The cost of living in Johannesburg is around half that of European cities such as London and Paris. While the average salary in Johannesburg is comparatively lower than in other expat destinations, life in the city is still easily affordable for most expats, especially if they're earning in a foreign currency such as the US dollar.

The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Johannesburg at 205th out of 227 cities worldwide. Cape Town costs about the same, coming in at 210th. Compared to other major South African cities, Johannesburg tends to offer residents a higher standard of living as a result of having better purchasing power, especially when it comes to renting and buying housing.

Cost of accommodation in Johannesburg

The pricing of housing in Johannesburg is very reasonable, and expats' money will go much further here than in Cape Town. Johannesburg housing is not only cheaper but often roomier. Most expats can easily afford to rent or buy multi-bedroomed houses that typically come with a spacious yard, pool and garage.

That being said, accommodation costs in Johannesburg are also affected by the area or suburb expats choose to live in. High-income city-centre areas such as Sandton are notoriously pricey, while slightly less glamorous but still pleasant areas like Randburg can offer great value for money.

Cost of groceries in Johannesburg

The cost of day-to-day grocery shopping in Johannesburg is similar to that of most South African cities. The country's favourable climate allows a wide range of fruit and vegetables to flourish. Fresh produce can be extremely affordable as long as one sticks to whatever is currently in season. As for meat, chicken and pork are cheap, but beef and lamb tend to be more expensive. Quality varies between grocery chains.

Three popular chain stores are present throughout the country: Checkers, Pick 'n Pay and Woolworths. On the affordable side is Checkers, which offers good value for money, while Woolworths is the most expensive supermarket but has consistently high-quality goods. Pick 'n Pay is pricier than Checkers but significantly cheaper than Woolworths, and their produce is of average quality.

Cost of transport in Johannesburg

With cars being the main mode of transport in Johannesburg, it's important to consider expenses such as the cost of petrol and maintenance. In South Africa, petrol in coastal cities is slightly cheaper than in inland cities such as Johannesburg. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt are available throughout most of Johannesburg. A couple of short trips won't break the bank, but if used often, these services can be a pricey way to get around.

As for public transport, the Gautrain, which runs between Pretoria and Johannesburg, can be a fairly inexpensive way to commute if an expat happens to live and work close to the train line, which only has 10 stops.

Cost of healthcare in Johannesburg

As the public healthcare system is generally considered inadequate, most expats will do as locals do and opt for private healthcare services instead. Though trips to the GP are reasonably priced, specialist treatment, surgery, hospital stays and chronic medication costs can be high. To cover these extra expenses, we advise that expats take out a comprehensive medical aid policy with either a local or international health insurance provider.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Johannesburg

The cost of leisure activities in Johannesburg is similar to other major cities in South Africa, and expats should find plenty to do in the City of Gold. Eating out is quite affordable, and expats should have no problem finding something to do across a range of price points. Imports like electronics, games and books go at a higher cost than expats might expect, though. It usually works out significantly cheaper to buy items such as laptops, tablets and gaming consoles abroad, even in countries where the currency conversion isn't in South Africa's favour.

Cost of education in Johannesburg

In general, no-fee public schools in South Africa have a way to go to meet international standards, but some public schools that charge fees or have other forms of income can offer excellent education. That said, most expats send their children to private or international schools, which offer superlative education at high premiums. Expats should budget accordingly and apply early to beat the waiting lists.

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 March 2023.


Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 13,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 11,500

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZAR 7,500

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

ZAR 6,000


Eggs (dozen)

ZAR 35

Milk (1 litre)

ZAR 19

Rice (1kg)

ZAR 26

Loaf of white bread

ZAR 16

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ZAR 81

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ZAR 50

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

ZAR 80

Coca-Cola (330ml)

ZAR 16


ZAR 32

Local beer (500ml)

ZAR 38

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

ZAR 700


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

ZAR 2.24

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ZAR 800

Basic utilities (per month for small household)

ZAR 1,300


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

ZAR 16.50

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

ZAR 30

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

ZAR 23.40

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