Highest Cost of Living Cities for Expats

Tokyo Ginza at nightIt’s that time of year again — time to list the “best of” 2010. From XPatulator, here are the 10 most expensive cities in the world to live in. “Expensive” was determined by looking at the cost of a basket of items in each location.

How They Rank

Xpatulator ranks the cost of living based on prices for the same goods and services in each city. They use New York City as their baseline, with a cost of living rank of 100.

They choose their 13 basket groups of goods and services based on what’s representative of an expat lifestyle.

The 13 basket groups are weighted and include:

  • Alcohol & Tobacco
  • Clothing
  • Communication
  • Education
  • Furniture & Appliances
  • Groceries
  • Healthcare
  • Household (rental, utilities, taxes)
  • Miscellaneous
  • Personal care
  • Recreation & culture
  • Restaurants & Hotels
  • Transportation

2010’s Top Ten in the World

This year, the most expensive cities were in Asia, Europe and South America.

So, starting from the most expensive, here are the Top Ten in the world:

  1. Tokyo, Japan
  2. Caracas, Venezuela
  3. Hong Kong, China
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. Osaka, Japan
  6. Zurich, Switzerland
  7. Sao Paulo, Brazil
  8. Oslo, Norway
  9. Nagoya, Japan
  10. Moscow, Russia

You can see the complete list of 300 cities here.

Tokyo earned top honors for its costs for housing, healthcare and groceries. Its cost of living index is a whopping 158.4.

Caracas is the most expensive city for furniture and appliances, alcohol and tobacco, recreation and culture, and restaurants and hotels. It’s also the second-most expensive for healthcare and housing.

Hong Kong wins third place because of expensive housing and healthcare.

Top Ten By Region

Here are the most expensive cities by region.

Asia Pacific

  1. Tokyo, Japan
  2. Hong Kong, China
  3. Osaka, Japan
  4. Nagoya, Japan
  5. Yokohama, Japan
  6. Sydney, Australia
  7. Shanghai, China
  8. Canberra, Australia
  9. Kiribati, South Terawa
  10. Singapore

South Asia

  1. Mumbai, India
  2. New Delhi, India
  3. Chennai, India
  4. Calcutta, India
  5. Male, Maldives
  6. Hyderabad, India
  7. Bangalore, India
  8. Kabul, Afghanistan
  9. Bangladesh, Dhaka
  10. Lahore, Pakistan

South Asia’s most expensive city, Mumbai, isn’t all that expensive. It ranks 109th in the world, not even close to the cost of living in Tokyo.


  1. Geneva, Switzerland
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Oslo, Norway
  4. Moscow, Russia
  5. Vaduz, Liechtenstein
  6. Copenhagen, Denmark
  7. London, United Kingdom
  8. Paris, France
  9. Monaco, Monaco
  10. Saint Helier, Jersey

Middle East

  1. Abu Dhabi, UAE
  2. Doha, Qatar
  3. Manama, Bahrain
  4. Dubai, UAE
  5. Jerusalem, Israel
  6. Beirut, Lebanon
  7. West Bank, Palestinian Territories
  8. Kuwait City, Kuwait
  9. Damascus, Syria
  10. Tehran, Iran

It should be noted that the most expensive Middle Eastern city is only the 27th most expensive in the world, so the region can’t compare in cost of living to Asia or Europe.

The Americas

  1. Caracas, Venezuela
  2. Sao Paulo, Brazil
  3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  4. Brasilia, Brazil
  5. Nassau, Bahamas
  6. New York City, USA
  7. Toronto, Canada
  8. Stanley, Falkland Islands
  9. Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
  10. Vancouver, Canada

New York, the most expensive city in the United States, is 33rd in the world. Two other US cities ranked in top 100 in this report: San Francisco (95) and Boston (96).

Coming soon, the world’s least expensive cities for expats.

photo by yasuhiro on flickr


  1. this is really great information Susanna! i had no idea about some of these cities.

  2. Last weekend I have read it a book called “Being stripped naked “, its really amazing, it is an Asian romance novel portraying a British expats life in Hongkong during 1997. I loved to read this book.

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