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These Are the Most Expensive Cities in the World for Expats

Looking to move abroad? Asia is flush with expats, and also some of the most expensive cities in the world for them to live. Here are the 2022 global rankings by ECA International.

Hong Kong city view from peak at Sunrise

Hong Kong city view from peak at Sunrise. Photo by EarnestTse/Getty Images Pro/Canva

By Dobrina Zhekova

Jul 4, 2022

LIVING ABROAD IS A LIFE-CHANGING experience that satisfies our sense of wanderlust and enriches us culturally. But it often comes with a steep price tag. Whether you relocate to a different country for work, study, or to fulfill a lifelong dream, the cost of living will probably be a major factor when it comes to choosing a destination. And when it comes to the most expensive cities for expats, Asia is leading the pack, according to the latest report from ECA International, a global mobility company that each year ranks the priciest locations in the world. Five of the top 10 spots are in Asia, while only three are in Europe.

“Nearly every major Eurozone city saw a drop in the rankings this year as the euro performed worse in the last 12 months than the U.S. dollar and British pound,” said regional director of ECA International Lee Quane in a press release. Paris, for example, which has previously topped the list, is no longer even in the top 30. Madrid and Brussels have also slipped on the list.

Colombo city skyline, Sri Lanka world's most expensive cities for expats
Colombo city skyline, Sri Lanka. Photo by surangaw/Getty Images/Canva

Overall, Colombo, Sri Lanka, has seen the fastest price shift in the past 12 months. And the cost of living for expats in many Chinese cities continues to rise, with Shanghai and Guangzhou placing toward the top of the list. Among the top

“The majority of the mainland Chinese cities in our rankings have higher rates of inflation than we are used to seeing, but they are still typically lower than elsewhere in Asia,” Quane explained.

To create the list, ECA International compares several consumer products commonly purchased by expats, including food, clothing and transportation. It then conducts two surveys in March and September in more than 490 locations worldwide. The company also considers rental prices in areas where expats live in 410+ locations.

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Within the top 20 most expensive cities in the world, half are in Asia, including Taipei (20), Yokohama (17), Beijing (14), Singapore (13), Shenzhen (12). The rest are below, ranked in the top 10 most expensive cities for expats.

10. Seoul

Cityscape of Songpagu in Seoul at night world's most expensive cities for expats
Songpagu in Seoul. Photo by Mlenny/Getty Images Signature/Canva

The South Korean capital dropped two spots to No. 10 in the worldwide ranking, but is the fifth most expensive city in Asia, primarily due to inflation.

9. Guangzhou

Guangzhou Opera House, China world's most expensive cities for expats
Guangzhou Opera House. Photo by f9photos/Canva

China’s bustling port city of Guangzhou climbed one spot from last year and is now the ninth most expensive place to live — a steady influx of money helps explain why the city got a Michelin guide a few years ago. Local authorities said that about 83,400 foreigners lived in the city as of 2019.

8. Shanghai

Shanghai world's most expensive cities for expats
Shanghai. Photo by zhujia1011/Getty Images/Canva

Along with being the 8th most expensive city worldwide, Shanghai is also the third priciest metro area in Asia. The main reason, according to Quane, is “the continued strength of the Chinese yuan against other major currencies, due to China’s relatively strong economic performance during the survey period.”

7. Zurich

Quaibrucke bridge over the effluence of the Limmat Iver of Zurich world's most expensive cities for expats
Quaibrucke Bridge over the Limmat. Photo by alxpin/Getty Images Signature/Canva

As the financial and cultural capital of Switzerland, it’s no wonder Zurich is among the world’s most expensive cities. The city ranks seventh on ECA’s list because of the strong Swiss currency and high cost of services and goods.

6. Tel Aviv

Cityscape image of Tel Aviv, Israel during sunset world's most expensive cities for expats
Tel Aviv at sunset. Photo by RudyBalasko/Getty Images Pro/Canva

Up one spot from last year, Tel Aviv is now sixth among the world’s most expensive cities for expats. Last year, another organization, the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked the Israeli city as the most expensive destination on Earth, thanks to high food, alcohol and transportation prices.

5. Tokyo

Tokyo Tower and Tokyo city, Japan world's most expensive cities for expats
Tokyo Tower and the city. Photo by TopStockFoto/Getty Images/Canva

The Japanese capital dropped three spots to No. 5 this year. According to the survey, negative interest rates and higher inflation that weakened the yen are the main culprits. “The weaker yen makes goods relatively cheaper for visitors and expatriate workers paid in other currencies as their money will now go further,” Quane explained.

4. London

Big Ben, House of Parliament and Lambeth Bridge in London world's most expensive cities for expats
Big Ben, House of Parliament and Lambeth Bridge in London. Photo by rabbit75_cav/Canva

While high inflation is to blame for London’s ranking, the city remains incredibly popular among expats. The British government estimates that more than a third of the country’s entire foreign-born population now lives in London.

3. Geneva

Aerial view of Lake Geneva, Switzerland world's most expensive cities for expats
Facing Lake Geneva. Photo by Bim/Getty Images Signature/Canva

As the most expensive of Europe’s cities for expats to live, Geneva claimed the No. 3 spot again this year. Switzerland uses the Swiss franc, which rose to a record high last year against the euro. While prices in Switzerland are higher compared to other European destinations, Swiss workers are among the highest paid on the continent, so there’s that.

2. New York

New York Times Square world's most expensive cities for expats
Times Square. Photo by Wallula/pixabay/Canva

The Big Apple climbed two spots to claim the silver medal on this year’s list. It is the only North American city in the top 10 most expensive places to relocate, mostly due to inflation in the U.S.

1. Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong world's most expensive cities for expats
Victoria Harbour. Photo by Patrick/Getty Images/Canva

For the third year in a row, Hong Kong claims the first spot as high prices and a strong currency help it maintain its position. According to data from ECA International, a liter of milk in Hong Kong (there are 3.78 liters in a gallon) will set you back $4.39. You can expect to pay top dollar for everything from gas to groceries and a cup of coffee in the city.

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