Cape town in South Africa

How Many British People Live In South Africa?

Why do British people move to South Africa? And How many Brits decide to move there? Find out more in our helpful article.

6 minute read

With its abundant outdoor spaces, sunny climate, undeniable affordability, and diverse cultural charm, it is no wonder why so many British nationals choose to embark on a new chapter in Sunny South Africa.

It is estimated - as of July 2021 - that over 212 000 Brits are living in the Rainbow Nation. Whether they’re living the swallow lifestyle and chasing the warmer climate during Britain’s colder months or living in South Africa full time, this gorgeous country has much to offer Brits in need of a lifestyle change.

Here we explore why British expats might choose to move to South Africa and examine the statistics – which speak for themselves! If you’ve ever considered moving to South Africa and want to swap bustling tube rides and rainy days for scenic coastal drives and sunshine galore, this one is for you!

Why Do British People Move to South Africa?

The numbers speak for themselves. South Africa is a popular destination for both British holiday goers and those wishing to immigrate. So why do British people love South Africa so much? Well, quality and diversity of life seem to have a lot to do with it. Here we examine four key reasons why Brits might move to SA.

There is Something for Everyone

South Africa offers those dwelling within its borders a bounty of diversity. Known for its picturesque landscapes, 2800 kilometres of cascading coastline, dramatic mountain ranges, and urban and rural hubs, there is truly something for everyone. Whether you prefer revelling in the cosmopolitan bustle of busy cities while sipping on a cocktail and enjoying 5-star cuisine or prefer the slower pace of life found in sleepy seaside towns and farm-style settings, the South African landscape offers something special for young professionals, families, and retirees alike.

With nine official provinces - each embodying their own landscapes, legislature, climates, and unique appeal - Mzanzi (a colloquial Zulu term meaning ‘South’) truly offers something for all.

Affordability Prevails

Another drawing card for moving to South Africa is the affordability factor, especially if expats have a nest egg or can keep working for a UK-based company (thus earning in pounds and spending in Rands.) In the age of remote working - where many UK nationals can still earn pounds, all the while dwelling within South Africa’s borders - this has become a widespread phenomenon for expats.

As of October 2021, the exchange rate is a whopping £1 to R20.38. (To put this in perspective, R40 or £2 will get you a lovely glass of wine at a local establishment.)

Expats can also enjoy a more affordable way of life and will pay significantly less on rent, eating out local travel, and day to day activities.

Outdoor Activities Galore

South Africa is a must-visit destination for anyone who enjoys spending time outside. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie with love for mountain climbing, deep-sea diving, or paragliding or prefer gentle meanders along scenic coastal routes and forests dotted with indigenous yellowwood trees, the outdoor lifestyle is bound to entice. Enjoy a sundowner by the ocean after work, or start your weekend with a Saturday morning hike (followed by brunch at a local cafe, of course.).

Sports lovers will also delight in numerous sporting activities and events, from cricket games at the famous Newlands Cricket Grounds to rugby games at the Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 world cup. There are also many running clubs, rock climbing centres, cycling groups, and dance classes for anyone looking to widen their circle and enjoy some endorphin-boosting fun.

Higher Quality of Life

While historical factors have created a great deal of inequality amongst local communities in South Africa, many expats note that they enjoy a higher quality of life after moving. A study conducted by HSBC bank noted that a whopping 62 % of expats reported improved quality of life after moving to South Africa.

Various factors lead to these responses, including warmer climate, cultural diversity, the feel-good factor of engaging in volunteer work, and outdoor lifestyle.

What is the total amount of British expats living in South Africa?

As mentioned above, as of July 2021, around 212 000 British Nationals live in South Africa, with around 38 000 of these being retirees. While the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly caused numbers to ebb and flow, things finally seem to be stabilising. With the recent (and much celebrated) news that South Africa is off the UK travel ban list, movement between the two countries has eased up, and mandatory hotel quarantine has been removed. This makes it much easier for Brits to enter the country and numbers are set to increase as travel restrictions ease.

Where are the British Expats most concentrated in the country?

Most expats move to either Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Durban, with Cape Town often enjoying a top of the list position between the three cities. All three cities have much to offer expats and have all been ranked within Mercer’s top 450 global cities list. Here we explore the three cities in greater detail and look at some of their most popular attractions.

Cape Town

This gorgeous port city is located on the Southwest Coast of South Africa and is the second-largest city in the country, after Johannesburg. Known for the iconic Table Mountain, world-class dining experiences, the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and historical landmarks like the Castle of Good Hope, this city combines comprehensive history with modern appeal. The city houses many attractive neighbourhoods, impressive nightlife, and various outdoor activities for those with a penchant for nature. It is also the natural choice for wine lovers, with several world-famous vineyards within the Western Cape. With its world-renowned University of Cape Town, it is also a popular destination for those embarking on their tertiary careers.


Known as the country's economic hub, Johannesburg is a popular choice among young professionals and business execs. Located North East of the country, in the Provence of Gauteng - a historic gold-mining settlement - is characterised by the fast-paced lifestyle, trendy suburbs, and myriad activities. Expats living in Johannesburg can enjoy affordable rent, excellent shopping malls, and a vast range of activities (from historical places of interest, Monte Casino, Sandton City boutiques, and local cuisine at popular markets). While those with a deep love for nature might have to get out of the city over weekends, there are still little pockets of green in the so-called concrete jungle, including Zoo Lake and the Botanical Gardens.


For those with love for a slower-paced lifestyle, Durban might just be the city. The third-largest city is known for its balmy warm climate (even in those chilly winter months – hello winter swims!), delicious curries, and Art deco architecture. Locals can enjoy strolls along the Durban promenade (or prom as the locals call it) or the coastal beauty and bustle of the famous Umhlanga beachfront. The cost of living is notably cheaper than that of Cape Town and Johannesburg – especially with regards to rent. Many expats opt to live in the affluent Kloof suburb.

Have expat numbers been increasing or declining in South Africa recently?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic has caused such disruption to global migration patterns, it is hard to glean clear-cut data about the comings and goings of British nationals, especially since South Africa was on the red list for over a year. Nonetheless, with over 200 000 Britons in the country and travel opening up in time for the summer season, it remains a popular destination for those looking for a different lifestyle and some health-inducing vitamin D.

What are the visa requirements for British Nationals moving to South Africa?

British citizens can happily enjoy 90 days in South Africa without needing a visa; however, for more extended sojourns, a visa is required. There are temporary work visas that allow British Nationals to live in the country for five years (with a valid job offer) and specialised critical skills visas for those wanting to stay in the country without such an offer. Retirees can also choose to apply for a retirement visa, but this requires proof of an income of at least R37 000 (Around 1900 pounds) per month.


South Africa offers expats an exceptional quality of life. Its spectacular climate, world-class national parks, meandering coastline, and outdoor lifestyle make it a first-class destination for many. For more information on Visa requirements, renting or buying property, healthcare advice, information on schools and tertiary institutions, be sure to explore our blog.

For current expats living in South Africa, what ae your favourite parts about living in the Rainbow Nation? Share below!

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Author: Charlotte Marais
Charlotte Marais is a content writer and copy editor with a passion for travel, dogs, 80s classics, and social transformation. After…