The Most Expensive Cities In The World To Live In

Photographed by Meg ODonnell
London and some other leading UK cities are becoming more expensive for expats to live in, according to the latest research.
During the last 12 months, the British capital has leapt from 29th to 19th in Mercer's annual Cost of Living Survey, which ranks 209 cities globally according to their relative costliness for international workers.
Birmingham has leapfrogged 19 spots to 128th on this year's list, which takes into account factors such as international exchange rates, the cost of rental accommodation, and the price of a standardised basket of goods and services.
Aberdeen has climbed 12 places to 134th on this year's list, while Belfast has jumped 18 places to 128th.
"UK cities’ rise in this year’s ranking is mainly due to a strengthening of the pound against the US dollar," says Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer’s Global Mobility Practice Leader for the UK and Ireland. "A drop in rental accommodation prices in London held back London’s increase while rental increases in Birmingham and Belfast contributed to the ranking increase of these cities."
Mercer's findings on the cost of renting in the capital arrive just months after it was revealed that the average London house price has fallen for the first time in a decade.
Despite the drop, the average house price in the capital – an eye-watering £472,000 – remains more than double the national average of £225,000.

Hong Kong is the priciest place to live abroad, followed by Tokyo, Zurich, Singapore and Seoul.

Still, London remains relatively affordable for expats compared to leading business cities in Asia. If you are thinking of moving abroad to work, it may interest you that Hong Kong is the priciest place to live abroad, followed by Tokyo (2nd), Singapore (4th) and Seoul (5th). Only Zurich (3rd) in Switzerland prevented an all-Asian top five.
London is also less expensive for expats than two other Swiss cities, Bern and Geneva, which placed 10th and 11th respectively. New York, which placed 13th, remains a little costlier to live in than London.
At the other end of the scale, Tashkent in Uzbekistan ranks as the least expensive city on the list, placing 209th of 209.
Here are some of the key findings...
Europe, the Middle East and Africa: Two European cities are among the top 10 list of most expensive cities. At number three in the global ranking, Zurich remains the most costly European city, followed by Bern (10). Geneva (11) is down four places from last year. Overall, western European cities have all risen in the rankings, a result of strong local currencies against the US dollar and the cost of goods and services. In particular, cities in Germany experienced some of this year’s biggest surges in the ranking, with Frankfurt (68) and Berlin (71) jumping 49 spots while Munich (57) climbed 41 places. In the United Kingdom, Birmingham (128) went up 19 places from last year, Belfast (152) jumped 18 spots, and Aberdeen (134) climbed 12 places from its previous ranking. London jumped 10 spots to rank 19.
Other cities that jumped in the ranking include Paris (34), up 28 places from last year, Rome (46), up 34 spots, Madrid (64), up 47, and Vienna (39) up 39 spots. Meanwhile, a few cities in eastern and central Europe, including Moscow (17), St. Petersburg (49), and Kiev (173), dropped four, 14 and 10 spots, respectively, because of local currencies losing value against the US dollar.
Tel Aviv (16) continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (26), Abu Dhabi (40) and Riyadh (45).
The Americas: New York dropped four places to rank 13, the highest-ranked city in the region. San Francisco (28) and Los Angeles (35) dropped seven and 12 places, respectively, from last year, while Chicago (51) dropped 20 places. Portland (130) and Winston Salem, North Carolina (161) remain the least expensive US cities surveyed for expatriates.
Asia Pacific: Hong Kong (1) emerged as the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally as a consequence of Luanda’s drop in the ranking due in part to the downward trend in the city’s housing market.
Hong Kong is followed by Tokyo (2), Singapore (4), Seoul (5), Shanghai (7) and Beijing (9). Mumbai (55) is India’s most expensive city, followed by New Delhi (103).

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series