Cost of Living in Abuja

The cost of living in Abuja is deceptively high; in fact, the 2015 Mercer's cost of living survey ranked the city as the 35th most expensive in the world, ahead of both Los Angeles and Oslo.

Such a fact often comes as a shock to expats, especially those who were intending to save, rather than spend money, while working abroad.

Foreigners moving to Nigeria should realise that this is a developing country with a vast gulf between rich and poor. While many of its citizens live in poverty, a select few experience a very different lifestyle, utilising their wealth to fund international business ventures, unlimited shopping sprees and private education. Nigeria’s well-to-do are not just millionaires, they are billionaires. And naturally, this has a skewing effect on the country’s economy.

Cost of accommodation in Abuja

Since the 1990s, the cost of accommodation in Abuja has been well beyond the average professional’s wages.

the majority of contracts are only available on a two-year lease, and require that the total amount be paid up front, rather than in monthly instalments

At one point in Abuja, towards the beginning of the 1990s, two years’ rent for an expat-friendly property was equivalent to the total purchase price of a house. Therefore, for those who already had cash available, it made more sense to buy. This resulted in a property boom with houses being bought to let.

Within this period, international companies, such as Johnson and Johnson and Unilever, invested in staff accommodation throughout Nigeria.

It follows that for the majority of expat workers, housing will be provided as part of the relocation package, and very often the accommodation will also include a security guard and a housekeeper.

Expats who have only been allocated an accommodation allowance should make sure the amount promised is enough to secure appropriate housing in Abuja.

Cost of transport in Abuja

If moving to Nigeria for work and employed by a large company, expats are quite likely to be offered the services of a complimentary driver as part of the package.

Although this sounds excessive, it is necessary, especially to get from A to B on time and unharmed. Abuja’s roads are among the best in Nigeria - rickshaws are banned, traffic wardens are plentiful and the government has taken care to cover most of the pot holes. However, despite this, the main roads are chaotic, congested and a hazard to the inexperienced, foreign driver.

Cost of schooling in Abuja

Public schools are not really an option for expats living in Abuja, with most expats sending their children to an international school in Abuja or to boarding school back home. Within the city, the most sought-after schools for private education are the Lead British and the American International School. The alumni of both schools mainly consist of the sons and daughters of Nigeria’s leaders, as well as a good proportion of overseas students from the USA and the UK. Fees at these schools can reach exorbitant levels, and expats should ensure that their salary package makes provision for this.

Cost of shopping In Abuja


The cost of Western food items in Nigeria is significantly inflated. Expats can expect to pay about a third more for many standard Western groceries like cornflakes and chocolate.

That said, local produce is cheap. Nigeria has an excellent climate, so an array of fruits and vegetables are available all year round. Wuse Market in Abuja is the best place to go food shopping.


There are a few international clothing stores in Abuja, and as is the case with food, prices for Western clothes are high. Expats who want value for money should either select the material and have clothes made, or buy second hand from any of the clothes dealers in Abuja.

Arguably, the most modern shopping mall is the Silverbird Plaza, Memorial Drive, which is home to Mango and TM Lewin stores. 

Cost of other expenses in Abuja


The power supply in Nigeria is inconsistent and unreliable. There may be times, generally in the afternoon, when the power supply goes off completely.

Many expats therefore invest in a generator. These convenient power supplies can be one of the biggest drains on one’s finances; they are expensive to buy and install and incredibly costly to run.

Generators will need to be refuelled regularly and checked consistently to ensure they are safe. Many small businesses decide to do without generators and find it easier and more economical to close for a few hours. If a generator is absolutely vital then the cost needs to be balanced carefully against the income, as quite often, generators are a false economy that can cause small businesses to operate at a loss.

It is impossible to give an accurate cost of running a generator as it depends on the quantity of fuel purchased and the amount of power required.


This is a hidden cost that can really put a dent in the bank balance. Although Nigerian electricians, plumbers and roofers will do the best they can with the knowledge they have, every job can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Repair work is often carried out by young men who diagnose the problem through a process of elimination, and even then, repairs are not likely to be a long-term solution.

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Our Abuja Expert

CeliaJarvis's picture
London. Nigeria
My name is Celia Jarvis, I live in Abuja and sometimes London, if you need a career I normally put it down as international... more

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