How much it costs to live in South Africa’s biggest cities

Collaborative expat data site, Expatistan has released its latest cost of living index, showing which cities in the world carry the highest costs of living.

The group’s data is compiled from a combination of various international reports about cost of living, as well as user input of prices in any given region.

Where data is unavailable, incomplete, out of date, or has too few inputs, it is not included in the listing. In South Africa, 36 cities are included, but only eight have sufficient data to be ranked.

The global index is calculated by assigning a value of 100 to a central reference city – Prague.

The Price Index value of every other city in the database is then calculated by comparing their cost of living to the cost of living in Prague.

“Therefore, if a city has a Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34% more expensive than living in Prague,” the group said.

According to the site’s data, Zurich (Switzerland), London (UK) and New York (USA) are the most expensive cities in the world, with lifestyles costing triple as much than in Prague.

Cost of living
Cost of living graph

Because the data deals with direct price comparison intended for expats, it does not necessarily take purchasing power into account, or costs as a percentage of income.

South African cities

Bisho has been listed by Expatistan as the most expensive area in South Africa; however, the data needs to be taken with the number of data points in mind.

The table below lists the cities ranked by cost of living, as well as the number of people who entered the full data into into the site:

# City Score User Input
1 Bisho 132 5
2 Richard’s Bay 129 7
3 Johannesburg 128 483
4 Cape Town 114 399
5 Pretoria 104 141
6 Potchefstroom 100 5
7 Durban 95 92
8 Tembisa 84 5

According to Expatistan, the data for these South African cities is based on “abundant and consistent data”, and are reliable for fair comparison.

However some data points are inconsistent, such as Bisho listing an iPod Nano costing R10,000, and a cocktail at a club costing R500.

These discrepancies may have distorted the data to push more remote locations ahead of big cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Out of South Africa’s big cities where data is more abundant, Johannesburg is revealed to be the most expensive city, with costs stretching 28% higher than in Prague.

Joburg is also the most expensive big city in Africa, followed by Nairobi in Kenya (121), ahead of Cape Town and Pretoria.


Johannesburg: Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sqft) furnished accommodation in an expensive area is R12,226.
Cape Town:  R15,164
Pretoria: R9,067


Johannesburg: Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI 140 CV 6 vel. (or equivalent), with no extras, new is R277,889, while a monthly ticket for public transport costs R986.
Pretoria: R299,486 and R559
Cape Town: R274,853 and R395


Johannesburg: Basic dinner out for two in a neighborhood pub costs R293, while 1 beer in neighbourhood pub (500ml or 1pt.) costs R23.
Pretoria: R267 and R20
Cape Town: R257 and R25

Previous data from Mercer’s Cost of Living rankings reflects these findings, where out of the South Africa’s biggest cities, Durban ranked as the cheapest to live in, followed by Cape Town and then Johannesburg.

More on cost of living in SA

Cost of living: South African cities vs the world

Cost of living: South Africa vs the world

Joburg vs Cape Town: Best city challenge

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How much it costs to live in South Africa’s biggest cities