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.
►For more on employment in the city, see Working in Johannesburg
"I love the unbridled craziness of South Africa. Nothing seems to make sense, even after living here for almost a year. I get frustrated often, I laugh a lot, and I’m never bored. My quality of life has improved vastly from Vancouver. We live in a nicer house, eat better food, etc." Read more about Phil's expat experience in South Africa.
Are you an expat living in Johannesburg?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Johannesburg. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.