Cost Of Living In Accra

June 11, 2012 § 34 Comments

Hmm…I’ll talk about Accra, but it’s pretty calm here. Life moves fairly slowly; the rains have subsided a bit, the days and evenings have gotten a bit cooler, which is perfect for some of us. I’ve graduated mostly to taxis now from tro-tro. It’s not that I’m richer, but I’ve gotten sick of leaving home in clean clothes and looking dirty and disheveled by the time I get to Madina. The taxis aren’t any better, but at least you have more room to stretch out.

What else…I’ve been on a largely pineapple-mango-watermelon diet the last 6 weeks. I dunno if it’s my body trying to make up for my not having eaten any of these fruits in the 16 years I was away, but it’s what I crave most days. For those of you on lifelong diets, I’ve found watermelons to be very filling and natural cleansers. You don’t need to eat much to fill full.

I read a long while back several questions concerning cost of living in Ghana on several blogs and Ghanaian info websites by people looking/planning to move down here. I dunno if I tried to answer the central question about living expenses here, but I’ll take a crack at it today.

Rent: I won’t talk about rent/mortgage because that is a broad topic and there are too many variables and permutations, but you can get a place for as low as 10ghc – $8,000/month (yes, I’ve seen one…frankly, to me, no location in Accra is worth even 1/4th that figure as the quality of the houses are largely negligible when computing rental cost if you know how poorly homes are built in these parts). It’s all about preferences, what convenient for you, and for those of you in the $8k/month range, how much you think you can fleece from this government seeing as it’s usually the one that foots those exorbitant housing costs.

Transportation: having a car in Accra is a must. Your mobility is severely limited if you don’t have a car. I’m always planning trips, but without a car, I’m often limited to how far and how short (duration) a trip I can take, and even though there’s public transport, I usually cancel these trips. If I had a car today, I would’ve gone to Larteh, Mamfe, and on my way back from Dodowa by now. I’d then continue to Osu to check out someone who might be doing a job at my house. I would’ve gone to a party over the weekend that started around 10pm since I wouldn’t have had to worry about how to get back home that late. Basically, I would’ve done 10x as much as I can do now with tro-tro/taxis, instead, I’ll have to spread out all those things over a 2-week period. We don’t have NJ Transit or the NYC subway system here, or this topic would be too easy. Anyway, I should have a working car by July ending, but I’m trying not to psyche myself up should I be disappointed again. On the car thing, I think I’ve said this once: if you want a car and can afford buying one, ship it here… NEVER buy a car in Ghana. It’s just too much of a hassle. The fuel cost is on par with what’s in the U.S., and maybe worse. We pump per liter here and that can make it seem you’re paying less, but when you multiply that figure by 3.785 (liters in 1 gallon), you’ll see how close U.S. gas cost is to petrol in Ghana. So when you’re calculating fuel costs, imagine the same amount you spend right now times 3- you’ll have to pay for the workout your car goes through on our third-rate roads in maintenance cost, and then there are the Ghanaians who imagine you must have a borehole filled with gold coins because you drive a decent car, and they need to mooch of you any way they can.

Entertainment: i.e. to say…going out. I don’t go out so I don’t feel the pinch there, but if you’re the type who likes to go out, be prepared to pay well for it. When they say Accra is expensive, this is what they’re usually referring to. Look, if you’re being paid in dollars and/or have money to burn, by all means…go nuts; your dollars go even further against this daily-depreciating cedi. You’ll easily find people who’ll gladly help you spend it. But if you’re on a budget, be mindful of where and how you spend all that money. Don’t be surprised to see yourself burning through $1000 in a week and wondering where all that money went when didn’t even visit any places that measured up to TGIF or your favorite steakhouse.

Healthcare: getting the government plan is a must. I know we’re ‘third world’ and all, but you never know when you’ll need that coverage and your boutique clinic in Accra is nowhere near to assist you. Basic healthcare is relatively cheap. But when it comes to more important things like surgeries, scans, ultrasounds, etc…look for some coverage for that before or as soon as you get here. The service is here, although I can’t see myself having any major surgery here…not with ultra reliable ECG powering those life-supporting machines. Just do your homework and get coverage you can afford.

Education: this will be brief. It’s pretty much the same as housing. You can get el cheapo, and you can get the uber expensive. Frankly, if you have $20k to fund your child’s prep school education, email me and let me send that kid to a boarding school in the U.S. 20x better. I know virtually every excellent school from Maine to New Jersey. There’ll be no need for you to squander that money here.

Food: I know this one thing might be intimidating, but try this: go to a local market. Ok, go with someone. If you can’t find anyone and I have time, I’ll take you myself. There’s so much you can find at the market that’s far less in cost than you’ll find at Maxmart or Koala. Koala some years back was caught with expired products so don’t think because mostly expats shop there, they’ll be far better than locals. To me, they’re all the same and have only one goal: getting money… your money. It’s your job to get to most out of your money. You can get fresh meat cuts, fresh produce, and even those supposedly expense condiments at these grocers at wholesale price (you’ll have to buy in bulk) if you do your homework.

As for me, starting either next month or in August, my total monthly expenditure will rarely exceed $500. I’ve broken it all down…down to each item, but I won’t list them here. But it’s basically this: 150ghc for food; $75 cedi equivalent on dstv; and ECG, lpg, home upkeep, transportation, and lil’ expenses here ‘n there all add up to make the real total of 400ghc. I just rounded up to 500ghc for unexpected costs. If tv wasn’t so high, the figure could be far less. I’ll be living on roughly $250/month very comfortably. If I had to rent or add petrol, that’ll be $500/month…mind you, my food is for 2-3 adults (I need and burn off a lot of calories). Can you do the same? Or do you see yourself living in that echo chamber in a gated comm. and burning through $2-10k/month, when you can live richly on $1k/month?

 

Next time, I’ll tell you about a very, very important life decision I’ve made. Stay tuned! 😛

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§ 34 Responses to Cost Of Living In Accra

  • Yvonne says:

    I love your writing everytime of course!!!…..But you got me all curious about the important life decision…..I am going to go ahead and guess you found the “right” girl…..lol…….

    Nice writing Mike!!!

  • Jennifer says:

    Omg, first, I can’t even believe they even have places for rent that expensive! Me and the hubby got really lucky with the house we are moving into because it’s his moms house ( that she has waiting when she retires and visits Ghana ) and it has a mortgage that’s 3x cheaper then our rent in the US! Lol. I have heard about the markets, my husband wants us to use those more than traditional grocery stores. So it will be interesting to see how we will navigate the market lol. I guess the hubby was right about not wanting to buy a car in Ghana, we ended up shipping one from here with our furniture, I just hope the tires hold up with all the potholes and all 🙂 T-4 weeks till we are Ghana bound…

  • Yvonne says:

    Maybe once or twice!!! 🙂

  • Mike this is very insightful. Helps pple like us who want to move back home someday.

    I can’t wait for your next post ooh. are you getting married?

    • Mike says:

      lol.. no. I may not write what I planned on penning. someone scared me out of writing it, but it was about women. thanks for the response, too! 😀

  • Ann Meredith says:

    As we bought our house when we came we don’t have rent. I agree with your costing for the other items. My husband and I generally manage on $1000 per month for basic items like food, elec, TV water etc and that includes running two cars. We also employ a guy to help us around the house. However things seem to be going up steadily and who knows how much it will cost by the end of the year!

  • Mike says:

    Yeah, I hear ya. I’m worried about how much my import costs would be over the next year. When I came the cedi to dollar was 1.4:1 it’s now nearly 2:1. We don’t export anything (except minds) so we’ll always have this trade deficit, which keeps depreciating the cedi.

  • Angelique says:

    You are scaring me about the cost of living. I am not Ghanaian but I think that when I return to Africa, it will be in my top 5 countries to reside in. Country of origin is somewhere in the top 10 (LOL). I haven’t been there but I have heard so many nice things about it, that I finally bought the ticket and decided I will go and check it out. I really look forward to it and hope that it would at least give me some clues as to whether I could settle down there. Loving your blog by the way, it is giving me some real insights on things to expect while I am gallivating around the neighbourhoods and markets!!!

  • Marie says:

    Hey I am scared now :-/ iam moving there and can’t even find 1 bedroom house to rent up , the price are OMG 1500dollars for 1 Bedroom house , and I don’t eat , thank you for your words

    • Mike says:

      There are expensive places, but there are affordable places, too. It’s all about one’s budget and comfort level. As for consumer goods, unless you’re on expat income, you’ll definitely feel the pinch of what’s sometimes daily price inflation on pretty much all consumer goods.

  • Hello, can You please tell me the cost for landline phone service in Accra?

    • Mike says:

      hmm…that’s nearly impossible for me to tell. I’d say 99% of the pop is on mobile. There are only a few enclaves in Accra that still use land lines, but these are nearly all businesses. There are cordless phones, but those are also prepaid like mobile services and run on the same networks.

    • Dennis Martins says:

      Am a ghanian and currently in Ghana, be specific on the things you wish to know, there fees or prices and i will tell you the exact and most current price for it, Ghana is a cool place to be and live, just like Mike said it will depend on your comfort level and remember what ever comfort you desire it will involve your hard earn cash, so your comfort level will be determined by your financial capabilities, but the most important of all is that Ghana is a free country for all that desires to come to it citizen or foreigners.
      we love peace and we are truly peace people.

  • SB says:

    I read your comment, it reminded me of a mindset, held by many. Then I noticed you did not respond to Angelique and JenniferA. Why are you in Africa?

    • Mike says:

      I don’t follow. Which comment would that be? …especially on “cost of living in Accra.” I’ve be quite thorough with Qs & As..sometimes, I write out essays to respond to Qs. Sometimes, I just don’t really feel like repeating myself.

    • Mike says:

      I went back to read comments on that entry. Jen & Angelique didnt ask any specific questions. They made comments.

  • Thank you Mike,

    I am looking at moving to Accra early next year and found your blog mighty helpful.

    Is it fairly easy to find accommodation?

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for the compliment. As to your question, I’d have to say: not really. It largely depends on how much you are willing to pay for rent; your research before and after you get to Accra; and the right help you get when you start looking. The rentals are there. You just have to do a lil’ homework and get the right help to find what best fits your needs. hth

  • hortens says:

    Thanks Mike for this blog.
    I have lived in ghana in 2009 for 4 months and i was in Cape Coast. I had the opportunity to visit accra many times and Takoradi as well. I am in south africa now, working for a local company and i am planning to come down to Ghana in April to work from there for my company. I loved Ghana in 2009 and i know i will be happy living there, plus it is not far from my country Ivory coast (I can visit anytime and family can visit me as well).
    I heard that there are some one bedroom flats in east legon for 1500 ghana cedi per year. Can you confirm the average cost for rental of one bedroom in this part of Accra, i also like Osu and Dansoma as it is easy to get to the beach from there.
    My budget is approx 400 Ghana cedi excluding the rent, i need to save the maximum from my salary. Do you think it will be enough? (food, airtime, databundle, transportation, electricity bill, restaurant on saturdays, beach on sundays and shopping-lady clothes, shoes).

    Thank you for your help!!

    • Mike says:

      @Hortens let’s tackle the non-rental expenses first. Can you live on 400ghc/mn? Yes. The average Ghanaian lives on roughly 200-300/mn, and that includes rent.
      I cannot say whether you can stretch 400ghc doing everything you wish to do with that amount. We’re also in the beginning stages of rapid inflation. So, what you could afford with 400, might not be so in 2 weeks (4th petrol increase scheduled March 1; prices for everything will shoot up!).
      As for rent, my best advice is that you wait till you get here. I dont rent, so I don’t have the best pulse on the market. I do know (based on what people have experienced) that provided you have adequate transportation, you can find rental properties well within your budget and far exceeding what you might find at places like Osu or D’man.

      • hortens says:

        Thank you so much Mike. For the rent, you are right, i will wait to be there and choose the best option for me.
        I am counting days hehe

  • Ofori says:

    Mike I’ve been out or Ghana for the past 20yrs. I would like to move back. I’m interested in hospitality business. Do you have any knowledge about that.

    • Mike says:

      @Ofori, are you interested in working in the hospitality industry or starting a business in that field?
      Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about this industry to offer an advice that will help you. I do see, though, that it’s largely dominated by expats/returnees. So, it might not be a bad venture to undertake.
      All that said, the economy is stuttering right now, so I’d be extra cautious about moving back soon or starting a venture. Then again, they always say these are also some of the best times to do a start-up. So, who knows? :-/
      I left this for others to see and maybe offer you some better advice.

  • Meme Isu says:

    Hello Mike, reading this piece is very enlightening. I’m moving to Accra in May to start a new job and looking at renting in East Legon. I checked out a few places online and spoke with the agents. I certainly won’t make any commitment until I see and approve of the apartment. But my questions have to do with shipping costs and clearing of my Car and furniture from the US. Can you advise in this regard. Also how Expensive Is internet subscription and do thy have broadband operators in Ghana. Please.

    • Mike says:

      @Meme et al…
      Thanks for keeping up with my temporarily dormant blog. As to your questions:
      Shipping a container to Ghana from the east coast of the US costs about $6000. This cost can be shared provided you can find someone looking to ship his/her stuff to Ghana.
      Your other choice is to find a shipping company that does door-to-door service. You can get large blue plastic oil drums and fill them up with items to ship. That’s how 99% of Ghanaians ship stuff. They cost $150-$175 depending on the barrel size.
      Another thing with shipping personal items…provided port is convinced you are shipping your own personal items in a residential relocation to Ghana, you aren’t taxed on what you bring.

      Shipping cars:
      Besides shipping costs (about $1500 for Ro-Ro), your biggest hurdle is Tema. Most people don’t know about the penalties for cars exceeding 1900cc and overage cars (10yrs or more), and end up with fees exceeding their car’s current market value. I can give you a ballpark figure of how much port will charge for clearance if I know your car’s AGE & ENGINE CAPACITY.
      Lastly, broadband is a tricky term here. We still don’t have much exceeding 1-3mbps downlink, however each telco waxes about their 3-3.75G fibreoptic technology. Relatively speaking, they all suck. They’re also throddled most of the time. I’d try getting a 4G huawei dongle on ebay. They’re all unlocked. Then come and try out each of the gsm networks in Ghana and see which you like best. Airtel seems like the best so far. If none seem to work for you, there are a few satellite based services, which offer the same speeds but with less network loss. Those will cost you between 100-300ghc+ per month depending on the *advertised* speeds. Remember advertized does not mean guaranteed! And there’s no consumer protection in Ghana. Once you sign up for some of these plans, you’re locked in for at least 6 months.
      The best option is a 4G dongle. OR you can get a second cheap phone and use that as a wifi hotspot…works same as using a dongle. Hth!

  • Nate says:

    Hi Mike!
    Hope you are still checking the blog 🙂 I am very passionate about Ghanaian drumming and I’ve decided to attend the University of Ghana for my master’s in music. I was in Ghana in 2007 (lived in Madina) and 2008 (lived in a small village near Cape Coast) so I am very familiar with city and village life there. I’m in the U.S. and I’ll be taking out a loan via my parents. I am trying to figure out living expenses, as most people seem to have been on this blog. I will be renting a room on campus for graduate students (very reasonable $1,800 for the year) and will be remaining on campus much of the time for classes and studies. So I have a few cost questions, especially since the Ghana cedi is now 1 to 3 against the US dollar.

    How much do tro-tros (for local day-time travel), taxis (for late night rides home) and buses (to Cape Coast especially) go for these days?

    How much have prices gone up for food in local markets? I will not be going to any steakhouses, ever…I will do mostly my own cooking and eating out will be at the bush canteen on campus. My favorite place to eat when I lived in Madina was just a few blocks away where a lady made red-red, which was my favorite since I was mostly vegetarian (not anymore, don’t worry). So if I was just getting some food at a roadside spot like, how much would red-red or some other inexpensive meal cost?

    I think thats about it for me – food and transportation. I am looking to live on $500 per month at the most without tuition/housing, which would now be 1546 GH Cedis. Basically – I’m generally just wondering how much this inflation has affected prices of local food and transport. I’m sure petrol will be expensive, so transportation has likely gone up accordingly, but especially wondering about food. Thanks for any insights on this!

    • Mike says:

      Sorry, Nate! I haven’t been on wordpress a while now. Let me try to jump right in to your Qs..

      Inflation is a bit of a problem lately. For example, fuel prices are expected to jump 20% on July 1. This means everything will go up 20-30%! This would be the 4th or 5th fuel price increase in the past year. So, it’ll be hard for me to give you actual figures for trotro fairs or certain foods because prices change quite often. I bought sugar to bake Saturday. It was @ 1.40gh per cup; today, it was 1.50gh. They expect it to change by Friday. Come July 2, I won’t be surprised to see 2gh per cup! See what I mean?
      Now, if you’ll have $500 at your disposal every month, then you needn’t worry much. The cedi depreciates faster than inflation increases. So, your dollars go a ways for a while. That said, don’t be surprised about how quickly you can burn through $500. It might be 1:3.2ghc now but we import everything, so the prices of those products keep spiking.
      I’d advice you go easy on spending money when you first start going out. Then try to see where your money goes and what you feel you can afford. $500 will do plenty, even dare-I-say…Accra Mall splurges :-P? And try to have actual currency secured somewhere here (not bank), and only change to cedi when you need to. Moneygram cheats on exchange rates, as do banks.

  • Angela says:

    OMG! I Just came across your blog while searching for info for my three week trip to Ghana in January. I will be residing with a friend in Ho Ghana, and I was wondering what will be a reasonable amount of money to travel with for three weeks?

    • Mike says:

      Hmm…I can’t tell if you’re asking about strictly transportation cost or if your budget will include housing, food, etc. it’s really hard to say, especially if you’re coming in January. Prices for virtually everything should go up come January 1. If you’re doing the hobo thing, then 1500ghc should be enough for transportation, a few gifts and food. I’m assuming you already have lodging covered. If not, add another 500 just to be on the safe side. So you can do well with $500 over those three weeks. hth

      • anjjiem02@gmail.com says:

        Hi thank you for your response, I have a place to stay, I was mainly concerned about the amount of money to travel with. I was thinking $1000 dollars (US) would be sufficient for three weeks?

      • Mike says:

        $1000 is way more than enough. $500 is sufficient for those 3 weeks, especially if you’re not going to be in Accra and spending all your time at it’s overpriced fancy places.

      • Angela says:

        Thank you so much for your advice. We will be visiting Accra, but will be residing in Ho, I just didn’t know what was a sufficient amount of money to take, I don’t want to use credit cards

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