The cost of living in Zambia is low for those paid in a strong currency. In the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2019, which compares expat cities around the world, Lusaka was ranked at 196th out of 209 cities.

As Zambia is a landlocked country, it is heavily dependent on its neighbours. Transport costs are high, and much of the country’s consumer goods are imported and therefore expensive. 

Expats should remember that the cost of living in Zambia is relative. For those wanting to maintain the life of comfort that they may be used to back home, the cost can be exorbitant; but it’s worth noting that the majority of Zambia’s population still live well below the poverty line.

Cost of accommodation in Zambia

Accommodation costs in Zambia can be high, particularly in Lusaka and are likely to be an expat’s most significant monthly expense. Many companies secure and finance housing for their senior expat executives. Expats looking for work in Zambia should factor the housing costs into any contract negotiations.

Cost of food and groceries in Zambia

The cost of basic goods such as fresh fruit and vegetables varies significantly according to season. Informal markets in Zambia are a good place to pick up bargains as polite bartering is acceptable at street cafés and vendors’ shops in a way that it is not in more formal stores. 

Cost of schooling and education in Zambia

Expats with children will most likely fork out a hefty sum of money on education. Many feel that the public school system is inadequate and prefer to send their children to international schools in Zambia. However, the privilege of attending these schools does not come cheap. Expat parents moving to Zambia for work purposes should keep this in mind when negotiating their relocation package.

Cost of healthcare in Zambia

Another essential expense for expats in Zambia is health insurance. Zambia’s public healthcare system is not adequate to cater to the medical needs of expats, and although there are some good private hospitals in the major centres, any serious medical emergencies are likely to require evacuation to South Africa or elsewhere. Expats, therefore, need to ensure that they have a full health insurance policy that covers this.

Cost of living in Zambia

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

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZMW 4,000 - 8,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

ZMW 3,000 - 4,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre 

ZMW 9,000 - 13,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

ZMW 7,000 - 10,000


Eggs (dozen)

ZMW 14

Milk (1 litre)

ZMW 13

Rice (1 kg)

ZMW 22

Loaf of white bread

ZMW 10 

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ZMW 65

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ZMW 21

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

ZMW 50

Coca-Cola (330ml)



ZMW 35

Bottle of beer

ZMW 15

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

ZMW 350


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

ZMW 1.30

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ZMW 850

Basic utilities (per month for a standard household)

ZMW 700

Hourly rate for domestic help

ZMW 60


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

ZMW 10

Bus/train fare in the city centre 


Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

ZMW 15.50

Expat Health Insurance


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