Cost of living

The price of life in South Africa

Just how much does living in South Africa cost on average? From eating out to utilities, we’ll take a look and see how far you can expect to stretch that paycheck.

It’s a fact that living in South Africa is not as cheap as it used to be. The rand’s fluctuating strength, combined with an economy that imports a great deal of products, means that expats who arrive expecting to find developed standards of living without the pricetag, are in for a shock. Add in rising fuel costs, and the prices on most products have seen increases in the last few years.

Comparing London to Johannesburg, the cost of some luxury items and services such as dining out and cinema tickets are between 35% and 50% lower in South Africa. Clothing and consumer items like electronics are closer in price, but marginally cheaper in South Africa.

Dining out

Typical price range (Rand)

Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant

55.00 - 100.00 R

Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, 3-course

250.00 - 400.00 R

Whilst areas of the country remain very underdeveloped, the prosperity of popular areas of major cities has caused property and rental prices in suburbs of Johannesburg and Cape Town to rise sharply in the last decade. With both the domestic and expats markets occupying a lot of the same areas, the demand driven price rises will probably continue for the foreseeable future.

Rental categories

Monthly rental price range (Rand)

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre

3,000 - 6,000.00 R

Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre

2,500 - 4,500.00 R

Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre

5,500 - 12,000.00 R

Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre

5,000 - 8,500.00 R

Utilities

Monthly price range (Rand)

Basic (Electricity, Gas, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment

700 - 1,500.00 R

1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)

1.50 - 2.50 R

Internet (6 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)

349 - 888.00 R

Food prices on groceries in South Africa are fairly cheap when compared with Europe, with locally produced fruits, vegetables and meat giving the greatest savings. Imported and specialty items, including the humble potato, are appropriately more expensive given South Africa’s distance from major producing nations and the growing strength of the Rand.

Common grocery items

Price (Rand)

Milk (regular), 1 liter

10.00 R

Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)

9.38 R

Rice (1kg)

16.00 R

Eggs (12)

18.00 R

Local Cheese (1kg)

62.00 R

Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg)

48.00 R

Apples (1kg)

15.00 R

Oranges (1kg)

12.06 R

Tomato (1kg)

13.75 R

Potato (1kg)

10.75 R

Lettuce (1 head)

9.00 R

Water (1.5 liter bottle)

12.00 R

Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)

47.00 R

Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)

12.00 R

Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)

15.00 R

Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)

30.00 R

Transport

Average price range (Rand)

One-way Ticket (Local Transport)

8.80 - 15.00 R

Monthly Pass (Regular Price)

300.00 - 600.00 R

Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)

12.00 - 50.00 R

Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)

5.00 - 10.00 R

Taxi 1 hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)

50.00 - 80.00 R

Gasoline (1 liter)

10.00 - 12.00 R

Costs will depend to a large extent on the lifestyle an expat is looking for. Essential costs can be greatly reduced by your choice of area and managing your expectations and budget carefully. Transport can be an important factor for expats as owning and maintaining a car can be expensive, but is often a necessary part of living in sparsely populated areas away from public transport links.

The tables above outline the nationwide average prices for a number of products including rent and groceries. They should only be taken as a guide as they are subject to local variation and fluctuation due to world markets.
(Figures from Numbeo.com , updated Feb. 2013)

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Other comments

  • Debbie, 16 December 2009 Reply

    Cost of utilities

    I am afraid you have grossly underestimated the cost of utilities. If paying for water and electricity, a family of four will not get away with less than ZAR2000 per month. TV, telephone, and all those other utilities could push the bill to +/-ZAR4000 per month. Household insurance is also a very wise thing to buy blunk And don't get me started on all the hidden costs like the cost of banking and various other charges and taxes!

    To end on a positive note, however, it is a very beautiful country with a lot of warm and friendly people.

    • Randy 20 Jan 2010, 12:24

      cost of living

      I would say DOUBLE all those numbers and you would be close.......

    • Bob 25 Feb 2010, 12:27

      Cost of Living

      To live the way that most normal people wish to I think that you would need a salary of R40,000 P/M minus the usual standard things like Medical Aid, Insurance as previously mentioned, vehicle and running costs, Housing within a normal three bed house in a good area allow R1,000,000, School Fees (Extortionate) and should after care be required then allowances must be made. Holiday's especially in school holidays are also extortionate, plus the many public holidays (of which there are far too many) can cost lots of money if you're that way inclined. I do not in any way dis-agree with the previous comments, SA is a wonderful country with lots of places to see but also be prepared to pay for the priveledges. I can go back to 1974 when a beer cost 16cents, you could feed a family of four for the month on R30 and a full tank of petrol cost R7 to fill a Volvo 122S, a four bed house with pool cost R18,000, ah yes those were the days but that was then and this is now. Lets be realistic and I don't think my R40,000/m is far off being correct for all the items mentioned but then there aren't many who earn that, if they can get a job that is.

  • Warren, 11 January 2010 Reply

    Underestimated costs

    1 You may find apartments to rent at this price but you won't be paying a mortgage for anything less than double

    3 Massively incorrect @ R300. Utilities will cost around R2000 at least (for a couple). Satellite TV is about R500 alone. Electricity is around R800, telephone easily about R600.

    4 R800 for Restuarant meals, sports, holiday. newspaper and magazine expenses. R850 will get you 1 night in the cheapest seedy hotel with nothing to eat.

    5 R700 is about 1.5 tanks of petrol. 3rd party insurance alone is hardly recommended when the chances of being wiped out by a taxi which has no insurance is quite high.

    You also neglect to add medical aid which is highly recommended considering the state of government hospitals. Add R1500 for a basic hospital plan for a couple.
    Also home insurance is a must, add another R1000

    • karmen 21 May 2010, 09:32

      update the cost of living schedule..

      I completely agree.. swaziland is cheaper to live in and my expenses hugely surpassed those mentioned in this article. bearing in mind the article is dated 2005 (or so i recall) Warren's comment is on point for 2010! Please update this article.. asap.

    • Shan 06 Jun 2010, 08:15

      Living cost

      Hello,
      If the living expence in south africa is more then R 10000, so how can manage a couple family.
      If husband doing a middle class job, i think he will not get every month more then R 5000 per month.
      What you people think about this.

    • nicci 19 Dec 2010, 12:28

      i agree very much with this comment

      never the less, we are a family of three, and our monthly bills come to R11800 per month. this is living humbly, paying off a car @2600, medical (other half paid for by hubby's company, rent for a two bed home @4000 telephone alone is normally R700 - 1000. we dont party, dont eat lavishly, infact my husband owns half th family farm and most of our meat is supplied for free! so that would have added at least another R400 onto our bill!

  • Proudly South African, 30 January 2011 Reply

    Cost of living?

    I live in South Africa and I dont want to sound nasty, but I'm not sure when this article was published, but figures are way way off ...
    Rent is never including water and lights/gas
    Telephone is seperate, internet is seperate, medical aid is average R3700.00 for 2 people comprehensive. You take it because you dont want to land up in a general hospital. Rent for a
    1 bed cottage/falt/apartment ranges from R3500 up, a 3 bed house ranges from R7500.00 There is no furniture ever so if you are moving from overseas be sure to have at least your bed with you. Right groceries, For a family of four you need at least R2000.00 per week, Food prices have rocketed because of the fuel prices e.g. 2.5kg white sugar has gone up from R12.00 to R18.00 Beef is between R53.00 and R68.00 per kilo, lamb R63.00 per kilo. Chicken R25-R30.00 per kg and this is country wide...there are NO cheaper areas or more expensive areas here. Petrol price is the same throughout, from JHB to Cape Town to Durban etc. Bottom line, 3 years ago a salary of R10000.00 was brilliant...now u need at least R50-R60 000 pm. Oh yes I havent added the cars which every family member has to have, the insurance..........

    • Chris 02 Feb 2012, 07:54

      cost of living sa 2012

      it has caught up with rest of world and exceeds in some cases - insurance high because of theft and crashes, utilities very high - unemployment high - inefficient supply chains and poor admin in governmenrt- school fees high

      but lots of people who earn a lot so no problem to them - but for the poor - a bleak place

    • Thomas 30 May 2012, 02:23

      VERY expensive to live in South Africa, concidering all the extras you need there

      Absolutely! The living cost's with added insurances (Car, house, life/disability), medical, phone, fuel, school, security are stupendously high nowadays. Also add all the few Rands for banking, and parking (Tips), clothes, restaurant. Electronics equipment is very expensive eg. same spec. computer is about R4000 - R5000 more expensive in South Africa than in Germany.
      It's becoming much harder to survive in South Africa. To protect your rights is also costing you money, unless you let people walk all over you. Society is greedy and more selfish than ever. You can barely trust anyone in that Country anymore.
      Total rip-off, can't understand how anyone can survive comfortably as a single person with less than R25000 per month and be secure. I did not even mention the savings you need to make in order to secure your retirement and health.