It costs to live in Jozi

It’s EXPENSIVE living here in Jozi.  According to the Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2011 (very interesting, have a read) Joburg is the 131st most expensive city to live in the World.  They say that London is 18th, but I disagree that it is cheaper in Joburg.  Accommodation aside, it is cheaper to live in London.  You don’t need a car, you don’t pay for healthcare, there are sales in the shops constantly and there are so many discount places like Poundland (yep, everything £1 and a great place for cleaning products and toiletries) or cheap food supermarkets.  All of those things don’t apply here, and in SA you need a car each or you struggle!  The expensive part of London is going out drinking and eating…everyone wants to do it and ends up spending all their cash that way, but if you stay in you can actually save a lot of money.  It’s just a bit depressing that’s all!

If we were living on Rob’s SA salary in the UK we would be fine – we wouldn’t have a fancy lifestyle by any means, but we would have a nice flat, food to eat etc.  In Joburg we are struggling on a single salary and I am doing all that I can to find employment now.  I need to pay for stuff!

I have managed to find the cheapest places here to buy everything – the cash and carry culture in Fordsburg and Cyrildene (Indian and Oriental districts) have done me well, and I also frequent charity shops like Junkie in Melville

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things that are cheaper.  In my opinion it is as follows:


  • Accommodation – We have a stunning loft style 2 bed house with garden and pool for half of what we paid in London for a small 2 bed flat, and the same I paid in Kent for a small, outdated 2 bed flat
  • Eating out – Food in restaurants here is relatively affordable compared to anywhere else we have been before.  Especially outside of Sandton – in Melville you can eat at Lucky Bean or Ant Cafe for the same money that you might have spent to buy the same ingredients and cook it yourself.  Sometimes it is cheaper to eat out!
  • DVD rental – we rent dvd’s from a store around the corner.  We don’t have Lovefilm anymore *sob and I can’t download as I have a data allowance limit.  The dvd’s are quite dated a lot of the time, but they are cheap at around R25 a rental
  • Labour – market rate for salaries is cheaper here than in London (where isn’t?!).  It means that we are lucky enough to be able to afford domestic help, for us in the form of a cleaner and gardener once a week.  It costs half or less of what the same person would get paid in the UK, and it means that it is actually worthwhile to go back to work here as a working mum as you can afford the childcare
  • Petrol – the cost for fuel in the UK is the highest I have ever seen, but the petrol here has gone up so much since I moved here, that it is catching up quickly


  • Groceries – They seem to cost the same as in the UK, give or take a few.  Certain things are cheaper, certain things more expensive, but it evens out.  There are not as rewarding schemes or coupons here as there was back home, and sometimes I do think that food is more expensive here.  We shop in the bog standard supermarkets so it’s not like we can go much cheaper
  • Entertainment – tickets to the cinema and to the theatre etc is the same as if you shopped around in the UK.  Some shows are slightly cheaper than London, and some cinemas will offer cheaper tickets if you have a membership card to certain organisations, but nothing can beat the Cineworld membership card in the UK – £13.50 a month for unlimited films


  • Cars – You will faint when you see the price of cars here.  One of our cars cost 6 times more than the equivalent in the UK
  • Taxi’s – the rate for mileage here in all of the taxi firms that we have heard of is high compared to a mini-cab in London.  Black cab’s in London excluded as I am always drunk when I get one so have no idea how much they actually cost!
  • Insurance – It’s eye wateringly expensive for all kinds of insurance – contents because you live in Jozi and are definitely going to get burgled, car, health.  It all adds up.  Especially health insurance.  Coming from a country with free healthcare I really begrudge the 1000’s of Rand that we pay each month for that particular thing, but we want a comprehensive plan so can’t go cheaper
  • Mobile Phones – Holy shit it is expensive to run an iPhone here!  I bought my handset with me, but the data charges are sky high, and once you have an iPhone you will not change to anything else.  Only a handful of my South African friends have an iPhone here, but most of my expat friends do!  Blackberry is much more affordable, but the call charges are still really high.  I miss all inclusive plans for not much money
  • Internet and Satellite TV – This is the biggest thing that affects me on a daily basis.  Internet here is slow but 3 times as expensive as in the UK.  We use dongles as that was the cheapest, quickest way to connect when we arrived but we have a data limit, which I use monthly easily.  There is cabled internet that offers unlimited connectivity, but with snail pace speeds and the installation fee was not worth it for us.  DSTV is so expensive it is ridiculous.  There are different “bundles” of channels that you can buy, but the only one worthwhile is the full package, otherwise you are paying a lot for little.  There is nothing to watch! Basically the combined cost of our internet and tv is double what we paid for the full package in the UK with SKY or Virgin and we have a data limit and no phone line
  • Utilities – our electricity and gas bills are astronomical compared to home.  I think it is because of that bloody pool that we never use but even friends without one say their bills are much more expensive than when they lived in Europe
  • Furniture – another ridiculously expensive thing.  We shipped most of our furniture over from the UK.  There is no Ikea here, and even the very cheap places like Mr Price Home is expensive for extremely poor quality.  Someone start Ikea here and do everyone a favour!
  • Clothes, shoes, make up, books, electronics – The price is inflated here compared to the UK as most things are imported from afar and it is not cheap to transfer stock to Africa.  I’m thanking my lucky stars that I have a Kindle and can download books from  Books here are extortionately priced and I wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise

The internet culture that we have in the UK means that we have great price comparison and review websites, and that in turn makes it so easy to grab a bargain, without having left your desk or made a call.  In SA they just don’t have that same internet culture yet, and it is much more expensive to import goods from overseas than it is back home.  This means that the price reductions can’t be passed on like they are in the UK

When we need something substantial we have to wait until someone is coming over from home.  You can forget about buying photographic equipment here – it is a third more expensive than back home, so when I needed wanted a new lens, a friend that was visiting Jozi for Xmas saved the day and bought it over for us

Obviously, your lifestyle dictates how much you really end up spending at the end of the month.  I’ll be honest with you though, we are miserable because we can’t get out and do all the things that we want to do.  Rob is obsessively into surfing, but we just can’t afford the weekend trip to Durban for him to surf frequently.  The petrol, tolls, accommodation costs all add up.  There are so many things that I want to experience in Jozi itself, and then the awesome weekend trips that can be made from Jozi but we just can’t afford it.  My blog would be a much more interesting place to be if we could get out and about, but we have to be frugal.

Do your research before you move here.  It is really hard to find the right information online, but make your company help.  If you are moving on a full expat package, where the company actually looks after you financially then you needn’t worry as much, but if you move on a local contract like Rob has, then you may be in for a shock


11 thoughts on “It costs to live in Jozi

  1. What an excellent article, Martina! Will have to link from my blog, as this is super information for anyone moving here, and I get the cost of living question all the time. And I agree with you 100%. One thing I would add that is also cheaper here, for families with children, is most sports and music lessons. Teachers are fairly reasonable here, so we have been able to enroll our kids in more stuff, like riding or swimming lessons, than we would at home. (but make sure you get someone to bring the equipment/instruments for you from overseas, and stock up on tennis shoes before you move here!).

  2. I agree with Sine. And your blog IS already a very interesting place to be, as illustrated by this post.

    I agree with you on all counts. The only thing that is different for me is health insurance/healthcare. Coming from the United States (land of ridiculous, outrageous healthcare premiums), I find the cost of healthcare here an absolute pleasure.

    • Yep, I have to second that, Heather. We have our health insurance in the US and looking at rates for doctor’s visits here, it is tempting to forget about the routine insurance and pay out of pocket, it is so affordable compared to the US. And often better service, in my mind, like doctors actually taking time to talk with you.

  3. Hey Martina!

    I was kind of sad to read you’re moving back home…i had come to love reading your blog and it’s given me a lot of helpful tips. You’re right that joburg is scandalously expensive.I say scandalously ’cause some things don’t make any sense to me.We are moving to our house by the end of the month and I’m dreading the bills our new home will create.I hope you’ll be able to come back to SA and if not that you’ll find happiness back home!!Whatever happens keep blogging because you’re great at it! X

  4. I totally get what you are saying and I am always comparing the cost of things here in SA to the cost of things in the UK. We believe it is cheaper on the whole to live in the UK. However, we are still in SA… for the time being. I don’t shop here other than for groceries. Clothes, shoes, camera stuff, computer stuff etc etc I buy in the UK. DSTV is such a rip off that we’ve canned our subscription. Now heavily reliant on the internet, which is a total snail, as you already pointed out.
    Sigh… but the sun does shine an awful lot more 😉

  5. I’m slightly surprised with your list. I haven’t lived in South Africa since 2002, and even then I was living at home (was still at school). I was always under the impression that life in South Africa was cheaper than in Europe and especially the UK. Electronics, internet and satellite tv are expensive in South Africa, that I became aware of once I moved here.

    However I always thought clothes were cheaper in SA…

    Anyway, this is a very good post, especially if you are thinking of moving to SA.

  6. Super helpful post, thanks!

    I move to Joburg in two weeks. Still curious if the budget I wrote up for my six month sojourn is gonna cover everything. Fingers crossed!!

  7. Moving to SA in a few weeks – great blog. Good to know. Will now spend the next 24 hours buying DVDs, clothes, shoes & everything else to bring with us! Can’t wait & it is really raining here in England at the moment! xx

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