Cape Town table mountain from lions head

Cost of Living in Cape Town, South Africa

Following up on my post about Cost of Living in JoburgI thought it was only appropriate to do a similar cost of living for Cape Town, my favorite city in South Africa. I’ve enlisted the help of my friend Karalyn Yu, an expat from Canada working as a teacher in the Mother City to give a run down of her monthly costs living in the world’s most beautiful city. If you’re looking to visit Cape Town without living there, make sure to read my Ultimate Cape Town Travel Guide as well!

Cape Town table mountain from lions head
Cape Town Cost of Living

Kary is an avid traveler like myself and actually reached out to me after reading my trip to Madagascar as she is planning one for herself. I not so secretly wished I could have lived in Cape Town the entire time I was in SA. I may have never left!

Note for future years: South Africa is a developing nation and therefore has higher inflation than first world countries. Expect volatility with the currency and cost of living standards but the golden rule is that prices will increase faster than normal. This guide was written in 2015 so I would recommend adding 5% per year for future analysis! Also keep in mind that Cape Town has grown into a global top tourist destination and will continue to be such for the future. This will only drive prices up!

Cape Town Rent – R8,500

In Cape Town, most expats flock to the City Bowl, which includes the CBD as well as a diverse group of residential suburbs, each with its own distinct feel and flavour. One of the great things about the Mother City is how quick and easy it is to get around. From my apartment in the Vredehoek neighbourhood on the slopes of Table Mountain, within 10 minutes I can be laying on my favourite beach, grabbing a drink on Bree Street, shopping at the V&A Waterfront, or at the starting point to hike Lion’s Head.


Cape Town is a popular tourist destination, with good reason. This, along with the increase in popularity of websites like AirBnB, has decreased the number of apartments on the market available for long-term lease. It’s common to see ads for rentals from April to October, with property owners opting to use their apartments as holiday rentals over the busy tourist season. As a result, rental prices have increased significantly in the last few years. Case in point – at my previous (unfurnished) one-bedroom apartment, I paid R6,000 until my lease expired in July 2013. Less than two years later and it now rents for R9,000. Even with the 50% increase there is no shortage of tenants ready and willing to pay the price.

On average, a basic, furnished one-bedroom in the City Bowl runs from R8,000-R10,000. Prices vary according to neighbourhood, security, age, amenities and views; if you want something more spacious, modern, or with a mountain or water view, be prepared to pay at least a couple thousand more. If you want a house in Camps Bay with views of the beach, prepare to break the bank!


As previously mentioned, I live in Vredehoek (corner of peace in Afrikaans) in a furnished one-bedroom flat, with an awesome garden.  The complex has secure parking, a pool, views of Table Mountain, and is within walking distance all the essentials –  grocery store, liquor store, a handful of cafés and restaurants, hairdresser/spa, medical offices; this sets me back R8,500 a month.

Car and Car Insurance – R400

I’ve seen more luxury cars in Cape Town than I have in any other city in the world; I’m far from a car aficionado, but I recognize an expensive car when I see one. SUVs, Land Rovers and Mini Coopers are also popular amongst Capetonians, however there are a large number of small economy cars on the road. My 2009 Toyota Yaris falls into this category. I bought my car in a private sale via gumtree (South Africa’s version of craigslist). As such I don’t have a monthly car payment, but I do pay about R400 for car insurance. If you plan on financing a car, I’d budget R3,000-R5,000 for a monthly payment.

Cape Town Cars
My Cape Town ride (with a view of course)

A note to North Americans coming to Cape Town – most cars here are manual transmission. If you don’t already know how to drive stick shift, you’ll either learn quickly once you get here, or pay a premium for an automatic car.

Gas – R900

The government regulates the cost of gas so there’s no need to check prices and shop around. If you need gas, just pop into your nearest station. Gas prices are adjusted on a monthly basis, with prices increasing or decreasing on the first Wednesday of each month. With an increase or decrease announced the week before its implementation, a projected increase the following month can lead to long lines at gas stations on some Tuesday nights. SA gas stations are full-service; attendants will fill your tank, clean your windows and offer to check water, oil and tires. It’s customary to leave a small tip (R5-R10) at the end of your transaction.

Gas Station Cape Town
Gas Station with a view

At 45km round trip, my commute to work isn’t too bad. With mostly highway driving and going against the flow of traffic both ways, I don’t spend much time idling either. In general, it costs about R450 to fill up a tank, which lasts me at least a couple weeks, so I spend a maximum of R900 a month.

Gym – R140

Now this may seem like a ridiculously low price to pay for gym membership, and it is! The secret is that I get a heavily discounted membership rate at Virgin Active in Cape Town (something like 90%) as part of my health insurance, which is paid for by my employer. Discovery Health Insurance has a special program called Vitality, which offers incentives to encourage a healthy lifestyle. One of these perks is a cheap gym pass, but there’s a catch; you have to go to the gym at least 3 times a month or your membership increases to the original price. It’s actually a pretty ingenious move for a health insurance company; give members incentive to exercise so they are healthier and in turn live longer. If you don’t have the benefit of a discounted gym membership, I would budget closer to R1,000 for one.

Cellphone – R125

If you have a work visa that expires in at least two years then you’re eligible to sign up for a monthly plan. Bad news is that I waited too long and by the time I got around to it, I realized that my work visa was due to expire 22 months from when I decided to get my phone sorted. Good news is that I brought my unlocked iPhone with me, so being ineligible for a monthly plan; I purchase my data and airtime as I need it. This can be done pretty easily at any grocery store or gas station. Most of the time (home and work) I have access to Wi-Fi and a landline, so with Vodacom, I choose to pay R99 for 500mb of data and also use about R25 worth of airtime on phone calls.

Electricity – R250-R400

I have a pre-paid electricity meter in my apartment and end up spending about R250 a month in the summer. In the winter months, I spend an extra R150 when a plug-in wall heater becomes a necessity to take the chill out of the morning and evening air. Many people are surprised at how cold it can get in Cape Town winters. With the majority of buildings having no central heating, a low of 3-4°C can feel mighty chilly.

Wi-Fi/TV – R765

I don’t have a TV in Cape Town; with so much to see and do outdoors I find I’m rarely home enough to make it worth it. If there is something I absolutely need to watch, I generally have no problem finding it online.

There are two different components to my Wi-Fi service; I have a home phone and 10Mbps line through Telkom at R425, then I pay MWEB R340 for unlimited data. I pay R200 less than the normal R540 that MWEB charges as I was lucky enough to sign up while they were running a special promotion.

This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to set up. My apartment had an existing, dormant phone line through Telkom that I reactivated. As a SA national, you can actually do this over the phone; however as an expat, I had to go to Telkom’s main office in the CBD in person to provide a copy of my passport, as well as a R700 deposit. Once this was done, I was given an installation date within the following two weeks where Telkom technicians came to activate the line. I set-up my data via MWEB by emailing an application form I downloaded from their website. It was surprisingly simple and straightforward.

Food/Entertainment – R4500

It’s hard to estimate how much I spend on food and entertainment. I do know that it’s much less than I do in Canada. In general eating and drinking out is extremely affordable and of excellent quality. Conde Nast Traveler recently voted Cape Town as the 3rd best food city in the world, ranking behind only San Sebastian and Paris. Pretty impressive!

Eating out in Cape Town

I would say that a meal out with friends including a shared appetizer, a main meal and a couple drinks sets me back between R150-R200. One thing I love about Cape Town restaurants is that many allow you to bring your own wine, either for free, or by paying a nominal corkage fee. If you’re not drinking alcohol and just having a entrée, there are tons of places you can get a great meal for R100; it’s also common to see burger and beer specials for R75-R85.

On average, I’d say I eat out about three to four times a week, so I spend about R600/week, or R2400/month. On top of this, I spend about R400/week on groceries, so another R1600/month.

In the Winter months when there are fewer tourists around and locals are bundling up inside, many restaurants have amazing winter specials. We’re talking a meal for two, including a glass of wine for R100-R150. Fine dining restaurants also take part – in the cooler months you can enjoy a multi-course meal with wine pairings at some of the best restaurants in the city that would cost 10 times more in New York or London.

Table Mountain Cape Town
Your average weekend hike up Table Mountain to take casual pictures like this one…

Outdoor Activities in Cape Town

In terms of fun and entertainment, a big part of my leisure hours are spent outdoors. With breathtaking scenery, amazing beaches and an infinite number of hiking trails, Cape Town is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream; access to most of this is free.

Two of my favourite summer activities are outdoor movies and concerts. In general, these run from late Spring to early Fall. Outdoor concerts take place in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens every Sunday afternoon/evening. You bring your own food and drinks (including alcohol:), a big picnic blanket, and groove to the sounds of some great SA musicians like Matthew Mole, The Parlotones, Mi Casa and Goldfish. Once in a while, they even land some better-known international acts like Bastille and Passenger. Tickets run as little as R100 for the local artists to R400 for the more popular acts.


The Galileo Open Air Cinema plays movies several nights a week in different locations (Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, V&A Waterfront, Cape Winelands, Hillcrest Quarry). I’ve been to them all and each one has its own unique atmosphere. At R70 a ticket, it’s a fun, affordable night out for a couple, or a large group of friends.

Food markets are also a great way to socialize with friends while sharing good food and drink. Some of the more popular markets are the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock, the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay and the V & A Market on the Wharf.  Picture food vendors selling their goodies – items as varied as sushi, raw oysters, baked goods, flat bread pizzas and empanadas, plus there are also always alcoholic beverages available. You browse the stalls and select a few items to enjoy at communal tables with friends and strangers alike.

Wine Tasting in Cape Town


Another favourite weekend activity is wine tasting. You can stay locally and explore the Constantia Wine Route which is only a 20 minute drive from the CBD, or venture out to the Cape Winelands in Stellenbosch, Paarl, or my favourite, Franschhoek, all of which are a 45-60 minute drive away. Some wine tastings are free, while others charge a nominal fee (generally between R25-R40).

Now I’m going to share one more sweet deal that locals love. At the Labia cinema in the Gardens neighbourhood, you can get two movie tickets and two dinners for R90-R99. That’s dinner and movie for you AND your date for that price.  Let me repeat – that’s two dinners and two movie tickets for R100! I don’t know of a better deal in the city. Each day of the week features a different restaurant, and I can tell you from experience that they are all delicious.


In three years  of living in the the Mother City, I’ve never felt bored or tired of being here. There really is no shortage of things to do, see and experience in Cape Town.  But don’t take my word for it, come for a visit and you’ll never want to leave!

Adding It All Up

Rent – R8,500
Insurance – R400
Gas – R900
Gym – R140
Cellphone – R125
Electricity – R400
Wi-Fi/TV – R765
Food/Entertainment – R4500

= R15,730/month for all regular expenses in Cape Town. This is as of 2015.

Continue Reading:


I'm a dual Canadian-American from NYC that moved to South Africa for work and ended up traveling all through the continent. I'm currently living the expat life in Frankfurt, Germany and traveling the world as much as I can. I'm a bit obsessed with scuba diving, churning credit cards so I never pay to fly, and eating the most questionable of foods in the most peculiar of places. My bucket list is the world, and some day I might make it there.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I have a retirement income I have US$3000 a month after taxes in the US. What would that look like in Cape Town. Also can my US Blue Cross Blue Shield be used as healthcare or would I have to purchase healthcare there. Can retirees immigrate?

    • Yes that is ways to immigrate for retirees with a certain amount of money. I think 3k USD will be more than enough to satify that threshhold. If it’s just for 1 person, then you will live quite well. If it’s two people, you will still live well but not as much of course. Dont’ knwo about the health insurance, but probably not given that it’s american healthcare.

  2. Myself, my husband, and our 14 year old daughter are looking to move to SA from the USA. We’re looking to go in early 2021, around Jan or Feb. Would you know what the inflation in SA has brought the cost of living to? We’re really trying to plan ahead. We have roughly $400/mo in US dollars to live on and not sure if that will be enough to live really well in SA. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

      • Ha that is more like it! I looked at $400 and thought this person has no idea what she’s getting into. So with $4000, this translates to about R65000. I assume this is after tax? Do you know where you want to live yet? I assume it will be around Cape Town somewhere. While the inflation is high, it’s generally offset by the depreciation in the rand. Since you are coming with USD, yo uwon’t feel the effects as much. I don’t see the rand appreciating heavily to the USD anytime soon either.

        So with R65,000 a month this is about R800,000 a year which is probably around R1.5m pretax. This will put you guys in the top 2% of South Africa. I think you will live quite well in South Africa for this. You won’t live lavishly because Cape Town is just not a cheap place but you will be able to live and do what you want without much issue. Although I can’t comment on schooling, this might be a lot more money since you’l probably want to send your child to private schools?

  3. Hi Johnny,
    Thanks a lot for this post! I loved Cape Town when I visited it last year, and now my husband and I are planning to move there. A friend of mine mentioned a much larger figure when I enquired…she was of the opinion that 80k a month would be needed to sustain a decent living we don’t want to live too fancy, but want to live a decent middle class life. Can you help me out here? I’m sort of confused after reading your post.

    • Hi there, everyone’s cost of living standards is different of course and this was written by Karalyn, who was a young single person. Also, she wrote that over 3 years ago and with SA’s high inflation (I would budget 8-10% a year), her current costs would be around R22,000/yr. Also, she bought her car outright so she only had to pay for insurance, otherwise, you’ll need to add at least another R3000 a month to the budget. Adding that up, and you get R50,000/yr for two people. Much more if you have kids as well.

      Entertainment costs are completely variable depending on how much you like eating out. This cost can obviously increase dramatically depending on the types of places you frequent. I felt that Karalyn really kept her spending under control in this part.

      Keep in mind that the average monthly salary in Cape Town for educated individuals is probably around R20k/mo before taxes so R80k/mo for two people is quite high by south african standards.

  4. This is SO helpful. My husband and I are looking to live abroad for about 6 months, so this is great for some rough planning.