Guide to the Cost of Living in South Africa

The cost of living in South Africa is fairly reasonable when compared to some other western countries. In fact the 2012 Mercer rankings put Johannesburg in 154th place and Cape Town 179th. Compare that to London which came in at the 25th most expensive place to live.

Like most global countries the South African currency, the rand has fallen which is why the cost of living would appear to be so cheap. Don’t forget though that when you are living and working in South Africa you will also be paid in that currency so the living is only cheap if you are on a decent enough wage.

Yet most expats seem to live fairly comfortably and hiring domestic help is considered quite the norm and quite affordable. Drinking and dining out along with other leisure costs are also reasonable.

Currency Exchange

Obviously the currency is going to vary considerably not just year to year but month to month. At the moment the rand is quite weak against the pound and dollar so as of December 2012, 1 South African rand is equal to 0.0720 British pounds sterling.

The rand is divided into 100 cents and your notes will come in R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. Coins are divided into R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c. There is nothing lower than 5c so most transactions are rounded down to the nearest 5c.

For an accurate and up to date currency, see the Universal Currency Converter.


One of the biggest supermarkets in South Africa is the Pick n Pay and this will give you a good idea of how much your groceries and other products are likely to be. For example here are a list of basic grocery items from the Pick n Pay website:

  • Loaf of white bread R5.45 = 40p
  • 1 litre of full fall milk R9.99 = 72p
  • 1 kilo of lean mince beef R68.99 = £4.97
  • 1 bottle of Merlot wine R19.95 = £1.43


Petrol prices in South Africa have been rising lately and the rises are set to continue. Right now petrol is cheaper on the coast than it is inland because of additional transport costs. Petrol prices on the coast are R11.87 whilst inland they are R12.20. That means for a 60 litre tank it could cost nearly R700.

Utility Bills

Electricity costs are rising and are expected to rise by as much as 16% in March 2013. According to, the average 85m2 apartment uses R1,000.00 worth of electricity, gas and water. Central heating is considered a costly luxury and really isn’t used that much at all.

For a more comprehensive guide to the cost of living in South Africa see the website which also details eating out, clothes and leisure activities.