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With sweeping vistas of the ocean on one side and the mountain on the other, it's no wonder that expats who move to Cape Town often find themselves seduced into staying for far longer than they initially anticipated. Repeatedly featuring in and topping lists of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town's popularity rests on its celebrated scenic landscape, mild climate and the relaxed lifestyle of its residents.
Cape Town is at the heart of South Africa's information technology industry, while port activities, the local film industry and financial services also make significant contributions to the region's gross domestic product. Media, education and creative occupations are also popular avenues for those working in Cape Town.
The city is home to some of South Africa's best-known educational institutions, including the University of Cape Town, the highest-ranked university on the continent.
Living in Cape Town as an expat
It may be at the very tip of the African continent, but the Mother City, as it's also called, is anything but isolated. Shaped by its complicated history, the city's vibrant and cosmopolitan character is a mixture of colonial and local influences, and is home to an eclectic blend of people from all over in a city that feels part African and part European.
Expats moving to Cape Town can generally expect a laid-back atmosphere that offers a healthy, balanced alternative to the high-stress work environment of more corporate cities. Attractions as diverse as internationally-recognised wine farms, shark cage diving and wonderful hiking trails mean that locals enjoy an active and satisfying lifestyle.
Cape Town is arguably South Africa’s most efficiently run metropolis and although there are high-risk areas, the city centre and the suburbs where expats are likely to live are relatively safe. While its public transport network could be better, the introduction of the MyCiTi Integrated Rapid Transport system means that it is easier for residents to get around than ever before. Most expats do, however, choose to own a car.
Like any large city, Cape Town has its issues, but locals and expats alike will attest to the fact that the lifestyle and beautiful environment more than make up for any problems they may face.
Cost of living in Cape Town
The cost of living in Cape Town is reasonable – however, with lower salaries than in Johannesburg and plenty to splurge on, expats may struggle to save. Still, whether an outdoor enthusiast, a lover of the arts or a gourmet connoisseur, it's easy to live the good life in the Cape.
Though relatively small, Cape Town has all the trappings of an international metropolis, with gourmet dining, world-class shopping and high-quality private healthcare. It is also a coastal city known for its spectacular beaches and is home to thriving businesses at the forefront of their fields.
Expat families and children in Cape Town
Public education quality varies depending on neighbourhood and fees, but private and international schools offer higher quality education at higher costs. Public schools typically offer the South African national curriculum, while many private schools offer the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) national curriculum or world-class international curricula.
Public hospitals are generally understaffed and underfunded, so most expats use private healthcare. General private healthcare is very reasonably priced, but complications and specialists can quickly break the bank, so expats are advised to take out health insurance.
Cape Town is host to a ton of attractions and activities for kids, as well as being surrounded by beautiful outdoor spaces. Nature reserves and beaches are around every corner, and Capetonians are known to be fit and outdoorsy, so there is no shortage of sports teams and walking or running clubs to join.
Weather in Cape Town
Cape Town's climate is Mediterranean, and its weather is balmy if unpredictable. From December to February, the Windy City's summer season is marked by warm temperatures and cool winds. From June to August, winter brings cold fronts and extended rains and storms.
►Check out our expat articles about South Africa, written by expats for expats
"Cape Town is a unique city, where unsurpassed natural beauty and a cosmopolitan metropolis blend into one." Taiwanese expat Lisa shares what she loves about the city in her expat interview about life in Cape Town.
Are you an expat living in Cape Town?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Cape Town. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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