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’re going to be able to afford to live in your city of choice is a big part of immigration and relocation research.

Please note: All costs are in South African rands.

Let’s start with what you can expect to earn

When investigating how much it’ll cost you to live somewhere, you have to know how much you’ll earn. These are the average annual salaries in all four cities according to PayScale:

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Average Annual Salary 246,000275,000240,000212,000

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

1. Rent and utilities

Let’s say you’re single and you want to live in the city centre. In this case, Pretoria has the most affordable rent. Cape Town is the most expensive city by far!

Families who immigrate typically prefer to live in the suburbs. Suburban life in South Africa offers families more space and easier access to schools.

When you rent a 3-bedroom apartment outside of the city, Durban is the most affordable.

1-Bedroom apartment in the city centre

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
1-bedroom Apartment in the city10,556.926,462.505,483.33 5,375.00
Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage collection1,537.07 1,866.18 1,576.00 1,587.28
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)822.66 903.50 898.94 842.23


3-Bedroom apartment in the suburbs

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
3-Bedroom apartment outside of city centre13,867.65 11,140.00 11,906.25 12,038.46
Utilities and Internet2,395.732,769.682,474.942,429.51



2. Groceries

When shopping, a basket of 14 everyday items is going to cost you the least in Durban. You’ll spend R30.04 more on the same basket in Cape Town.

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
1L Milk14.92 17.77 15.70 17.55
Loaf of Fresh White Bread13.67 14.48 14.14 14.41
1kg White Rice21.02 23.99 22.56 22.00
12 Eggs31.71 32.75 27.03 26.91
1kg Local Cheese111.86 118.02 110.05 108.61
1kg Chicken Fillets76.79 72.61 70.95 69.50
1kg Beef Round115.84 110.07 112.28 112.86
1kg Apples23.19 23.51 22.00 22.56
1kg Bananas22.64 22.24 20.44 20.68
1kg Oranges24.67 23.20 24.17 21.00
1kg Tomatoes22.61 21.30 22.27 19.73
1kg Potatoes19.15 19.18 22.62 14.86
1kg Onions17.81 17.43 17.25 15.14
Lettuce16.02 16.21 16.16 16.05


3. Buying a car

Most people choose to buy a new car once they’re in South Africa. It’s much cheaper than importing one from overseas!

You can see that there aren’t massive variances in car prices. The same is true for petrol, which costs around R17 per litre in all cities.

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent new car)283,750.00 300,000.00 277,000.00 300,000.00
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (or equivalent new car)347,506.25 333,382.76 320,125.00 349,927.27
1L Petrol17.17 17.00 16.92 16.79

4. Sending your children to school

Many immigrants choose to send their children to private schools. These schools often have teaching and learning methods similar to the country from which the family emigrated.

Durban’s preschools and primary schools are the most affordable by far. Most immigrants settle in either Cape Town or Johannesburg, though. When looking at these two cities, you can see that sending your children to school in Johannesburg will be the most expensive.

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child3,398.25 3,647.30 3,599.00


International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child79,146.67 83,108.57 58,333.33


5. Going out for a meal

South Africa offers plenty of opportunities to unwind, and South Africans are especially fond of enjoying a meal with family and friends. Durban comes out tops for value for money each time.

Lunch at a local restaurant

When you’re popping out for a quick lunch to catch up with a friend, this is how much you’ll have to set aside:

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
Restaurant meal at an inexpensive restaurant150.00 160.00 140.00 120.00
330 ml Domestic beer40.00 40.00 25.00 30.00
330 ml Coke13.66 14.40 15.00 15.82


Dinner at an up-market restaurant

This is how much the evening at an upmarket restaurant is going to set you back if you take a bottle of wine with:

Cape TownJohannesburgPretoriaDurban
3-course Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant600.00 600.00550.00 545.00
Bottle of wine80.00 70.00 79.00 70.00


In conclusion

While Durban has the lowest average annual salary, it offers residents an affordable lifestyle. The city has the cheapest groceries, the most affordable school fees, and it’s where eating out costs the least.

However, remember that each of the four cities we looked at has something different to offer in terms of quality of life. That’s why you should consider your family’s wants and needs, along with the cost of living in a city.

Note: All of the costs are from Numbeo, December 2021.