Think the price you’re paying for rent is insanely high? You’re going to count your blessings after reading this list of the most expensive cities in the world. So which places are demanding top dollar from their residents according to Mercer? Check out the price tags and see which of the world’s favorite cities you probably can’t afford to move to.
25. Lagos, Nigeria
Places like New York City and Los Angeles are commonly found on lists of most expensive places in the world. But creeping up behind them is the West African metropolis of Lagos, one of the largest cities on the continent. Living life in Nigeria’s most populous city comes with an astonishingly high price tag.
Anyone looking to move to Lagos will notice that the rents are extremely high when compared to Nigeria’s national average income, and a hotel room could actually cost just as much as a room in Paris. Also, consider the fact that items like baby food can go for $8 — while the same product could cost $2 in any Walmart — and anyone making the move to this tropical port city will quickly understand that living here is a hard bargain.
24. Libreville, Gabon
There are definitely cheap ways to make a life in Libreville, Gabon, located on the west coast of Central Africa. For this Mercer study on the most expensive places for expatriates to live, factors like having homes with running water and electricity were taken into account. And when making those considerations, it can cost a whole lot to live in Libreville.
So what does that spell for expats moving to Gabon’s capital city? Well, it means that they will be limited to rather expensive choices when it comes to where to set up an apartment. Additionally, they will also have to pay top dollar for things considered luxury items. Like that basket of fries? That will cost $15, please. No, we are not kidding.
23. London, United Kingdom
London, England is well-known as one of the priciest places in the world for tourists to visit. So no one should be surprised that moving to London is also massively expensive. When it comes to looking for the perfect apartment, expect to shell out those savings. And by that, we mean the highest average rent prices out of any other place in Western Europe.
Anyone who wants to get from their home to their workplace the most cost-effective way would definitely want to use the Tube or those famous red double-decker buses. But considering that London has the most expensive public transportation system in Western Europe, we’d say that the cheapest route is not even so cost-efficient after all.
22. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
How did a city in one of the poorest countries in the world make it onto this list of most expensive places? The Kinshasa area’s new housing market has left those who are not locals to be forced to pay astronomically high prices for the newer apartment buildings cropping up throughout the riverside capital.
Before a boom in 2006, housing that was deemed “acceptable” for people like foreign dignitaries and expatriates came at a hefty price, from $1,200 to $5,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Since, more choice has been added to the market, but prices have not dropped.
21. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Waking up in Dubai is a dream to some. So what comes next after waking up? For (we hope) most people, getting out of bed and brushing their teeth — but in Dubai, that toothpaste sure does come at a high price. According to estimates, Dubai has not only the most expensive toothpaste in the Middle East, but it has the third-most expensive toothpaste tubes in the entire world.
And for those who are in need of an early morning cup of Joe, the prices are not looking much better. Dubai has the third-most expensive coffee on average in the world. Those prices just account for the first few hours in a day. Imagine how expensive it quickly becomes to live every day in Dubai.
20. Copenhagen, Denmark
There’s nothing like waking up to the smell of $10 coffee and the taste of a $20 hamburger, and in Copenhagen that is part of the daily routine. The eye-popping costs in the Danish capital have a lot to do with the high taxes, as well as a high minimum wage that comes in at about $16 an hour. Yes, that’s right, a $16 minimum wage.
Those minimum wages are great and all, but as a result of Danish workers being paid so well, the prices of everyday items are marked way up accordingly. A single pair of Levi’s jeans can cost $134, the highest price tag in the world for that item. Even grooming is a fortune: a men’s haircut costs an average of $44.
19. Osaka, Japan
Move over Champs-Élysées. Louis Vuitton just opened up their biggest store ever right in downtown Osaka, Japan, just in case anyone needed any proof that Japan’s second-largest city is pretty darn fancy. And spending some time living in Osaka might mean one might not have anything left to put into that Louis Vuitton wallet.
While it is possible to live in Osaka at a cheap price, anyone who wants any level of luxury beyond the cheapest, shoebox-size apartment will have to shell out a ton of money. Beyond those rent costs, Osaka does not have many discount stores, so there are barely ways to cut corners when it comes to the costs of furnishing an apartment.
18. Los Angeles, United States
There might be a reason why the rich and famous have lived in Los Angeles for generations, and that’s because it seems like someone needs all that wealth just to live in this sprawling city. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is an estimated $1,949, two times the average of the entire nation. A two-bedroom comes in at about $2,846, about 137 percent higher than US averages.
If all that is not enough, LA has a notorious reputation as a place where residents are forced to drive mostly everywhere. Simultaneously, the city also has the second-highest gas prices in the US. That must make sitting in the city’s legendary and constant highway traffic jams that much more frustrating.
17. Guangzhou, China
Just across the border from Hong Kong, Guangzhou has become one of China’s biggest and wealthiest cities. Because it is a business center, thousands of people from all over the world have packed up and moved their lives to Guangzhou. But that move definitely comes at a high price.
It is possible for some to live cheaply in Guangzhou, but for expatriates who want to live near the center of town, the rents can be high and competitive. For example, rents for a studio apartment can climb up to $1,000. But if anyone thinks that this city is expensive, just wait until they see the price tags of other cities in China on this list.
16. San Francisco, United States
According to the New York Times, “San Francisco is so expensive, you can make six figures and still be considered ‘low income.'” And in case that does not sound insane enough, here are some other figures about San Francisco’s astronomically cost of living.
San Francisco is home to more wealthy residents than any other place in the United States. And that’s not all money for someone’s savings account. A typical two-bedroom is about $4,500, or more than 2.5 times the national average. To make matters worse, San Francisco strangely has some of the most expensive bread and cheese in the world, and both are extremely necessary costs of living (in our opinion).
15. Tel Aviv, Israel
Coming in as the most expensive city in the Middle East, Tel Aviv has been attracting young people to move in based off of its booming startup culture. But while it’s possible to find some good prices at the local outdoor food markets, there are also plenty of reasons why this Mediterranean playground is known for being expensive.
In Tel Aviv, buying things like an apartment or even a car have become unattainable for young people. And for anyone who does have the funds to buy a car, good luck: purchasing tax for a car in Tel Aviv is the highest in the world, coming in at over 50 percent. Want to go out, even without a car? Count your coins: the myriad bars and restaurants tend to come with eye-popping receipts.
14. Victoria, Seychelles
Located in the balmy island nation of Seychelles off Africa’s eastern coast, the capital city of Victoria has been declared the second-most expensive place in Africa for expatriates to live. That mostly has to do with the small salaries offered in Victoria, along with the high cost of goods.
Despite lower salaries, a two-bedroom apartment in this island-based city can cost an average of $1,700 a month. And because Victoria is on an island, most goods have to be imported. This means that even basic items as small as toiletries, sunscreen, and toothpaste can run up a high tab, and drinks out with friends can cost the same as it would at a New York club.
13. Geneva, Switzerland
Welcome to Geneva, Switzerland, where a basic lunchtime meal in the business district will cost a striking $31 per plate, the most expensive in the world. A night out for two at a “basic” local pub will come with a bill of about $84, which also holds a first-place title as the most expensive in the world.
Even those who try to be frugal in Geneva are met with high price tags. Want to cook at home instead of pay for all those restaurant bills? Tough luck, because Geneva is also known to have the highest prices for a boneless chicken breast and the highest price for a carton of eggs in the world, at about $16 and $9, respectively.
12. Bern, Switzerland
Living in Bern, Switzerland, can quickly burn a hole in one’s wallet, according to Mercer. The capital of one of the most expensive places in the world is, unsurprisingly, not particularly affordable in and of itself. (Who would have thought?) In fact, this picturesque city is one of the most high-cost places to live in the world.
While the Swiss franc is strong, salaries are high, and taxes are relatively low, living here still will take a toll on anyone’s wallet. In Bern, even a fast food meal can become expensive, averaging at about $13, and a pair of jeans can go for up to $145.
11. N’Djamena, Chad
Chad is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, but its capital city seems to have missed that memo. The city of N’Djamena has become one of the most expensive to live in anywhere on Earth. Despite 62 percent of people in Chad living below the poverty line, rents in N’Djamena rival those in New York City.
An average one-bedroom apartment in the center of the capital city can cost more than $2,000 a month. A lunchtime meal in the same area can rack up a bill of about $20. Even a pair of sports shoes like Nike or Adidas can cost $200, more than double the price tag for the same shoes in New York City.
10. Shenzhen, China
The Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen is located right by infamously-expensive Hong Kong, and its own prices are not too far off either. In fact, Shenzhen is said to have placed fifth in a yearly roundup of the most expensive housing markets in the world.
The average cost of a home in Shenzhen is $680,283. But the cost of living here is much more than just home prices. A short trip to a private doctor will cost anyone about $57, the second-highest rate in all of Asia, and even something as mundane as a stick of deodorant can cost $6.
9. New York City, United States
Start spreading the news — New York City has once again officially been declared the most expensive place to live in the entire United States. That should come as no surprise, since the Big Apple is the world’s only city that has more than 100 billionaires residing within it.
The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment — which includes even the ones that are deemed “shoebox-sized” — goes for about $3,500, well over twice the national average. In Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park, for example, a two-bedroom apartment costs on average $5,530 a month. And even cars pay rent, with the parking costing an average of $606 monthly. That’s more than some people’s rent in the US.
8. Beijing, China
With the most expensive housing market in all of mainland China, Beijing comes in at number 8 on this list of pricey places to live. In fact, the average home price in Beijing is $5,820 per square meter. Who could have ever thought space could have such a price tag?
Because of this, rental costs in this city come in at about 1.2 times the average monthly wages. For anyone moving to Beijing, the city makes it impossible for anyone to buy a home until they have paid taxes for five years. So throwing all of one’s salary into a monthly wage is basically the only option for new expatriates.
7. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
In 2017, Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, was the 146th most expensive city in the world. Just a year later, in 2018, the same city was declared the priciest place by ECA International. According to reports, this city’s skyrocketing prices have a lot to do with a deepening economic crisis and inflation.
While the prices for an apartment in the city’s center are not so eyebrow-raising, at just about $314 a month for a one bedroom, the real cost comes with the utility bills. On average, basic utilities like electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage removal can cost a whopping $1,142 every month.
6. Shanghai, China
China is home to many of the most expensive places on this list. But it’s hard to hold a candle to Shanghai, the massive waterfront economic hub. If you think a metropolis containing over 24 million people is mind-blowing, living there comes with a long bill.
While it is possible to live in Shanghai on a budget, this would require avoiding absolutely anything deemed a “luxury item.” That is because Shanghai is said to charge top dollar for these items. For example, Shanghai has top price tags for jeans and for things like soda than anywhere else in all of Asia. And even non-luxury expenses like visiting a doctor will cost more than the rest of the continent.
5. Zurich, Switzerland
Not only has Zurich, Switzerland, made it into the top five for Mercer’s list of most expensive cities in the world; it has also previously been declared the most expensive place in the world for dating and, sadly, even just for going out and having fun.
According to a Deutsche Bank study, the total cost for a date that includes a taxi ride, lunch for two, soft drinks, two movie tickets, and a few drinks at a pub costs about $202. That’s 142 percent more expensive than the same date in New York City. Out of every city on this list, Zurich is said to have the most expensive recreation and entertainment costs.
4. Seoul, South Korea
The capital city of South Korea is said to have the most expensive groceries in the entire world. According to The Economist, “Seoul continues to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to top up a shopping basket.”
A carton of eggs has the highest price tag in all of Asia, and the city also has the fourth-highest cost for a kilo of potatoes or apples. The average price for just over 2 pounds of bread comes in at over $15. In fact, the price index for groceries alone in Seoul stands at 105.73, way higher than places like Hong Kong (79.74), Tokyo (87.72), and Shanghai (52.82).
3. Singapore, Singapore
For years, business giant Singapore has been considered one of the most expensive places to live in the world. But there is one specific reason why it has sat on the top of lists for five years in a row: it is the most expensive place in the world to buy and maintain a car.
This is because car ownership in Singapore is under high government regulation. There are a limited amount of permits given out each year, and only people with a permit can own a car. The real catch? Just the permit costs about $37,000, and that is not even including the costs of buying one of the highly-taxed cars available in Singapore.
2. Tokyo, Japan
Everyday life in Tokyo can really add up pretty quickly. Taking the subway to save some cash? Well, consider the fact that Tokyo’s public transportation, efficient though it may be, is the most expensive in Asia. Want to spend some time on a smartphone? Both phone and Internet plans in Tokyo just so happen to be the priciest in all of Asia.
Even the fast food is the most expensive in the continent. For expatriates, the steady strengthening of the yen compared to the US dollar means that any number of everyday goods end up costing even more money. And as the currency continues to strengthen, that only means that prices are bound to go up.
1. Hong Kong, Hong Kong (SAR)
Here we are at the top spot on Mercer’s list. When it comes to prices, nowhere on Earth is more expensive than Hong Kong. Still, over 7 million people chose to live in Hong Kong despite the sky-high costs and lack of space. So let’s break down what all this means, shall we?
Hong Kong is estimated to have the highest monthly rent in the world, averaging at about $5,700. It is also the place where one can find the most expensive gasoline in the world, and the highest rent for a furnished studio apartment. The city also falls in the top ten for most expensive fine dining and luxury vehicles.
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