Cost-of-Living Consideration: The Most Expensive Cities

Posted on Jul 4, 2019 | 0 comments

Cost-of-Living Consideration: The Most Expensive Cities

If you are considering moving your career to a new location, either independently or through a current employer, one of the considerations will always be cost of living. How much will a “cheap” vs. “expensive” location affect where you choose to live?

Some digital nomads have chosen to leave an expensive place like London to work and live in a place with much lower living expenses, like Bali. There are lots of recommendations for finding the cheapest places to live well abroad; Next Avenue, for example, recently posted a list of  “cheap” places to live in Asia, Europe, and South America (it includes a location in Italy!). The blog “Cheapest Places to Live in the World” champions Nepal as the hands-down winner in 2019. Forbes magazine has been publishing an annual list as well and champions Panama as a top “cheap” destination to live. Ratings are based on varying criteria, but all usually require good access to the internet and health care.


On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of lists indicating the most expensive cities in which to live and work. Global health, wealth, and career consulting firm Mercer recently issued a 2019 Cost of Living Ranking that is intended to help multinational organizations compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Their assessment looked at 500 cities and sought to provide a side-by-side comparison to rate how expensive daily life will be. The following criteria were examined:

  • Food
  • Clothing and Footwear
  • Personal Care
  • Home Services
  • Domestic Supplied
  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Recreation & Entertainment
  • Alcohol & Tobacco
  • Transportation


Eight of the top ten most expensive cities are in Asia, with Hong Kong Leading the list. Comparing the most expensive cities in each region definitely illustrates the high cost of living in Asia compared to the rest of the world; while Sao Paulo, Brazil is one of the top five most expensive places to live in South America, it is only #86 internationally. The top ten most expensive:


  1. Hong Kong, Hong Kong (SAR)
  2. Tokyo, Japan
  3. Singapore, Singapore
  4. Seoul, South Korea
  5. Zurich, Switzerland
  6. Shanghai, China
  7. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  8. Beijing, China
  9. New York, United States of America
  10. Shenzhen, China


The study includes illuminating and fun info-graphics, such as showing how the Big Mac that costs you less then $3 in Cape Town, South African will run you over $12 in Zurich, Switzerland. The same night on the town that costs you $90 in Mexico City will run you over $160 in Beijing, China.


The Economist has published their own cost-of-living rating for international cities and while there are some differences, Hong Kong remains in first place (tied with Paris and Singapore) and Asia remains dominant.


The world is a big place full of fascinating places and your opportunities or preferences might lead you to choose any one for a variety of reasons. Understanding the cost of living is a vital factor in deciding if a new country will be possible and comfortable as your new home.


Interested in learning more about how to move your job to another country?

Passport Career provides more detailed career information and extensive resources about networking, finding an international job or internship, country-specific business protocol and culture, alternative career opportunities, writing country-specific resumes/CVs, cover letters and interview strategies for other countries. If your university/college, organization, company, embassy, library, or other institution would like access to our country portfolios and global career training program (50,000+ pages of expert content for 90+ countries and 275+ cities) to share with your students, employees, spouses/partners, and others managing a national or international career transition, please click here to contact us (or send email to: regarding a free, live, online demo and details on how to obtain a license to access Passport Career. Individuals making a career transition are also encouraged to contact us for a free demo of our portal.





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