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The most expensive cities in South Africa in 2019: Joburg vs Cape Town vs Pretoria

Data group Numbeo and expat portal Expatistan have published their Cost of Living indices for 2019, listing the cheapest and most expensive cities to live in across the globe.

The indices compare the cost of living across the world relative to a reference city – New York City for Numbeo and Prague for Expatistan – which has an index score of 100 (100%). The index looks at the relative costs across several categories, including rent, the cost of food, transport and entertainment.

It also takes the local purchasing power into account.

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If another city has, for example, a rent index of 120, it means that on an average in that city, rents are 20% more expensive than in New York City. If a city has a rent index of 70, that means on an average in that city, rents are 30% less expensive than in New York City.

Numbeo’s index assesses 433 cities, while Expatistan looks at 327 cities.

In the Numbeo Index, Swiss cities rank as the most expensive in the world, with prices up to 30% higher than in New York – while Indian cities rank as being some of the cheapest, with prices less than a fifth of those in New York.

With Expatistan, relative to Prague many US cities are ranked as being the most expensive, with Swiss cities also featuring. The trend of Indian cities being cheapest, however, is consistent on both lists, although the Ukraine, Argentina, Turkey and Mexico also feature.

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South African cities

South African cities rank in the middle, globally, with Pretoria ranked as the most expensive city in the country on both indices.

Johannesburg is ranked second, and Cape Town third, with Port Elizabeth fourth on Numbeo’s index and Durban fifth. In the Expatistan rankings, Port Elizabeth and Durban are switched around.

3Cape TownCape Town
4Port ElizabethDurban
5DurbanPort Elizabeth

Cost of living in SA

The rankings list specific data on the cost of living in South African cities.

The table below covers five categories (transport, rent, salaries, utilities and entertainment) which contain the average prices across all four major cities covered by Numbeo and Expatistan.

CityAverage disposable salaryMonthly transport costsRent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centreBasic utilitiesMeal for two people at a restaurant
PretoriaR15 481R1 200R4 897R1 273R500
JohannesburgR18 126R700R6 281R1 395R500
Cape TownR16 306R370R10 709R1 009R500
DurbanR15 124R350R4 839R1 093R400
Port ElizabethR11 833R460R3 727R1 152R400

The graphs below outline how the average salary is portioned across South Africa’s major cities.



Cape Town


Port Elizabeth


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