Cost Of Living In Accra
June 11, 2012 § 36 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! 😛