Pros and cons of moving to Cape Town
Every city has its good and bad aspects, but Cape Town undoubtedly has more going for it than most. The city is known for its good weather, natural beauty and the lifestyle its residents enjoy.
Still, it's important for expats to be aware of the city's downsides along with its upsides in order to make an informed decision.
Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of living in Cape Town.
+ PRO: Lots of choice
Whether expats aspire to have a home right on the seashore or prefer the idea of living the high life on a mountain, there are plenty of options in Cape Town's varied areas and suburbs. Expats are sure to appreciate the variety of accommodation options available, ranging from luxury apartments and sprawling villas to cosy cottages and comfortable houses.
+ CON: High prices
Real estate prices are notoriously high in certain parts of the city and expats who want to live right on the doorstep of one of Cape Town's two major assets – the mountain and the sea – will have to pay handsomely to do so.
+ PRO: Variety of outdoor activities
Whether a fitness addict or a nature lover, expats are sure to find plenty to see and do in Cape Town. Popular activities include hiking, surfing, running and playing rugby, cricket or soccer.
+ PRO: Lovely weather
With long hot summers and mild winters, Cape Town's climate makes it easy to enjoy the wealth of outdoor activities on offer.
+ PRO: Great nightlife and shopping
Capetonians take leisure time seriously and the city has a thriving nightlife to show for it, not to mention the fact that Cape Town is the unequivocal gay capital of South Africa. Whether expats are keen for a big night out or just a few cocktails with some friends, there are loads of excellent bars and restaurants to choose from.
The city's thriving wine industry means that it's always easy to access good wine at an affordable price, and going wine tasting in Constantia, Durbanville or Stellenbosch is a great way to spend an afternoon.
For expats in search of retail therapy, there are boundless options in the form of one of Cape Town's many sprawling shopping malls. The city also has several regular, well-loved markets.
- CON: Limited public transport
Aside from the MyCiTi bus system, there aren't many other viable options when it comes to public transport in the city. In addition, the current routes followed by the MyCiTi buses are limited to certain areas only.
- CON: Minibus taxis
Minibus taxis seem to be a uniquely South African problem and their erratic and often outright dangerous driving is a constant hindrance to many of the city's drivers.
+ PRO: Easy to navigate by car
Although Capetonians are quick to complain about the traffic, the city as a whole is relatively compact and the highway network is comprehensive, making it a relatively quick and easy business to get from one place to another by car.
Working and doing business
+ PRO: Thriving creative industries
Popular with both the local and international film industry, Cape Town has become a haven for creative types. Artists, writers and designers of all kinds are sure to meet plenty of likeminded people here. Although there is a lot of competition for creative jobs, expats who are able to measure up to the local standard are sure to find a myriad of opportunities in the Mother City.
- CON: Salaries are lower than in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is South Africa's economic centre, and jobs there will generally offer higher salaries than one would find for the same position in Cape Town. In addition, accommodation is pricier in Cape Town than in Johannesburg. This can be a challenging balancing act, but if expats are able to budget well, or can land a high-up position, it is certainly still possible to live comfortably on a Cape Town salary.
Cost of living
- PRO: More bang for your buck
Out of the world's major cities, Cape Town has one of the lowest costs of living, so even if expats aren't taking home a massive salary, they should still find that their money goes further than it would elsewhere. This is especially true if one is earning in dollars rather than the local currency, as the South African Rand tends to be quite weak against the dollar.
- CON: High crime rate relative to European cities
South Africa's high crime rate is largely a result of the country's unequal social conditions. These conditions are one of the first things many expats notice upon arrival, as they are likely to fly over some of the city's informal settlements before landing at the plush facilities of Cape Town International Airport.
However, by taking reasonable precautions, following safety tips and investing in good security, expats can avoid becoming a victim.
Schools and education
- PRO: Lots of good schools
There are lots of options for schooling in Cape Town. While many expat parents send their children to one of the city's international schools, there are also a number of excellent (and less expensive) private schools. Some of the government schools are also well-respected, such as the former Model C schools.
- CON: Public system is inadequate
In general, the public healthcare system in South Africa will not be up to the standards that most expats are used to.
+ PRO: Excellent private healthcare
Luckily, good quality private healthcare is readily available to make up for the lack of good public healthcare facilities. Visits to a private General Practitioner are reasonably priced and there are various health insurance schemes for expats to choose from.