According to the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Cape Town ranks as the 210th most expensive city out of 227 worldwide, closely following Johannesburg at 205th. This positioning highlights Cape Town as a relatively affordable city globally, especially when compared to major European and American cities.

If you're an expat, it's crucial to budget carefully, considering both the lower general cost of living and the higher prices of specific services. While Cape Town offers lower living expenses than many international destinations, the cost of certain aspects like accommodation and healthcare can be on the higher side compared to other South African cities.

As an expat in Cape Town, you'll benefit from a cost-effective lifestyle that allows for enjoyable living standards without the financial strain experienced in more costly global cities. From housing and transport to dining and entertainment, Cape Town provides a balanced cost profile that can suit various budgets and preferences.

Cost of accommodation in Cape Town

Cape Town, often noted as South Africa's most expensive city for accommodation, presents a range of rental options that balance cost with lifestyle preferences. While it stands as the priciest among its local counterparts, it remains a favourable choice globally, offering comparatively affordable living conditions.

As an expat exploring housing options in Cape Town, the city provides diverse accommodation types, from city-centre apartments to suburban freestanding houses. Your choice greatly depends on your desired neighbourhood, personal and professional needs, proximity to work and desired lifestyle, making Cape Town a versatile home base.

Cost of transport in Cape Town

Cape Town's transport expenses are generally more affordable compared to major cities in Europe or North America. Navigating Cape Town typically requires the use of a private vehicle, as public transport options are somewhat limited. Car ownership becomes almost essential for expats living in the city. The city is known for its congestion, particularly during peak hours, making travel times unpredictable and often lengthy.

If you prefer public transit, the MyCiTi bus service offers a reliable and efficient choice, although its reach is limited to certain areas. Other options like the Golden Arrow bus service and Metrorail exist but may not meet international standards of comfort and safety. Metered taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber provide alternative travel means, suitable if you seek convenience over cost.

Cost of groceries in Cape Town

Cape Town's grocery costs are slightly higher than in other South African cities but still offer good value compared to global standards. As an expat, navigating local supermarkets will reveal a variety of international and local products, ensuring that your dietary preferences and familiar tastes are catered for.

Major supermarkets like Makro and Food Lover's Market offer competitive prices on essentials, which can substantially lower your overall grocery bill. Moreover, the convenience of grocery delivery services in Cape Town can significantly enhance your shopping experience. With lower delivery fees than many international cities, you can enjoy the ease of having groceries delivered directly to your doorstep at minimal additional cost.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Cape Town

Cape Town offers a dynamic entertainment scene that remains relatively affordable when compared to global cities. Dining out at local restaurants and engaging in city events will not break the bank, making it a welcoming environment for expats.

The variety in dining experiences ranges from budget-friendly eateries to more upscale restaurants. Whether you're craving fast food or a gourmet meal, the city caters to all tastes and budgets. Entertainment venues also vary, offering everything from live music to theatrical performances, often at a fraction of the cost one would expect in more expensive international cities.

Cost of education in Cape Town

If you're an expat moving to Cape Town, understanding the educational landscape is crucial. Private and international schools are the most prominent options, offering high standards of education and a range of internationally recognised curricula. The latter institutions are ideal if you seek continuity in your children's education during international relocations.

While these schools provide excellent educational opportunities, they come at a significant cost. The fees are considerably higher than most local institutions, reflecting the quality of facilities and teaching staff. This makes Cape Town's private and international schools comparable in cost to those in more expensive global cities.

In contrast, public schools in Cape Town offer a more affordable alternative, although the quality can vary greatly. Schools in affluent areas generally offer a higher standard of education and better resources, making them a popular choice among those seeking good quality education without the high fees of private institutions.

Cost of healthcare in Cape Town

Navigating healthcare in Cape Town as an expat can be a challenge given the dual nature of its system. Public healthcare facilities are widely available but may not meet the expectations of those accustomed to higher standards. For this reason, most expats opt for private healthcare services, which provide a higher quality of care but at a significant cost.

Private health insurance, commonly referred to as 'medical aid' in South Africa, is almost a necessity for expats. It covers the costs associated with private healthcare, from routine visits to specialists to more complex procedures. The variety of plans available allows you to choose coverage that best suits your health needs and budget.

Cost of living in Cape Town chart

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Cape Town in April 2024.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreZAR 26,500
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreZAR 16,350
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreZAR 12,900
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreZAR 8,350
Food and drink
Dozen eggsZAR 55
Milk (1 litre)ZAR 22
Rice (1kg)ZAR 35
Loaf of white breadZAR 18.45
Chicken breasts (1kg)ZAR 65
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)ZAR 55
Eating out
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantZAR 710
Big Mac MealZAR 90
Coca-Cola (330ml)ZAR 17.05
CappuccinoZAR 40
Bottle of beer (local)ZAR 25
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)ZAR 2.25
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)ZAR 685
Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)ZAR 1,860
Taxi rate/kmZAR 15.20
City-centre public transport fareZAR 20.65
Gasoline/Petrol (per litre)ZAR 23.40

Expat Health Insurance

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