The index compares the cost of living relative to the following reference cities: New York City for Numbeo and Prague for Expatistan – which have an index score of 100 (100%). The index looks at the relative costs across several categories, including rent, the cost of food, transport and entertainment.
It also takes the local purchasing power into account.
If another city has, for example, a rent index of 120, it means that on an average in that city, rents are 20% more expensive than in the reference city. If a city has a rent index of 70, that means on an average in that city, rents are 30% less expensive.
Numbeo’s index assessed 440 cities in 2020, up from 433 in 2019, while Expatistan ranked 288 cities, down from 328 in 2019.
In the Numbeo index, Swiss cities rank as the most expensive in the world, with prices up to 28% higher than in New York – while cities in India rank as being some of the cheapest, with prices less than a fifth of those in New York.
Only 10 cities – from Switzerland, Norway and Denmark – were found to be more expensive than New York, with the rest coming in as more affordable.
With Expatistan, US and Swiss cities were found to be the most expensive to live in, with the Cayman Islands (a UK territory) topping the list with living prices more than double those in Prague.
South African cities
Four South African cities feature in both indices in 2020.
“Cities in Africa are all in the bottom half of the list, with the most expensive ranked city being Pretoria in South Africa on the spot no. 252,” Numbeo said.
Pretoria also ranked as the most expensive city in the Expatistan ranking, placing 193rd overall.
Johannesburg is ranked second (256th and 196th). Cape Town ranked third on the Numbeo ranking (262nd) and fourth on the Expatistan ranking (213th). Durban swaps with Cape Town on the rankings, ranked fourth on the Numbeo list (295th) and third on the Expatistan rank (206th).
Both indices are based on user-submitted data, and only feature cities where a statistically representative number of submissions are available.
The table below shows how the South African cities rank, as well as their cost relative to the reference cities.
Cost of living in SA
The rankings list specific data on the cost of living in South African cities.
The table below covers five categories (transport, rent, salaries, utilities and entertainment) which contain the average prices across all four major cities covered by Numbeo and Expatistan.
|City||Average disposable salary||Monthly transport costs||Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre||Basic utilities||Meal for two people at a restaurant|
|Pretoria||R19 220||R1 590||R5 090||R1 400||R485|
|Johannesburg||R17 360||R1 330||R6 720||R800||R500|
|Cape Town||R18 300||R425||R11 170||R550||R600|
|Durban||R15 000||R375||R9 940||R1 230||R410|
The graphs below outline how the average salary is portioned across South Africa’s major cities.