Underestimating the high cost of living in Nigeria is one of the worst relocation mistakes an expat can make. Expats with little knowledge of this West African country may be quick to assume life in Lagos or Abuja is relatively affordable. In actuality, Nigeria’s two largest urban centres are ranked as two of the most expensive cities in Africa. Lagos ranks 18th out of 209 cities in Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living Survey – making it marginally more expensive than London. Abuja ranks 68th, placing it higher than the likes of Helsinki.

Rural areas and smaller urban centres in Nigeria levy a far less expensive lease on life, but the majority of expats are concentrated in these two aforementioned locales.

Many may wonder how an African country often reprimanded for its high levels of poverty, crime and corruption can beat out global powerhouses such as Berlin and Barcelona in the cost of living calculations. The answers lie in oil reserves, which have allowed economic expansion and population growth to explode and mushroom. As a result, private investment in luxuries and amenities catering for businesses and foreigners skyrocketed and prices followed.


Cost of accommodation in Nigeria

The cost of accommodation in Nigeria is undeniably high. In most cases, hiring companies will not only find and secure housing for their expatriate staff, but they will also foot the bill. In fact, many foreign companies have purchased or sub-let housing in areas that have become known as expat enclaves, and so are well-furnished and easily prepared to make the necessary home arrangements. This can be a life-saver as, otherwise, expats may face having to pay several months to a year upfront in terms of rent.

Additionally, due to Nigeria’s peaking crime rates and devastatingly unreliable electricity supply, expats will also need to prepare to account for security costs and extra facility (generator) costs.

Generators

The power supply in Nigeria is inconsistent and unreliable. There may be times, generally in the afternoon, when the power supply goes off completely. Consequently, many expats and locals invest in a generator. These convenient power supplies can be one of the biggest drains on one’s finances. They are incredibly costly to buy, install and run.

Generators will need to be refuelled regularly and checked consistently to ensure they are safe. Many small businesses decide to do without generators and find it easier and more economical to close for a few hours. If a generator is vital then the cost needs to be balanced carefully against one's income, as quite often, generators are a false economy that can cause small businesses to operate at a loss.

It isn't possible to give an accurate cost of running a generator as it depends on the quantity of fuel purchased and the amount of power required.

Repairs

This is a hidden cost that can really put a dent in the bank balance. Although Nigerian electricians, plumbers and roofers will do the best they can with the knowledge they have, every job can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Repair work is often carried out by those who diagnose the problem through a process of elimination, and even then, repairs may only be a short-term solution.


Cost of transport in Nigeria

Much like accommodation, the cost of driving and getting around in Nigeria can also levy some unexpected fees. Most expats prefer to hire a driver to negotiate the treacherous traffic and legendary gridlock that besiege roadways that are far below standard. This individual’s monthly salary must be tacked onto the normal costs associated with transport (car payments, petrol and car insurance). Nevertheless, employers often will subsidise these costs.

Taking public transport in Nigeria is not a highly-recommended option. The ramshackle buses and improvisational motorbike taxis (okadas) are often unroadworthy and risky.


Cost of education in Nigeria

With local schools not being an option for expats, those moving to Nigeria with children need to factor the cost of private schooling into their budgets as well. Tuition fees for private international schools are incredibly high. Most of these schools’ fees will also not cover things such as uniforms, textbooks, school trips or even end-of-year external exams. It is worth negotiating an allowance for school fees in an expat employment contract.


Cost of living in Nigeria chart 

Prices may vary across Nigeria, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Lagos in August 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent in expat area)

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

NGN 400,000 - 600,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

NGN 800,000 - 1,500,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

NGN 200,000 - 250,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

NGN 250,000 - 350,000

Shopping and groceries

Milk (1 litre)

NGN 1,000

Chicken breast (1kg)

NGN 1,650

Dozen eggs

NGN 550

Loaf of white bread 

NGN 400

Rice (1kg)

NGN 890

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

NGN 425

Transport

City centre public transport

NGN 200

Taxi rate per km

NGN 450

Petrol (per litre)

NGN 145

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

NGN 2,300

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

NGN 125

Cappuccino

NGN 1,100

Local beer (500ml)

NGN 300

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

NGN 13,500

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute)

NGN 20

Internet (per month)

NGN 16,200

Basic utilities (per month for standard household)

NGN 10,000

Expat Health Insurance

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