The most expensive cities for expats in 2019

Published 2019-06-27 13:53

Mercer’s annual report on the cost of living in cities around the world came out on the 26th of June. Eight Asian cities are featured in the Top 10.

Expensive consumer goods for expatriates and competitive real estate market: these are the reasons put forward by Mercer for the increase in cost of living in Asian countries for expatriates. Indeed, in this year’s ranking eight Asian cities are featured in the Top 10 most expensive cities around the world compared to six cities in last year’s ranking. This year’s survey compares 209 cities on cost of accommodation, transport, food, clothing, entertainment and household goods.

Other than that, overall American cities also seem to be climbing in the ranking with New York even entering the Top 10 at spot 9. San Francisco and Los Angeles are next climbing spots to be ranked 16th and 18th respectively. European cities, on the other hand, seem to be going down in the rankings. The only European city to have made it to the top 10 is Zurich. Bern and Geneva, in Switzerland are ranked next at the 12th and 13th place respectively.

The biggest leap is from Ashgabat, Turkemenistan’s capital city which made it in the top 10 this year.


For the second year in a row, Hong Kong has been ranked most expensive city for expatriates. It is the competitive housing market as well as the strong currency makes it an expensive city for expatriates. “There is still strong demand for accommodation suitable for expatriates to a standard they expect and in locations popular with expatriate communities”, Mario Ferraro from Mercer’s Global Mobility Practice Leader told Bloomberg. 


Mainly because of the price of accommodation for expatriates- Tokyo also came in at the second place for the second time in a row. Tokyo is the third most expensive city for accommodation for expatriates according to Mercer’s ranking. Food is also pretty expensive in Tokyo as it also comes in at third place behind Luanda and New York on the price of bread.


Up one place since last year’s ranking. Singapore is not the third most expensive city in the world for expats. Singapore is a lot less expensive for accommodation- it only comes in 9th for rent prices.


The capital city of South Korea also climbed up one spot in this year’s ranking. While Seoul is, overall, the fourth most expensive city in the world, it is not featured in any of the rankings on prices of rent, bread, fuel or entertainment.


Zurich, Switzerland is the only European city to be featured in the top 10 of the most expensive cities for expats. It is the 8th most expensive city for rents for expats in the world and entertainment is also pretty expensive with Zurich ranking second for cinema tickets.


Shanghai has also climbed up one place since last year’s ranking. The city is not featured in any of the top 10 most expensive cities for rent prices, bread, entertainment or fuel.


The capital city of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat made the biggest leap of 36 seats to enter the Top 10 and settle at the 7th place. The increase in the amount of imported goods on the market is driving up the prices.


Yet another Chinese city in this top 10 of the most expensive cities in the world for expats. The city climbed up one spot since last year’s ranking. The city is the most expensive for rent prices in China.

New York City

New York City is the most expensive city for expats in this region of the world. The American city has climbed up four spots since last year’s ranking. This is mainly because of the good performance of the dollar this year.


Thi Chinese city of Shenzhen closes the Top 10 at the 10th place this year.