I live in a 2-bedroom cottage near Cape Town on $760 a month. Here's a breakdown of what everything costs.
- Zan Zurawski lives with her partner near Cape Town, South Africa, in a cottage with an ocean view.
- Despite rising prices, she's able to live there for the equivalent of about $760 a month.
When my classmates at Marquette University were researching study-abroad trips to Europe, I felt inspired to explore a part of the world that felt more unfamiliar and isolated.
With its natural beauty, engaging history, friendly people, and affordable lifestyle, Cape Town, South Africa, was an obvious choice. In early 2014, I packed my bags for what began an eight-year love affair.
After college, I returned to Cape Town in 2015 through an internship that allowed me to work with various companies across the city. When my internship coordinator decided to start a craft brewery, I got a job with her that kept me in Cape Town.
As a student, I lived in Observatory, an area near the city center popular among students and close to the university. The neighborhood is gritty but full of creative vibrancy — and incredibly cheap rent.
After my student days, I moved south of the city center to a suburb along False Bay named Muizenberg. Famous for its colorful beach huts and gentle waves, the neighborhood is a surfer's dream. There, I lived in a house with four close friends. We paid what felt like pennies to live in a mansion overlooking the ocean.
I was firmly established in Cape Town when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and South Africa adopted a swift and strict lockdown that virtually stopped international travel. Tourism, the country's lifeblood, drastically declined.
When I met my partner two years ago, I moved even farther south along the Cape Peninsula to a seaside village called Noordhoek, known for its long, white sandy beach and horse stables despite being a 30-minute drive from the center of a city of 4.6 million people.
Like other popular remote-work destinations, the local currency's weakness is a big part of the reason it's so cheap for expats to live here. Given the strength of the dollar and endemic challenges facing the South African economy, it doesn't look like the rand will get much stronger in the short term.
My partner and I pay 9,100 rands a month, or about $522, to rent a two-bedroom cottage overlooking Chapman's Peak and the Atlantic Ocean.
Our rent includes internet and water, but we budget 700 rands a month for electricity, though South Africa's power grid is poorly maintained and rolling blackouts are part of life.
It takes me roughly 30 minutes to get to the city center via one of the world's most beautiful drives, Chapman's Peak. It's a toll road, which adds 114 rands to my commute. There is a free route, but it's not nearly as beautiful. I have a fuel-efficient car that costs about 840 rands to fill up. Petrol is one of my major expenses at the moment, so working from home is a plus.
We maintain a vegetarian diet, and our weekly grocery bill amounts to 1,500 rands. That being said, meat is a staple of the South African diet and is much cheaper to get here than in Western cities.
We like to go out at least once a week for dinner. A great dinner with a couple of drinks will set us back about 300 rands a person. That adds up to about 2,000 rands between us on dining out each month.
Things that would be extravagant in the US are affordable to us here. Wine tasting at a local vineyard, for example, costs about 120 rands for five wines from the heart of South Africa's famed wine lands. A 12-course dinner at La Colombe — which has often been featured on "world's best" lists — costs 1,695 rands a person.
My other expenses include health insurance at 2,070 rands a month, car insurance at 449 rands a month, and smartphone costs. Many South Africans use WiFi for calls and messaging to combat the exorbitant price of data. My phone bill is about 500 rands a month, made up of a 299-rand 5 GB data bundle and any necessary upcharges.
Despite Cape Town's vibrant nightlife, my hobbies are nature-centric and don't cost much. The city is nestled between mountains, oceans, and forests, a dream destination for nature lovers. My partner and I share a Wild Card membership, which grants us access to more than 80 national parks and reserves around southern Africa. It costs us 1,245 rands a year.
Like just about everywhere, the market here is shifting and prices are on the rise. Yet the quality of life here is second to none.
All told, I spend about 13,500 rands, about $760, a month. It means I'm getting far more than I bargained for in getting to call this beautiful city my home.
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