Cost of Living in Zambia
The cost of living in Zambia is low for those paid in a strong currency, but it is still fairly expensive as far as Africa is concerned. Globally, Lusaka was ranked at 188th out of 207 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living survey for 2015, placing higher than Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa.
Zambia is a landlocked country and therefore heavily dependent on its neighbours. Transport costs are high and much of the country’s consumer goods are imported, and therefore expensive.
Expats should remember that the cost of living in Zambia is relative. For those wanting to maintain the life of comfort that they may be used to back home, the cost can be exorbitant; but it’s worth noting that the majority of Zambia’s population still live well below the poverty line.
Cost of accommodation in Zambia
Accommodation costs in Zambia can be high, particularly in Lusaka, and are likely to be an expat’s most significant monthly expense. Many companies secure and finance housing for their senior expatriate executives. Expats looking for work in Zambia should factor the housing costs into any contract negotiations.
Cost of food and basic goods in Zambia
The cost of basic goods such as food (particularly the staple, mealie meal) and transport costs have risen sharply in recent years. Fresh fruit and vegetables are very seasonal. During the dry season, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and cabbage are very cheap, but during the wet and cold season, these items will summon more than double their dry season prices.
The informal market in Zambia is a good place to pick up bargains. Polite bartering is accepted in the street cafés and vendors’ shops in a way that it is not in more formal stores. Expect to be able to work a vendor down to about half his original quote. Buying more than one item at the same location can be beneficial, as the custom of mbasela (giving a free gift with multiple purchases) is strong in Zambia.
Cost of schooling and education in Zambia
Expats with children will most likely fork out a hefty sum of money on education. International schools in Zambia are the first choice for expats and the privilege of attending these schools does not come cheap; fees can range upwards of 25,000 USD, with most schools charging a once-off admittance fee which can be thousands of dollars.
Cost of healthcare in Zambia
Another essential expense for expats in Zambia is health insurance. Zambia’s public healthcare system is not adequate to cater to the medical needs of expats, and although there are some good private hospitals in the major centres, any serious medical emergencies are likely to require evacuation to South Africa or elsewhere. Expats therefore need to ensure that they have a full health insurance policy that covers this.