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South Africa The Land of Rich Culture and Affordable Living

South Africa: The Land of Rich Culture and Affordable Living

South Africa is rich in many things: culture, diversity, wildlife, nature, history, and more. It’s this tremendous wealth that attracts tourists to visit or, in many cases, even relocate permanently (Is South Africa Good Place to live). 

But whether you’re planning a trip or moving into this beautiful country, one of the first things you’d need to consider is affordability.  

In this article, we’ll explore the factors that influence the cost of living and visiting South Africa, and provide insights to help you decide whether this country is an affordable destination for you.

Is South Africa cheap?

South Africa is a relatively affordable country to visit or live in compared to other countries and popular tourist destinations.

This is based on several factors, such as the cost of living, monetary exchange rates, accommodations and housing, transportation, and the cost of tourist-related activities.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors. Read on!

Cost of Living in South Africa

Cost of Living in South Africa

The overall cost of living in South Africa is lower compared to many other countries. As cited in a report by Numbeo in 2022, South Africa ranked 78th most expensive out of 139 countries listed.

For comparison, here are the cost of living scores of other countries included in the world’s most visited by tourists compared to that of South Africa. 

The table below shows each country’s cost of living index, cost of living plus rent index, and groceries index:

CountryCost of Living IndexCost Of Living Plus Rent IndexGroceries Index
South Africa42.130.134.8
United States70.157.070.4
United Kingdom69.751.956.6

The country’s diverse agricultural sector plays a big part in the country’s affordable groceries. They produce various crops, livestock, and fruits and vegetables, leading to a continuous supply of local produce and meat, which keeps prices affordable. 

In addition, South Africa has low taxes on alcohol, which makes beer, wine, and spirits affordable. The World Health Organization reports that South Africa has the second-lowest tax on beer globally, after Namibia. 

However, it’s worth noting that the overall cost of living in South Africa can vary widely depending on multiple factors, including the location and lifestyle of an individual.

Here are some cities in South Africa where it’s generally considered cheaper living in, based on factors such as the cost of housing, transportation, and food:

CityCost of Living IndexAverage cost of living monthly (including rent)
PortElizabeth47.49ZAR 14,408.33
East London45.79ZAR 14,297.36 
Bloemfontein44.19ZAR 13,155.56
Polokwane42.72ZAR 14,540.85
Durban47.52ZAR 16,038.88

Property Prices in South Africa

Property Prices in South Africa

The good news about property prices in South Africa is, compared to many other developed countries, properties here are generally more affordable. Of course, this still depends on the location, type, and condition of the property.

To give you an idea, here’s a simple comparison between property prices inside and outside the city centre in South Africa and the United States:

CountryProperty Cost (per m2) in the City Centre Property Cost (per m2) outside the City Centre 
South AfricaZAR 13,000 (USD 890)ZAR 8,500 (USD 580)
United StatesZAR 55,134 (USD 3,000)ZAR 36,756 (USD 2,000)

We mentioned in the previous section the cities in South Africa where the cost of living is cheaper. Below you’ll find the average property prices for one and two-bedroom homes in the following South African cities:

CityAverage Price of One-Bedroom Home Average Price of Two-Bedroom Home
Port ElizabethZAR 645,000ZAR 889,000
East LondonZAR 652,000ZAR 886,000
BloemfonteinZAR 669,000ZAR 892,000
PolokwaneZAR 668,000ZAR 863,000
DurbanZAR 824,000ZAR 1,201,000

Take note, though, that these are just estimates and these figures can easily change depending on various market factors.

Exchange Rates in South Africa

Exchange Rates in South Africa

In comparison to other nations, South Africa’s exchange rates are often considered appealing, especially for tourists and work travellers coming from countries with stronger currencies like the US and the UK.

The South African rand (ZAR) to US dollar (USD) conversion rate as of April 2023 is roughly 14.29 ZAR to 1 USD while the ZAR to Euro (EUR) conversion rate is around 16.41 ZAR to 1 EUR.

Accommodation Costs in South Africa

Accommodation Costs in South Africa

South Africa has a wide range of economical lodging alternatives for travellers and expats, including budget hostels, serviced flats, and long-term rentals. Some examples are:

AccommodationPrice Estimate
Hostels and Backpackers’ InnsPrices can range from as low as ZAR 100 (USD 7) per night to around ZAR 500 (USD 35) per night, depending on the location and amenities offered. 
Guesthouses Prices can range from around ZAR 300 (USD 20) per night to around ZAR 1,000 (USD 70) per night, depending on the location and facilities offered. 
Serviced ApartmentsPrices can range from around ZAR 5,000 (USD 350) per month for a basic studio apartment to ZAR 15,000 (USD 1,050) or more for a larger, more luxurious apartment.
Long-term RentalsA one-bedroom apartment costs around ZAR 4,000 (USD 280) per month in a smaller town to ZAR 10,000 (USD 700) or more in a major city like Johannesburg or Cape Town.

Transportation Costs in South Africa

Transportation Costs in South Africa

Oh, you’re in luck! South Africa is one of the most affordable destinations when it comes to transportation costs. You won’t have to break the bank to get around this beautiful country. 

A one-way ticket on local public transportation in Cape Town and Johannesburg is so cheap, you’ll think it’s a typo.

And don’t even get me started on the taxis – taking a ride for 5 miles in Johannesburg will cost you a fraction of what you’d pay in New York City or London.

To paint you a picture, here’s a little comparison:

Type of TransportationLocationPrice in Local CurrencyPrice in USD
One-way ticket (public transportation)Cape TownZAR 11USD 0.77
JohannesburgZAR 16USD 1.12
ZAR 47.02
USD 3.29
New York CityZAR 39.20USD 2.75
SydneyZAR 50.20USD3.52
Taxi (5-mile/8 km ride)JohannesburgZAR 120USD 8.40
New York CityZAR 283USD 20
LondonZAR 315.09USD 22.36

Fuel prices in South Africa are also relatively low compared to many other countries. Here’s how we fair compared to other countries:

Fuel (per litre)LocationPrice in Local CurrencyPrice in USD
Petrol United States (average)ZAR 11.44-14.30USD 0.80-1.00
United KingdomZAR 25.31-27.99USD 1.77-1.96
South Africa (as of April 2023)ZAR 18.95USD 1.33
DieselUnited States (average)ZAR 11.34-14.18USD 0.80-1.00
United KingdomZAR 24.99-27.63USD 1.77-1.96
South Africa (as of April 2023)ZAR 17.24USD 1.21

All in all, South Africa’s transportation costs won’t leave you penniless, especially for those coming from countries with higher living costs. 

Of course, prices will depend on the location and type of transportation, but you can expect to get around South Africa relatively cheaply.


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