Home Study in SA: Tutorial Series 7: Where to stay

7: Where to stay

by Staff Reporter

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It’s time to set up base. No matter for how short or long your studies keep you in South Africa, you need to find yourself a temporary place to call your home. We help you explore the various types of accommodation options, depending on your living preferences, your budget and your chosen university. It also depends on whether your studies in SA are arranged through an exchange programme, or by your lovely independent self.

It’s time to set up base. No matter how short or long your studies, you need to find yourself a temporary place to call home. There are various types of accommodation options for you, depending on your living preferences, your budget and your chosen university. It also depends on whether your studies in SA are arranged through an exchange programme, or by your lovely independent self. Where to stay.

Study-abroad students with an international exchange programme

Every exchange organisation has different types of programmes. You need to find out from your programme what is covered in terms of accommodation type and funding. Some programmes will arrange accommodation for you at the university residence, and others organise host families. Other programmes might have completely different arrangements. 

When you enquire about the accommodation arrangements with your programme, you also need to ask them about costs and arrangements linked to accommodation. For example, if you will be staying at the university residence, does the programme also fund your meals? 

Usually the organisation has information on housing on their website, but you might have to contact them for more specific details. The more you ask and double-check, the more you will know how much is covered and arranged.

Study-abroad students with a partnership university or who come on their own terms

If you are doing your studies abroad with a partner university, you need to find out from your International Office what the accommodation arrangements are. These can differ with each partnership.

Some universities give you a budget for your stay abroad, but it’s up to you how you spend it, and what kind of accommodation you organise. In other cases, the partnership programme might include pre-arranged accommodation, etc.

For the case that you are responsible for finding your own accommodation, have a look at the list below for recommended types of accommodation options.

International Full-time Student

If you are an international full-time student, your accommodation options are pretty much the same as for local students who don’t live at home while they study. Check out the list below for recommended types of accommodation possibilities that await you. 

Recommended Types of Student Accommodation

University Residence

What is it?

All of the top 8 universities offer residential accommodation to students – we call it “res,” short for residence. A res is usually on or very close to the university campus. In the case that it is a little further away, the university’s transport services provide easy transfer between the res and campuses. 

Within many (but not all) university reses you also have choices like:

  • self-catering vs. included meal plan(s)
  • female, male, or mixed res
  • shared or private room

This is a fantastic way to meet and mix with other students and get the full university experience! It can also be an affordable option, and if you opt for the meal plans, you don’t need to worry about major grocery shopping and cooking. We definitely recommend this as an accommodation option for you, especially if you are a social butterfly. 

However, if you are a little wary of possible curfews and general rules that come with res, then maybe a private student diggs is more for you. 

Where can I find it?

Generally, you need to be a full-time student to qualify for a place in res, but some universities do have options for exchange students. To find out more about the admission requirements and application process, contact the residence offices at the respective university.

University of Cape Town

The Student Housing Accommodation & Advocacy Services (SHAAS)

Phone: + 27 (0)21 650 2977

Email: res@uct.ac.za 

Website: https://www.dsa.uct.ac.za/student-housing/ucts-residence-system/overview 

University of Stellenbosch

US Client Services Centre

Phone: +27 (0)21 808 9111 

Email: info@sun.ac.za

Website: https://www.maties.com/accommodation/residence.html

University of KwaZulu-Natal

Accommodation for Students

Phone and Email:  see the website for campus-specific contact details

Website: https://applications.ukzn.ac.za/Accommodation-to-Students.aspx

Rhodes University

All Enquiries

Phone: +27 (0)46 603 8276

Email: registrar@ru.ac.za

Website: https://www.ru.ac.za/admissiongateway/campuslife/residences/

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Cape Town Residence Central Office
Placement Officer, Mrs Pamela Brieley

Phone: +27 (0)21 460 4274

Email: brieleyp@cput.ac.za

Website: https://www.cput.ac.za/students/life/accommodation

University of Witwatersrand

Central Accommodation Office

Phone: +27 (0)11 717 9172/ 9173/ 9174 

Email: accommodation@residence.wits.ac.za

Website: https://www.wits.ac.za/accommodation/ 

University of Pretoria

Residence Mangement and Student Life
Ms Lanché van Tonder

Phone: +27 (0)12 420 2181

Email: lvt@up.ac.za or lance.vantonder@up.ac.za

Website: https://www.up.ac.za/student-accommodation

University of Western Cape

Residential Services 

Phone: +27 (0)21 959 2569

Email: resservices1@uwc.ac.za

Website: https://www.uwc.ac.za/Students/SD/Res/Pages/Home%20Page.aspx

Student Accommodation – Room Rentals

What is it?

You can choose to rent a room in a student accommodation. It tends to be similar to a res, except that it doesn’t need to have a direct connection to any university. These accommodations are usually located near universities.

They are often advertised on classifieds sites, and can be anything from big houses that are available for student tenants, to buildings designed for student accommodation. 

Where can I find it?

A great site to use is Gumtree. In the property section, you can select the type of accommodation you are looking for, or simply type “student accommodation” into the search bar – and use the filters to refine your search. Locals in SA use this site all the time!

Student Diggs & Shared Homes

What is it?

This one is awesome. 

A ‘diggs’ is essentially a living arrangement where you have flat mates or house mates (in South Africa, we generally call an apartment a ‘flat,’). In a diggs, you rent a room in a flat or a house, usually on a lease agreement. 

Every diggs has its own way of going about things. Some diggs mates cook together and arrange fun activities like movie nights and outings. Others are calmer and people keep a bit more to themselves. But it’s a wonderful way to be independent, and not have to live alone. It also relieves expenses for electricity, water, Internet, etc., as these expenses are generally shared between all diggs mates. 

FYI: If you have no clue how to imagine a digs situation in a foreign country, you should watch the classic French comedy “The Spanish Apartment” – that should clear things up. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283900/

Where can I find it?

Like with student accommodation, a great site to use for finding a digs is Gumtree. In the property section, you can select the type of accommodation you are looking for, like “Flat Share & House Share” – and use the filters to refine your search. Locals in SA use this site all the time!

Bachelor Pads & One-Bedroom Flats

What is it?

A bachelor pad or a one-bedroom flat is… pretty self-explanatory. You rent a small flat or studio, big enough for one person (or an incredibly stable couple), on a lease agreement. 

If you enjoy a lot of ‘alone time’, or if your studies will require a quiet environment for you to concentrate, then this is a good option for you. 

Keep in mind that this kind of accommodation will come at a higher rent, and you don’t have anyone to share certain living expenses with. 

Where can I find it?

You can use the Gumtree website to browse for a flat, or you can approach any real estate agency and ask for someone in the rental division to help you, for example Remax

Stay with a Host Family

What is it?

A host family is a family that opens the door to their home and invites you to stay with them during your stay. It’s a very good way for you to become accustomed with a local culture and language, and to have people who can advise you about life in SA and give you general tips that by far exceed any tourist manual you could read. Interacting with and learning from locals is the way to go!

Where can I find it?

If you know someone in SA, maybe they or someone they know would be willing to host you – sometimes for free, or for a low price. If they have kids, you could even come to some arrangement like tutoring them once or twice a week in return for a low rental… just explore your options.  And use your contacts! Even if you message a friend who knows someone in SA – you never know what could work out. 

Homestay is also pretty cool. It’s like Airbnb, but for finding host families. Enter the time period you will be staying in the given city, and you can see the availability with different host families and what they charge per night. 


What is it?

B&B stands for bed and breakfast. It’s a rentable room or suite and works similar to a hotel, but it’s usually a bit more homey. In general, a breakfast buffet or menu is included in the price. 

A Bead & Breakfast can be a cosy and convenient accommodation – especially if breakfast and a cleaning service are included. This option is, however, more suitable for a short-term stay, as it can get pricy, and these kinds of accommodations aren’t really designed for long-term guests and students. 

Buuuuut, when, during your stay, you gallivant across the country to explore more than just your university campus, definitely check out B&B accommodations. 

Where can I find it?

You can search for B&Bs on travel websites like TripAdvisor or any other accommodation search platform. 

One of our local ones is Bed and Breakfast for B&Bs in and around South Africa. 

Hostels & Backpackers

What is it?

As an international student you might need to find a short-term place to stay before you find an apartment. You might even arrive at your destination earlier than expected and will need to find a place to crash for a few weeks before you move into a university residence. Whatever the case is and whichever city you go to, just remember you always have the glorious option of sleeping at a youth hostel or backpackers. 

South Africa is riddled with various backpacker options across the country. Depending on the type, you may have the option of staying longer than a few days. Make sure you find out about any student benefits the backpackers might offer – you never know. Of course this accommodation option is more suited for short-term stay and it works quite well for students looking for accommodation before moving into a university residence or apartment. 

The nice thing about staying at a backpackers is that you can just pack up and go as you please. With most backpackers or hostels in SA you often receive free breakfast options and Wi-Fi access. 

If you like meeting new people, enjoy the traveller’s lifestyle and don’t mind spontaneous adventures – then staying at a backpackers may be something for you. You’ll meet interesting characters from all over the world and you might even score some cool trips to go on during your stay. 

Where can I find it?

Have a look at the Coast to Coast guidebook for backpacker options across the country. 

FYI: Are you heading to Cape Town and need a place to stay? EduConnect recommends Once in Cape Town backpackers – where you can experience true Capetonian ‘gees.’ If you need to find a place to stay before you move into a residence or even a place to stay during your travels in Cape Town, be sure to find out about Once in Cape Town’s staycations option here

EduConnect 2cents

When you use websites like Gumtree to search for accommodation, we recommend you do some thorough research into the different neighbourhoods of the city you are coming to. Don’t get excited about killer offers before you investigate the area.  Try to get in touch with students who have stayed here before (ask your International Office for contacts). Or else, just drop us a message and we’ll give you our opinion on a specific neighbourhood!