Cost of Living in San Francisco

Expats moving to San Francisco will need to ensure they can bear the city's high cost of living – not only is it the second most expensive city in the US (after New York City) but it's also one of the priciest cities worldwide. However, this shouldn’t put expats off moving to San Francisco. Salaries tend to be correspondingly high, though expats should remember that smart budgeting is essential in the Golden Gate City.

Cost of accommodation in San Francisco

Housing is a big-ticket item in an expat's total cost of living in San Francisco. Generally, expats will find that it is not possible to afford a nice place to rent without compromising on location and size. Many apartment complexes also have a shared laundry, and expats will have to be prepared to pay extra for an apartment with its own washer and dryer.

Some rental accommodation in San Francisco includes utilities or gardening costs, which can be better value for money. However, with demand for rental properties being so high, many properties are leased within days of being advertised.

For expat families looking to buy a house in San Francisco, the cost of accommodation is even higher, especially for those who want to live in a good school district, as house prices in these areas are inflated due to high demand.

Cost of food in San Francisco

The cost of food is comparatively cheap in San Francisco’s supermarkets, especially if an expat joins store loyalty programmes to get automatic discounts on certain items. Farmer’s markets and specialty organic food supermarkets often provide produce of a higher quality but can be pricier.

Cost of transportation in San Francisco

Public transport options in San Francisco are limited for people who don’t live along the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train line. However, fares on public transportation are reasonable. Because of the limited nature of the city’s transit system, it is common for residents to drive long distances to work each day, which potentially involves paying several bridge tolls in addition to fuel costs.  

Cost of education in San Francisco

Public schools in San Francisco are free but parents are expected to cover stationery and excursion costs. There are also endless fundraising events at most public schools to cover the costs of education; however, all donations are voluntary. 

The cost of private education in San Francisco, as with most cities, is high.

Cost of entertainment in San Francisco

The cost of leisure pursuits and entertainment in San Francisco will depend on personal preferences.  

Ticket costs for good museums, musicals and concerts are quite expensive, but many theme parks and tourist attractions offer season passes or group deals that make it affordable to discover the attractions of San Francisco.

Cost of living in San Francisco chart

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices for June 2018.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

5,500 USD

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

4,000 USD

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

3,300 USD

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

2,500 USD


Dozen eggs


Milk (1 litre)

1.15 USD

Rice (1 kg)


Loaf of white bread


Chicken breasts (1kg)

13 USD

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Big Mac meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)



4.50 USD

Bottle of beer (local)

6.50 USD

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

40 USD


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

0.10 USD

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

65 USD

Basic utilities (electricity, water and refuse)

150 USD


Taxi rate/km

1.70 USD

Bus fare in the city centre 

2.75 USD

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

0.90 USD

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