Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World

By Hernaldo Turrillo - Jun 01, 2020
Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World

The Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living survey’s named Singapore, Osaka and Hong Kong the world's most expensive cities. Using New York as a benchmark, the research compared the price of 160 items in different cities around the world.

As with last year’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, and for only the second time in 30 years, three cities share the top spot as the world’s most expensive city to live in. As such, Hong Kong and Singapore continue to top the list. However, this year the Japanese city, Osaka, has climbed three places to join Hong Kong and Singapore at the top of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking. Osaka replaces Paris, which drops down to 5th place, equal with another European city, Switzerland’s Zurich.

This year's survey was notable as it saw Osaka displacing Paris in the top-three due to a strengthening of the yen which also resulted in Tokyo climbing from 13th place to joint 9th. New York and Los Angeles are also among the world's most expensive cities, coming 4th and 9th respectively. They were influenced by a combination of firm domestic demand and strong local currency.

Singapore has consistently held its No. 1 ranking since 2014, when it surpassed Tokyo, which had previously occupied the top spot nearly every year since 1992.

Top highlights. Source: VisualCapitalist

The current survey was compiled in November 2019 before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the pandemic has already had a major impact on the global financial system. Cities that rely heavily on income from tourism, including Hong Kong and Singapore, could see their economies contract and their cost of living fall. That is likely to result in very different results in future editions of the ranking.

Top 10 most expensive cities in the world. Source: VisualCapitalist

World's most expensive cities to live in 2020

1. Singapore


Singapore has been dubbed the world’s most expensive city to live in for the fifth year running. Singapore is known to be particularly expensive for buying a car. And it has spent five years dominating the list of the world's most expensive cities. That's according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide Cost of Living report, which compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services including categories like food, drink, clothing, household supplies, rent, transport, and utility bills. Singapore's placement in rankings comes down, in part, to one specific category: It is the most expensive place in the world to buy and run a car.

1. Osaka, Japan


The Japanese city of Osaka has surpassed Paris as one of the world’s most expensive cities, according to new research. The Japanese city is often named as one of the best cities in the world for foodies but it is also one of the expensive place to buy groceries. Osaka joins last year's chart toppers Hong Kong and Singapore, and knocks Paris, which shared the top spot, down to fifth place on the index. Osaka climbed three places to the top of the rankings.

1.Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world to live in luxury, The cost of buying property in Hong Kong makes it the most expensive real estate market in the world, with ownership out of reach even for people with higher salaries.

In fact, four out of the five most expensive cities are in Asia - Shanghai at No. 2, Tokyo at No. 3 and Singapore at No. 5 according of its ranking of luxury goods and services in 28 cities. New York is the outlier in the top ranks at No. 4. Property prices have fallen in Hong Kong in 2019, but other luxuries are just as expensive with the city cited frequently in the top 10 for categories such as fine dining and luxury cars.

4. New York City, New York

New York

New York City leads the pack as the most expensive city in the United States. New York population of 8.3 million people drives the price of basic services up. For example, the average cost of women’s haircut in the big Apple is currently US $210. The city, with a population approaching 8.4 million, also tops lists of the world’s most expensive cities.

The cost of living in Manhattan is a whopping 154% higher than the national average. The median cost of homes in the five boroughs of New York is about $652,700, compared with a national median of $245,000. Everything costs more in New York City, from groceries to public transportation. As of December 2019, the city’s unemployment was 3.9%, slightly better than the previous month. That compares with a national unemployment rate of 3.6%. Perhaps further proof that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

5. Paris


Paris, where the high cost of living has been one of the factors behind weeks of violent protests by Yellow Vest demonstrators has ranked among the top 10 most expensive cities since 2003, with only transport and alcohol offering value for money compared to other European cities. Paris is now the most expensive city to live in the world. An annual survey compares prices of 160 basic commodities in 133 of the world's largest and richest cities. In the first place, with equal figures, are Paris, Hong Kong and the city, which was in the first position 5 times in a row Singapore. Dropping five places from the top spot in one year, France capital remains the most expensive city in Europe along with Zurich.

5. Zurich, Switzerland


The Swiss city is listed as the #1 city in the world for quality of life. The city also ranks second in terms of the highest salaries, driving up the cost of rent and groceries. The Mapping the World’s Prices survey shows that Zurich continues to come near the top of the price rankings for a range of goods and services. While Zurich may no longer boast the world’s highest salaries and disposable incomes, it has leapfrogged Wellington to top the Deutsche Bank table for quality of life.

7. Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv

If you live in Tel Aviv or spend time there and feel that the money is slipping through your fingers, it's no surprise. It turns out that Tel Aviv is one of the world's most expensive cities according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living Survey for 2019, The rise in the cost of living is partly due to currency appreciation, the report states, but is also due to some specific costs that significantly drive up prices particularly buying, insuring and maintaining a car, which “push transport costs 64% above New York prices.

8. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles

New York City and Los Angeles are once again ranked among the world's most expensive cities. Los Angeles ranked No. 13 and No. 14 respectively. This was due, in part, to a weakening dollar when compared to other currencies. This year, however, a stronger US dollar raised the American cities' placement on the ranking. Five years ago, for comparison, New York and Los Angeles tied for 39th place. Similarly, to New York the high cost of living in LA is influenced by the strengthening of the U.S dollar and firm of domestic demand.

8. Tokyo


Tokyo are the most costly cities to maintain a luxury lifestyle, particularly for high-end residential property and luxury cars. Tokyo boast the largest population in the ranking at 9.2 million strong, resulting in a high cost of living and a 1 kg loaf of bread costing US $7.41 on average.

10. Geneva, Switzerland


The Swiss city boast high salaries and low taxes and has seen a decrease in its cost of living in the last year dropping five places in the rank. The two Swiss cities have once again been named as the world’s most expensive by Swiss banking giant UBS, both when housing costs are factored in and when they are excluded from calculations. To establish these price rankings for its Price and Earnings 2018 study. UBS looked at the cost of 128 basic goods and services in 77 cities around the world. They assigned New York a value of 100, with all other cities measured against that baseline. Zurich the most expensive city ranked by UBS scored 116.8 before rent was factored in, meaning it was 16.8 percent more expensive than New York overall. After rent was factored in, Zurich’s score was 104.3. Geneva were also the two most expensive cities in the world for food, according to UBS. But Geneva is actually more expensive in this category, with a European family of three paying an average $705.80 a month for food in the French-speaking city against $629.30 in Zurich.

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