Cost of Living in South Africa

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2009

costoflivingSOUTHAFRICALiving in South Africa can be cheaper compared to most parts of the United Kingdom and the world. Of course, living in urban areas and Cape Peninsula is significantly higher in terms of costs of commodities, rentals and leisure activities since more people are also situated there. Rural areas tend to offer more of the quiet life and there are very cheap places to live in with lots of space.

The cost of goods and food products outside the city is also more affordable and can cost half as much compared to getting them in supermarkets and grocery shops downtown. All sold products are inclusive of value-added tax while other services like education and transportation do not have additions.

At present, South Africa’s economy made it to the top 20 and has a total GDP of over 570 billion euros. Per capita GDP is estimated at over 12,000 euros which ranks 58th worldwide. However, it did not fare very well in some tallies like The Economist’s Worldwide Quality-of-Life Index and IMD’s World Competitiveness Yearbook. It ranked 92 out of 111 and 46 out of 60 respectively. Some of the locals however, still need to adjust to the influx of foreigners.  Another issue is the volatility of the Rand as it performed well against foreign currencies. This has stabilized in the last few years especially with the many foreign projects many provinces have been engaged in.

Food and Drinks Costs in South Africa

Food and drinks in Africa are moderately priced. One can find really cheap raw products fresh from farms and fields in smaller regions and provinces. Some meat products include goat, deer, boar and beef. There are also exotic goods like alligator and ostrich meat. Seafood is also abundant especially in Cape Town and other coastal areas at very affordable rates. Some of these include oysters, clams, abalone, stingray and sardines. Fruits and vegetables are plenty all year round and a lot of these items are usually readied up for trade and export. Prices shoot up once food products reach the city due to value-added tax. South African cuisine is an eclectic mix of both foreign and local influences, making it one of the most unique in the world.

It is wiser to buy products from public markets and farmer stalls instead of commercial groceries. Markets usually provide discounts when buying in bulk. Eating out in larger cities is expensive but there are also diners and restaurants that can serve a family of four for fewer than 80 euros. In general, as reported in South Africa Expat Forum last February 3,2009:

“for a couple average prices are:

housing 4500R

food 4000R

utilities 400R

Leisure 1250R

transport 800R

insurance 600R

clothing 1200R

these are monthly estimates and if you have school aged children private schools are about 5000R per month for private school”

Clothes and Accessories Costs in South Africa

Shopping in South Africa’s big department stores and malls can be quite expensive. In 2009, the South African retailers have struggled with consumers holding on more to their money as the market’s high interest rates and inflation has dampened spending. Despite these figures, there are plenty of designer labels in the city as well as several imported goods from Europe and the United States. Locally made products are cheaper but nevertheless might still be pricey for most expatriates. South Africans spend a lot on clothes. The usual monthly budget on clothing of the average person is between 100 to 200 euros every month.

Trinkets and accessories are manufactured and distributed locally and these are basically affordable. Electronics and cars are imported from Japan and Europe which cost relatively the same as in their place of origin. With the addition of VAT, prices have risen in recent years but quality and service have become better in exchange. Labor costs have also increased which may explain the inflation in consumer goods and accessories.

Housing Costs in South Africa

Most expatriates prefer living in homes with enough space for a yard or a swimming pool. The prices have fallen in the major cities although there are a few ones up for ownership in suburban regions. Several villages and suburban neighborhoods surround cities like Pretoria and Johannesburg while Cape Town mostly has beach homes and rest houses. The neighborhoods have reasonable rates but owning properties in Cape Town is rather difficult with lengthy processing.

Apartments are also available in the city proper with rental rates ranging from moderate to very expensive. On the average, monthly apartment rates cost around 200 to 300 euros excluding water supply, gas consumption, electricity and telephone services. Most housing costs are relatively free of tax as this makes up for the VAT included in consumer goods and services. Other South African regions are still underdeveloped and may be too tedious to live in.

Services Costs in South Africa

Telephone services in the major cities are excellent and there are internet service providers as well in different parts. If expatriates stay in populous and developed areas, they will not have any problems since most of the technology is available and communication links are well maintained. The postal service is also working fairly well although some adjustments are needed in rural areas.

Transportation may be difficult in remote places due to lack of road accessibility and means of travel. A tour around town typically will amount from 6 to 8 euros. The city’s transport infrastructure is different, as it is one of the best ones in all of Africa. The airports are well maintained as well as other public transportation services like buses and trains.

As shared by an expat in South Africa Expat Forum last July 9, 2009:

“Car rental per month. $1,300-1,500

Buy – monthly installment incl insurance $ 380

Fuel in Johannesburg minimum of $ 500 -800″

Housing services are available to all locals and expatriates plus several benefits included. Health care is of primary concern at the moment since several potent diseases are in the rise in the past two decades. Overall, hospital facilities are of sound quality and services are excellent.

Education is another aspect of society that South Africa is quickly improving in. Public schools are generally subsidized by the government plus several other learning centers are backed up by foreign business owners and philanthropists. There are scholarship grants available widely especially for those in the lower class. Job opportunities are usually provided by respective agencies for the graduates to boost employment rates.

Employment Costs in South Africa

The unemployment rate has again increased due to the worldwide recession, which peaked at 24.3% after several years of relative prosperity. The government is quickly taking action in encouraging foreign investors and businesses to provide more job opportunities to citizens. Expatriates will also not have any problems as long as their field of expertise falls under construction, health care, commerce, agriculture and trade. These are the fronts that South Africa is aiming to grow stronger at in the next few years as it increases its participation in the world stage.

A lot of people are also becoming educated so the workforce is more capable and versatile than before. Expatriates who own large companies in different sectors of the country are working hand-in-hand with the locals in order to create a more stable and promising economic status.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

khaliq August 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

hi everone,
i am from india i am looking to do cloths business i S.A
Please could someone help me with some information about the cost of living in S.A. I am thinking of moving there permanently. We have 2 small children and we think they will have a better lifestyle living in SA. We want to make sure though, that we have all the figures worked out. Please could someone advise us on how much money we would need in order to live comfortably.
Many Thanks.


B V G Rao October 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Hai,i am shortly trying to move SAfrica.if am getting 23000 ZAR/month,will it suffice to lead a family of four.other eminities(furnished accommadatiom,car,TV,internet and pay TV) will be given apart from the pay.Please help me in this


Azeem August 22, 2013 at 9:35 am

Hi, I am keen about Stellenbosch. How is living there. Would around 18000R enough for reasonable living for a couple and two kids?


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