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The world’s most expensive cities for expats 2016

Moving to a new country is one of the most expensive endeavours one can undertake. Enter Mercer’s 2016 Cost of Living ranking, a survey of the most expensive cities for expats.

With the UK recently voting in favour of Brexit, we at Atlas & Boots are reassessing our future. Prior to the result, we fully expected to return to France after our next big trip. Now we may have to look further afield. Whatever we decide, one useful way to choose where our future lies is to compare the cost of living in our new city compared to our old, currently London.

comparing the Cost of living

Consultancy firm Mercer initially developed the list to help multinational companies and governments determine wages and allowances for their expat workforce. Mercer’s survey analyses the price of over 200 goods and services in over 360 cities with substantial expat communities across the globe.

Mercer uses New York as its base city and the US dollar as the base currency. The results differ from other surveys such as the Economist’s Worldwide Cost of Living as Mercer focuses specifically on products bought by expats.

Region by region

Cities in the US have climbed up the ranking due to the strength of the US dollar against other major currencies, in addition to the significant drop of cities in other regions. New York is up five places to 11th, the highest-ranked city in the region.

Canadian cities continued to drop in this year’s ranking mainly due to the weak Canadian dollar. The country’s highest-ranked city, Vancouver (142), fell 23 places. In South America, Buenos Aires (41) ranked as the costliest city despite dropping 22 places from last year. San Juan in Puerto Rico (67) follows as the second most expensive location in the region, climbing 22 spots.


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Two European cities are among the top 10 most expensive cities for expats. At number three in the global ranking, Zurich remains the most costly European city, followed by Geneva (8), down three spots from last year.

Despite dropping off the top spot on the global list, Luanda, Angola (2) remains the highest ranking city in Africa. Kinshasa (6) follows, rising seven places since 2015.

This year, Hong Kong (1) emerged as the most expensive city for expats both in Asia and globally as a consequence of Luanda’s drop in the ranking due to the weakening of its local currency. Singapore (4) remained steady while Tokyo (5) climbed six places. Shanghai (7) and Beijing (10) follow.

Most expats do not contribute to their home country’s social programs. This comprehensive guide shows expats how to build wealth overseas with index funds.

most expensive cities for expats Ranking

Since 2015 a number of cities have changed position, as can be seen in this graphic from last year’s ranking.

Expensive cities for expats map

Sort the table to view the ranking by either the least or most expensive cities for expats by 2015 and 2016.

20162015CityCountry
12Hong KongHong Kong, China
21LuandaAngola
33ZurichSwitzerland
44SingaporeSingapore
511TokyoJapan
613KinshasaDem. Rep. of the Congo
76ShanghaiChina
85GenevaSwitzerland
910NdjamenaChad
107BeijingChina
1116New York CityUnited States
1214ShenzhenChina
139BernSwitzerland
1320LagosNigeria
158SeoulSouth Korea
1617VictoriaSeychelles
1712LondonUnited Kingdom
1815GuangzhouChina
1918Tel AvivIsrael
2035AbujaNigeria
2123DubaiUnited Arab Emirates
2232OsakaJapan
2342BrazzavilleCongo
2424CopenhagenDenmark
2533Abu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates
2637San FranciscoUnited States
2736Los AngelesUnited States
2830LibrevilleGabon
2926NanjingChina
3027TianjinChina
3121ShenyangChina
3239NoumeaNew Caledonia
3324QingdaoChina
3429ChengduChina
3442ChicagoUnited States
3622ConakryGuinea
3752HonoluluUnited States
3850WashingtonUnited States
3928YangonMyanmar
4055DjiboutiDjibouti
4119Buenos AiresArgentina
4231SydneyAustralia
4341TaipeiTaiwan
4446ParisFrance
4556MiamiUnited States
4563DhakaBangladesh
4749DublinIreland
4762AccraGhana
4764BostonUnited States
5044BeirutLebanon
5053MilanItaly
5054AmmanJordan
5060YaoundeCameroon
5456ViennaAustria
5480NagoyaJapan
5658AbidjanC?te d'Ivoire
5771RiyadhSaudi Arabia
5859RomeItaly
5938OsloNorway
6076Port Of SpainTrinidad & Tobago
6171White PlainsUnited States
6277DallasUnited States
62BanguiCentral African Republic
6467HelsinkiFinland
6469AmsterdamNetherlands
66127AshkhabadTurkmenistan
6750MoscowRussia
6789San JuanPuerto Rico
6948PerthAustralia
7078DoualaCameroon
7147MelbourneAustralia
7188MorristownUnited States
7191ManamaBahrain
7445BangkokThailand
7592HoustonUnited States
7699DohaQatar
7787MunichGermany
78103AtlantaUnited States
7983DakarSenegal
8075ManilaPhilippines
81104Panama CityPanama
8274MumbaiIndia
83106SeattleUnited States
84106StockholmSweden
8582AberdeenUnited Kingdom
8694LuxembourgLuxembourg
86102BrusselsBelgium
8879Bandar Seri BegawanBrunei
8890Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam
8898FrankfurtGermany
91115MinneapolisUnited States
91120CairoEgypt
9399JakartaIndonesia
94110San Jose Costa RicaCosta Rica
94117MuscatOman
9666BrisbaneAustralia
9680BirminghamUnited Kingdom
9861AucklandNew Zealand
9865CanberraAustralia
100106BerlinGermany
10199IstanbulTurkey
10271AdelaideAustralia
103117Kuwait CityKuwait
103122DetroitUnited States
105115MadridSpain
10686HanoiVietnam
107114DusseldorfGermany
10870SantiagoChile
108130St. LouisUnited States
110124BarcelonaSpain
110133ClevelandUnited States
112130PittsburghUnited States
113124HamburgGermany
114111RigaLatvia
115120BamakoMali
116104NairobiKenya
117135PortlandUnited States
118142Phnom PenhCambodia
11983MontevideoUruguay
119109GlasgowUnited Kingdom
121151JeddahSaudi Arabia
122111Pointe A PitreGuadeloupe
12383WellingtonNew Zealand
124133CotonouBenin
124142PragueCzech Rep.
126149Guatemala CityGuatemala
127154QuitoEcuador
12840Sao PauloBrazil
129139StuttgartGermany
130132New DelhiIndia
130140CasablancaMorocco
132144LomeTogo
132147LyonFrance
134127BelfastUnited Kingdom
134145LisbonPortugal
136137BratislavaSlovakia
137136AthensGreece
137162TashkentUzbekistan
13997KigaliRwanda
139129ColomboSri Lanka
141122LimaPeru
142119VancouverCanada
143126TorontoCanada
143162Addis AbabaEthiopia
14596Port Au PrinceHaiti
146153OuagadougouBurkina Faso
147157Winston SalemUnited States
148165Santo DomingoDominican Rep.
149155NiameyNiger
150155TallinnEstonia
151113Kuala LumpurMalaysia
152152St.PetersburgRussia
152160KingstonJamaica
154161LjubljanaSlovenia
155140MontrealCanada
15667Rio De JaneiroBrazil
157168HarareZimbabwe
158157ChennaiIndia
159167ZagrebCroatia
160169NurnbergGermany
160177San SalvadorEl Salvador
162146CalgaryCanada
162159LimassolCyprus
16493MaputoMozambique
165170BudapestHungary
165172LeipzigGermany
167171VilniusLithuania
168175RabatMorocco
169137Mexico CityMexico
170HavanaCuba
171162OttawaCanada
17233BakuAzerbaijan
172178BucharestRomania
174179Dar Es SalaamTanzania
175174Port LouisMauritius
176184KievUkraine
177175WarsawPoland
178173NouakchottMauritania
179202BanjulGambia
180183BangaloreIndia
180188IslamabadPakistan
182187SofiaBulgaria
183165AsuncionParaguay
184195La PazBolivia
185181AlgiersAlgeria
186193TiranaAlbania
187184KampalaUganda
188190TegucigalpaHonduras
189192YerevanArmenia
190148BogotaColombia
190150BrasiliaBrazil
192199ManaguaNicaragua
193196BelgradeSerbia
194193KolkataIndia
195196SarajevoBosnia and Herzegovina
19694AlmatyKazakhstan
197182MonterreyMexico
198198TbilisiGeorgia
199203SkopjeMacedonia
200180LusakaZambia
201188GaboroneBotswana
201205KarachiPakistan
203204TunisTunisia
204200MinskBelarus
205191JohannesburgSouth Africa
206186BlantyreMalawi
207207BishkekKyrgyzstan
208200Cape TownSouth Africa
209206WindhoekNamibia

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