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Hong Kong, Singapore top world’s most expensive cities for expats

In India, Mumbai is the most expensive at 136th place globally, followed by Delhi at 165, Chennai (186), and Bengaluru (195)

Hong Kong, Singapore top world’s most expensive cities for expats
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Hong Kong, Singapore and Zurich have topped the list of costliest cities for international workers again this year, Mercer’s ‘Cost of Living City Ranking 2024’ showed.

Half of the world’s most expensive cities for international assignees are located in Western Europe, with Switzerland alone playing host to four: Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth places, respectively.

Among Indian cities, Mumbai is the most expensive at 136th place globally, followed by Delhi at 165, Chennai (186), Bengaluru (195), Hyderabad (202) and Pune (205).

In Europe, apart from the four Swiss cities, London joined the top 10 ranking in eighth place. Other expensive cities in the region include Copenhagen (11), Vienna (24), Paris (29) and Amsterdam (30).

Dubai has jumped up the rankings to become the costliest city in the Middle East for international employees. It is ranked 15th on the global ranking, up three places from 2023.

The next most expensive city in the region is Tel Aviv, which has dropped by eight places to rank 16th, and is followed by Abu Dhabi (43), Riyadh (90) and Jeddah (97).

In North America, New York City (at No. 7 in the global ranking) remains the most expensive city, followed by Nassau, Bahamas (9), Los Angeles (10), Honolulu (12), and San Francisco (13).

The biggest differences found in North America’s year-on-year rankings are both in Mexico. The capital, Mexico City, went up 46 places to 33, and Monterrey went up 40 places to 115.

In addition to Hong Kong and Singapore, the other most expensive cities in Asia include Shanghai (23), Beijing (25) and Seoul (32). Some of the least expensive cities in the region are Karachi (222), Bishkek (223) and Islamabad (224).

In the Pacific region, Sydney tops the list at 58th place, followed by Noumea, New Caledonia (60); Melbourne (73); and Brisbane (89). New Zealand’s Auckland and Wellington remain the least expensive Pacific locations, coming in at 111th and 145th, respectively.

The ranking lists 261 cities in the world in order, from the most expensive to the least expensive places to live.

For the study, Mercer analyzed the comparative costs of over 200 items in each location — from housing and transportation to food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. To ensure consistency in city-ranking comparisons, New York City was used as the base city and currency movements were measured against the US dollar.

The cost of housing is a key factor in the Cost of Living City Ranking. Between 2023 and 2024, there was a lot of volatility in this cost around the world, with housing rental prices varying significantly between cities. Turkish city Istanbul saw an average price increase of 301%, while Tel Aviv saw a decrease of 22% and Minsk in Belarus saw a decrease of 10%.

Rental price surges were also seen in Ankara, another city in Türkiye, which saw an average increase of 141%. Dubai saw housing prices jump by 21%, while in New Delhi average rental costs increased by 13% and the same average increase was noted in Miami, Florida.

The biggest declines in cost of living were seen in cities in Africa (Lagos, Luanda and Abuja), South America (Santiago) and Eastern Asia (Osaka), with currency devaluations driving a chunk of the decreases.

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