Many expatriates living in Lahore can afford a higher standard of living on a much lower salary than in their home countries. That said, there is a huge variety of housing and lifestyle options depending on what you can afford.
Your housing costs are largely dependent on where you live. Most families or couples choose to rent separate upper portions where the landlord lives downstairs. You can also rent a stand-alone house with both ground floor and first floor. Apartments are not yet very popular, but you can find studio apartments of various sizes at Rehman Towers in Gulberg Main Market. You’ll pay at least $100 per month (or 8,000 rupees) for the smallest room with attached bathroom. Small certainly means small, there’s only room for a bed and a TV in these rooms. They make most dorm rooms in America look huge. You can rent a more spacious furnished studio apartment with a kitchenette for about $200 per month (16,000 rupees). As demand is going up for this type of living area, prices are rising.
The most expensive living area in Lahore is Defence Housing Authority. Three bedroom separate upper portions are currently going for between 24,000 rupees ($300) and 40,000 rupees ($508) per month. You can get the same size accommodation in neighboring Punjab Society, albeit the neighborhood is not as posh, for about 18,000 rupees ($228) or less. You can also get housing in Gulberg, Model Town, or any of the housing area along the canal for a fraction of what you’ll pay in Defence.
In Pakistan it’s easy to get affordable house help, but it may take some time to find household help that you are happy with. You can have a part-time maid clean your house, wash your clothes, iron, do the dishes, and clean the car every day from 2,000 rupees ($25) to 3,000 ($38) rupees per month. If you live in a higher cost area, you can expect to pay more. You can also hire cooks, nannies, gardeners, drivers, guards, and houseboys. If you want to have live-in servants, you must rent a place with a sufficient servants’ quarters and be prepared to feed your workers well, buy new clothes for them on holidays, and arrange leaves for them to visit their villages.
Without buying too many important products, a couple can get by on about $75 (6,000 rupees) a week for groceries. Pakistan has great local produce, so fresh fruit and vegetables can make up the bulk of your budget. Meat is also affordable, with chicken and mutton costing about twice as much as beef. Fish can be expensive, so if you eat a lot of fish your budget will increase significantly.
Gas and water are cheap, each costing about $5 (400 rupees) per month. If you use gas for heating, your bill still shouldn’t be more than $10 (800 rupees) a month. It’s the electricity bill that tenants fear the most. Running a single AC about 12 hours a day in the summer, and an electric heater about 12 hours a day in the winter, your bill is likey to come to 3,000 to 4,000 rupees ($50) per month. There are a few months of the year where you need neither AC nor heat, and then your bill will run only about $5. If you tend to run more than one AC and other electronic appliances, you can expect a much higher bill. Our neighbors spend about 20,000 rupees ($25) per month in summer, and their cousins who run five ACs at once usually have bills of 40,000 rupees ($500) per month. It all depends on how you live.
Buying a car is not cheap in Pakistan, with the cheapest thing you can buy being about $5,000 (4 lakh rupees). A used mid-range car such as a Toyota Vitz will likely cost more than $10,000 (8 lakh rupees). Car parts made locally are cheap, but imported ones are not. If you run your car on CNG, you will pay about 300 rupees to fill the tank. If you run your car on petrol, you’ll pay about 3,000 to 4,000 rupees to fill the tank. Using petrol you spend ten times as much as with CNG. For a small amount of travel you will spend at least 8,000 rupees ($100) a month on petrol.
Rickshaws and taxis aren’t all that cheap if you need to rely on them for your daily transportation. A ride from Defence to Kalma Chowk Daewoo Station in Central Lahore is at least 150 rupees ($1.90). To take a rickshaw from Defence to the Old City, you would be happy to pay 300 rupees ($3.80) nowadays, if you can even get that price. As petrol prices have gone up, rickshaw and taxi prices have more than doubled over the past two years.
To enjoy an upper middle class lifestyle, employ a maid, and enjoy eating out once a week, you need about 80,000 rupees ($1,000) a month. Living on 100,000 rupees a month will allow you to save a little, splurge when you want, and do some traveling as well.