Moving to South Africa

Considering a Move to South Africa?

Abels Moving Services have been providing discrete export packing and shipping services for discerning families and professionals relocating and Moving to South Africa for over 50 years.

With its golden coastlines, sunny days and cool nights, it perhaps seems obvious why so many people chose to immigrate to South Africa. However, as South Africa’s motto states: “diverse people unite” there are many different reasons why individuals and families move to South Africa.

About South Africa

South Africa is located on the southern tip of Africa and borders the six countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho where Lesotho is an enclave surrounded by South African territory.

Those moving to South Africa will find the country covers an area of 470,693 square miles making it just over five times the size of the United Kingdom. There are three capitals in South Africa, with Pretoria being the executive capital, Cape Town being the legislative capital and Bloemfontein being the judicial capital.

The economy of South Africa is split into a number of key sectors. These include management of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Food Processing, Manufacturing, the Service Industry, Business Process Outsourcing, and Financial Services. South Africa has main exports from the country of Gold, Diamonds, Metals and Minerals, Cars and Machinery.

The population of South Africa is around 50.7 million people, with the country of South Africa divided into nine provinces of Western Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo, Mpuma-Langa, Gauteng, Free State, Kwazulu Natal, and Eastern Cape. The largest city in South Africa is Johannesburg with a population of just over one million inhabitants.

Renowned internationally for a fusion cuisine which sees traditional barbecues at its centre, South Africa is famed for its mixed cultural and ethnic heritage. When you move to South Africa you will find that its kitchens are as diverse as its people… South Africa has a population numbering approximately 50 million.

Those moving to South Africa will also be able to visit the many attractions of South Africa. Worth visiting is the National Park of Table Mountain, along with the sites of Nelson Mandela Square and Johannesburg Zoo. One of the country’s largest National Parks is the Imfolosi-Hluluwe / Mkuze / St Lucia complex in KwaZulu-Natal and the Kruger National Park in Mpumulanga and Limpopo provinces.

Planning Your Move

When considering Moving to South Africa it is important to speak with a specialist international removal company (not your local domestic mover!) as there are pitfalls throughout the process that you will be glad of their assistance.

Before calling, consider whether you want to send all your possessions or just a select few personal effects. To speak to an advisor call our head office at +44 (0)1842 816600 or email and you will be contacted shortly to discuss your move.

For full house moves / large volumes it is recommended that a home survey appointment is made so that an International Customer Service Manager can personally visit your home and discuss your moving requirements, allay any concerns you may have and advise upon the process, assess the items to be packed and how best to be protected these during there transit and make a judgement on the access to your property to ensure that positioning a larger removal vehicle or shipping container is possible. A full list of all items to be taken will be made by our colleague at this time. A detailed door to door removal proposal will be sent to you shortly following the visit after all costs are collated. (including origin, freight, and destination services).

Smaller volumes can be discussed over the telephone, email or provided via our online service . Your volume, access, packing requirements and shipping method, will be assessed from the information you provide. A detailed door to door removal proposal will then be produced and either posted or emailed to you for consideration.

After you book with Abels you will be introduced to a Customer Liaison Move Coordinator (who will work on behalf of your Customer Service Manager) booking, organising and managing matters when moving to South Africa.

Export Packing

Abels Moving Services advises that Export Packing is a fundamental requirement for all your items and possessions when moving to South Africa. So what actually is Export Packing, and how do I get advice on what will be required?

Export Packing is a way of protecting items when in transit. It utilises either a 6 ply paper blanket that has a wax inner and a water-resistant outer or tough bubble blanket that has a soft cloth inner and robust outer to ensure corners are not exposed. Certain items will need to be card covered, put into a carton or an additional layer of the above wrap to add extra protection – items such as polished furniture, antiques, delicate legs, mirror and glass fronted units.

The level of protection that is needed when moving items for example by road is less stringent but for moving your items travelling thousands of miles in either 20ft Containers or 40ft Containers on their sea journey to South Africa then they will need additional Export Packing protection. Please remember that the goods will be “handled” many times including wrapping, loading the container, road journey to the port, container hoist removes and stacks, container hoist moves from the stack to the loading area near the vessel, loading the vessel crane gantry, sea journey and then the same in reverse. So the protection is paramount in ensuring the contents longevity.

With Abels Moving Services the highest quality export materials are utilised. (ensure you do not use materials that are designed to stay within the UK, the contents of the container will be stacked up to 2 metres and you want the carton at the bottom to stay in shape throughout its journey and protect its contents.

Fine Art & Specialist Packing Services

Moving Fine Art needs great care and will involve Enhanced Export Packing when shipping to South Africa. Items such as Fine Art Paintings and valuable pieces of furniture along with delicate items such as moving a Grand Father Clock, packing and shipping Barometers, transporting chandeliers all need careful handling while being packed in a specific way. The use of special cases built especially for these items needs to be utilised to give the highest level of protection.

Not only is the Export Packing of these items important, but also how they are dismantled prior to shipping to South Africa. Grand Father Clocks will need their main components taken apart ensuring clearly the weights have been removed prior to casing the clock. Moving a barometer also need specialist packing services and careful handling to avoid any problem with the filled mercury, ensuring the tube is bunged to avoid spillage.

Training, training, training is the key to ensure all packing teams are fully versed in the correct handling and packing techniques. Find more information about how to move.


In South Africa there are a number of International Airports. The four main international airports are: Cape Town International Airport (CPT), King Shaka International Airport (DUR) in Durban and the Lanseria International Airport (HLA) and also the O.R Tambo International Airports (JNB) in Johannesburg.

The two busiest airports in South Africa are those of O.R.Tambo International Airport which had 18,681,458 passengers in 2012, and Capetown International Airport with 8,505,563 passengers in 2012. As the O.R. Tambo International Airport is at a very high altitude of 5,558 feet to assist aircraft landing and takeoffs the runway is very long at 14,495 feet.

With sea transit times for shipping your possessions from the UK to South Africa taking in the order of over 7 weeks, you may consider to send some of your consignment by Airfreight. Items for Airfreight will need to be Professionally Packed (due to security restrictions not permitting owner packed cartons) and are then loaded into heat treated modules of various sizes and then waterproof covered for added protection against the elements.

Please allow 2 weeks of transit door to door for airfreight to allow for UK and South African Security and Customs assessments before delivery is permitted to your new home.

See More information about airfreight shipments.

Shipping Services

Larger volumes and full house moves will be shipped within a 20ft or 40ft shipping container. If access permits we always try and load the container outside your residence. This allows you to see our removal team’s skill and care of loading and stowing safely and the sealing of the container with our uniquely numbered container bolt seals. Where access is not suitable for this size of the vehicle, goods may be loaded via Abels warehouse ( you are of course welcome to come and witness the loading ) or in a location close to your property utilising a small shuttle truck to ferry between your home and the container.

Shipping lines will offer some companies low-cost freight yet there is a big risk to the quality of container that arrives and the transit time it then takes. Abels buy our containers through an organisation that negotiates for a supply of A1 class containers that are without fractures to the outer case, dry, clean, odour free containers on our behalf that have an almost guaranteed transit time. If goods stay within a container that has an odour this will remain on the goods when delivered, fractures in the outer will gain water ingress.

Smaller volumes can be shipped as LCL (less than container load). Your possessions will be taken to Abels warehouse for loading into heat treated wooden crates ready for shipping.

Transit times to ports in South Africa from the UK, ie from port to port is normally between approximately 22 to 27 days on the water. Vessels depart the UK weekly to the ports of Cape Town, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth in South Africa. You should allow approximately 7 weeks door to door from your property in the UK to your property in South Africa. (times depend on delays due to weather, strikes, re-routing containers, vessel malfunction, customs inspections – however this guide is normally reasonably accurate).

Read more on these methods about shipping options when moving abroad.

Destination Services

Abels select our partners from those with the highest quality accreditations. These will normally hold the FIDI-faim quality award to ensure that the standards enjoyed with Abels Moving Services is continued to perform the Customs Clearance and Delivery Service. It’s too late to find that the agents selected are not of the highest standard, so we ensure we use the best on your behalf.

Our destination partners will be advised of your shipment shortly following the departure of the container from the UK. They will make contact with you near to when the container is due to arrive in South Africa so that they can perform the Customs clearance process on your behalf.

Following Customs clearance our partners will contact you to arrange the delivery date of your possessions. Normal service includes delivery, unpacking, set up of normal furniture (not Ikea kit furniture unless agreed) removal and disposal of waste packaging materials and return of the shipping container to wharf. Should you prefer, arrangements can be made for a put away service / maid cleaning / relocation or settling in services – should you have specific requirements, please discuss with your Abels Customs Service Manager or Customs Liaison.

Our destination agent will have the professional experience and local knowledge to handle all the details of import documents, customs clearance and delivery of your possessions for you in South Africa. Abels Moving Services endeavours to ensure your arrival at your new home overseas is smooth and trouble-free, to allow you to settle in as swiftly as possible.

Above all, we want you to think of Abels for your next move and the one after that, we don’t simply wish to buy your current move at the risk of losing your future business, goodwill and recommendations!

Useful links

South Africa tourism – a site which provides plentiful information about attractions, cultural history sites, sporting events, route planning and directions around the country

South Africa – official information from the International Marketing Council of South Africa: useful information for all newcomers

Inside South Africa – a privately-owned website offering immigration advice

Abels Moving Services:
Telephone: 01842 816600