Every city has perks and drawbacks, but Cape Town, South Africa, undoubtedly has more of the former than the latter. The city is known for its beautiful beaches, spectacular mountain hikes, world-class wineries, vibey nightlife, breathtaking natural beauty and the laid-back lifestyle its residents enjoy. Still, expats should be aware of the city's downsides along with its upsides to make an informed decision before relocating.

Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of living in Cape Town.


Accommodation in Cape Town

+ PRO: Lots of choice

Whether expats aspire to have a home right on the seashore or prefer living the high life in the foothills of a mountain, there are plenty of options in the varied areas and suburbs of Cape Town. Expats will surely appreciate the variety of available accommodation options, 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. Expats who want to live right next to either of Cape Town's two major assets – the mountain or the sea – will have to pay handsomely for the privilege.

- CON: Rotational blackouts

Beginning in 2007, there has been a shortage of electricity supply in South Africa which has led to the implementation of 'loadshedding', a system of rotational blackouts. The intensity of loadshedding can fluctuate quickly, causing varying degrees of disruption to daily life. Higher stages of loadshedding have longer and more frequent blackout. Some residents use generators, solar power and batteries to buffer themselves from the worst of it. With the help of a pumped-storage scheme, the City of Cape Town is able to protect municipal customers from one or two stages of load shedding.


Lifestyle in Cape Town

+ PRO: Variety of outdoor activities

Whether a fitness addict or a nature lover, expats will find plenty to see and do in Cape Town. Popular outdoor 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. Expats should take note of the famous 'Cape Doctor', though – a strong southeasterly gale that blows for a few weeks of the year. Though unpleasant, this wind blows away some of the smog and pollution that hangs over Cape Town's city centre.

+ 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.


Transport in Cape Town

- CON: Limited public transport

Aside from the MyCiTi bus system, there aren't many other viable options for public transport in the city. In addition, the current routes followed by the MyCiTi buses are limited to certain areas only. Fortunately, Cape Town is quite compact and walkable, and taxis or ride-hailing services aren't generally expensive thanks to short distances.

- 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. Expect the unexpected when it comes to navigating around these vehicles, which are easily identifiable by their colour (white), make (most commonly a Toyota Quantum) and markings (a South African flag on the driver's door).

+ PRO: Easy to navigate by car

Although Capetonians are quick to complain about the traffic, the city is fairly compact. The comprehensive highway network makes it fairly quick and easy to get from one place to another by car.


Working in Cape Town

+ 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 like-minded 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 myriad 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 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 can 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 in Cape Town

+ PRO: More bang for your buck

Compared to other major cities worldwide, Cape Town has a relatively low cost 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 earning in dollars rather than the local currency, as the South African rand tends to be weak against the dollar.


Safety in Cape Town

- 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 townships 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 victims of crime.

A lot of the high crime statistics of Cape Town are also a result of gang-related violence, which is largely contained within certain areas and is unlikely to affect expats.


Schools and education in Cape Town

+ PRO: Lots of good schools

There are plenty of excellent options for schooling in Cape Town. While many expat parents send their children to one of the city's international schools, there are also many well-regarded (and less expensive) private schools.


Healthcare in Cape Town

- 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. Doctors and medical staff are highly trained and world-class, but the facilities themselves and waiting times often cause expats to choose private healthcare instead.

+ 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.

Expat Health Insurance

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