Top 10 Cities In The World With The Highest Cost Of Living

countries with expensive cost of living

Global expansion and currency appreciation are the main catalysts for growth and competition among countries. But with growth comes inflation and rise in the demand for basic commodities.

Thus, prices of rent, food, transportation, and other essentials vary from one country to another. What we think is expensive in Manila could even be costlier somewhere else.

Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey covered 375 cities, with the 2016 ranking covering 209 cities across five continents. The survey compared the costs of important commodities such as food, housing, household goods, and entertainment, with New York City as the base for comparison. Check out the list below to see the top 10 most expensive countries in the world to live in.

top cities with highest cost of living

10. Beijing, China

Growing concerns of its heavy air pollution left Beijing’s costs of commodities unaffected. Despite expensive costs for top commodities, China’s capital continues to attract expatriates because of good salary package among others.

9. N’Djamena, Chad

Chad’s economy grew steadily from its oil exports since 2000, and yet 55% of its population are living below poverty line. The lack of market opportunities due to its huge socio-economic gap led to expensive commodities for foreigners. Comfortable and safe housing for expatriates are limited, along with other goods and commodities.

8. Geneva, Switzerland

Switzerland has always been known for being an expensive country to live in, but its efficient government services and high-tech infrastructures make up for the high cost of living. Geneva is especially attractive to expats for its diplomatic relations, and also because Swiss salaries are among the highest compared to other countries.

7. Shanghai, China

It’s no surprise that the city with the highest population in the world also has a high cost of living, mainly due to its expensive housing and food. The salary package is globally competitive, and it has a growing influx of expatriates despite it being more expensive than other big cities like London and New York.

6. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

Kinshasa’s wealth comes from its significant contribution of mining exports such as gold, copper, and diamond. One of the main reasons for premium prices in the city is the Congolese franc’s higher appreciation against other major currencies such as the Swiss franc. Foreigners who plan to work here will get hardship premiums in their salary packages due to its high crime rate and extremely limited medical care.

5. Tokyo, Japan

Inflation has remained relatively low for Tokyo, but the appreciation of Yen increased its ranking from top 11 in 2015, to top 5 this year.

4. Singapore, Singapore

Fast-paced, world-class development ushered multi-national companies to invest in Singapore, making it the biggest wealth management hub in Asia. This led to a high cost yet balanced quality living in the world’s only island city-state.

3. Zurich, Switzerland

Mercer’s 2016 survey shows the second best place to live in the world is also the third most expensive. The quality of life in Switzerland comes with a price, but rightfully so as it is one of the world’s biggest banking and financial hub. Promising job opportunities and compensation await expatriates who are lucky enough to land a job in Zurich.

2. Luanda, Angola

Like N’Djamena, Luanda is an African city with 41% of its population living in poverty and high crime rates. Everything is fairly affordable to it residents, but costs can be very expensive for foreigners who are after the limited supply of comfortable housing and international goods.

1. Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The increase of the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) against most major currencies led to its rise in the number one most expensive city in Asia and worldwide. High costs notwithstanding, it remains a popular business and leisure travel destination.

If you’re planning to move abroad, below is Mercer’s cost of living comparison from select cities. The currency is in US dollars with New York City as the point of comparison.

Commodity New York Hong Kong Luanda Tokyo Beijing Singapore
Two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment at a good neighborhood $5,100 $6,809.47 $6,700 $4,002.60 $3,434.35 $3,129.66
Cup of coffee at a café $2.28 $7.77 $2.86 $4 $6.87 $4.62
Fast-food hamburger meal $8.74 $4.83 $12.65 $6 $4.88 $5.48
1L bottle of mineral water $2.39 $1.65 $0.67 $1.33 $3.13 $1.28
1kg white bread $8.36 $4.43 $8.41 $5.94 $3.82 $3.56
1L whole milk $1.08 $4.03 $2.22 $2.54 $3.53 $2.53
330ml bottle of imported beer $1.86 $1.35 $1.49 $1.96 $1.60 $2.29
Gas per liter $0.71 $1.79 $1.05 $0.97 $0.85 $1.34
Movie ticket $15.50 $14.14 $9.54 $15.66 $12.98 $8.89

–Kristel Serran

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