December 13, 2010 1 Comment
According to a recent cost of living survey report (Mercer, 2009), Casablanca was ranked 80th most expensive city to live for an expatriate (out of 150). It places Moroccan capital city just behind Stockholm (79th) but way in front of a city like Toronto (85th), Buenos Aires (112nd) or Tunis (134th). What does this really means ? You are about to relocate to Casablanca and want to elaborate a first weekly budget ? You want to know if it is cheap or expensive to live in Rabat ?
Here is a little overview with factual data to help you understand the cost structure of life in Morocco for an expatriate.
1. To elaborate this report, we considered the life of an expatriate living in the Casablanca – Rabat area. It’s important to mention it since huge differences between cost of living exist in Morocco (as an example, Marrakech is a really expensive city when considering the Moroccan population average revenue).
2. We have tried to think as a regular expatriate who surely want’s to discover local products but who want’s to consume as usual, similar products or habits he had in his origin country, not leaving behind him its traditional way of eating and drinking.
3. We studied 4 expenses categories which are : home food & beverage, accommodation & services, sport / leisure & education, traveling & transportation
Let’s start with our first Cost Category : Food, Beverage and Consumer packaged goods
This is a very interesting category since its is really symptomatic of many things in the Moroccan society. Indeed you can choose to live “as a regular Moroccan” and spend really low money on food in comparison with european or north american standards. but you can also choose to live as a western european and spend as much or even more money on food, beverage and consumer goods than you could even do in your place of origin. Let me explain it to you.
The basics : vegetables, fruits, meat and fish
You can easily feed your family (let’s say 2 adults and 2 children) with basic but fresh and various food for about 500 dirham (about 45€ or 55 US$) a week . This means you buy your food at the traditional market place (not supermarket) where you can find everything you need for basic meals. Vegetables are really cheap there (1 kg of tomatoes [maticha] costs about 5 dirham a kg) and you can buy huge quantity of veggies for really small amount of money.
Considering the fruits, it depends on the kind but if you consume local products such as oranges ([limouna] about 5 dirham / kg) , bananas or watermelon, but it is usually much cheaper than what it could be in your country or origin.
Meat is a little different since even if you buy “local”, prices are quite high for local population (which explains why Moroccan families with an average income don’t eat meat at every meal not even every day) but not that much for a foreigner . You will find in all market places : beef, chicken, turkey or lamb. To have an idea, 1 kg of steak meet cost about 90 to 110 dirham (pieces of beef for tagine, the national plate, cost less). Chicken is less expensive (a full chicken weighting 1,2 kg cost about 30 dirham) so is turkey. Of course, if you try more “exotic” meat such as duck or even porc (you can find some but hardly), prices will raise.
What about fish ? Like elsewhere, fish is relatively expensive compared to other foods but still you can find very good and fresh fish for relatively good price : sole (starting from 60 dirham the kg), sardines (not more than 10 dirham a kg), calmars, daurads or swordfish (not expensive in Morocco)… Unless you want to eat imported fish like salmon or scallop, you can afford good seafood anywhere. Off course don’t forget to try the oysters from Oualidia or Dakhla (one of the rare oysters parks in Africa).
For the basics and more than anywhere else, if you eat and buy local products, it’s much cheaper not mentioning that it is often much better.
Consumer packaged goods
First of all, don’t be surprised to find easily all the products you are used to seeing in your country of origin in all supermarkets.
Considering standard packaged food such as rice, pastas, oils, jam… it can be low price since you have local brand and production with relatively good quality. But you can also find the same product but under a french or spanish brad and it will easily double the price (without having twice better quality).
If you stick to food habits imported from western countries such as cereals, ice creams, frozen food,… be aware that it is relatively expensive considering the standard local revenue (but still affordable for an average expatriate). Yet, these products are usually (much) more expensive than what you could pay in western Europe or northern America for the same kind of products.
Considering domestic supplies and personal care, prices again varies from the brand you choose (local or imported) but unlike packaged food, local product have often lower quality so you tend to buy international brands.
Consider you can easily spent around 800 to 1200 dirham on a weekly basis (for our standard family).
What about beverage ? Depends if you include alcohol or not
It has been a long time since international brands have adapted their prices to the local standard of living so don”t worry, your favorite soda will be really affordable, even more than in your origin country. It is important to mention that it is cheaper to drink a glass of freshly pressed orange juice than a packaged one. this is one of Moroccan living huge stake !
Be happy, alcohol is theoretically authorized in Morocco (foreigners are not bothered with that by authorities). You can choose to drink local wine since Morocco offers relatively interesting wines in terms of quality thus usually overpriced (relative quality wines start from 100 dirham and rises up to 250 or 300 dirham). For imported wines, consider you will approximately pay the double price you could pay for an equivalent in wine countries (France, Spain, Italy,…). I won’t develop so much this issue since I am preparing a detailed article about Moroccan wines soon.
To conclude, I will be very quick : Morocco can be a cheap place to live considering home food expenses unless you buy local production (available for packaged or fresh products). The more your shopping basket contains imported or “occidentalised” food, the more your bill will get close to your standard western Europe or northern America bill.
Your weekly expenses on home food & beverage depends of course on your consumption but consider that a weekly shopping basket is on average around 1200 to 1500 dirham (still considering our standard family)
Trust and try local products, they are usually fresh and really good quality, this is part of Moroccan living stakes.
Of course all these elements are only examples and illustrations, you can find cheaper or more expensive prices but this can give you and idea of what food and standard consumer goods can cost in morocco. Hope this could be useful to you.
Don’t hesitate to comment !
Coming soon : our next article “Cost of accommodation and home services for an expatriate in Morocco“…