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Moving to Johannesburg


    If you are planning on moving to South Africa then Johannesburg is the most popular choice of city for relocation. As the provincial capital, it is the largest and most populated city in the country, also classed as a megacity and one of the largest worldwide. Many people consider moving to Johannesburg because most large South African companies set up their headquarters in the city. Johannesburg is also the seat of the constitutional court in South Africa and most business is done in the city.

    This isn’t the only reason for moving to Johannesburg though, as the city is also a cultural hub with some of the best eateries and entertainment that South Africa has to offer too. If you like sport, then football, cricket and rugby are all popular in the capital with lots of high profile teams. Two of the biggest African football clubs Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are both located in Johannesburg. The population in Johannesburg reached 5.9 million in 2021.

    Getting around in Johannesburg

    If you are wondering about getting around in Johannesburg, the city has excellent transport links and public transport is easily accessible around the city. However, travel around the city generally depends on economic status, as with great road networks many choose to drive to work in a private car if they have a good job. Public transport is mainly used by working-class commuters but more high profile workers are now using the Gautrain which runs from Johannesburg to Pretoria. Having a car gives you complete freedom of travel but make sure your office and home both have secure parking as break-ins and carjacking are common crimes in the city.

    Aerial view of Johannesburg city centre

    Public Transport Links in Johannesburg

    If you plan on using public transport links in the city then there are plenty of ways that you can get around, and the government has pledged millions in funding for improved public transport networks. As many professionals drive to work, traffic congestion in the city is particularly bad so the government hopes this will help with easing that. We have put together a list of some of the most popular and accessible public transport links in Johannesburg below;

    • Trains in Johannesburg – these are operated by Metrorail and are fairly extensive for getting around the city to business meetings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach all provinces, including Sandton, Rosebank and Randburg which are all popular expat areas.
    • Gautrain – this is a rapid transit railway system popular with workers living outside the city centre and connects Johannesburg with a number of locations including Sandton, Pretoria and Centurion amongst others.
    • Buses in Johannesburg – there are two main bus services that include the RBT Network and Metrobus. RBT is a rapid bus service formed in 2009 with a small but efficient city centre schedule. Metrobus routes are more extensive but not as reliable or safe.
    • Minibus taxis – another transport service taken by most of the working class are minibus taxis and it is the most inexpensive form of transport. But the routes can be very confusing and you will likely need the help of locals to navigate this mode of transport.

    Airport Transportation in Johannesburg

    There are two major airports that service the city of Johannesburg with the larger of the two being OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) and the one you will most likely visit. Lanseria Airport (HLA) is the second-largest airport in the city and mainly services domestic airports but does cater for some international flights. Both airports are fairly close to the city centre with OR Tambo taking around 32 minutes by public transport and Lanseria taking around 40 minutes. As a smaller airport Lanseria is usually faster for checking in and queues though so this is worth bearing in mind when looking for flights in or out of Johannesburg.

    OR Tambo International Airport Johannesburg

    Finding Housing in Johannesburg

    One of the biggest attractions to the city of Johannesburg is that housing is generally both affordable and spacious, so you can live comfortably in the city on a good salary. Houses in the city often come with a large pool and spacious garden areas but there are plenty of other housing options in Johannesburg. If you’re only going to be living in Johannesburg for a fixed period then you might want to consider renting rather than purchasing a property. Gated and secured communities in Johannesburg are often most favoured by expats for their security. Burglaries are also common outside of gated communities so if renting a freestanding home make sure it is well secured with burglar alarms and burglar bars on doors and windows.

    What to Know About Johannesburg Before Moving

    There are a few things you should know about Johannesburg before moving to the largest city of South Africa. It is a great place to live with fantastic weather and plenty of career opportunities but there are a few things you should be aware of. We have included some of the key factors below;

    • Higher than Average Crime Rates – although it is unlikely you will come into contact with violent crimes, petty theft and carjacking are more common than in other major cities.
    • Notoriously Bad Traffic – due to being so densely populated, the city has notoriously bad traffic and congestion, making commuting to work a horrible experience in rush hour.
    • Water Shortages – due to warm weather all year round, water can be scarce and some major cities saw a water crisis in 2020, but this is being addressed by the government.

    Where is Best to Live in Johannesburg?

    One of the main questions when moving to a new country is which area of the city you should be living in when making the move. Depending on your personal circumstances could also affect your decision on where to live, such as if you are moving alone or if you plan on moving with family. Some of the most popular areas for expats to move to include the following;

    • Midrand – this region in the north of Johannesburg is a popular location for many large businesses which would make your commute much shorter. There are plenty of new estates and affordable housing in the region too.
    • Fourways / Dainfern – this region is home to a number of golf courses, with large and secure housing estates built around them. Dainfern, Fourways Gardens and Cedar Lakes are some of the most popular and have international communities.
    • Sandton – this region is close to the business district and also has lots of family sized homes close to a park with a village feel. Parkmore is the perfect region for families and is also close to international schools.

    Expat Life in Johannesburg

    Another major concern when moving to a new country is how welcoming people are to expats, but this shouldn’t be a major concern in Johannesburg. Although not the official language, English is widely spoken in the city and it is also the language of business. Life is also very similar to most western countries, with plenty of good international schools if you have children and plenty of time for activities and hobbies. The great weather is also one of the biggest draws to South Africa and trips to Cape Town are a great benefit of living in the country. If you live in a gated community you will also most likely be living with other expatriates in the community too.

    If you are looking for advice when moving to Johannesburg then Gerson Relocation can help. We also provide cultural training services too so you can make sure you adapt to South Africa.

    Interested in information on another country? Take a look at our other International Relocation guides.

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