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Moving to Johannesburg

Johannesburg (or Joburg, as the city is commonly known) is the rhythmic centre at the heart of South Africa. Expats moving to Johannesburg will find themselves not only in the country's economic engine room, but also in one of the foremost financial centres in Africa.

Well known for its role in South Africa's tumultuous history, the city is founded on gold, dust, contrast and conflict. The pace of life in Joburg can be frenetic as business people pursue their ambitions and consumers shop with apparent abandon. The nickname eGoli, given to the city by locals, means 'place of gold' and refers not just to the gold found below the ground but also the proliferation of wealth above it.

Despite its industrial reputation for mining and commerce, Joburg is not without its own unique brand of natural beauty. Its affluent neighbourhoods are spacious, leafy and quiet, and beyond the electrified fences one can find landscaped gardens of pastoral splendour.

Expat families can enjoy outdoor outings to a range of destinations such as the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve and Zoo Lake. The Highveld game and nature reserves outside the city also provide an opportunity for expats to get in touch with nature and experience the country's iconic grasslands and wildlife.

That said, many Joburg locals looking for entertainment simply head to the city's mega malls for shopping, socialising, movies and excellent eateries.

There are, however, a few downsides to life in 'Jozi'. It is a fast-paced, vibrant metropolis characterised by continuous growth, but the shadows of its wealth hide an underside marred by crime and poverty. Kamikaze-like minibus taxis, which function as the most commonly used public transport, are a constant source of irritation and danger on the roads, while walking in certain areas is also inadvisable due to safety concerns. 

And yet, for many, the city remains a beloved land of opportunity which continues to attract thousands of expats and locals chasing career advancement and hopes of a better standard of living. 

Expats often remark on the ideal climate that Johannesburg enjoys, and the weather certainly is one of the major attractions for many people moving to Joburg. Summer is characterised by hot, clear days and spectacular late-afternoon thunderstorms, while its frosty winter mornings resolve into dry, warm days.

For those who can afford to live in the relative safety of its wealthy suburbs, Johannesburg offers an exceptionally high standard of living coupled with great economic opportunity.

Weather in Johannesburg

The weather in Johannesburg is one of its biggest attractions. For the most part, the city enjoys a mild and comfortable climate, though the summer months of December to February can bring uncomfortably hot and humid conditions. Luckily, from November to January, afternoon thunderstorms are frequent occurrences, providing relief from the heat in the form of heavy rain that disappears as quickly as it arrives.

Winters, on the other hand, are generally dry and cold, particularly at night and in the mornings. Frost and hailstorms are occasional occurrences during the winter months. With conditions being at their driest in August, there is the risk of wildfires, but this rarely affects suburban residents.

 

Pros and cons of moving to Johannesburg

For many, the opportunity to earn a high salary while enjoying a good quality of life at a low cost of living outweighs even the most unsettling downsides to living in Johannesburg. The city centre may not be as beautiful as its counterpart in Cape Town, and it may have a reputation of crime, but there are certainly many compelling reasons to move to Johannesburg.

Here are a few of the pros and cons of living in the City of Gold. 


Accommodation in Johannesburg

+ PRO: Affordable accommodation

The cost of accommodation in Johannesburg might seem expensive at first, but in comparison with housing in Cape Town, expats can get more for their money.

While Capetonians may have beautiful natural scenery, Johannesburg neighbourhoods are wonderfully leafy, many of the houses in Joburg’s suburbs have wonderfully tended gardens, cultivating a sense of natural beauty in even the densest of areas and adding value to real estate in the city for prospective renters and buyers.


Lifestyle in Johannesburg

+ PRO: Excellent shopping opportunities

The variety and size of the malls in Johannesburg mean that the city offers arguably the best shopping experience on the continent. Shoppers can dine and gamble at Monte Casino, browse the designer boutiques of Sandton City or source organic food and local crafts at one of the city’s many acclaimed markets.

Aside from the quality of the experiences to be had at individual shopping centres across the city, the general quantity of shopping centres is also a plus and means that there will always be a mall of some kind within short driving distance.

+ PRO: Large range of activities

There’s a lot to see and do in Johannesburg, even though the city is better known for work than leisure. Aside from its shopping malls, it has a rich history celebrated through a variety of museums and memorials such as the Apartheid Museum, the Mandela House in Soweto and Museum Africa in Newtown.

Nature lovers don’t have to travel far out of the city to get a safari fix, with the famous Lion Park just 45 minutes away. There are natural attractions in the city as well, including the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, Emmarentia Dam, the Johannesburg Zoo and Zoo Lake.


Safety in Johannesburg

- CON: High crime rates

While the media has a tendency to sensationalise and people often do exaggerate about the levels of safety in Johannesburg, crime is a fairly common occurrence and is a cause for caution. Most violent and sexual crimes in the city happen in impoverished areas that the majority of expats will never venture into. Petty theft, car break-ins, muggings and home invasions are real threats, however. To a lesser extent, but still a much larger extent than most expats will be used to, carjackings and theft are also known to occur.

+ PRO: Private security is world class

South Africa has a large private security industry. With fast response times, integrated alarm systems and a range of specialised services available, hiring a private security firm is the most effective way to guard against crime in Johannesburg. There has also been an increase in the number of gated communities around the city, which often have full-time security and are therefore safer than free-standing houses.


Working and doing business in Johannesburg

+ PRO: Business is always booming

One of the top financial hubs of Africa, Johannesburg is home to the headquarters of a large number of local and international businesses and corporations. People from all over move to the city for professional opportunities, and many people find them.

- CON: Long drive home

Getting around in Johannesburg requires a car. The traffic in the city can feel endless and during peak periods, motorists can expect as much as 45 minutes to be added to their commute.

Working in Johannesburg

Working in Johannesburg means being employed in the commercial centre of South Africa. The city is home to some of the country's core industries, including mining, finance and telecommunications. There is no better city in South Africa to settle in for expats looking to advance their careers in a work environment that is fast-paced, competitive and demanding.


Job market in Johannesburg

With countless numbers of locals descending upon the city in search of work, the unemployment rate in Johannesburg is high. The majority of unemployed people in the city are, however, unskilled. Conversely, there is a shortage of workers in skilled sectors such as executive management, accounting, finance, medicine and engineering – meaning that there are many opportunities available to qualified and experienced expats whose skills are in demand.


Finding a job in Johannesburg

Expats moving to Johannesburg without a job offer will need to be resourceful and creative. Try to tap into as many word-of-mouth networks as possible – there is often a spirit of understanding between expats in the city and many are willing to assist each other when they can. To this end, networking with members of already established expat groups in Johannesburg could be very beneficial to new arrivals in the city.

Alternatively, there are several well-respected job recruitment websites, and expats can also look through local newspapers to find job advertisements. Recruitment companies may also be able to assist.

Expats are required to have a work visa to take up employment in Johannesburg.


Work culture in Johannesburg

As a more business-oriented city than Cape Town, Johannesburg's work culture is comparatively formal. There is more emphasis on presenting oneself well, though full suits aren't usually necessary on a day-to-day basis.

As in the rest of the country, openness and friendliness are valued alongside professionalism. A sense of ambition and friendly competition is a key feature of work culture in Johannesburg.

Cost of Living in Johannesburg

The cost of living in Johannesburg is around half that of European cities such as London and Paris. While the average salary in Johannesburg is comparatively lower, the city is still fairly low cost compared to many expat destinations in the world. The 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Johannesburg at 192nd out of 209 cities worldwide. Cape Town is slightly more expensive, coming in at 187th.

Compared to other cities in South Africa, expats in Johannesburg generally enjoy a higher standard of living as a result of having higher purchasing power, especially when it comes to renting and buying housing.


Cost of accommodation in Johannesburg

The pricing of housing in Johannesburg is very reasonable, and expats' money will go much further here than in Cape Town. Johannesburg housing is not only cheaper but often roomier.

Accommodation costs in Johannesburg are also affected by the area or suburb expats choose to live in. High-income city-centre areas such as Sandton are notoriously pricey, while slightly less glamorous but still pleasant areas like Randburg can offer great value for money.


Cost of groceries in Johannesburg

The cost of day-to-day grocery shopping in Johannesburg is similar to that of most South African cities, with the same popular chain stores being present throughout the country. On the affordable side is Checkers, while Woolworths is generally most expensive. Pick n Pay falls somewhere between the two.


Cost of transport in Johannesburg

With cars being the main mode of transport in Johannesburg, it's important to consider expenses such as the cost of petrol and maintenance. In South Africa, petrol in coastal cities is slightly cheaper than petrol in inland cities such as Johannesburg. Beyond this, transport expenses in Johannesburg are largely the same as those in Cape Town.


Cost of healthcare in Johannesburg

As the public healthcare system is generally considered inadequate, most expats will do as locals do and opt for private healthcare services instead. Though trips to the GP are reasonably priced, specialist treatment, surgery, hospital stays and chronic medication costs can be high. To cover these extra expenses, we advise that expats take out a comprehensive medical aid policy with either a local or international health insurance provider.


Cost of living in South Africa chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Johannesburg in January 2021.

Accommodation

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 13,000 - 16,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 10,000 - 13,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 6,000 - 10,000

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 5,000 - 7,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

ZAR 31

Milk (1 litre)

ZAR 17

Rice (1kg)

ZAR 23

Loaf of white bread

ZAR 15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ZAR 80

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ZAR 45

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

ZAR 57

Coca-Cola (330ml)

ZAR 15

Cappuccino 

ZAR 28

Local beer (500ml)

ZAR 35

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

ZAR 600

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

ZAR 1.70

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ZAR 950

Basic utilities (per month for small household)

ZAR 1,000 - 1,500

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

ZAR 12

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

ZAR 35

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

ZAR 15

Accommodation in Johannesburg

One of Johannesburg's biggest drawcards is its accommodation options. Houses in Joburg are generally big and often come with a patio, a spacious garden and a swimming pool, all of which are highly useful in the city's sweltering summers. Expats looking for a home in the City of Gold will certainly get a lot of bang for their buck – here, money goes a lot further than it does in pretty-but-pricey Cape Town.

House hunting should be one of the fun parts for expats relocating to Johannesburg. Before the hunt for housing begins though, expats should decide on the aspects most important to them. Most expats tend to rent rather than buy property, at least initially or if they'll only be living in Johannesburg for a short time.


Types of accommodation in Johannesburg

Size is one of the key considerations in choosing accommodation. As is often the case, the size of a family should determine the size of their accommodation. Most expats do, however, live in bigger houses in South Africa than they would at home.

Freestanding houses

Mostly found in the suburbs of Johannesburg, freestanding houses are spacious and usually have at least two or three bedrooms. These homes tend to have large gardens, either in a wraparound form enclosing the house or split into distinct frontyard and backyard areas.

Expats opting for this kind of accommodation should bear in mind that, generally speaking, freestanding houses protected by nothing more than a fence are the least secure kind of accommodation. Expats can improve their home security by ensuring the house has an alarm, is fully fitted with burglar bars on all doors and that the house's surrounding fences can't be easily breached.

Apartments

Locally known as 'flats', apartments are smaller units of accommodation situated within one building. They may be bachelor style with the main living area also acting as a kitchen and bedroom, or they may be larger with several bedrooms and a separate living area. Most apartment blocks have controlled access, making them a bit safer than freestanding houses.

Townhouses

Townhouses are units of accommodation connected to an adjacent home on either one side (semi-detached) or both sides (rowhouses). To maximise floorspace, townhouses often have more than one storey. These are more affordable and more compact than standalone houses, which may suit younger expats well.

Security complexes

The most secure types of housing are those in security complexes. They are protected by high walls, security cameras, and professional security guards that monitor access around the clock. The peace of mind provided by these gated communities is the reason most expats choose to live in them. Another perk is the sense of community as well as having access to numerous shared amenities.


Finding accommodation in Johannesburg

Once an expat has narrowed down their wish list to a target area, they can then approach an estate agent. Some of the larger companies serve the entire Johannesburg area, but there are also smaller ones specialising in certain estates.

It is also possible to find accommodation without the aid of an estate agent by browsing through online classifieds and local newspapers.


Renting accommodation in Johannesburg

Making an application

To apply for a rental, expats will need to submit copies of their passport, bank statements, proof of income and references. Most expats will of course not have rental histories in South Africa, but a solid reference from one's employer can be a good substitution.

Length of lease

The standard lease is 12 months, though they can be shorter or longer by agreement with the landlord. In some cases, if a tenant has been reliable, the landlord may be keen to renew the lease for a further 12 months at the end of the initial lease period.

Deposit

Most landlords will expect a deposit equivalent to one or two months' rent. If the rental property is returned in good condition at the end of the lease, tenants will receive the deposit back in full.

Utilities

Utilities such as electricity are usually an additional expense for renters and are not included in the cost of rent. However, it's not uncommon for the cost of rent to include other, more minor expenses such as water and refuse.

Areas and Suburbs in Johannesburg

The best places to live in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a large and sprawling city and the accommodation options are endless. No matter where an expat ends up living, they will enjoy one of the greenest urban centres in the world, which combines the feel of being surrounded by nature with the convenience of a large metropolitan area and all of its modern comforts.

Given the size of the city, making the right decision regarding one's living arrangements is crucial. The two main commercial areas for expats are the city centre, which is a hub for mining, commerce and government, and Sandton, where many industries, including financial services and media, are located.

Public transport is often not a viable option so getting from home to office and back almost certainly entails driving on Johannesburg’s congested roads. It is not uncommon for locals to spend up to three hours a day in rush hour traffic – so expats choosing a residential area are well advised to find somewhere close to their place of work and/or their children’s school. Many expats choose to live in houses within secure cluster developments.


Recommended areas and suburbs in Johannesburg

Bryanston Jacarandas

Sunninghill, Lonehill and Fourways

Characterised by large concentrations of security estates, these well-established neighbourhoods are popular with expats. There is a host of good private schools to choose from, and many options for shopping, entertainment, healthcare and recreation.

While the Sunninghill, Lonehill and Fourways areas are fairly close to Sandton, expats shouldn't be fooled – traffic going that way will be extremely congested with daily commuters.

Sandton and Bryanston

In the last few decades, Sandton has replaced central Johannesburg as the city's hub of business and commerce, which means that many corporate headquarters, banks and large hotels are located there. As a general rule, the closer one gets to Sandton, the more expensive housing becomes, so expect to pay a premium in this area.

Bryanston along the northern edge is slightly less expensive, and is mostly known for its beautiful freestanding homes on tree-lined streets that explode in a purple sea of blooming jacarandas in late spring. Further to the south, one finds stately homes as well as apartment complexes in Morningside, Sandown and Hyde Park. This area also has a large concentration of well-respected private hospitals.

Randburg

Much quieter and less ritzy than Sandton, this area is nevertheless ideal in many ways: it's close to Sandton, the centre of Randburg has its own assortment of businesses, the nearby Cresta shopping centre is one of Joburg’s largest, and expats will get much more bang for their buck when it comes to accommodation prices.

The leafy suburban streets of Randburg are filled with spacious homes and gardens in close proximity to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam (perfect for dog walking and summer picnics). Randburg is a large area with lots of variety, and housing here is significantly cheaper than areas such as Sandton. Generally, it's good for families as well as apartment dwellers.

Northcliff and Melville

These are older and more established suburbs with some of Johannesburg’s most beautiful scenery. Northcliff Hill with its winding roads and attractive homes nestled on the slopes is especially stunning, while Melville is trendier and has a bohemian feel. It’s definitely one of the most diverse neighbourhoods of Johannesburg, perhaps fuelled by the proximity of two universities. Here expats will encounter a lively nightlife scene, plenty of street cafes, antique shops and unique restaurants, as well as the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve with its beautiful walks and views.

Linden, Parkhurst and Greenside

Parkhurst and Greenside are some of the city's nightlife hotspots, while Emmarentia Dam and Zoo Lake offer beautiful scenery and recreation right within the city. Centrally located within easy reach of both central Johannesburg and Sandton, Parkhurst and Linden's comfortable family homes are set in well-established gardens surrounded by some of Joburg’s most beautiful trees. Linden is also fast becoming a trendy nightlife spot with more and more pubs and restaurants popping up.

Parkhurst, especially, is a trendy neighbourhood where one can find eclectic coffee shops, bakeries, interior design boutiques, antique dealers and some of the best restaurants in Johannesburg.

Rosebank and Parktown

Expats who find a home in Rosebank or Parktown will be living at one of the city’s best addresses in close proximity to some of its oldest and best schools. The homes here are sizeable and dignified, set on large properties, and residents are close to the popular, sprawling Johannesburg Zoo.

Bedfordview

Located on the East Rand but still not far from the city centre, Bedfordview is ideally located for business travellers flying in and out of the nearby OR Tambo International Airport on a regular basis. It offers quiet, spacious and safe estate living in another one of Joburg’s leafy tree-lined areas, and is also conveniently located close to multiple shopping centres.

Maboneng, Newtown and Braamfontein

Most expats wouldn't dream of moving into Joburg’s city centre, given its bad reputation and the crime problems of areas such as Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville. However, just like in other big cities, this area has lately undergone some urban rejuvenation and many hail the Maboneng Precinct, Newtown and Braamfontein as the places to be, especially for single professionals and couples without children. There are plenty of renovated apartments and lofts available with good security, beautiful views, amazing nightlife and shopping within walking distance, and the campus of Wits University is just around the corner.

 

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Domestic help in Johannesburg

Hiring domestic help in Johannesburg may not be at the top of an expat's to-do list, especially if they’re from a country where full-time maids and gardeners are not affordable.

However, since most expats living in Johannesburg employ at least part-time domestic help, it's a good idea to prepare for this aspect of expat life in order to avoid a few common mistakes.

Domestic help is available in many different areas in Johannesburg. Some expats employ a live-in nanny for their small children, a few might need a driver to take them to and from work, or they may want somebody to do the cooking for them.


Hiring a housekeeper in Johannesburg

Most commonly, domestic workers are employed in South Africa to do the household cleaning, washing and ironing. Many of the larger houses in Johannesburg have built-in domestic quarters to accommodate live-in help, leaving residents free to decide whether they want live-in staff or someone who commutes to work every day.

It is important for expats to think about what exactly they would expect from a domestic worker to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment later on. Many expats who move to Johannesburg have never had domestic help before but, even so, they need to think about how their worker's day should look. After all, they will be spending a lot of time in the same space.

One of the biggest mistakes expats make is to hire someone without prior work experience or references. Simply hiring the neighbour's maid's sister when she comes knocking is not ideal, just as it wouldn't be in any other profession. The best way to find a housekeeper is through word of mouth in the neighbourhood or within the expat community, where there is typically a high turnover whenever people relocate. Some estates also have a newsletter with a classifieds section, while online classifieds can also be checked for advertisements. 

Either way, expats should make sure they ask for references and speak to their prospective worker's previous employer to get as much information as possible. A period of probation is also a good idea, where the worker comes in for several days, paid in cash and with no strings attached so that the employer can get a feel for how they work and fit in with the family.

Another option is to work through an agency which screens all of its employees. These agencies also handle the necessary paperwork.


Employment contracts for domestic workers

It is absolutely recommended that domestic workers sign an employment contract, making sure that their specific tasks and grounds for termination are stated clearly, as well as that all labour laws regarding leave and overtime pay are honoured. We would also advise that expats issue monthly payslips. Paperwork samples, including a sample employment contract, can be found on the South African Department of Labour website.

Healthcare in Johannesburg

With an overstretched and underfunded public healthcare system, the majority of people in Johannesburg who can afford it opt for private care. Costs can be high, however, so it’s essential for expats in the city to get medical aid cover or negotiate a provision for health insurance in their employment contract.

Private healthcare in Johannesburg is of a world-class standard. Those with the means to pay or with adequate insurance have access to private hospitals with 24/7 emergency ambulance services as well as highly trained specialists. Private hospitals also afford a level of comfort and privacy.
 
For check-ups and minor problems such as colds and flu, South Africans visit a general practitioner.

Below is a list of recommended private hospitals in Johannesburg.


Private hospitals in Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital

www.nelsonmandelachildrenshospital.org
Address: 6 Jubilee Road, Parktown

Fordsburg Clinic

www.fordsburgclinic.co.za
Address: 22 Bonanza St, Selby

Netcare Linkwood Hospital

www.netcarehospitals.co.za
Address: 24 12th Ave, Linksfield West

Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre

www.dgmc.co.za
Address: 21 Eton Road, Parktown

Education and Schools in Johannesburg

When it comes to education and schools in Johannesburg, expats will have plenty of choice. There are many government-run public schools of varying quality, independent private schools as well as international schools. The majority of expats send their children to private or international schools in and around the city.

The waiting lists for the best schools in Johannesburg can be long, and expats are advised to apply as far in advance as possible if they want their children to attend their school of choice.


Public schools in Johannesburg

Some government schools in Johannesburg have excellent track records. However, those supported solely by government funding are generally understaffed, and have limited resources. The better public schools are those that obtain additional funding from fee-paying parents, alumni donations and governing bodies.

Though these schools are still limited to offering the standard South African curriculum, the quality of education and facilities is higher than at regular public schools. Parents will have to pay fees at these institutions, but the prices are much lower than those of private and international schools.


Private schools in Johannesburg

There are a number of good options for private schools in Johannesburg. As they are funded privately, they have more freedom in terms of what curriculum they offer. Many private schools teach through the lens of a particular religion, such as Catholicism, or an alternative educational philosophy, like Montessori. 

Many private schools have excellent academic standards as well as a wide range of extra-curricular activities, all taking place within pristine facilities. Fees at these schools can be high, though they are generally lower than international school fees.


International schools in Johannesburg

There is a handful of international schools in Johannesburg serving the expat population. These schools offer foreign curricula such as that of the UK, the US or the International Baccalaureate.

The main advantage of international schools is that they allow expat children to continue with a familiar, globally recognised curriculum. They're also an ideal place for both children and parents to make friends with other expat families. Though fees are high and waiting lists long, most parents agree that the quality of education is well worth it.


Special needs education in Johannesburg

In light of the extremely limited resources of public schooling in Johannesburg, we advise parents of children with special needs to make use of the private education sector instead.

Some mainstream private schools offer extra support while giving the child the benefit of mixing with a greater number of peers. However, not all mainstream schools are equal in this regard – some schools offer more support and are more experienced with special-needs children than others. If more specialised and individualised support is needed, there are a number of private schools catering specifically to children with special educational needs.


Tutors in Johannesburg

Tutors in South Africa are most frequently used when a child is having trouble with a particular subject, or in the run-up to major assessment periods such as the matric final exams. Expats may find tutors useful for purposes such as learning a new language, maintaining a mother tongue, and catching up to an unfamiliar curriculum.

Reputable companies include Brightsparkz Tutors and Goodie Tutors, both of which offer one-on-one in-person or online tutoring based on the needs of the client.

Private schools in Johannesburg

Private schools in Johannesburg are a popular choice among expat parents as they offer a happy medium – they have more resources and offer a better quality of education than public schools, but their fees are not as exorbitant as international school fees.

Many of the private schools in Johannesburg have religious origins, but are now mostly either non-denominational or tolerant of other beliefs. Private schools in the city are registered with the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA).

Final-year private school students generally write the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) matric exam, which is held in higher regard than the state matric qualification known as the National Senior Certificate (NSC). Some private schools offer alternative qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate.

Below is a list of some of the most prominent private schools in Johannesburg.


Private schools in Johannesburg

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Brescia House School

Established in 1966, this Catholic girls' school is considered one of the best schools in the country. The campus is in Bryanston. Read more

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 4 to 18

Redhill School

Redhill is over 100 years old and has around 1,100 students. The campus is in the Morningside/Sandton area. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: South African (IEB) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Roedean School

A prestigious girls' school with a hundred-year-long history, modelled on the school of the same name in Brighton, UK. Read more

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 5 to 18

St David's Marist Inanda

St David's is a boys' school with a Catholic ethos in Sandton. The school has a strong sporting tradition. Read more

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 4 to 18

St Peter's Boys School

With a history that goes back to 1950, St Peter’s Boys School is an Anglican primary school accepting students from Grade 0 to 7. Read more

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 4 to 13 

St Peter's Girls School

St Peter’s Girls School is an Anglican Diocesan primary school accepting students from Grade 0 to 7. Read more

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 4 to 13

St Peter's College

This Anglican prep school was established in 1950, although the independent high school has been operating since 1998. The campus is in Bryanston. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 14 to 18

International Schools in Johannesburg

Perhaps surprisingly for a city of its size, Johannesburg has a relatively small selection of international schools. Many expat parents choose to send their children to local private schools, which are highly regarded.

For expats hoping to find a school that follows the same curriculum as back home, as well as the same teaching language, the choice may be limited. That said, the international schools that are available in Johannesburg are generally of a high standard.

Below is a selection of international schools in Johannesburg.


International schools in Johannesburg

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American International School of Johannesburg

This highly regarded school offers the American High School Diploma and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. There is also a Pretoria campus which offers classes for Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 8 students. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Charterhouse School

This pre-preparatory and preparatory school in Honeydew opened in 1976 and draws on the best elements of the South African and British curricula. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge International Primary Programme, and South African (IEB)
Ages: 3 to 13

Founded in 1890, the venerable Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg (DSJ) is Johannesburg's oldest co-educational school. It is also one of the most multicultural schools in the city with more than 30 different nationalities represented among the student body. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German and South African (IEB)
Ages: 1 to 18

Lycée Français Jules Verne

Based in Morningside, Sandton, the Lycée Français Jules Verne is a fully English/French bilingual school offering the French curriculum. Students graduate with the esteemed French Baccalauréat. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 2 to 18

St John's College

Founded in 1898, this prestigious boys' school has excellent sporting and academic traditions. A co-educational Sixth Form follows the Cambridge curriculum. Read more

Gender: Boys or co-educational
Curriculum: South African (IEB) and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Johannesburg

With a work-hard, play-hard mentality, the lifestyle in Johannesburg is envious. To balance out the stresses of the job, many of Johannesburg’s residents enjoy spending their hard-earned money in the city’s shopping centres and markets, as well as on nights out and fine dining.

Expats in Johannesburg will have a lifestyle that is fairly typical to South Africans around the country, and should find it easy to befriend both locals and fellow expats. Everybody in the city is influenced by its wealth and natural beauty.


Shopping in Johannesburg

There is no shortage of options when it comes to shopping in Johannesburg. From designer boutiques to bargain buys at local markets, mega malls and department stores, the city has it all.

Sandton City, at the heart of the area it takes its name from, is a good place to start. Almost anything can be found at one of its hundreds of stores and, as if that isn’t enough, shoppers can catch their breath at the adjacent Nelson Mandela Square which offers fine dining and luxury shopping options of its own.

Those wanting a more personal shopping experience can head to one of the city’s markets, a popular pastime on Sundays and public holidays. The Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein is definitely worth a visit, along with Sylvia's Market in Fairmount, and the Rosebank Sunday Market.


Nightlife in Johannesburg

Joburgers have mastered the balance between hard-working days and glamorous nights of excess. As one might expect of one of the richest cities in Africa, there is a fairly wide selection of clubs, bars, theatres and cocktail lounges. Expats can go for a night out on the town in trendy Melville, artsy Newtown, mellow Linden or ritzy Rivonia. Those with more refined tastes can also head to Hyde Park, Sandton or Melrose Arch to rub shoulders with local celebrities and the city’s wealthy and well-heeled.


Outdoor activities and sports in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is known for being a premier shopping destination, but it is also a city that celebrates sport. The city is home to the calabash-shaped FNB Stadium which hosted the FIFA World Cup Final in 2010; Ellis Park, where the Springboks famously won the Rugby World Cup in 1995; and the Wanderers Stadium, venue for the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup Final.

Many of the locals and expats in Johannesburg look to escape the hustle and bustle of the city on weekends. There are many places within the city that fit the bill such as the Johannesburg Zoo, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden and Zoo Lake. Other options include weekend getaways to nearby small towns such as Hartbeespoort, Clarens, Dullstroom and Cullinan.

Shopping in Johannesburg

Grocery shopping in Johannesburg is similar to that in any Western country. South Africa has several large supermarket chains and a number of smaller specialty stores, and all types of shops are present all over the city. As in all locations, where expats end up going will depend on their personal tastes and budget, but expats can be sure there will be a store conveniently located close to where they live.

Furthermore, shelves will be stocked with many of the goods familiar from home, with the addition of a few strange new favourites. For a taste of true South Africa, try Mrs Balls Chutney, snack on a bit of biltong or load the shopping cart with Choc-kits, Nik Naks or Ouma Rusks.

Otherwise, for the most part, grocery stores in South Africa claim an impressive meat and poultry selection, a large assortment of dry and canned goods, and a healthy variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Halaal products are available in most of the grocery stores. 

Supermarkets in South Africa sell wine, but generally do not sell spirits or beer. However, many of the larger chain stores will have subsidiary stores selling all types of alcohol next door to their main shop.

Additionally, select chains accept utility payments, sell electricity and sell airtime for both mobile and landline telephones, and even have on-site post offices or ticket box offices.


Nationwide grocery stores in Johannesburg

  • Woolworths – A little pricey but also the best quality food by far, well known especially for its fresh produce and good meat. It’s hard to go back to anything else after shopping at 'Woolies'.

  • Spar – Less expensive than Woolworths and not as good, Spar has a larger selection, especially at Superspar centres, with many imported brands and a nice deli; good European bread selection.

  • Pick 'n Pay – Similar selection to Spar (minus the imported brands) but lower prices; a good place to stock up on basics such as packaged goods and cleaning supplies. Pick 'n Pay also has an online shopping service where groceries can be delivered to one's home for a small fee.

  • Checkers – Slightly cheaper than Pick ‘n Pay with an equally wide range of quality products.


Speciality stores in Johannesburg

  • Food Lover's Market – A chain of upscale fresh food stores throughout South Africa.

  • Local butcheries – South Africans take their meat very seriously and the proof is in its wealth of excellent, privately owned butcheries such as Schwaben Butchery in Edenvale, Sloane Meat Market in Bryanston and Berliner Butchery in North Riding.


Pharmacies in Johannesburg

  • Dis-Chem – The largest and most well-stocked South African pharmacy. If an item can't be found anywhere else, chances are it’s sold at Dis-Chem; it stocks everything from electric toothbrushes to fish oil vitamins. It also has the largest availability and reasonable pricing for prescription drugs, although the lines can be long.

  • Clicks – Can be found in almost every shopping centre and often next to doctor’s offices. Very convenient for prescription drugs, but may be more expensive than other pharmacies. 

Sport and fitness in Johannesburg

Keeping active and staying fit is very popular in Johannesburg. Expats looking to stay in shape and meet other expats will have plenty of opportunities to do so in the many green spaces and high-quality facilities scattered around Johannesburg. Sports clubs are a great way to make friends with those who have similar interests.

Some of the clubs require approval of registration by a committee, and at times the waiting list may be lengthy.


Cricket

 Marks Parks Cricket Club

Website: www.marksparkcricket.co.za
Address: 46 Orange Road, Emmarentia
Tel: +27 73 342 9972

With a junior and senior side, Marks Parks is situated in the beautiful area of Emmarentia. The cricket season begins in October, with registration open from August.


Football

Randburg Football Club

Website: www.randburgfootball.com
Address: Corner Malibongwe Drive and Hans Schoeman Drive, Randburg
Tel: +27 11 791 6234

This club offers membership to a wide range of players, with league teams ranging from 'PeeWees' (4 to 11 years old) to 'Veterans' (35 years and up). There are also league teams for female players.


Golf

The Country Club Johannesburg

Websitewww.thecountryclub.co.za
Address: Corner Woodlands Drive and Lincoln Street, Woodmead
Tel: +27 11 202 1600

Members of this exclusive club will be able to practise their swing and enjoy the outdoors at the club's prestigious grounds in Woodmead. There are also facilities for a plethora of other sports here, too.


Multiple sports

The Wanderers Club

Website: www.thewanderersclub.co.za
Address: 21 North Street, Illovo
Tel: +27 11 788 5010

Offering a wide range of sports including tennis, cricket, rugby, hockey, bowls, karate and snooker, among others, the Wanderers Club is the perfect place for expats looking to socialise and play for leisure or play competitively.

Pirates Club

Websitewww.piratesclub.co.za
Address: 25 Braeside Road, Greenside
Tel: +27 11 646 5025

Pirates Club offers a number of sports clubs to cater to all needs, including squash, baseball, cricket, soccer, rugby, bowls, tennis and hockey.


Hiking and running

Born 2 Run Athletics Club

Websitewww.born2runac.co.za/johannesburg-club

Based in Sandton, this club is open to all, regardless of age or fitness level. The club participates in different time trials and club runs of various lengths throughout the year.

 Johannesburg Hiking Club

Websitewww.jhbhiking.co.za
Tel: +27 78 885 6505

Though largely geared towards experienced hikers, newcomers can join the slow group before working their way up to medium, medium plus and brisk. Weekday hikes are held on Wednesdays and clock in at about four hours. Weekend hikes are generally on Sundays, lasting five or six hours. 

Kids and Family in Johannesburg

Raising kids in Johannesburg comes with its challenges. On the one hand, the city’s reputation for crime concerns both expat and local parents who want their children to be as safe as possible. On the other, some complain that there's not much to do outside of its sprawling malls and the playgrounds of its mega nurseries. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is a wealth of activities for expat children to take part in and which can help them adjust to their new surroundings. While safety is justifiably a concern for expat parents, with the necessary precautions and lifestyle adjustments, their children are likely to be happy and secure in their new lives.


Child safety in Johannesburg

Given the city’s reputation for crime, one of the main priorities for expat parents in Johannesburg is the safety of their children.

As is the case in most places, parents should be aware of their children’s whereabouts in public places. They should also ensure that their children memorise the phone numbers of both parents, their home address and emergency phone numbers as soon as possible.

Most parents in the city don’t allow their children to take public transport as it’s often considered unreliable and potentially unsafe. Some parents also don’t allow their children to play in public parks; however, this is largely an area-specific consideration and, in some of the more affluent areas in Johannesburg, children should be safe provided that they are supervised.

The upside of living in Johannesburg is that expat families with freestanding houses in the city’s suburbs are likely to have a more spacious garden than they would in a major European or American city, meaning that their children will have space to play and run around outdoors within the confines of their own yard.


Activities for children in Johannesburg

While it may not be the most popular of destinations for family-oriented expats, there are still a number of rewarding activities for children in Johannesburg to enjoy. Given its absence of a beach and relative lack of public spaces, businesses in the city often cater to children while many parents are willing to drive a bit further to ensure that their children are entertained.

One of the most popular options for parents is Gold Reef City. The area’s largest theme park, it offers thrill rides alongside much tamer children's rides. For expats with younger children (or who just prefer having their feet firmly on the ground) there are plenty of other activities to choose from, such as catching a show at the 4D theatre.

Another popular option is taking a weekend trip away to Sun City, a two-hour drive to the northwest of Joburg. It offers a host of activities suitable for the whole family. Children will probably be most interested in the Valley of the Waves, an artificial lagoon with a wave pool.

Closer to home, it is always fun for younger children to feed the ducks and geese at Zoo Lake and Emmarentia Dam, which are also popular picnic spots. Johannesburg Zoo is home to all sorts of different animals and makes for a great day out. Other popular outdoor activities include the Montecasino Bird Gardens, the Cradle of Humankind and, perhaps for older kids, paintballing.

Johannesburg knows how to keep itself entertained indoors too. There is a selection of large indoor playgrounds which are popular kids’ party venues throughout the city. There are pottery and art classes for all ages, and children as young as two years old can go for cookery classes at one of the Little Cooks Club events spread across the city. Finally, but not exhaustively, is the Wits Planetarium which offers various shows all about the solar system.

See and Do in Johannesburg

The concrete jungle of Johannesburg is often overlooked as a tourist destination in favour of coastal Cape Town. However, those who are willing to look beyond Johannesburg's 'city life' facade will find that it has just as much to offer. From natural wonders to museums and culture, expats will find an abundance of things to see and do in Johannesburg.


Recommended attractions in Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum

Take a glimpse into South Africa’s past to learn about the struggle that South Africans went through to achieve democracy. This heart-wrenching museum illustrates how far this unique and diverse country has come.

Constitution Hill

This national heritage site houses a former prison that is famous for once having held political prisoners such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Visitors can take a fascinating journey through the prison's history as they walk through the museum, learning about the terrible conditions prisoners suffered there.

As a symbol of transformation, the South African Constitutional Court was built on this site in the 1990s and is home to a collection of over 600 contemporary artworks which can be viewed by the public. 

Cradle of Humankind

Some of the oldest fossils of our human ancestors have been found in the Sterkfontein Caves, a central feature of this World Heritage Site. This includes the discovery of Mrs Ples and Little Foot, estimated to be 2 million and 3 million years old respectively. The Maropeng Visitor Centre illustrates the evolution of humans, and visitors can also view the Sterkfontein Caves in person.

Gold Reef City

An entertainment complex for the whole family, expats who have relocated to Johannesburg should be sure to pay Gold Reef City a visit to view what the city would have looked like during the gold rush of the 1880s. Descend into a gold mine shaft, ride the amusement park theme rides, have fun in the casino or spend the night at the Victorian hotel.

Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum

The iconic image of 12-year-old Hector Pieterson being carried through the streets of Soweto during the Soweto Uprising in 1976 has been etched in the minds of many across the globe. The museum is situated just two blocks from the site of Pieterson's death. It not only pays tribute to the little boy who died that day but also fuses memorabilia, cultural history and modern technology to create a fascinating museum experience.

Johannesburg Zoo

This is a great place to take a stroll, go on an outing with the kids or just take some time out from the hustle and bustle of the City of Gold. The Johannesburg Zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals, including the famed Big Five.

Montecasino Bird Gardens

After browsing the shops at Montecasino and perhaps enjoying lunch on the piazza, visit the Bird Gardens to see over 60 species of birds and a few of their reptile and mammal friends.

Soweto Tour

Soweto is another place rich with the history of South Africa’s struggle towards democracy. While Soweto's attractions such as the Mandela House Museum or the Hector Pieterson Memorial can be visited alone, an official half-day or full-day Soweto tour will give expats an even fuller picture of Soweto’s past and present.

What's On in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a vibrant, bustling metropolis with an assortment of activities and events on offer. The city boasts numerous art, culture, entertainment and sport activities for expats to explore. Whether they're looking for something to do solo, with the family or with newfound friends, new residents of Joburg won't have a shortage of options.

Below are a few of the top yearly events in Johannesburg.


Annual events in Johannesburg 

The Rand Show (April)

Founded more than 120 years ago, the Rand Show is a multi-day festival with non-stop entertainment throughout. Festivalgoers will have plenty to keep themselves occupied with the show split into six main areas each dedicated to a particular type of entertainment and interests. There's a play zone, a foodie zone and a proudly South African zone, to name just a few.

The Wine Show (June)

Attendees at the Wine Show can join fellow wine enthusiasts in tasting and buying wines from dozens of estates around the country. There are also opportunities to learn about winemaking and wine pairing.

Johannesburg Arts Alive Festival (September)

Arts Alive celebrates the city’s awakening from its winter slumber and the onset of spring. This vibrant and eclectic feast of arts and culture takes place at various venues in and around the city throughout September and features the very best in home-grown theatre, dance, music, visual art and entertainment.

FNB Art Joburg (September)

This once-a-year art event is exclusively devoted to African art and features pieces from local and international galleries, as well as photography, sculptures and installations.

Soweto Marathon (November)

Starting and ending at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, this well-known event can be run in various distances to suit different fitness levels. This includes traditional full- and half-marathon lengths as well as a shorter 6-mile (10 km) option. 

Shipping and Removals in Johannesburg

There is a range of companies to choose from when shipping belongings and furnishings to Johannesburg. Aspects such as the volume of goods, distance between origin and destination, and method of shipping will have an effect on cost. Air freight is fast but expensive, while sea freight is much cheaper but also much slower.

For some expats, the ideal solution is splitting up their possessions, with essentials being transported by air and less essential, bulkier items by sea. Be aware that customs clearance time is hard to predict and may delay shipments even further.


Shipping pets to Johannesburg

To ship pets to South Africa, a valid import permit and veterinary health certificate will need to be presented. There must be proof that dogs and cats entering the country are vaccinated against rabies and implanted with a microchip. If the required documentation cannot be presented to the authorities, pets may be put into quarantine. They will then only be released once the documentation has been received. In addition, dogs from certain countries are subject to a standard quarantine as a matter of course.

Frequently Asked Questions about Johannesburg

Moving somewhere new can be somewhat daunting, and Johannesburg is no exception. To help put expats' minds at rest, here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Johannesburg.

How safe is Johannesburg?

Though the city's crime rate is relatively high, serious crimes are largely limited to impoverished locations. However, theft is a common concern. Expat residents can maximise their safety by taking basic precautions. This includes simple actions such as contracting home security, not travelling in strange areas at night, and keeping the windows up and the doors locked when driving.

What is the cost of living in Johannesburg?

Expats often find that the cost of living in Johannesburg is low. Accommodation is still relatively cheap despite a property boom in recent years. Dining out, entertainment, groceries and clothing also provide good value for money. Cleaning staff and childminders can also be hired at a low price.

Are the locals friendly to expats?

Yes, South Africans are renowned for being hospitable and it won't be long before a new arrival gets invited over for a beer and a braai, a beloved South African pastime.

Are weekend getaways from Johannesburg possible?

Yes. The tranquil Magaliesburg is about an hour away, trout-fishing centre Dullstroom is three hours away, the Kruger National Park is five hours from the city, and the Drakensberg Mountains are also a few hours away. Even the seaside resorts of Durban are less than a seven-hour drive, or just an hour by plane.

Articles about Johannesburg

Getting Around in Johannesburg

As with so much else in the city, the ways in which people get around Johannesburg depends largely on their economic status. The majority of the city’s better-off citizens make use of private cars, while public transport is mostly used by the city’s working-class residents. More commuters are now making use of the Gautrain, which runs between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Over the next decade, the city also intends to spend billions on improving, integrating and expanding its public transport network in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion.


Driving in Johannesburg

Owning a car in Johannesburg is a necessity for anyone who wants complete freedom of movement. Cars in South Africa drive on the left-hand side of the road, which means that the driver’s seat is on the right-hand side of the car. They are also more often than not manual transmission. Additionally, expats wanting to register a car in Johannesburg should do so with patience – lines at traffic departments are often long and it isn’t unheard of to have to go back several times because of the city’s notorious bureaucracy.

Security is a priority for the city’s drivers since vehicle break-ins, hijackings and smash-and-grabs are known to occur. Expats should at least invest in an alarm with anti-hijacking features and make sure that their doors are locked, that their windows stay rolled up and that their valuables are kept out of sight. At the same time, residents should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. Many locals and expats avoid driving in high-risk areas in the inner city and certain townships, especially at night. There are, however, safe areas to travel in and many people never have to deal with serious crime, but it’s always better to be cautious.

Expats planning to drive should note that Joburg drivers often drive fast and recklessly, with minibus taxis generally being the worst offenders in this respect. For this reason, it's vital to stay aware and ready to react at all times, especially when driving on the highway.


Public transport in Johannesburg

Trains

Trains in Johannesburg are operated by Metrorail, the state’s passenger rail service. The network is fairly extensive and connects the city to other parts of the country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach some of the areas expats are likely to live in, such as Sandton, Rosebank and Randburg.

Expats interested in using Metrorail should be advised that pickpocketing is not uncommon, especially during peak periods, and valuables shouldn’t be openly displayed. While Metrorail trains occasionally run late and are vulnerable to strikes in the transport sector, they are an affordable and easily accessible way of getting around the Greater Johannesburg area.

Gautrain

Sandton, north of the city centre, does have access to an alternative means of rail transport. Initially intended to be built in time for the football world cup, the Gautrain project was completed in June 2012. Running for around 50 miles (80 km), it forms a mass rapid transit railway system that connects the Johannesburg CBD, Sandton, the OR Tambo International Airport, Midrand, Centurion and Pretoria. Regular passengers can purchase a Gautrain Card for a nominal fee to access parking, shuttle bus and train services.

Buses

The Rea Vaya Rapid Bus Transit (RBT) network opened its first route in 2009 and has been expanding in phases since then. The system currently runs through areas in and around the city, and also runs a line between Johannesburg and Soweto. While a number of strikes have halted services in the past, it is one of the safest and most efficient modes of public transport in Joburg.

The Johannesburg Metrobus, on the other hand, consists of over 300 routes that service commuters across the Greater Johannesburg area, fanning out in all directions from the city centre. Due to outdated buses and the availability of more attractive options, ridership has been declining for several years. There are plans to revitalise the service.

Minibus taxis

Minibus taxis are the most common form of public transport in Johannesburg and follow an informal route system, picking up passengers at various terminals and the side of the road. Passengers flag them down using a variety of hand signals which indicate their desired destination and the taxi either stops or drives past depending on whether or not their destination is on its route.

Minibus taxis in Johannesburg tend to be loud, overcrowded and are notorious for disregarding road rules. They are, however, the cheapest form of transport serving the country’s working-class majority. Expats are unlikely to take one, although if they choose to, locals are normally willing to help with getting into the right one.


Taxis in Johannesburg

Metered taxis are available throughout the city and can be flagged down, although the most reliable way of getting a reputable taxi in good condition is phoning one of several cab companies in the city. Passengers should ensure that the driver switches his meter on, or that a flat fare is negotiated before embarking. Tips aren’t expected but are always appreciated.

Many Joburg locals and expats use ride-hailing services such as Uber to get around town because of their competitive prices and reliability.


Cycling in Johannesburg

Although the City of Johannesburg has been introducing cycling infrastructure such as bicycle lanes, cycling has not yet taken off as a popular form of transport in the city. The city's minibus taxis also make cycling a dangerous way to travel as they are prone to attempt to speed past traffic jams using any available space on the road – including cycle lanes.


Walking in Johannesburg

Given its size, it is unlikely that expats will walk to work in Johannesburg. Walking alone in downtown Johannesburg isn’t recommended, especially at night. The northern suburbs, which most expats stay in, are safe for the most part. As is the case when driving, expats should keep their valuables out of sight.