Tips & News

10 Most Expensive Cities to Live in Around the World in 2021

Look out for some interesting surprises on the 2021 list of the world's most expensive cities. Don't expect cheap rent and affordable gas in these metropolises.

most expensive cities

Panoramic view of Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Balate Dorin/Getty Images/Canva

By Evie Carrick

Dec 21, 2021

CITY LIVING HAS PLENTY OF PERKS — job opportunities, good food, theater, and easy access to world-renowned museums — but it comes at a price. In the world’s biggest and best cities, rent tends to be high, restaurants can charge top dollar, and a US$20 cocktail is the norm.

If you’ve been feeling the pinch in 2021, that’s because the cost of living for city dwellers has seen its most dramatic increase in five years, according to data released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). And, according to the team’s economists, it may continue to rise in 2022.

“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities as wages increase in many sectors. However, we are also expecting central banks to raise interest rates, cautiously, to stem inflation. So the price increases should start to moderate from this year’s level,” said Upasana Dutt, head of worldwide cost of living at EIU, in a recent press release.

That same EIU report — titled the Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) — compared more than 400 individual prices on more than 200 products and services in 173 metro areas to determine the world’s most expensive cities of 2021. Prices were converted into U.S. dollars and compared with the survey’s base city, New York City, which was given an index score of 100. Thanks to their data, you can see how the cost of living in major U.S. cities measures up against European and Asian ones like Paris and Hong Kong.

10. Osaka

You might assume Tokyo would top Osaka when it comes to cost of living, but according to the numbers, this Japanese city, which has a cost of living rating of 94, is a bit pricier than the country’s capital. The cost of many goods and services may be sky-high in Osaka, but budget-conscious individuals can still nosh on the city’s iconic and fairly affordable street food.

9. Los Angeles

For many beach lovers and aspiring actors, there may be no better place to be, but the cost of living is high in this sprawling Southern California city. Los Angeles came in at No. 9, with a score of 96 — just four points below NYC.

8. Copenhagen

This northern, water-bound city was given a score of 97 on the 2021 cost of living report. And while the cost of food and housing may be high in Copenhagen, the city is filled with citizens who are more apt to hop on their bike than jump in their car, which you would assume would make petrol and transport prices slightly more doable.

7. Geneva

Geneva is the second most expensive of the Swiss cities on this top 10 list. The pricey metro — with a 2021 cost of living rating of 99 — sits near the French-Swiss border on the sprawling Lake Geneva. In addition to being the headquarters for Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross, the city is a banking hub.

6. New York

Acting as the benchmark for the survey, New York City was given an index score of 100 and a No. 6 ranking. The City That Never Sleeps has long held a spot on the list, due to the high price of everything from groceries to gas — and don’t get New Yorkers talking about real estate.

5. Hong Kong

Although technically considered a Chinese “special administrative region,” Hong Kong was evaluated alongside the world’s biggest (and most expensive) cities for this 2021 ranking. In addition to other factors, Hong Kong had the world’s most expensive gas prices, with an average cost of US$2.50 per liter. The result was a 2021 cost of living rating of 101.

4. Zurich

It’s not shocking that the world’s center for banking and finance is also one of the world’s most expensive cities in 2021 — and perennially. With a mountain-bound location on Lake Zurich, the city is as expensive as it is beautiful, resulting in a cost of living rating of 103.

3. Singapore

Singapore has long been heralded for its impeccably clean streets and buildings, but it turns out that living in what is likely the world’s most immaculate city comes at a price. The metro tied with Paris (score of 104), making it easily the most expensive city in Southeast Asia.

2. Paris

In addition to being home to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the sparkling Champs-Élysées, France’s iconic capital is also the world’s second most expensive city, with a cost of living rating of 104 (although Paris did drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in 2021).

1. Tel Aviv

This sun-soaked city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast topped the EIU’s ranking for the first time, climbing from its spot at No. 5 in 2020. The city received a cost of living score of 106, due in large part to the strength of the Israeli shekel against the U.S. dollar. It also saw a noticeable increase in grocery and transport prices in 2021.


Get Your Boho On in This Adorable Osaka Neighborhood

Boutiques, cafes and a sense of creative community percolate through the meandering alleyways of Nakazakicho in Osaka.

Hasu, Den

Food & Drink

These Are Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2022

Chefs met to celebrate their peers at the first in-person Awards in Asia since 2019. T+L was there live in Bangkok.

Ginzan Onsen at Yamagata, Tohoku, Japan

Tips & News

This Test Program Is the First Step For Japan in Reopening to Tourists

Read on if you’re a triple-vaxxed traveler from Australia, Thailand, Singapore or the U.S.

the best of japan; the best of 2019

The Best New Openings in Japan 2019

Fine dining with flair, preservationist luxury hotels and a Muji mega-store.