2011 World’s Most Expensive Cities Revealed

Think that the prices at your local supermarket are pretty steep? You may want to reserve judgment until you read what the results of the Economist Intelligent Unit’s 2011 World Cost of Living Survey reveal about living costs throughout the world.

Unless you’re living in Tokyo, you may find that you cost of living is actually relatively low when compared with other cities around the world. Yes, once again, Tokyo has emerged as the world’s most expensive city in the world in which to live with expatriates here paying up to U.S.7.42 for a loaf of bread and US$7.96 kilo of rice, which would set you back just $1.77 USD in Hong Kong.

So where in the world is it the hardest for expatriates to make ends meet and where on the map should expats head if they want to live the high life at a low cost?

Here’s the Economist Intelligent Unit’s top ten most expensive cities in the world:

  1. Tokyo
  2. Oslo
  3. Osaka
  4. Paris
  5. Zurich
  6. Sydney
  7. Melbourne
  8. Frankfurt
  9. Geneva
  10. Singapore

…and the Cheapest:

129. New Delhi
130. Tehran
131. Mumbai
132. Tunis
133. Karachi

So what’s happening around the world?


Expats in China are in for some good news. The cost of living in major expat destinations such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing has fallen significantly over the past ten years with Hong Kong falling from position 3 to position 22, Shanghai 16th to 48th and Beijing 11th to 64th over the last decade. Unfortunately, however, the trend is not repeated elsewhere in Asia, with Bangkok and Jakarta both rocketing up the rankings to positions 66 and 77 respectively. Tokyo retains its position as the most expensive city in the world with the Economist Intelligence Unit claiming that it is the strength of the Yen that is responsible for the city’s crippling living costs:

“Although inflation in Japan has been stagnant for a long time, the rapid strengthening of the Yen in recent years has fuelled the relative cost of living in Japanese cities,” says Jon Copestake, editor of the Worldwide Cost of Living survey. “This trend is also evidenced by the contrary movement of other Asian cities. Hong Kong and China, which peg their currencies to the US dollar, have seen the relative cost of living fall as the US dollar has declined from highs of 2001.

“That said, many of these cities have seen local inflation rising and it is interesting to note that Shanghai has now become a more expensive location than New York and Washington DC in the United States.”


The biggest changes in this year’s survey results can be observed in Australian cities and the rising costs coupled with a surge in the value of the Australian dollar mean that life down under in Australia’s cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth is now more expensive for expatriates than it is in London, Vienna, Rome and even New York. The current standings of Melbourne (7), Sydney (6), Brisbane (14) and Perth (13) are quite striking when compared with their positions ten years ago when Sydney was 71st, Melbourne 80th, Perth 91st and Brisbane 93rd.

Discussing the results the survey’s author, Jon Copestake, said: “Australia has long been an attractive destination, with Melbourne and Sydney becoming international cities in their own right”.

“Whether the spiraling relative cost of living will dampen this appeal remains to be seen,” he added.


Expatriates considering European destinations will be disappointed to learn that European cities constitute 50% of the top ten most expensive cities in the world, with Oslo taking position number two in the rankings. Here it costs a massive $15.11 USD for a packet of cigarettes. Elsewhere in Europe Paris features in position number four, Zurich five, Frankfurt eighth and Geneva ninth.

North America

Good news for expatriates in the USA. On the whole, American cities have become cheaper destinations for expats over the past year with New York, the U.S’s most expensive city only narrowly making it into the top fifty at position number 49. However, despite the lower day-to-day cost of living in the Big Apple, New York was named as the most expensive place in the world to visit on business with the cost of a night’s business trip to the U.S. city costing an estimated US$746.21 for accommodation, meals, taxi fares and an international foreign daily newspaper.

The Economist Unit 2011 World Cost of Living Survey

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s World Cost of Living Survey was produced through a comparison of sample prices across a basket of goods and services consisting of over 400 everyday items from 133 cities around the world. Costs pertaining to housing rents, international schools, health & sports and business trips were are also covered in the survey but are not utilized within the pricing index.

Read the full article: http://www.worldwidecostofliving.com/asp/wcol_WCOLHome.asp