The cost of living in Zambia is remarkably low for those paid in a strong currency. In the Mercer Cost of Living City Ranking for 2024, which compares expat cities around the world, Lusaka was ranked near the bottom at 213th out of 226 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 keep in mind that the cost of living in Zambia is relative. For those wanting to maintain the life of comfort that they had back home, the cost can be exorbitant, but it’s worth noting that the majority of Zambia’s population still lives 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 transport in Zambia

Most expats moving to Zambia choose to purchase a vehicle to get around the country. Zambia's public transport is largely considered inadequate, but there are buses, trains and minibus taxis available at affordable prices.

Purchasing and maintaining a car in Zambia is affordable for most expats. As Zambia's road infrastructure is still under development, expats will likely need to invest in a four-wheel drive vehicle and defensive driving lessons to stay safe on Zambia's roads.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Zambia

Zambia boasts an assortment of recreational activities, including cinemas, bars and theatres dotted around the country. Cinema ticket prices will be reasonable for expats, but those looking to save a few bucks can purchase tickets for weekday shows rather than weekend shows. Culture aficionados will also be delighted to find that there is a State Orchestra in Lusaka, but tickets can be pricey.

Eating out in Zambia is a treat for locals and residents. Expats who are keen to try local restaurants and cafés will find them extremely affordable. For those who are looking for international cuisine, there are a variety of Western-style restaurants in hotels and tourist areas, but these will be significantly pricer.

Cost of groceries in Zambia

The cost of basic goods such as fresh fruit and vegetables varies significantly according to the season. Informal markets in Zambia are a good place to pick up bargains, as polite bartering is acceptable at street cafés and vendors in a way that it is not in more formal stores. Buying local goods is also significantly cheaper than imported alternatives.

Cost of education and schooling in Zambia

Expats with children will most likely have to 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, which tend to carry high fees. 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 subpar, 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. Therefore, expats need to ensure that they have a comprehensive 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 2024.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
One-bedroom apartment in city centreZMW 6,000
One-bedroom apartment outside of city centreZMW 3,700
Three-bedroom apartment in city centre ZMW 17,400
Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centreZMW 8,500
Eggs (dozen)ZMW 25
Milk (1 litre)ZMW 17
Rice (1 kg)ZMW 39
Loaf of white breadZMW 18.35
Chicken breasts (1kg)ZMW 100
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)ZMW 32
Eating out
Big Mac MealZMW 80
Coca-Cola (330ml)ZMW 24
Cappuccino ZMW 52
Local beer (500ml)ZMW 23
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantZMW 634
Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and dataZMW 2,000
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) ZMW 3,000
Basic utilities (per month for a standard household)ZMW 2,500
Taxi rate (per kilometre)ZMW 26
Bus/train fare in the city centre ZMW 28
Petrol/gasoline (per litre)ZMW 30

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