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Where Are the Most Expensive Cities in the World?

Where Are the Most Expensive Cities in the World? main image

The results of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey have been released, and the annual report sees three cities gain the dubious honor of being named the world’s most expensive in 2019: Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore.

It’s the first time three cities have shared first place in the 30-year history of the survey, which considers 133 cities around the world.

Four European cities are in the top 10, with Paris ranking as the least affordable in the region, having previously been seventh overall in 2017. According to the Economist, it only offers value for money (in comparison with other European cities) for alcohol, transport and tobacco.

The US and Switzerland both have two cities included in the top 10, with a stronger US dollar making the destination less affordable for travelers.

And, although London is often considered one of the most expensive cities to live in, it actually doesn’t come in the top 20, instead ranking joint 22nd alongside Melbourne and Milan, although it nonetheless climbed eight places this year. Meanwhile, the second-most expensive city in the UK, Manchester, climbed five places to joint 51st.

The world’s 10 most expensive cities

 

 

City

Location

1=

Singapore

Singapore

1=

Paris

France

1=

Hong Kong

Hong Kong (SAR)

4

Zurich

Switzerland

5=

Geneva

Switzerland

5=

Osaka

Japan

7=

Seoul

South Korea

7=

Copenhagen

Denmark

7=

New York

United States

10=

Tel Aviv

Israel

10=

Los Angeles

United States

What about the world’s cheapest cities?

On the other side of the coin, Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, was named the cheapest city in the world to live in in 2019, followed by Syrian capital Damascus in second place.  Unfortunately, these locations are ‘cheap but not always cheerful’ according to the Economist, which referred to the ‘element of risk’ in some of the world’s cheapest cities, as more locations are becoming more affordable due to economic or political disruptions, with war-torn Damascus being one example. The report stated: "Put simply, cheaper cities also tend to be less livable”.

 

 

City

Location

1

Caracas

Venezuela

2

Damascus

Syria

3

Tashkent

Uzbekistan

4

Almaty

Kazakhstan

5

Bangalore

India

6=

Karachi

Pakistan

6=

Lagos

Nigeria

8=

Buenos Aires

Argentina

8=

Chennai

India

10

New Delhi

India

Comparing rankings: the Economist vs QS

But how does the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey compare with QS’s Best Student Cities index, which includes affordability as one of the five indicators used to compile the ranking? The most affordable city according to the most recent QS Best Student Cities index is Budapest, followed by Kuala Lumpur, and three Russian cities are also included among the top 10 most affordable cities for students – Tomsk, Novosibirsk and St Petersburg.

In contrast, no European cities were included within the 10 cheapest cities in the world in the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. Last year’s edition had included Romanian capital Bucharest in ninth place, but it’s dropped this year. Also, three Indian cities are featured in the top 10 for affordability according to the Economist, while India’s only entrant in the Best Student Cities index, Mumbai, is ranked 32nd for affordability according to QS.

Buenos Aires fell a whopping 48 places to now rank among the 10 cheapest cities in the world, but actually doesn’t score well for affordability in the QS Best Student Cities index, at 71st out of 101.

The cause of such considerable discrepancies between the two rankings are the differing methodologies used to compile them. The Economist’s survey is aimed at expatriates and business travelers, and compares the cost of 160 products and services, including household items, rent, food, public transport, fuel and bills. In contrast, the Best Student Cities index considers tuition fees and general costs of living – arguably making it more applicable to student expenses. Also, most of the cities in the top 10 for affordability according to the Economist are not currently featured in the QS Best Student Cities index.

Read a more detailed explanation of how the Affordability category of the Best Student Cities index is calculated.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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