pretty heavy traffic at peak times. But the city has been working with businesses to stagger work hours so that people are travelling at different times.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure for electric cars hasn’t picked up yet, and petrol prices are consistently going up. So what are your public transport alternatives?
We have Uber, a reliable and reasonably priced way to get around when it’s too far to walk. We have taxis, which are very cheap but whose drivers take risks on the road and are famously dangerous drivers. Much of the city (but not the south-western coast) is crisscrossed by trains, but these are unreliable and can be genuinely unsafe, particularly in the evenings. And then our best option is the MyCiti bus, a safe, reliable and well-maintained method of transportation. These buses don’t go to the Southern Suburbs, but much of the city is easily within reach with them.
Read more about Cape Town’s public transport options!
The lifestyle in Cape Town is fantastic. There are so many outdoor activities to enjoy, whether you have money or not. We also have a pretty big focus on exercise and socialising, so you can find running groups, climbing communities, mountain clubs, etc. to introduce you to the city and build friendships.
Cape Town’s restaurants and cafes are incredible, with a wealth of healthy options all over the city. We also have craft markets, exciting nightlife, and regular musical, ballet, comedy, and theatre performances. It’s a fantastically beautiful city – a factor increasingly thought to have a big impact on quality of life. Finally, Cape Town is a great place to live a sustainable and low-footprint lifestyle – particularly if you live in a walkable neighbourhood like Sea Point.
Safety is one of the main concerns in Cape Town, and South Africa in general. We have bad statistics for violence, murder, sexual abuse, and theft.
So that’s the bad news. However, these crimes are mostly confined to gang crime, primarily within the overcrowded, under-policed communities on the outskirts of Cape Town. So while crime remains a big problem, it’s not one that affects most Capetonians to the extent you’d expect.
That being said, you will need to be a lot more conscious of danger in Cape Town than you would in much of the world. It’s not safe to walk alone at night, and even during the day you’ll want to avoid quiet streets or dingy areas if you’re not in a group. Homes are pretty universally set up with alarms and electric fences – or barbed wire if that’s over budget. Communities also have whatsapp groups to share news on break ins and loitering characters.
You can check out my post on safety in Cape Town for a more in-depth look.
My view in Mowbray, one of the cheaper student neighbourhoods
Property prices are wide-ranging depending on where you want to live in Cape Town. The city is comparatively well-priced, but if you’re looking for a central house near the sea or on the mountain, you’ll pay international prices. If you’re looking for a space a little out of the city, like in Hermanus or Stellenbosch, prices are substantially lower.
Prices are also lower in areas like Muizenberg and Blouberg – both on the ocean, but they’re not central.
Because the city is so sprawling, you can easily find property with a large garden and plenty of space. However, if you intend to live near the city center, you’ll have a choice of apartments and houses with small, compact gardens.
The city’s apartments often have the best views because of the elevation. If you’re moving to Cape Town, I’d recommend renting a central apartment for six months, and using that time to check out neighbourhoods before you consider buying a house. Our neighbourhoods are very different from one another!
Cape Town has both private and public healthcare available. Many services at public sector clinics and community health centres are free for everyone. At hospitals, most services are only free for households that earn under R100,000.
The main complaint about public healthcare is long wait times. I’ve always had to wait a few hours, even when arriving early. Other complaints are unavailable medicines and inconvenient opening times – and, in some cases, inadequately clean facilities.
Private healthcare is also available everywhere. This is a relatively well-priced option with usually no waiting times and great facilities. You can also get medical aid which covers private healthcare.
Schools and education
Cape Town’s schooling options are excellent. We have a number of international schools, but a good portion of the national public schools, like Westerford, Rondebosch High and Camps Bay High are also great options. They’re also substantially cheaper than the international ones.
The city has quite a few Montessori schools, and even a few more experimental styles of schooling. So you’ve got options!
And then with universities, we have the University of Cape Town. This is my alma mater, and it’s long held the position of best university on the continent. Further out of the city sits one of the continent’s other top universities, Stellenbosch. Also very much worth checking out! In addition, we have a number of niched-down creative universities and colleges, so you’ll want to have a good look at your options.
Working in Cape Town
Glenn tutoring from home in our Gardens apartment
Cape Town has a solid business sector, with plenty of jobs in the engineering and education fields and a strong entrepreneur drive. BBBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) is a national initiative that favours people of colour and previously disadvantaged individuals for employment, so it can be difficult for foreigners to find a position. You’ll also earn less than you would in much of Europe and America – but you’ll spend less too.
On the other hand, international work is on the rise in Cape Town. We have fast internet, and international companies are finding a wealth of South Africans capable of doing great work, while being largely first-language English. As a result, work-from-home opportunities are everywhere, particularly where you’re being paid by a foreign company. And most find that even a relatively low dollar, pound, or euro salary translates into a very healthy standard of living in Cape Town. Most of our friends, at this point, are employed by international companies – great for our local economy!
Our creative industries are thriving, with small-scale slow fashion brands, writers, artists and creators of all kinds finding strong support from the community. So competition is also high, but if you have something unique to contribute in the creative fields, you’re likely to find your niche!
Where to live in Cape Town
When you’re living in Cape Town, you’ll find that some neighbourhoods are safer than others, and living on the coast means you’ll have an extra hour of sunlight as compared to the other side of Table Mountain.
So with that little note in mind, what are the best neighbourhoods to live in Cape Town?
For a central stay and good prices
Our old Gardens apartment view of Table Mountain
We lived in Gardens for two years and it was a wonderful place to stay. You’re right in the city center, with easy walks to the Company’s Gardens, museums, and Long Street. It’s not safe to walk around at night (although you should take caution in general). But you have easy access to every part of the city! You could also get a view like the above picture, as you’re looking straight-on at Table Mountain.
For a young, vibrant culture and coastal views
Our current Sea Point apartment’s garden view
I live in Sea Point, and it is such a beautiful, busy area! You have Signal Hill behind you, perfect for walking the dogs or going for a run. And Sea Point Promenade lines the coast, where you can spend over an hour strolling along, surrounded by cyclists, walkers, doggies, and good vibes. There are dozens of fantastic cafes with strong coffee, and plenty of restaurants, including some great vegan ones.
Apartment prices are relatively high here, but not excessive, and you’re a lot more likely to find an apartment in a block than a house with a garden. So it’s definitely best for young professionals and new families.
For older families and people concerned with safety
The Cape Peninsula is another great part of the city – particularly for families. You’ll be far away from the social hub of the central city, but as compensation, you’re surrounded by nature, with beautiful surf and snorkelling spots, and close communities. The Cape Peninsula is also the safest broad area in Cape Town, because of how comparatively remote it is! Finally, you can get a larger property here for your budget than anywhere else in the city.
For families and nature lovers keen to stay close to the city
Hout Bay is such a beautiful neighbourhood, nice and isolated so that it feels like its own little village. It’s a mountainous area, so you’ll be surrounded by greenery, and you can get perfect views of the ocean and mountains.
This neighbourhood is accessible by public transport with the MyCiti bus. It’s also right next to Constantia, the wine region! And on the other side, the surfing paradise of Llandudno. There’s also some great hiking! One thing to note when looking at property here is that the North side of Hout Bay gets about an hour less sunlight than the Southern side.
For greenery and student vibes
Newlands is a fantastic place for hikers and nature lovers to live. Newlands Park is right there, with the starting point of multiple Table Mountain hiking trails to be found here. It’s an area mostly zoned for single-family homes, so you can find a spot with lots of space. Because of UCT’s proximity, it’s also a popular student neighbourhood. So it’s a great place to get a room in a shared home if you’re looking for some community and low prices.
The sun goes down pretty early here, as Newlands sits right at the base of the mountain – so do expect slightly chillier weather and very little sunset views.
It’s also worth checking out other parts of the Southern Suburbs like Observatory and Woodstock if you’re considering affordability and centrality.
For luxury apartments and beach days
Camps Bay is famous in Cape Town for its beautiful beach and busy coastal hub. The main road overlooking the ocean is lined with stylish restaurants and bars, always full. It’s a very fashionable area, so prices are very high, but if you’re keen to be in the center of things and surrounded by luxury, this is the spot.
For well-priced homes and good surf
Muizenberg is Cape Town’s main beach neighbourhood. It’s a great place to learn to surf because of the long beach and the various surfing schools here. You can even rent out a board if you’re not ready to invest in your own yet!
Muizenberg has a solid number of affordable homes, with apartments, rooms in shared houses, and a few houses available. It’s got a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of restaurants and cafes around.
Making the move to Cape Town
So, now you have just about all the information you need to make your choice. This post has been primarily geared towards international expats, simply because South Africans will know a lot more about the city and its pros and cons. I hope you’ve found it as interesting to read as I found it to put together.
Have I missed anything out? And have you recently made the move to Cape Town? I would love to hear what you think!