Retiring in South Africa

Hello everyone,

Why did you choose to retire in South Africa? What are the advantages compared with your home country?

What were your main considerations when deciding to move? For example, taxes, ease of transferring your pension, etc..

Are there any specific formalities you had to go through as a retiree moving to South Africa (for example, is there a particular retirement visa)?

What is South Africa's healthcare like? Have you had any good or bad experiences dealing with healthcare professionals?

Do you have any tips for other retirees in South Africa?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


I married a S. African a little over 5 years ago. We met whilst I was on a work assignment in Johannesburg.  She came to the USA to live with me for a little over 4 years but wanted to return to her homeland once I retired. She has more family here than I in the USA, and the cost of living is so much cheaper here in S. Africa than in the States.  We can live a very comfortable life, own our new home and vehicle,  pay cash for everything,  support the local economy by hiring aid for domestic and yard/garden assistance.  We live debt free on my Social Security income alone, which includes a monthly savings.  That made the decision for me.

Obtaining Permanent Residency Permit can take up to 24 months.  A Temporary Spousal VISA is only good for 2 years (can be renewed).  At the advise of my lawyers in Cape Town I applied for a Retiree VISA which is good for 4 years. This will keep me current until my PR Permit (as a Spouse) arrives hopefully in 18 more months.

We live in an area called "The Southern Cape" - in the municipality of Mossel Bay.  According to Guinness it has the 2nd best climate in the world just behind Hawaii.  So for a retired couple, living along the shores of the warm Indian Ocean has its appeal.

The only down side is a lack of  cultural & culinary diversity in this particular area. Afrikaans is the dominate language. Fortunately the wife is fluent and I understand more than I speak which gives me a secretive advantage. 

This area  is the most sought after "in-country" holiday destination for S. Africans.   Therefore 10 months out of the year the population here is quite small. Most homes are "holiday homes" which remain vacant during the winter months.  On the positive side that lends to a very quiet safe neighborhoods. But on the other hand there is  a lack of diversity in products, ethnic dining,  and health care etc.  But nothing is out of reach.  Just that some things taken for granted in the USA are difficult to find or expensive to purchase and must be couriered from one of the three large S. African cities.  And like most larger cities across the globe, population explosion, traffic and crime were a deterrent for our moving to one of S. Africa's major cities. 

A slower lifestyle, lack of diversity (competition), and a laid back attitude by the population, were my most difficult challenges, but a couple of blocks away is the beach and a few moments there washes away all concerns.

To add a bit more:

Pension Income (including USA 401K, Social Security etc.) is not taxable in S. Africa.

You will pay a "Late Joiner Fee" for Private Health Insurance. This is similar in principle should an American not elect Medicare Plan B,C when eligible but at a later time. The "Late Joiner Fee" can be extensive depending upon the Private Medical Plan you choose. There are companies who specialize in helping Expats make the most cost effective choices for their particular health needs.

I did not move to retire here exactly, I have been in South Africa for 45 years, I retired in 2000 and I receive a British State pension (a small one) as I my late husband only paid into the system for the years we worked in the UK, The UK government freezes expat pensions in Commonwealth Countries like SA, Canada, Australia etc. Never receiving increases from since you claimed. I also receive a military widows pension that does get increases.
I love South Africa, the way of life here, the styles of houses and if you are lucky enough to own your own home it is a lot cheaper to buy a house in SA than in the UK.
Avarage price of a large 3 bedroom house in the UK say +/-  £250,000,00 get you in SA Rands a modern house for +/- R4,250,000.00 in a very well to do suburb in most area's.
As to medical insurance you will pay anything like R2000.00 upwards for a single member, which will include visiting doctors and includes a hospital plan.
A late Joiner fee I have not heard of this?
I stay just a few Kilometers south of Johannesburg, in a large 1/2 acre stand that is in easy reach of major shopping centres, schools, churches and other places of interest.
A retired visa application for temporary residence can be made by demonstrating either R37,000 per month in guaranteed income, a capital sum equal to R444,000 per annum (R1,776,000 for the full four year eligibility) or a combination of both. It is valid for up to four years.
A retired permit application on a permanent basis is made by showing a guaranteed monthly income of R37,000 per month. It is valid forever, but the holder must visit South Africa at least once every three years to maintain it.
A financially independent permit requires the applicant to have a net worth of R12 million, and the individual must pay a once-off fee of R120,000.  The holder must also visit South Africa at least once every three years to maintain the permit.

Yup  I'm a pensioner living on FOREX.  So far so good and so well predicted into the future.

Hi Priscilla - I think this blog post on Joburg Expert should give you a lot of answers, from real people who went through the process and shared their experience: … frica.html

Bite the bullet and hire Legal Consul to immigrate to SA.

Could not agree more.

The Western Cape is by far the loveliest and one of the safest places to live in South Africa. If you love cultural activities, eating out at a reasonable price (compared to European prices) then Cape Town is the place to be. If you prefer a much quieter life then opt for the Southern Cape. Provinces ran by the DA are more efficient than provinces ran by other parties - watch out for that. The Western and Southern Cape are run by the DA.

I also live between Mossel Bay and George. I moved from Paris, France in 1979 so don't actually qualify as a 'retiree to RSA' but many of my friends in France wish they could move to South Africa. In spite of all which is being said on the media, South Africa is still a magnificent country. Prices have sky rocketed in the last few years and our Rand has considerably weakened. If you are earning money in Rands you are much worst off now than 20 years ago but if you are getting a pension from Europe or the USA you will be as happy as a fish in water.

What are the down falls?
Yes medical insurance in RSA is indeed expensive, so keep the one you have at home if you can.
Efficiency is a rare pearl. People are very poorly qualified and the building industry is one of the worst sectors when it comes to proficiency. Builders only have to give a 5 year warrantee on their work, after that if your house breaks down it is your baby. Developers are the worst.
Homes are badly insulated and in the winter it is far warmer outside than inside most houses.
The cost of electricity is very high and at times we have power outages and need to light candles.
Some areas have water restrictions and penalties if you go over your quota.

In conclusion:
South Africa is still Africa. You can't change Africa, Africa has a tribal mentality. So if you move here, you will need to change or you will spend your life being very frustrated. Whatever happens you will learn about patience.

If you want perfection and quality workmanship go to Germany or Switzerland.
If you want a life which is fairly laid back with not too many rules then try South Africa.

What about apartheid and racism you might ask?
There is more racism today in Europe and in the USA with all the migrants than in South Africa.
What unites our people is that most South Africans have strong Christian values.
All people who have deeply suffered for whatever reason have learnt that the end of suffering can only be found in forgiveness.

I feel safer in the Southern Cape than walking alone in Paris.
South Africa is indeed a beautiful country.

The European settlers named this district we both live as "Eden".  Not surprising once one sees the blooming Aloe Ferox in winter along the N2. One simply can not find a more beautiful part of the world for visual stimulation and weather! 

As for culinary diversity,down the road in Groot Brakrivier there is a nice Portuguese restaurant/pup appropriately named "Frangos" (Chickens). And that is about it for diversity in the Southern Cape.  Fortunately my mother taught me to cook and my wife is of Indian decent.  Also I graduated from a Thai cooking school whilst on assignment in Bangkok for six years, so our Kombuis is generally repleat with exotic spices from Durban and overseas including Mexico.   Unfortunately the staple diet of the locals seems to be limited to Braai (anything) beer, dark sherry w/Coke and Pap.  LOL

But you may have noticed that Spar Grocery in Groot Brakrivier is expanding. One can hope for more ne?

I retired to KIZN South coast in 1999.  I have never regretted it for a moment.  The climate and the life style are great.  Problems, none that cannot be overcome.  Security was more of a problem when I was first here but a few dogs are very confidence building plus good company.  Health insurance is the biggest expense but health care is good.  We only have a Hospital plan and pay for doctor, dentist etc when necessary.  I have had eye surgery and also a knee replacement and my Husband spent a week in hospital as an emergency.  All the care was excellent.  Local doctors are very good.  Local infrastructure is good, rarely are we without water or electricity.  We have as many pot holes in the roads as in UK but the national roads are excellent.  Food shopping is similar to UK but we tend to eat seasonal foods.  Most food is cooked at home from raw materials there are few convenience foods.  Probably a healthier option.  Clothes are similar to European and mainly made in China.  I try to buy local when available.  Tax is not a problem, overseas income is not taxable but any local investments require a tax return.  Not a big problem. I got a Permanent Residents certificate which required having to show I was healthy, didn't have a criminal record and could keep myself.  It took about 6 months then.
I am sitting looking out at beautiful blue sky and sunshine.  It is the middle of Winter but warmer than most of UK.  I can even get UK television for 29 pounds a month.