Top 10 most expensive cities in the world

Ever raised an eyebrow at the price of a meal on holiday? Spare a thought for those that live there. The Economist Intelligence Unit has published its annual Worldwide Cost of Living survey and it makes for very interesting reading.

The survey was created to help companies calculate cost-of-living for expatriates and business travellers. Comparing the cost of 160 items, including food, drink, transport, utility bills and rent in 133 cities, it tracks whether prices have gone up or down by comparing them with their equivalents in New York, which is used as a benchmark.

The title of most expensive city is shared by Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore — the first time in the survey’s 30-year history that three cities share the top spot.

Here are the top ten most expensive cities (well, actually it’s eleven… because tenth place is tied!):

1.= Singapore (Singapore)

The global financial centre comes with a tropical climate, a multicultural population and soaring living costs. The business-friendly island city state continues to hold its number one spot for the fifth year running.

1.= Paris

The epicentre of art, fashion, gastronomy and culture, Paris is a holiday rite of passage. With its chic café culture and designer boutiques, it’s one of the most popular tourist cities in the world. It’s also now the joint most expensive to live in.

1.= Hong Kong

With a major port and a skyscraper-clad skyline, the former British colony is a buzzing financial hub. Jumping three places from its 2018 position, the Pearl of the Orient now shares the crown of the most expensive city in the world.

4. Zurich

Set to the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps, and embracing a dazzlingly pristine lake, Zurich is a picture-perfect medieval city. Traditional yet efficient, historic yet modern, it’s a core of finance and banking, and now ranks as the fourth most expensive city.

5.= Geneva

The second Swiss city to feature in the top ten, Geneva also enjoys dramatic views of the Alps. Famous for its luxury watches and gourmet chocolate, it’s also a diplomatic hub, with numerous global organisations, charities and institutions headquartered here.

5.= Osaka

With its modern architecture, vibrant nightlife and hearty street food, Osaka is a thriving port city. Encircled by a moat and scattered with cherry blossom trees, the fifth most expensive city is a blend of 16th history and sprawling tower blocks.

7.= Seoul

Glistening skyscrapers, futuristic shopping malls and pop culture mingle with Buddhist temples, ancient palaces and crowded street markets in this Asian metropolis. A culture bent on hard work and success makes Seoul a thriving business centre and it rates as the seventh most expensive city in the index.

7.= Copenhagen

With its cool Scandi vibe, cutting edge minimalist design and innovative cuisine, the Danish capital is a great city to visit and live in. While taxes are high, healthcare and transport are excellent, and locals don’t seem put off by its ranking as the joint seventh most expensive place in the world: Danes are consistently voted the happiest population in the world.

7.= New York

Shopping, culture and commerce – it’s all to be found in the Big Apple. Encompassing the sweeping beaches of Long Island, the towering offices of Manhattan and the bright lights of Broadway, NYC is a 24/7 city loved by many. Moving up six places to seventh in the ranking, life in the Empire State is not cheap, however.

10.= Tel Aviv

With its stark 1930s Bauhaus buildings, cultural centres and museums, as well as its balmy Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv is a popular destination for expats and travellers alike. The only Middle Eastern city in the top ten, its rise in cost of living is due to an appreciation in the Shekel, as well as other high costs specific to Tel Aviv, such as buying, insuring and maintaining a car, which “push transport costs 64% above New York prices”.

10.= Los Angeles

The US capital of film and television, LA is home to the most famous studios in the world; Paramount Pictures, Universal and Warner Brothers are all to be found here. Hip stores, glamourous beaches and celebrity packed neighbourhoods make the Californian City of Angels an exciting place to live. Its stylish lifestyle, coupled with the rise in the US dollar price, push LA up four places to number ten in the ranking.

If you’re inspired to visit these cities for yourself, check out A Luxury Travel Blog‘s expert recommendations for hotels, restaurants, culture and more.

Comments (13)

  1. Steve says:

    It would be interesting to study that list of 160 items and their weighting to get a picture of costs for the ordinary tourist. Often there are ways around the costs. For instance tourists can travel off-peak and avoid the highest travel costs and as they can eat and drink earlier they are more likely to be able to take advantage of Happy Hours, Early Bird specials and Theatre Menus. It’s the Business Traveller, rushing between appointments, and often not too concerned about making savings as they are on expenses, who are likely to bear the brunt of extortionate prices.

  2. Jean Hall says:

    I think these lists can be quite dangerous.

    A. couple of years ago I visited Copenhagen and with a little bit of planning it wasn’t too expensive at all.

    Our accommodation wasn’t central, it was close to the cruise terminal and on a major bus route so we had good access without paying a fortune for accommodation.

    Our best move was to buy a Copenhagen Card as soon as we landed at the airport. It covered buses and trains, not just for the city but for the region too. Also the card included canal tours too.

    As well as including numerous museums the card gave you discounts in cafes and restaurants.

    It was one of the best value city breaks I’ve had – superb value.

    • Jez says:

      And you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on food in Copenhagen by eating at the likes of Noma. Copenhagen has got a brilliant Street Food Market, it’s got so many different stalls from around the world that you could eat there every night without having the same cuisine.

  3. Pete says:

    Maybe the story here isn’t about the cities at the top of the league perhaps it should be about those at the bottom.

    I’m fairly sure that New Delhi was propping up the table at 133.

    I visited last year and was able to live like a Maharaja. I was able to afford one of the best and most luxurious hotels that I have ever stayed in.

    Before anyone accuses me of exploiting the difference between First and Third World we spent money, tipped and generally did our best to try to spread wealth down to some very poor people. These cities need to grow their tourism.

    • Michelle Burton says:

      For more budget conscious travellers like me, I find the idea of places further down the list a little more appealing. I hadn’t considered New Delhi as a destination before, I’ll have to look into that. I can imagine a little of our money would go a long way there. And I totally agree, they need to grow their tourism so you’re actually helping by staying there, tipping, supporting the local business and economy.

  4. We haven’t been to all of these, but the ones we have been to (NYC, Copenhagen, and LA) are definitely expensive. All of these are cities we’d like to visit, but we love budget travel, as do our bank accounts….Looks like we’ll have to sprinkle these trips into our future plans amongst more budget-friendly destinations.

  5. Timothy O. says:

    I’ve lived for a few months at a time in Singapore and I agree that it’s an expensive city to live in. But then again, ever wonder why a lot of people go there to migrate or work? I think it’s because wages are commensurate with the cost of living. But then again, I’m thinking expat salaries instead of local.

  6. Rose Rivera says:

    I would think these places are expensive for the people who live there. Since it says ‘cost-of-living’ people affected by its expensiveness the most are the residents. As a tourist, I’ve taken into consideration the expenses I would in incur when visiting other countries. But yes, in my experience these countries are really expensive compared to others.

  7. Kirsty says:

    I can understand Paris with it being thought of as more exquisite, not to mention being a huge tourist favourite. I’m not sure I would have pegged Singapore at the top at the moment though, so I’m surprised it’s held its place for 5 years. Also a little surprising to see that Copenhagen is in the top 10. I’ve also read the findings that the Danish are among the happiest in the world, so I think I had anticipated their living costs wouldn’t be as high. Then again, this perhaps balances out because if the taxes go to the right places, which they don’t seem to necessarily do in the UK, then they can benefit from the quality transport and healthcare. Really interesting post!

  8. Mike Watkins says:

    Some very helpful information for us poor British travellers as the pound continues to weaken and fall.

    As a penny conscious Brit it would be interesting to have a listing of 10 cities where the pound goes a long way. I’m not thinking of the obvious ones like Damascus or Mogadishu but what about great cities to visit that are still superb value?

  9. Michelle Burton says:

    It always surprises me when Singapore keeps getting the top spot for most expensive city. For some reason, the idea of Singapore that I have in my head doesn’t quite fit with being so expensive and on par with the likes of Paris. I wonder though how things compare when you look at cost of living and taxation versus wages, and how things level out. It’s also interesting that despite apparently being very expensive, those living in Copenhagen are still among the happiest in the world. It does show there’s more to happiness than money, but I’m still curious to know more on taxes and wages to compare a little more easily to how things are in the UK.

  10. Jonathan Olino says:

    I just realized I’ve been to more than half of the world’s most expensive cities! How have I not noticed that? Well, it’s probably because I’ve only been touring for leisure. I know that if you probably compare housing, cars, and schooling these cities on the list are really expensive. I’ve only had a first-hand account “living” in Singapore, and I can say that it is definitely expensive. HDB flat rentals, while plentiful, most of the time is shared. Ever noticed why most residents commute rather than buy and own a car? It’s because cars, gas, and even parking are crazy expensive. Good thing their public transport is super efficient. Hong Kong apartments are probably the same. I’m not familiar with Paris though, because I’ve only ever visited for a few days and only stayed in hotels.

  11. Debraj says:

    I’ve lived for a few months at a time in Singapore and I agree that it’s an expensive city to live in. For instance tourists can travel off-peak and avoid the highest travel costs and as they can eat and drink earlier they are more likely to be able to take advantage of Happy Hours, Early Bird specials and Theatre Menus. I wonder though how things compare when you look at cost of living and taxation versus wages, and how things level out. It’s also interesting that despite apparently being very expensive, those living in Copenhagen are still among the happiest in the world.

Leave a comment

Your actual name, not your online persona, website name, company name or keywords, otherwise your comment won't be published

Please do not advertise and make sure your comment adds value, otherwise we regret that it won't be published. Comments such as "Nice post. Thanks for sharing." do NOT add value to the discussion! Homepage links (not deep links) are allowed in the 'Website' field only - if you would like to advertise, please contact us for details and we will be happy to help.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

Our readers also enjoyed these posts…