Useful Information on Living in South Africa

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The Language Barrier in South Africa

South Africa as a region has a population that speaks more than ten different languages. In the capital, Cape Town, and across much of the east of the country, the primary language is Afrikaans. In other regions, isiZulu and isiZhosa are among the most commonly heard languages, with English being the fourth most popular. Just less than 10% of the South African population speak English as a first language.

For expats, the presence of so many different languages can prove to be a challenge. Helpfully, however, most road signs are written in English.

Weather & Climate

South Africa is quite vast, and as such the region encompasses many different climate zones. Cape Town reaches average highs of around 25°C in February, which is the hottest month, and average lows of 13°C between June and August.

The northwest of the country is mostly desert land, and can experience periods of drought. Other extreme weather in recent years has included storms and tornadoes with hail and flooding.

British Embassy in South Africa

Address:British Consulate General Cape Town
15th Floor, Norton Rose House
8 Riebeek Street
Cape Town
Western Cape
South Africa
Phone:(+27) 12 421 7500
Office hours:Local Time
Mon-Thurs 08.30 – 12.30

Emergency Services Contact Information in South Africa

Emergency ServiceContact Number

Health in South Africa

Those travelling to South Africa are advised to ensure that their UK standard vaccinations are up to date, including MMR, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Hepatitis A. In addition to this, other recommended immunisations might be Hepatitis B, Rabies, and Typhoid.

Anyone travelling from a country that has a risk of Yellow Fever, who is over the age of 1, will need to present a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate upon entry to South Africa. This includes those who have been to an airport in one of these countries for more than 12 hours.

Other health concerns to be aware of include the presence of HIV in South Africa. It’s reported that around 18.9% of the population are HIV positive. Expats will need to use private health care facilities in South Africa, for which it’s imperative to have comprehensive insurance to cover the costs.

Driving while Living in South Africa

Driving in South Africa is not without dangers. Carjacking and robberies are common, especially after dark. These most often occur at traffic lights and junctions, when a car can easily be surrounded and blocked in. With regards to driving style, it’s important to be aware that drivers in South Africa can sometimes be unpredictable. Drivers are known to overtake vehicles from any lane – including the hard shoulder. It’s advisable to slow down and let these drivers pass, or pull over entirely in the emergency yellow lane.

Most roads in South Africa are well-maintained, and they drive on the left hand side which makes things easier for British expats. There are both roundabouts – locally known as ‘traffic circles’ – and four-way stops. The first car to arrive at a four-way stop has the right of way, so it’s important to keep an eye on the order in which vehicles arrive. Also be aware that traffic lights are often referred to as ‘robots’.

In more rural areas it is not uncommon to see cattle and wildlife on South Africa’s roads. Many farmers do not fence in their livestock, meaning cows and goats often wander into the road. Other wildlife such as baboons, Vervet monkeys and snakes might be seen in the road. During the day these should not present a big problem, however at night drivers need to pay special attention.

Getting your Driving Licence

British expats can drive in South Africa with their UK photocard licence for up to one year. After this, expats living in South Africa that have a permanent resident status need to exchange their UK licence for a local one. This must be done within one year of gaining a residency permit.

To exchange a foreign licence, a driver must go to the DLTC (Driving Licence Testing Centre) in the same province where residency was obtained. Here, form DL1 must be completed and the following must be submitted as well:

  • Identification paperwork (passport and residency permit)
  • 4x black and white passport-sized photos
  • Foreign driver’s licence
  • Proof of residential address in South Africa

The cost of the application will differ with each region. See the South African Government website for further information.

Legal Requirements

South African law dictates that seatbelts must be worn at all times, and using a mobile phone while driving is illegal. Drivers must be 18 in order to get a licence to drive a car, however you can drive a motorcycle (125cc) from age 17.

Speed is measured in kilometres in South Africa, and limits are 60kph (37mph) in urban areas, 100kph (62mph) in rural areas, and 120kph (75mph) on highways.