Saunders 1865 | Moving to Johannesburg

Moving to Johannesburg

Are you moving to Johannesburg? Johannesburg is the economic hub of South Africa and is amongst the top 50 largest metropolitan areas in the world.

The city of gold offers a low cost by comparison with other major cities in the world.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Johannesburg report includes info on:

• The excellent schools
• The great areas to live in
• The variety of activities

Putting Johannesburg on the Map

Johannesburg is undoubtedly the economic powerhouse of the African continent and amongst the top 50 largest metropolitan areas in the world.  It is known locally as Jo’burg, Joeys, Jozi or eGoli, with the latter meaning City of Gold – referring back to its roots as a gold mining town.  The city was founded on the Witwatersrand, the biggest gold reef worldwide.  It is a city of extremes, from opulence to abject poverty, major traffic congestion and a fantastic climate, with hot summers and mild winters.

Jo’burg is located in north-central South Africa at an elevation of 5797,244 feet above sea level, a rarefied atmosphere.  It is a sprawling, large city, just an hour from the capital city, Pretoria.  The Jukskei River runs through the city.  Johannesburg and Pretoria are found in the smallest province in the country, Gauteng, which has the largest share of the population at around 14.7 million.

The public transport system is really not up to scratch.

  • OR Tambo is the country’s business airport, based in Kempton Park on the eastern side of the city. It is easily reached by the Gautrain, especially during rush hours when road traffic is at its heaviest.  The airport handles in excess of 28 million passengers per year, and 650 000 tons of cargo.  The Jo’burg to Cape Town route is one of the 10 busiest routes worldwide.
  • Lanseria Airport, in Randburg, northern Jo’burg, handles mainly domestic travel, with a selected number of international flights.
  • The Gautrain, a fast, modern bullet type train, runs from Pretoria to Jo’burg, with a number of stops along the way, including OR Tambo airport. It is an expensive but convenient mode of transport, especially during peak hours.
  • In the suburbs, there may be a mediocre bus service, but it is doubtful. This is a 2-car per family city and one must join the awful congestion in order to get to the business centres.
  • Uber is frequently used, along with other fixed-rate taxis, but the local white minibuses taxis, known as Kombis, are dangerous and have no respect for the rules of the road. They should be avoided by both passengers and fellow road users.
  • The Metro train system is rarely on time, the cars are dirty and extremely crowded.

The Areas

Johannesburg is a relatively inexpensive city to live in, especially if you are earning in a foreign currency, not so much if you are earning in Rands, the local currency.  However, there are some really awesome rental properties in both leafy suburbs and high-rise buildings.  Your first choice should be proximity to work and to the schools.  Public transport is generally not an option. The main commercial centres are the city centre and Sandton.

Due to the crime rate, most expats prefer to live in security complexes, known as cluster developments or townhouses complexes.  These generally have high fences or walls and security guards.  The windows will typically have burglar bars.  In 99% of cases, there will be a swimming pool in the grounds.

Freestanding houses will also have high walls, electronic gates and garage doors, large gardens, most with private swimming pools and separate staff accommodation.  It is common to have a live-in cleaner and a part-time gardener.  Burglar bars and security systems are the norms.


These are the most popular suburbs for expats.  All are well-established and are surrounded by really good private schools.  Fourways is a mass of security complexes, a few green spaces, has brilliant shopping centres and malls and truly awful traffic.  Lonehill is more countrified, large houses, parks and schools within the suburb.  The only problem would be the traffic.  Sunninghill is closer to the business district, has older houses, lots of businesses and shopping centres.


With newly revamped apartment blocks and fancy areas like Maboneng, the city centre is generally cheaper than the suburbs.  Probably not the safest of areas, but most of the developments have excellent security.  Good schools would be outside the city.  Along with Newtown, Maboneng and 1 Fox, this vibrant area is arty, has great restaurants and live local artists performing in rustic venues.  It is a quick walk to get to work or to walk home from a good night out.


Sandton has recently – well, in the last 20 years – replaced Jo’burg city centre as the business and commercial hub, with many local and international headquarters, banks, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and swanky hotels.  Rentals are at a premium here and rise sharply as one gets closer to the business district.  Conversely, Bryanston has large garden plots with massive, luxury homes.  The leafy streets burst into purple Jacaranda blooms every spring.  A bonus, for those working in Jo’burg city centre, is the Gautrain station.

A tad further south, Hyde Park is the epitome of elegance, Sandown is the most expensive neighbourhood in the Jo’burg area, while Morningside is more family-centric.  All are very close to Sandton’s business area and have an abundance of excellent schools and medical facilities.


Close to Sandton, but a lot quieter and much less ritzy, the area has tree-lined streets with large homes and excellent restaurants and shopping centres.  Open areas include Emmarentia Dam, with lovely walks, picnic areas, a lake and is often used as an open-air venue for concerts.  There is a Gautrain station to catch a ride to Sandton or the city.  All in all a good area for both singles and families.


If you’re looking for peace and quiet and lovely scenery, Northcliff is for you.  Winding roads lead uphill with gorgeous houses positioned especially for the view.  Good schools, too.  Melville, on the other hand, is trendy and bohemian, probably because it is situated to 2 universities, the University of Johannesburg, known as UJ, and the University of the Witwatersrand, a mouth-full of a name, condensed to just Wits.  These two fuel a pubby and clubby party atmosphere, street cafes, themed restaurants and antique shops.  One of the strangest shopping centres is 27 Boxes, made up of shipping containers.  Smaller, more traditional and older homes line the streets and the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve is on the doorstep.  These areas are closer to the Jo’burg CBD.


Located equidistant between Sandton and Jo’burg CBD, these older neighbourhoods offer more modest family homes with Zoo Lake and Emmarentia Dam nearby to escape with the family.  Parkhurst is a trendy area for young families with some of the best local restaurants, night spots, coffee shops, bakeries, interior design outlets and antique dealers.  The streets are lined with some of Jo’burg’s oldest trees.


To the east of Jo’burg, Bedfordview is close to OR Tambo Airport and the city.  A reasonably quiet area, the properties and gardens are large, including some in security complexes.  The shopping malls are sublime, the restaurants are popular and well-known.


One of Jo’burg’s best addresses, the older properties are grand and dignified, set in lovely gardens with sweeping drives.  Three of the oldest and best schools are here, along with a number of international companies and very swanky shopping malls.

The Gautrain stops here, to whizz you into either Sandton or Johannesburg centre.

Who lives and works in Johannesburg?

The city accommodates some of South Africa’s core industries, including finance, telecommunications and mining, making it the best place in the country for those looking to advance their careers. The work pace is fast and furious, aggressive, competitive and demanding.  Jo’burg produces around 16% of the country’s GDP and 40% of the province’s economic activity.  Gauteng may be the small province but it is the wealthiest, with the largest economy of any metropolitan area in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The local people are friendly and helpful, plus there are a number of expat networking groups which are beneficial to newcomers.

The unemployment rate is high due to countless local people arriving daily to look for work, the majority of whom are unskilled.

The Best Bits

Entertainment is of special importance to the lifestyle of Jo’burgers.  Theme parks, casinos, restaurants, shopping malls, nightclubs, markets, wildlife parks and Jo’burg Zoo all prove very popular in this fast-paced city.

  • Shopping malls, such as Sandton City, Cresta, Melrose Arch, The Mall at Rosebank, Clearwater Mall and Fourways Mall have mega-cinema complexes, restaurants and shops, all open 7 days a week.
  • Traditional and arty markets such as the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein, Market on Main in Maboneng, Finders Keepers Market on the rooftop of The Mall of Rosebank, Jozi Real Food Market in Parkhurst and Bryanston Organic Market are springing up in parks all over the city.
  • Gold Reef City. An exciting theme park with a mining town atmosphere.  The rides cater for all ages and you can even visit the working face of a coal mine.
  • Wildlife parks surround the city, including the Lion Park and the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, both proving more and more popular. Jo’burg Zoo is set in stunning surrounds and regularly organises
  • Escape from the city to villages, towns and reserves such Magaliesberg, Hartebeespoort Dam, Dinokeng Game Reserve, Sun City, the Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve and Cullinan, just outside Pretoria.
  • Visit Vilikazi Street in Soweto for traditional African cuisine set in a party street.
  • Montecasino in Fourways has theatres, restaurants, a fabulous aviary, shops and a large casino.
  • Maboneng Precinct has quirky shops, great restaurants, skateboarding and even a laundry.
  • Jo’burg’s Mystery Ghost Bus visits the Old Transvaal Children’s Memorial Hospital where the ghost of the notorious serial killer, Daisy De Melker is said to haunt Ward 7, where she worked as a nurse. She was hanged in 1932 for poisoning her two husbands and her son.  The bus also stops at her home in Turffontein, where she peers through the windows.
  • Boiling an egg in Jo’burg takes a full minute longer than at sea level, due to the altitude.
  • A headless woman, carrying her head in her hands, is often seen in Kensington Sanatorium. She committed suicide in WWI after the death of her husband.
  • The city has been rebuilt four times in a 100-year timespan. It started life as a tented camp, then tin shanties were the order of the day, followed by four-storeyed Edwardian brick houses and finally the skyscrapers of today.
  • The Cradle of Humankind is home to 6.4% of human fossils, all found in this archaeological site.
  • South Africans love their beer. The SAB World of Beer takes you on a tour through the history of beer.  This has been twice nominated as the most popular tourist attraction in the country.
Bringing the Kids

With the huge variety of things to do in and around Johannesburg, including lots of outdoor activities and wildlife parks, the kids will never be bored.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa.  Most of the schools listed below offer tuition in English, with Afrikaans and indigenous languages as second languages:

  • Government schools are poorly funded, affecting the standard of education.
  • Previous Model C schools are funded partially by the government and by parents. These include some of the best schools in the country.
  • There are excellent private schools dotted around the city and suburbs.
  • International schools include German, French, American schools, offering the International Baccalaureate (IB), O and A Level courses, and specific language tuition.
  • There are two universities, UJ and Wits, both fee paying.
Relocating to Johannesburg

As the powerhouse of Africa, surrounded by game reserves, parks and activities, Johannesburg never fails to impress.  A high standard of living in spacious homes with large gardens and swimming pools, along with affordable household and garden help, makes this a destination second to none.  The efficient and modern airports offer easy escapes to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, along with neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Mauritius and Zimbabwe.  Of course, any move is a little traumatic, but your move can be almost painless with the help of an experienced relocation agent.


City Centre
Green space
Natural Beauty
Average Monthly Rent - Johannesburg
2 bedrooms apartment, Johannesburg central, unfurnished £230
2 bedrooms apartment, good suburb, unfurnished £612
2 bedrooms apartment, great suburb, furnished £1,890
3 bedrooms apartment, great suburb, unfurnished £1,166
3 bedrooms house, great suburb, unfurnished £2,000
4 bedrooms house, good suburb, unfurnished £1,225
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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