I have written about this earlier as well, but over the recent weeks, I have been getting more and more queries on moving to SA, especially from Indians. So here is my attempt to answer all those questions, and more.
Please feel free to check out the Category – Moving to South Africa for more resources.
1) How safe is Johannesburg/South Africa?
This question is foremost on everyone’s mind. Having lived in Joburg for more than two years now, the answer is YES. You need to be alert and aware of your surroundings and you will be fine. I have written about this extensively and you can read it here.
I will not say things don’t happen. Incidents do happen and you are bound to hear about them from friends and colleagues, but as long as you are a little more vigilant, live in a safe compound and careful, things will be fine. It takes a little bit of time to get used to all the high walls, electric fences and security guards, but once you do, you won’t even notice them.
2) What is the weather like?
South Africa is in the Southern hemisphere and so winter months fall between May to August. The days are warm and sunny but can get very windy. Nights are clear and cold. So good warm clothes are required. Cape Town can be quite windy and unpredictable when it comes to the weather. So be prepared for the sun, rain and wind! Johannesburg winter is similar to Delhi. Temperatures can fall to 0-1 degrees in the early mornings and late nights. But the days are very warm and sunny.
Summer months are October to February. It can get very hot if you are outside but nothing compared to North India! The maximum temperature is usually around 33-34 degrees Celsius in Johannesburg. Summer months also experience spectacular thunderstorms – nothing like I have ever seen before.
Renting in Johannesburg
1) What are the nice areas to live in?
Most expats tend to live in Sandton and Fourways. However, some of the other really nice areas are Bedfordview, Edenvale, Houghton, Lonehill, Rivonia, Boksburg, etc. Peak time traffic on the motorways can get really busy and so living close to work is a good idea.
2) Where do most Indians live?
A large number of South African Indians live in Lenasia, Fordsburg, Mayfair and Boksburg. Fordsburg is also the area where you will get all Indian groceries, spices, clothes and shoes readily.
3) What kind of houses are available for rent?
Depending on your budget, all kinds of accommodation is available here. Apartments, town houses, golf estate villas – you can rent anything.
Fully-furnished houses are also available, should you choose not to get your own stuff.
I have found this website really helpful: http://www.property24.com. Some of the big property agencies that you can also contact are Pam Golding, Remax, Jawitz, Hall, etc.
4) What are the rents like?
It’s difficult to say because rents depend on the area you choose to live in. On an average however, a two-bedroom apartment, in a nice, secure complex may be available for R9000-10000 per month (2014). Individual houses or villas with a garden, private pool, etc are obviously more expensive. A quick search on the Property24 website will give you a fair indication.
5) Do the houses come equipped with anything?
Unless you are renting a fully furnished house, the majority of houses will come fitted with only with a stove/hob which also has an oven. Most of these are electric as only a few suburbs have piped gas. So you will need to get used to cooking without fire.
Some houses may also come with a dishwasher, washing machine and/or a refrigerator; but more often than not, you need to get your own.
6) Do houses have a garden and a pool?
A garden unit is not difficult to find, especially if you are looking for a stand alone house. Most of these also have pools. If not, the complex will definitely have a common pool.
7) What about heating and air-conditioners?
Yes, they are available but the majority of the houses come without. Underfloor heating is available in newer complexes but most people just use oil heaters at home. These can be bought easily in local stores. Houses usually come equipped with fans but air conditioners can be bought from stores as well. However, I have not seen the need for air cons so far.
8) How do I find a place to rent?
If you are moving on account of a job, your company most likely would have hired some relocation agents to help you and your family to settle in. These relocation agents uually tak care of finding a house for you as well. However, it is advisable to be a little proactive and look for properties yourself. You can do this online as well as through local newspapers. Once you like a property, you would need to call the listed agent and schedule a viewing appointment with them. You cannot see a house without an appointment.
9) What documents would I need to rent a property?
The landlord would want you to sign a legal lease agreement, which could be for a year or longer, and you would need to pay a deposit and an advance on rent. You would also need to give them a copy of your passport and visa, and in some cases bank statements too and a letter from your company stating that you are employed with them.
Make sure you read and understand all the lease conditions before you sign. If you don’t agree with anything, speak to the agent candidly. Also remember that you don’t need to pay the agency any fee. It’s the owner who deals with that.
10) What is included in the rent?
Your rent in most cases will just include the rent and any maintenance fee payable to the complex of estate in which you live. If the estate has its own security, that is also a part of the rent you most likely you will not need to pay it separately. Get a clear idea before you sign the lease. The things that are not covered in your rent will be water and electricity. A bill will be sent to you from the owner or the agency every month. Get clarity of this too and insist on the bill.
11) Is it worth shipping all household goods from India or should I buy them in SA?
If your company is paying for the relocation, I would suggest bringing all furniture and goods. You get everything in SA but they are more expensive here than in India. As for the electrical equipment, the plugs are a little bigger here so buying those here might be better. But if you don’t want to, you can just carry some converters and they will work fine.
12) How long does it take for the shipping containers to arrive?
It normally takes two months for the goods to be delivered to your doorstep. But may take longer due to unforeseen circumstances. So it is advisable to carry sufficient clothes and basic utilities with yourself when you fly to S. Also, it may take a while to find a house and close the deal. So its best to be prepared.
Getting connected – mobile phones, internet and TV
1) How are the mobile phone and internet services?
Mobile phone connectivity depends on the network provider. I have been using Vodacom and have not had any connectivity problems. However, applying for a connection and getting one can be quite stressful! At least my experience was. You can read about it here, under point 4. Other major players are MTN and Cell C.
You can either buy a pay-as-you (prepaid) connection or get contract (postpaid).
Internet is provided largely by Telkom and they have a near mon0poly. There are other companies too that provide internet services but it is best to check who the dominant provider in your area is and go with them. Otherwise there are issues with speed and connectivity. Also be prepared for a long wait – they take anything from 7 to 21 days to install an ADSL line! Different internet plans are available where you can buy capped or an uncapped line, depending on your usage.
2) How do I get cable TV?
DSTV is the cable TV provider and you would need to locate a DSTV outlet closest to you and apply for a connection in-store. You will need to buy a de-coder and a dish (if your apartment/house does not already have one) from them and they will contact you to schedule an installation.
Just like the cable providers in India, different packages are available that you can choose from. Indian channels like Sony and Zee are also available.
3) What documents do I need for getting all the above services?
For your cell phone, internet and DSTV connections, the documents required are:
– Address proof (your lease document)
– Passport and visa copy
– Application form
– Applicable fee
Make sure you double check the list with them.
4) TV Licence
If you own a TV in South Africa, which you will, you need to get something called a TV Licence. These are available in stores that are authorised to sell them (Game) and in post offices. After you have registered for the first time, you will get an annual reminder to pay the fee.
Living in Johannesburg
1) Should I get any particular ingredients/utensils from India?
Other than home-made pickles and chutneys, nothing really needs to be carried from India, unless of course your company is paying for the shipping of an entire container! Then you can carry everything and you won’t need to buy the utensils, pressure cookers, etc. here. Otherwise the Fordsburg area in Johannesburg sells everything you will need.
2) Do you get the Indian spices and other Indian groceries?
Yes. Indian influence in food is strong here and you get all the Indian spices used in normal cooking. The usual grocery stores also sell a lot of the Indian spices. But otherwise, there are tons of shops in Fordsburg selling Indian and Pakistani ingredients including frozen paneer, mustard oil and pani puri.
There are a lot of good Indian restaurants as well where you can have anything from dosas to chaat and butter chicken!
3) Where can I find Indian vegetables?
From time to time, you can find okra (bhindi) in the grocery stores (Food Lovers Market). Curry leaves and coriander are readily available everywhere. You can also find bitter gourd (karela) a few of the seasonal veggies. However, besides these you only get the other regular veggies in the stores. Depending on the season, street stalls in Fordsburg may sell more Indian veggies.
4) Where can I see Bollywood movies?
The Cine Centre in Killarney Mall and Ster-Kinekor at the Rosebank Zone in Johannesburg run popular Indian movies. The Killarney mall also has two nice Indian restaurants – Mumbai Masala serves more fast food style snacks like papdi chaat, gol gappas, kathi rools, etc while Swad is a more elaborate, sit down place.
DVDs and CDs of latest Bollywood movies and music can be easily bought in Fordsburg.
5) Will Indian appliances and electrical work in South Africa?
The sockets and plugs are much bigger here. Hence, to use Indian electric goods you need to get a large number of extension cords and three-pin plugs/converters to fit them all. The voltage is the same.
However, in order to use heaters specifically, I would advise you to buy them here. As using the big oil heaters through extension cords or converters may cause them to burn. They need to be plugged in directly.
6) Can you hire help? Are they expensive?
Yes, help is easily available in South Africa. Most people with children usually hire live-in nannies/help. But the majority of couples with no children hire people to come and clean either once or twice a week. They come in the morning and leave around 3-4pm. they can be paid a daily wage or a monthly fixed amount – depends on what both parties agree upon. They usually take a break mid-morning where they either make or are offered some tea/coffee and food.
As compared to India, hiring help is a little expensive but it’s not as prohibitive as in Europe and America.
If you hire someone, make sure you get their details – address, ID copy, finger prints, etc.
Medical facilities and basic amenities
1) Is drinking water from the tap safe?
Water from taps is safe to drink almost everywhere in South Africa, unless mentioned otherwise. Even in restaurants, the regular tap water is safe and you will not need to buy bottled water unless you have a problem with the taste.
2) How are the healthcare facilities?
Healthcare services are very good but very expensive in South Africa. So it is important to have a good comprehensive medical cover from office that covers the entire family.
Doctor and dentist appointments are hard to get so be prepared for a long wait unless its an emergency. then they usually see you at once.
If you need to see a doctor after hours, you will need to go to the Emergency of a hospital. Always have these numbers handy and check out your nearest hospital when you are settles in.
3) Are medicines available over-the-counter?
The common medicines such as pain relief, fever, flu etc are available over the counter. For most others, you would need a prescription.
4) Where can I find everyday groceries?
SA has a few major grocery chains where you can find everything from fresh fruits, veggies and raw meats to toiletries, kitchenware and clothes. Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Checkers, Spar and Food Lovers’ Market are the leading stores.
5) Where can I buy emergency food?
Stores in SA, including grocery stores, shut by 5 or 6pm over the week and even earlier over the weekends. So be mindful of their opening hours. However, basic food stuff like bread, milk, eggs, ready-to-eat sandwiches, pizzas, etc. are available at the 24-hour garages (petrol stations).
6) What is the public transport situation?
Public transport is next to non-existent in Joburg. Hence, driving and owning a car is essential here. However, since the last year there has been a rapid proliferation of secure radio taxi services. The travel service,Uber, also operates in Joburg.
Like all British colonies, we drive on the left here, which is the same as in India.
3) Is driving easy in Joburg?
Yes. if you have driven in India, driving here will be a breeze. Roads are wide and of great quality. People usually follow the rules and lane-driving is a must! Adhere to all the rules and you will be fine.
4) Is it important to buy a GPS?
Yes. Although roads are well marked, Joburg is a big city and it takes a while to get to know all the roads. You also cannot stop to ask for directions on the motorways and there are hardly any people walking on the streets! So its good to have a GPS for navigation.
5) What are the speed limits?
Be prepared to drive fast and enjoy driving! The speed limit on the motorways is 120 km/hr while on smaller roads its between 60-80 km/hr. The motorways and city roads have speed cameras at regular intervals. Traffic cops also set up mobile cameras every now and then. So drive under the limit, always.
6) Do cops stop cars on the road?
Yes. There are routine road blocks in all areas from time to time, where cops may stop you to check your license and registration, and fines. Don’t get intimidated. As long as you have all the papers, including the TRN, it will be fine.
Sometimes they insist that your Indian license is not valid in South Africa. In such cases, just tell them that you have never had any problems so far and were advised by the AA that it is valid. If they still insist, just ask them to write you the requisite ticket. They will not do so because they know you are right. They are just looking to make a quick buck. But please do not bribe them.
You may also get fined/stopped for speeding and drunk driving. The latter is a serious offense. Avoid it at all costs.