South Africa’s most popular cities: Let’s compare the living costs

Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban are South Africa’s largest cities. These four cities are also the most popular with foreign nationals looking to settle in South Africa. Especially Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Seeing as this is the case, we decided to compare living costs between these cities. After all, determining if you’ll be able to afford to live in your city of choice is a huge part of immigration and relocation research.

Our comparisons cover the costs of:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Buying a car
  • Schooling
  • Eating out
  • Fitness and leisure

Your salary is an important piece of the puzzle as you’ll need to know how your expenses relate to your income. This is why we’ll start by sharing the average monthly salary of each city.

Please note: All costs are quoted in South African rands.

Salaries

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax)18,455.4918,718.0220,191.7215,712.84

It’s important to keep in mind that salaries can vary significantly according to your occupation. This is merely a figure to give you an idea of the average between the main cities in South Africa.

Now let’s see how far you’ll have to stretch those rands.

Rent and Utilities

You’d likely look at starting small if you’re a couple or single person. For this reason, let’s start by doing a comparison for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre.

1-Bedroom apartment in the city centre

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
1-Bedroom apartment in the city10,956.19 7,109.09 5,178.79 4,984.85
Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage collection1,104.58 1,460.64 1,473.56 1,350.24
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)984.80 952.91 872.29 1,048.04
Total13,045.57 9,522.64 7,524.64 7,383.13

3-Bedroom apartment in the suburbs

Alternatively, you may be a family of three or four where a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs may be more appropriate.

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
3-Bedroom house outside the city15,530.06 10,815.38 10,814.47 9,396.52
Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage collection1,104.58 1,460.64 1,473.56 1,350.24
Internet (60 mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)984.80 952.91 872.29 1,048.04
Total17,619.44 13,228.9313,160.3211,794.80

Groceries

We chose some of the common items that you’d select when buying groceries to give you a good idea of what you’d spend at the shops.

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Milk (regular), (1 liter)17.01 16.50 15.26 15.08
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)14.07 14.50 14.18 13.74
Rice (white), (1kg)23.53 21.62 18.8620.60
Eggs (regular) (12)31.01 31.67 30.6024.40
Local Cheese (1kg)108.62 104.59 101.2896.53
Chicken Fillets (1kg)82.83 75.72 68.9066.56
Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)105.59 104.89 98.5989.81
Apples (1kg)26.24 23.14 24.7520.08
Banana (1kg)24.50 18.64 20.2916.91
Oranges (1kg)22.55 22.61 21.3619.82
Tomato (1kg)22.45 21.77 19.0016.33
Potato (1kg)16.76 17.50 19.2513.46
Onion (1kg)17.09 17.32 17.5414.15
Lettuce (1 head)15.80 15.88 15.4614.96
Water (1.5 liter bottle)16.26 16.75 14.6916.83
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)72.50 75.00 67.5060.00
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)25.28 20.00 19.9614.83
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)33.04 27.84 27.4323.38
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)40.0045.0045.0045.00
Total715.13690.94659.90602.47

Buying a car

While some people go through the effort of importing their cars from overseas when immigrating to South Africa, the majority of people instead choose to buy a car once they’re in the country. This is how much a new car could set you back:

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
1L Petrol15.61 15.8816.1215.75
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent new car)300,000.00320,400.00316,200.00300,000.00
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (or equivalent new car)283,750.00298,537.92307,319.23292,046.15

Schooling

If you’re emigrating with your family, you’ll have to add school costs to your monthly expenses. From our experience, most foreign nationals choose to send their children to private or international schools.

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child2,980.003,469.583,384.292,750.00
International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child57,611.4975,567.7169,792.5953,624.09

Going out for a meal

Life can’t be all work, sometimes we have to go out and treat ourselves. Below we have given two scenarios for eating out:

  • Lunch at your local spot
  • Dinner at a more up-market restaurant

Lunch at a local restaurant

If you are keen to go out to a local laid-back restaurant for a simple meal with only a drink or two, here’s what it’ll cost you:

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Restaurant meal at an inexpensive restaurant140.00145.00120.00120.00
330 ml Imported beer40.0040.0035.0027.00
330 ml Coke or Pepsi13.1914.8814.0413.43
Total193.19199.88169.04160.43

Dinner at an up-market restaurant

If you are looking to treat yourself and go to a more upmarket restaurant for a three-course meal and a bottle of wine perhaps, then this is more or less how much you’ll spend:

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
3-Course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant600.00600.00500.00450.00
Bottle of wine72.5075.0067.5060.00
Total672.50675.00567.50510.00

Fitness and Leisure

For most of us, going to the gym or playing sport goes along way for overall wellness.

Also, we may consider treating ourselves or the family to the latest blockbuster after going out for a meal.

 Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult546.69553.52564.71425.41
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat90.0098.00100.0095.00

In conclusion

In terms of affordability, Durban comes up most of the time as the most inexpensive city in South Africa.

It is however important to note that each city has something different to offer in terms of quality of life so it is important that you do your research on what will be the best fit for you and your family.

If there are any other costs you’re curious about, such as clothing, head on over to Numbeo.

Note: All of the costs were taken from Numbeo and are correct as at June 2020.