Revealed: The world's most (and least) expensive cities

Hong Kong is the world's most expensive city to live in - ©anekoho -
Hong Kong is the world's most expensive city to live in - ©anekoho -

Four of the five most expensive cities in the world in which to live are in Asia, according to a new ranking of the cost of living.

Hong Kong topped the 24th annual survey by Mercer, reclaiming the title of world’s dearest city from the oil-rich capital of Angola, Luanda, which ranked highest last year, but fell to sixth for 2018.

Tokyo ranked as the second-most expensive city to live in - Credit: AFP/KAZUHIRO NOGI
Tokyo ranked as the second-most expensive city to live inCredit: AFP/KAZUHIRO NOGI

The cost of living in UK cities rose significantly, according to the technology solutions firm’s analysis of 209 cities, with London (19th), Birmingham (128th) and Aberdeen (134th) all climbing up the rankings. Mercer’s Kate Fitzpatrick attributed the rise to a strengthening of the pound against the dollar.

Two Swiss cities were the only European entries in the most expensive top 10, with Zurich in third and Bern in 10th, though Geneva sat in 11th place.

Mercer’s survey, designed to show the cost of living for expatriates, takes into account housing as well as a 200-strong “international basket of goods and services” including transportation, food, clothing and entertainment. The report found that housing market instability and fluctuating inflation and currencies were impacting the cost of doing business in the various cities around the world.

The 10 most and least expensive cities in the world

Where in the world is cheapest?

At the other end of the scale, the Uzbek capital of Tashkent slipped 86 places to prop up the table, with Tunis, Tunisia, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Banjul, The Gambia, just above.

Is Tashkent worth a visit? Absolutely, according to Hazel Plush, who visited for Telegraph Travel.

“This Central Asian enigma has plenty up its sleeve, including the ancient Silk Road’s most important cities,” she said.

Tashkent, the cheapest city in the world to live in - Credit: leonid andronov
Tashkent, the cheapest city in the world to live inCredit: leonid andronov

“Tashkent was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1966, while the country was under Soviet rule. 300,000 people were left homeless, but with matchless Soviet muscle the entire city was rebuilt and restored.

“As a result, you’ll find a charming mish-mash of restored 12th-century mosques and classical Russian architecture alongside blocky Brutalist buildings and statues of workers with bulging biceps.”

Why Luanda?

The Angolan city has topped the survey many times before, but few might be able to point to it on a map.

Lunada’s place near the top of the table is secured as a city in a developing economy where accommodation, locally-produced goods and competing services such as taxis and mobile phone providers are in short supply. Security and the cost of importing goods adds to its expense.

Luanda is not a looker - Credit: AFP
Luanda is not a lookerCredit: AFP

A 27-year civil war destroyed much of the city’s basic infrastructure, which meant that a large percentage of food and goods needed to be imported. That said, the city’s oil industry translates to remarkably cheap petrol.

What do other surveys say?

Mercer’s is not the only cost analysis of the world’s cities. In March the Economist Intelligence Unit released the fifth installment of its annual study of the global cost of living, ranking Singapore the most expensive city on the planet.

Hong Kong, Mercer’s number one ranking, took fourth place, falling two spots.

The world's 10 most expensive cities

  1. Singapore (=)

  2. Paris, France (+5)

  3. Zurich, Switzerland (+1)

  4. Hong Kong (-2)

  5. Oslo, Norway (+6)

  6. Geneva, Switzerland (+1)

  7. Seoul, South Korea (=)

  8. Copenhagen, Denmark (+1)

  9. Tel Aviv, Israel (+2)

  10. Sydney, Australia (+4)

The Worldwide Cost of Living Survey found Paris to be the world’s second most expensive city, with Zurich third. Oslo completed the top five in fifth place.

The cheapest city this year was found to be Damascus in Syria. The war-torn, tourist no-go zone fell 14 places to claim its title from Almaty in Kazakhstan, which was last year's cheapest metropolis.

Contrary to Mercer’s findings, the Economist Intelligence Unit saw London slip six places thanks to a fall in the value of the pound.

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