Compared to other expat destinations around the world, the cost of living in South Africa is low. However, with a local currency that tends to be weak and unstable, expats who earn or have savings in a stronger foreign currency will be in a far better position than those being paid in the South African rand. Local salaries may also be slightly on the low side in some industries, particularly in Cape Town.

That said, even if a little penny punching is necessary here and there, those who can afford it are sure to enjoy a high quality of life in this country known for sunshine, fresh produce and good wine. 

In Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2020, Cape Town ranked 187th and Johannesburg ranked 192nd out of the 209 cities surveyed worldwide. This is roughly on par with the cost of living in other African countries such as Malawi, Uganda and Algeria and is still far lower than major international destinations like New York, London and Tokyo.

As is usually the case, the cost of living in South African cities is higher than in rural towns, and most expats either move to Cape Town or Johannesburg.


Cost of accommodation in South Africa

There's an abundance of options for accommodation in South Africa, and it shouldn’t take long for expats to find a home that suits their budget and lifestyle.

Some peripheral suburbs in Cape Town and Johannesburg are an exception, but generally the further away from the city someone finds a home, the less expensive it will be. There are plenty of quieter areas for expats who'd prefer to live outside of the city's hustle and bustle. Most expats buy a car, although commuting between home, work and school can take hours during peak traffic. 

Expats moving to Johannesburg will get more space for their money, but a less spacious apartment or house in Cape Town may be within short distance of the beach, vineyards or the mountain.

Given the weakness of the South African rand, buying a property in South Africa is an attractive proposition for many expats, especially in upmarket areas like Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard.


Cost of food in South Africa

Thanks to ever-increasing prices, groceries in South Africa will dominate a large chunk of an expat family’s budget alongside accommodation, transport and education. Most families on a budget prefer to buy groceries from local supermarkets that stock a wide variety of local produce and imported goods. South African brands are usually cheaper than imported goods and many of them are good quality. 

Expats with nostalgic taste buds will also be pleased to know that some retailers stock items from overseas, although these can be expensive.


Cost of education in South Africa

Expat parents will have several excellent schools in South Africa to choose from, but there's a big difference between private and public school fees. Given that most expats send their children to private or international schools, the cost of education in South Africa is relatively high.

In terms of public schools, quality varies widely. Generally speaking, public schools whose fees are on the higher side will offer a better standard of education due to the additional resources they have on hand. While their fees are a little more expensive than regular public schools in South Africa but are still well below the price of private or international schooling.


Cost of healthcare in South Africa

Public healthcare services are of poor to middling quality. For the higher standards, better staff-to-patient ratios and more comfort, expats tend to prefer private healthcare in South Africa

Routine costs are generally affordable, even for people who don't have health insurance. Fees quickly become expensive, however, when consulting specialists or heading to the emergency room.

Private care providers may ask for payment upfront, so it's a good idea to take out private health insurance in South Africa.


Cost of living in South Africa chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Johannesburg in September 2020.

Accommodation 

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 13,000 - 15,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 10,000 - 12,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 8,000 - 10,000

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 5,500 - 7,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

ZAR 31

Milk (1 litre)

ZAR 17

Rice (1kg)

ZAR 22

Loaf of white bread

ZAR 15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ZAR 80

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ZAR 50

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

ZAR 55

Coca-Cola (330ml)

ZAR 15

Cappuccino 

ZAR 30

Local beer (500ml)

ZAR 35

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

ZAR 600

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

ZAR 1.80

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ZAR 700

Basic utilities (per month for small household)

ZAR 1,000 - 1,400

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

ZAR 2

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

ZAR 30

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

ZAR 17

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna_logo_300.png

Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global

Cigna_logo_300.png

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes now!