Top 20 Most Expensive Cities for Expats 2014

The most expensive cities in the world for expats are both in Africa in 2014. Luanda in Angola is the most expensive for the second year in a row, Hong Kong is the most expensive in Asia, Zurich the most expensive in Europe and New York in North America, with Sydney the most expensive in Oceania, according to Mercer’s 2014 Cost of Living Survey

The survey compares the cost of housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment around the world and currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

Moscow, Russia on Property Observatory



Currency fluctuations and the impact of inflation on goods and services have influenced the cost of expatriate programs as well as the city rankings.


  • Cities in the United States have climbed in the ranking due to the relative stability of the US dollar against other major currencies.
  • The large drop of cities in other regions which resulted in US cities being pushed up the list.
  • The Canadian dollar weakened notably against the US dollar, which accounts for the major falls seen in the 2014 rankings
  • The foreign exchange rate has a major impact on a city ranking hence why most South American cities dropped, given their currencies falling relative to the US Dollar


  • Western European cities have all risen in the rankings mainly due to the strengthening of local currencies against the US dollar, notably the UK and Germany
  • Most cities in Eastern and Central Europe, however, fell in the ranking as a result of local currencies depreciating against the US dollar
Zurich, Switzerland on the Property Observatory

Geneva, Switzerland


  • Several cities in the Middle East experienced a jump in the ranking, as they are being pushed up by other locations’ decline, as well as the strong increase for expatriate rental accommodation costs, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai


  • Many African cities continue to rank high in the 2014 survey, reflecting high living costs and prices of goods for expatriate employees


  • Japanese cities have dropped in the ranking this year as a result of the weakening of the Yen against the US dollar whilst Chinese cities jumped in the ranking due to a stronger Chinese Yuan.
  • Indian cities remain relatively well-priced compared to others of high population density.
Singapore on the Property Observatory



  • Australian cities have witnessed some of the most dramatic falls in the ranking this year as the local currency has fallen against the US dollar, coming off record highs/post-parity in recent years.


  • The survey found that the typical rental price for a two bedroom unfurnished apartment “of international standards in an appropriate neighbourhood” would set an expatriate back $5076 USD (approx) a month in London, $5420 USD (approx) in New York and $6750 USD (approx) in Luanda.
  • A trip to the cinema would cost someone in London $22 USD, $17 USD in Tokyo and Sydney, $10 USD in Singapore and $5 in Mexico City.
  • A litre of unleaded petrol in London is approximately $2.35 USD, $1.69 USD in Singapore, $1.40 USD in Sydney, $1.07 USD in New York and $0.63 in Luanda.

Top 20

Luanda, Angola

N’Djamena, Chad

3 Hong Kong

4 Singapore

5 Zurich, Switzerland

6 Geneva, Switzerland

7 Tokyo, Japan

8 Bern, Switzerland

9 Moscow, Russia

10 Shanghai, China

11 Beijing, China

12 London, United Kingdom

13 Victoria, Seychelles

14 Seoul, South Korea

15 Copenhagen, Denmark

16 New York City, United States

17 Shenzhen, China

18 Tel Aviv, Israel

19 Libreville, Gabon

20 Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Commercial Property

  • If setting up business overseas, commercial property costs should be carefully considered, as rental prices can vary quite significantly from one street to the next. Hong Kong (Central) office space is still the most expensive in the world, with a per square foot price of $322, followed by London (West End) at $222.70 and New York (Midtown  Manhattan) is the most expensive in the USA at $196.89.
  • Unless you have to be in a specific area, of a specific city, it’s worth doing your research. For example, Setting up an office in Kowloon, Hong Kong, instead of HK Central, will save you $114 per sq Ft.
  • If you are looking for a more cost effective area in Asia to set up business, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta offer the lowest office rental rates.

This article first appeared on Marquette Turner Luxury Homes