The cost of living in Zambia is remarkably low for those paid in a strong currency. In the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023, which compares expat cities around the world, Lusaka was ranked 197th out of 227 cities.
As Zambia is a landlocked country, it is heavily dependent on its neighbours. Transport costs are high, and much of the country’s consumer goods are imported and therefore expensive.
Expats should keep in mind that the cost of living in Zambia is relative. For those wanting to maintain the life of comfort that they had back home, the cost can be exorbitant; but it’s worth noting that the majority of Zambia’s population still lives well below the poverty line.
Cost of accommodation in Zambia
Accommodation costs in Zambia can be high, particularly in Lusaka, and are likely to be an expat’s most significant monthly expense. Many companies secure and finance housing for their senior expat executives. Expats looking for work in Zambia should factor the housing costs into any contract negotiations.
Cost of transport in Zambia
Most expats moving to Zambia choose to purchase a vehicle to get around the country. Zambia's public transport is largely considered inadequate, but there are buses, trains and minibus taxis available at affordable prices.
Purchasing and maintaining a car in Zambia is affordable for most expats. As Zambia's road infrastructure is still under development, expats will likely need to invest in a four-wheel drive vehicle and defensive driving lessons to stay safe on Zambia's roads.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Zambia
Zambia boasts an assortment of recreational activities, including cinemas, bars and theatres dotted around the country. Cinema ticket prices will be reasonable for expats, but those looking to save a few bucks can purchase tickets for weekday shows rather than weekend shows. Culture aficionados will also be delighted to find that there is a State Orchestra in Lusaka but tickets can be pricey.
Eating out in Zambia is a treat for locals and residents. Expats who are keen to try local restaurants and cafes will find them extremely affordable. For those who are looking for international cuisine, there are a variety of Western-style restaurants in hotels and tourist areas, but these will be significantly pricer.
Cost of groceries in Zambia
The cost of basic goods such as fresh fruit and vegetables varies significantly according to the season. Informal markets in Zambia are a good place to pick up bargains, as polite bartering is acceptable at street cafés and vendors in a way that it is not in more formal stores. Buying local goods is also significantly cheaper than imported alternatives.
Cost of education and schooling in Zambia
Expats with children will most likely have to fork out a hefty sum of money on education. Many feel that the public school system is inadequate and prefer to send their children to international schools in Zambia, which tend to carry high fees. Expat parents moving to Zambia for work purposes should keep this in mind when negotiating their relocation package.
Cost of healthcare in Zambia
Another essential expense for expats in Zambia is health insurance. Zambia’s public healthcare system is subpar, and although there are some good private hospitals in the major centres, any serious medical emergencies are likely to require evacuation to South Africa or elsewhere. Therefore, expats need to ensure that they have a comprehensive health insurance policy that covers this.
Cost of living in Zambia
Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Lusaka in February 2024.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|One-bedroom apartment in city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment in city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre
|Milk (1 litre)
|Rice (1 kg)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Big Mac Meal
|Local beer (500ml)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (per month for a standard household)
|Taxi rate (per kilometre)
|Bus/train fare in the city centre
|Petrol/gasoline (per litre)
What do expats say about living costs in Zambia?
"Compared to Belgium, Zambia is cheap, even if it is more expensive than neighbouring countries." Read more about Belgian expat Jacques's experiences in Zambia.
"Most things are brought into the country, so you are paying for shipping and duty. Cereal that may cost $3 at home is $7 here." Learn more about life in Zambia in our interview with Canadian expat Tima.
►For more on managing your finances while living in Zambia, see Banking, Money and Taxes in Zambia
Are you an expat living in Zambia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Zambia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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