The cost of living in Abuja as an expat is deceptively high. Although cheaper than Lagos, living in the city is more expensive than in other African giants such as Johannesburg and Nairobi. This can be seen in Abuja’s ranking in Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey, which ranked it the 140th most expensive out of 227 expat destinations. That said, it is at least much cheaper than Lagos, which was ranked 47th.
The relatively high cost of expat living in Abuja often comes as a shock to expats, especially those who were intending to save rather than spend money in Nigeria. Foreigners moving here should realise this is a developing country with a vast gulf between rich and poor. While many of its citizens live in poverty, a select few experience a very different lifestyle, utilising their wealth to fund international business ventures, unlimited shopping sprees and private education.
Cost of accommodation in Abuja
The cost of expat accommodation in Abuja is typically priced well beyond the average professional’s wages. Most rental contracts are only available on a two-year lease – with most landlords demanding rent in an annual lump sum rather than monthly instalments.
While this can seem outrageous and unattainable, housing will be provided for many expat workers as part of their relocation package. Often, the accommodation will also include a security guard and a housekeeper. Expats who have only been allocated an accommodation allowance should make sure the amount promised is enough to secure appropriate housing in Abuja, as well as additional expenses, including generators and general repairs.
Cost of transport in Abuja
If moving to Nigeria for work and employed by a large company, expats are quite likely to be offered the transport services of a driver as part of their package.
Although this may sound excessive, it is necessary, especially to get anywhere on time and unharmed. Abuja’s roads are among the best in Nigeria – rickshaws and motorcycles (okadas) are partially banned, traffic wardens are plentiful, and the government has taken care to cover most of the potholes. Despite this, the main roads are chaotic, congested, and hazardous to the inexperienced foreign driver.
Cost of groceries in Abuja
The cost of Western food items in Nigeria is significantly inflated. Expats can expect to pay a decent chunk more for many standard Western groceries. That said, local produce is cheap. Nigeria has an excellent climate, so an array of fruits and vegetables are available all year round.
As is the case with food, prices for Western clothes are high. Expats who want value for money should either select the material and have clothes made by a local tailor or buy second-hand from any of the clothing sellers in Abuja. For those who want to splurge, several modern malls have emerged in the city, where expats can find numerous international fashion brands.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Abuja
Entertainment and dining out in Abuja encompass a wide price range but often lean towards the higher end for Western tastes, reflecting the city’s general cost of living. Although there are eateries and entertainment spots that cater to a more budget-conscious audience, the costs can escalate, especially in more upscale areas or establishments catering to expats and the city’s affluent crowd.
Cinemas are a popular choice for a night out, and the price for a pair of movie tickets is on par with what one might expect in other large cities. Several modern malls within the city also provide various entertainment options, though at a relatively high cost. The contrast in pricing between local and expatriate-oriented establishments is palpable, and expats should explore a mix of both to find a balance between cost and preference.
Cost of education in Abuja
Expats living in Abuja don't really consider public schools an option, given the low standards of educational facilities, so most expats send their children to an international school in Abuja or a boarding school back home. Within the city, the Lead British International School and the American International School are among the most sought-after schools for private education. Fees at these schools can be expensive, so expats should ensure that their salary package makes provision for this.
Cost of healthcare in Abuja
The healthcare landscape in Abuja presents a stark disparity between public and private facilities. The public healthcare system is notably underfunded and often falls below the standards many expats might be accustomed to. The preferred choice for expats is private clinics and hospitals, which offer a higher standard of care, albeit at a considerably higher cost than public healthcare facilities.
A peculiar practice is the upfront cash payment often required by healthcare providers, which could be substantial depending on the treatment needed. This necessitates robust insurance coverage, with many expatriates opting for international health insurance policies that cover a broad range of medical treatments and even medical evacuation when necessary.
Cost of living in Abuja chart
Prices may vary across Abuja, depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in October 2023.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)|
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre||NGN 2,800,000|
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre||NGN 1,880,000|
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre||NGN 1,160,000|
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre||NGN 520,000|
|Food and drink|
|Dozen eggs||NGN 790|
|Milk (1 litre)||NGN 890|
|Rice (1kg)||NGN 1,710|
|Loaf of white bread||NGN 850|
|Chicken breasts (1kg)||NGN 1,390|
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)||NGN 470|
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant||NGN 30,000|
|Big Mac Meal||NGN 2,600|
|Coca-Cola (330ml)||NGN 210|
|Bottle of beer (local)||NGN 470|
|Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)||NGN 22|
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)||NGN 6,200|
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)||NGN 20,400|
|Taxi rate/km||NGN 800|
|City-centre public transport fare||NGN 400|
|Gasoline (per litre)||NGN 168|
What do expats say about the cost of living in Abuja?
"Abuja is an extremely expensive city, easily comparable to Singapore or London, or even to Hong Kong. Property, food, utilities and internet access are all expensive; local mobile phones, local beer, street taxis and cigarettes are cheap." Read more in this interview with Clementine.
►For more on what you can expect to pay for basic goods and services in the country, see Cost of Living in Nigeria
►Read Banking, Money and Taxes in Nigeria for all you need to know about managing your finances
Are you an expat living in Abuja?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Abuja. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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