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How Expensive is Luanda for Expats?

Updated on March 12, 2013
Panoramic view of Luanda
Panoramic view of Luanda | Source

Forget everything you've ever thought relating to the world's most expensive cities. I'm from New York, a city that's been known as one of the most expensive for years and I was shocked to find out that the city I'll be calling home for the next 2 months, located in western Africa, is now the #1 most expensive in the world. That city is Luanda (not to be confused with the country of Rwanda), the capital of Angola.

I've always been under the impression that to be an expensive city, the citizens should have relatively high incomes but that is not the case in Luanda where 68% of its citizens actually live below the poverty line, according to USAID. Not only that, the country has some of the lowest life expectancy rates and some of the highest mortality rates in the world. And to top it off, the country of 18.5 million was ravaged by civil war for 27 years after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975.

Cost of living comparison between Luanda and NYC

Luanda prices
NYC prices
A bottle of Coca-Cola
A burger at a fast food restaurant
A natural juice
$12 (in my hotel)
A buffet dinner
$75 (in my hotel)
Monthly gym membership
A two-bedroom apartment in a luxury building

Why is Luanda So Expensive?

Evidently, Angola’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world and there are plenty of opportunities for foreign investment in industries such as infrastructure, oil agriculture and diamonds. The country is the 2nd largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa and the 7th largest to the United States. Angola is being built from the ground up however corruption prevails.

Companies see a lot of potential in Angola. Coca-cola now has two bottling plants in the country. American oil companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil invest in order to maintain oil production in Angola. China has a huge stake in the country, having granted loans for over $5 billion and is helping build stadiums and roads.

Mercer's 2011 Cost of Living Ranking - Top 10

  1. Luanda, Angola
  2. Tokyo, Japan
  3. N'djamena, Chad
  4. Moscow, Russia
  5. Geneva, Switzerland
  6. Osaka, Japan
  7. Zurich, Switzerland
  8. Singapore, Singapore
  9. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  10. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Some Interesting Stats From Mercer's Cost of Living Survey

According to Mercer's 2011 cost of living survey:

  • Luanda is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates and Karachi, the capital of Pakistan is the cheapest
  • No U.S. city is even in the top 10 list
  • New York is the costliest city in the U.S. but 32nd most pricey in the world. Los Angeles is at 77th place and Chicago is at 108th
  • Singapore and Sao Paulo just joined the top 10 list

Wondering Where Angola is?

A markerLuanda, Angola -
Luanda, Angola
get directions


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    • profile image

      AP 4 years ago

      I bought a 3 bedroom apartment in a location about 15 - 20 KM from downtown and since Il don't use it I decided to ret and could only get 850 USD/Month. AL is right not only the apartments in Kilamba project are gone, but there similar projects all over the country. Yes a lot to be done but they are on the right truck. There have been a lot of supermarket chains come in and living cost for expats is much lower.

      One thing people needs to consider is the security issue. Expats need security and therefore they are situated right in downtown and in other prime location which of course has a high price. I am sure if an expat try to get an apartment in prime location anywhere it would come with a high tag price. I experienced it in Singapore, in Houston, in India in NY you name it.

    • profile image

      Tukaiana Simões 4 years ago

      If you are looking to buy or rent a house, you will definitely need the help of an agent who is a local expert in the neighbourhood. My name is Tukaiana Simões, I am Real Estate Advisor specialized in the City of Luanda. Also if you know anyone who needs my assistance now, I would really appreciate an introduction to them. Tukaiana Simões 943 839 820

    • HMTarticles profile image

      Tyler 5 years ago from New York

      I've worked several times in Luanda (and other Angolan cities) and it was hard to believe the cost of food. A simple meal at a cheaper restaurant would cost $40-50.

      I think a big reason the city is so expensive is the high population density and lack of international trade (outside of oil). A lot of people were driven to the city during the long civil war.

    • profile image

      AL 5 years ago

      I guess I am more optomistic than most but now I have my doubts. A lot of the times when you have an elite class in the country they only care about making themselves even richer. How the governmet has recently handled that Kilamba Kiaxi housing project shows they really do not care. They seem to not understand how realstate works and are only interested satisfying their own greed. They rather apartments lay empty than to reduce the price to where the poor can afford it because they are only interested in lining their pockets. Kilamba Kiaxi is almost a ghost town and it doesn't have to be that way. It's sits right next to a city of 5 million but no one lives there because the rents too high.

    • profile image

      peter david 5 years ago

      its cool

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      Amazing. Who would have thought? I know that diamonds and oil have only been bad news for human rights and the vast majority of inhabitants wherever they occur in Africa. I hope that AL is right and that things may be on the upswing for the population. What a fantastic experience you've had.

    • eatforcheaper profile image

      eatforcheaper 5 years ago from London

      Omg that's incredible! The expense is ridiculous! I had no idea I always thought the most expensive city was Tokyo! But a very interesting article thanks!

    • profile image

      AL 5 years ago

      A lot of what was mentioned is old news for me. I know quite a bit about the country the main reason for the high cost of living is too many people in a city that was meant to hold no more than 400,000 people. So imagine 5,000,000 moving to a city the size of Spokane, WA. As a result apartments are scarce which is the reason for the high rent but that situation is improving. The government is building houses and apartments like crazy pretty much expanding the city outward, that's what they have going for themselves, they can do that with all of the oil money that's coming in. A lot of the slums you see in that video are no longer there. The video is at least 3 years old. Things are improviung so fast that what was the case 3 years ago is not the case now. What was the tallest building downtown 2 or 3 years ago is not the tallest now. Skyscrapers are being built like crazy downtown and in the rest of the city. Kilamba Kiaxi housing project which is a wonder in itself will be completed at the end of this year. Now I'm not saying everything is great in Luanda, it still has a long way to go but things are improving rapidly with the growing economy. And curently Luanda recently drop to #2, it's no longer the most expensive city in the world. With all the houses and apartments being built it should be out of the top 10 in a few years as far as being the most expensive.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 6 years ago from New York City

      Oh thanks for the quick response, I'll be visiting Africa as soon as my hubpages income picks up, so that might take a while, but you never know with the web, what's possible. Have fun there, and take some amazing pictures if at all possible. Once again Nice hub!

    • Global-Chica profile image

      Anna 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks so much, CloudExplorer! I'm really glad that you enjoyed the hub and the comparison with NY. It really is as expensive in Luanda (where I am currently) as all the publications say and NY is much cheaper for many things. I should note though that many of the current issues here now stem from the long civil war that the country suffered from and things are getting better day by day, so much so that I can see it in front of my eyes. The country is also heavily investing in tourism and there are lots of natural wonders here. I'm sure that when you come to Africa, you'll like it!

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 6 years ago from New York City

      Lovely hub on Launda, I like how you make comparisons between living in New York City, and there in Africa.

      I never been to Africa myself, but I plan to visit the hot motherland some day, this hub is useful in many ways, and for that I'll definitely vote it up, and share it.

      Thanks @Global-Chica for such a well written hub here, it was a pleasure to read.

    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 6 years ago from South Africa

      Who would have guessed? Mozambique has recently moved from most backward economy in the world to one of the fastest developing...sounds like Angola is on the same track, both countries healing after years of war. It will be interesting to see where Africa goes in the future with growth like this. Very interesting hub. Thank you.

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 6 years ago from London

      Wow, how interesting to discover Angola in Africa is the most expensive city in the world. You show the true traveller spirit, investigating the pros and cons before you actually go there. Have a great time, and a few nights in! Great hub.

    • Global-Chica profile image

      Anna 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Hi one2get2no, I'm going to Angola for 2 months because my boyfriend needs to go there on an international assignment and I'll be joining him since I'm not currently working but writing a Master Thesis, which I can do from any location as long as I have a laptop and an internet connection so I have the opportunity to go. Can't imagine what life will be like there!

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 6 years ago from Olney

      Interesting hub and some surprising stats...but why on earth would you spend two months of your life there?

    • rob_allen profile image

      rob_allen 6 years ago from MNL, PH

      This is interesting.Thank you for sharing a piece of this African capital. At least, just in case, this hub would be very helpful for those who will fly to that country (for mission, travel and other purposes)BTW, I never knew that the cost of living in Angola is really high. Come to Manila and make a comparison :)