International Cost of Living Ranking – April 2011

Rising grocery and oil prices are impacting the low income earners most severely, but are also likely to impact expatriate purchasing power.
Lower income earners spend a larger percentage of their income on groceries and transport. The world’s poorest consumers spend a large proportion of their income, around 50 to 70 percent, on food and have limited capacity to adjust quickly to rapid price increases. In places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya this has contributed to political unrest. At the expatriate level the impact will also be felt as up to 16% of their income is spent on groceries and 18% on transport.
International maize and wheat prices have nearly doubled from June 2010 and March 2011, and dairy product prices have also risen. High food inflation is affecting many developing countries, including those that are home to large numbers of poor people. For example, food inflation was 10 percent in China and 18 percent in India year on year between December 2009 and 2010, mostly driven by higher prices of meat, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, and fruits.
According to United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global average prices of foodstuffs, including rice, wheat, meat and maize had increased by 25% in the international basket in 2010, compared with the December 2009 levels.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s statistics, on the other hand, show commodity prices rising by an average of 33% over the past one year, with metal prices rising by an average of 40%, energy prices 30%, and crude oil prices 31%. Global food prices, according to the IMF, have risen 61% from December 2008.
Commodities such as coffee, sugar and cocoa prices are predicted to rise as much as 10-fold by 2014 because of shortages according to Aaron Smith, managing director of Superfund USA Inc.
The earthquake/tsunami disaster and nuclear crisis in Japan, which has disrupted the supply chain and increased Japanese demand for raw materials and untainted food, is likely to put further strain on the inflation problem facing the world.
Oil prices have surged 15 percent this year as output from Libya slumped. The armed conflict has forced companies to suspend operations and evacuate staff. Oil has been trading at over $100 a barrel in recent times. Deutsche Bank has raised its oil price forecast for 2011 by 16 percent to $117.50 a barrel, citing declining spare capacity in Saudi Arabia and unrest in the Middle East.
Rising food and energy prices lead to rising inflation. Chinese inflation was 4.9 percent in the year to February 2011, and looks likely to climb above 5% in coming months. Inflation in the 17-nation euro region quickened to 2.6 percent from 2.4 percent in February, the fastest in more than two years. South Korea’s inflation rate hit a 27-month high of 4.5% in February, driven by rising food and fuel costs.
It is likely that the spike in inflation will increase employee expectations for salary increases that preserve their purchasing power and for companies to increase their prices, resulting in an inflationary cycle. This will however be offset to a large degree in economies with high unemployment rates, and where economies are running below capacity, such as the USA and the UK.
The cost of living for an expatriate is affected by both the availability and prices, of goods and services representative of an expatriate lifestyle, local inflation, and the exchange rate between the home and host country. As a result the cost of living has a significant impact on an expatriate’s salary package.
Based on data collected before the earthquake and tsunami, Japan has 3 cities in the top 8 most expensive in the world. None of the 3 cities (Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka) were directly impacted by the tsunami, but it is likely the cost of living in Japan will rise further depending on the strength of the Japanese Yen going forward. Tokyo remains the costliest city in the world, for expatriates, to live in as at April 2011, out of 300 global locations, surveyed during the period 1 January to 31 March 2011.
Caracas is the second most expensive city to live in. Caracas is most expensive place in the world for furniture and appliances, alcohol & tobacco, hotels restaurants and meals out. Caracas is the second most expensive place for groceries, recreation and culture, and healthcare.
Hong Kong is the third most expensive city in the world for expatriates to live in. The high overall cost of living rank for Hong Kong is primarily a result of two expensive basket groups. Hong Kong is the third most expensive city in the world for healthcare, and is the most expensive city in the world for household accommodation, which typically comprises 30% of an expatriate’s expenses. Hong Kong is a good example of why many international organizations compensate separately for healthcare as well as household related costs such as housing rental, water, electricity, household gas, household fuels, local rates and residential taxes. Items that are provided by the employer should be excluded from a cost of living index calculation. The cost of living index for Hong Kong excluding healthcare and household related costs is substantially lower than it’s overall cost of living index of 136.06. Hong Kong is relatively cheap for recreation & culture (ranked 237 in the world), education (ranked 255 in the world), as well as furniture & appliances (ranked 276 in the world).
Geneva, the fourth most expensive city, and Zurich, ranked fifth, are particularly expensive for transport, recreation & culture, hotels restaurants and meals out, healthcare as well as groceries.
Asia-Pacific has 4 of the 10 most expensive cities in the world. Tokyo is first and Hong Kong the third most expensive location in the world (and most expensive in greater China), whilst Osaka is the third most expensive city in Asia-Pacific (ranked 6 in the world), followed by Nagoya (ranked 8 in the world). Australia now has 3 of the top 10 most expensive cities in Asia-Pacific, Sydney has moved up to fifth, followed by Canberra seventh and Melbourne tenth.
Cities in mainland China remain relatively cheap, mainly due to the pegging of the Chinese Yuan to the US Dollar which has kept costs down. Within mainland China, Shanghai (ranked 18 in the world), and Beijing (ranked 116 in the world) are the most expensive locations. The cheapest city surveyed in China is Tianjin (ranked 278) with a cost of living index of just 63.59. The cheapest city in Asia-Pacific is Phnom Penh in Cambodia (ranked 298) with a cost of living index of 55.4.
Most expensive cities in Asia-Pacific (Global rank in brackets)
1. Japan, Tokyo (1)
2. China, Hong Kong (3)
3. Japan, Osaka (6)
4. Japan, Nagoya (8)
5. Australia, Sydney (12)
6. Japan, Yokohama (13)
7. Australia, Canberra (15)
8. China, Shanghai (18)
9. Vanuatu, Port Vila (21)
10. Australia, Melbourne (22)
South Asia is the least expensive region in the world for expatriates to live in. The most expensive city surveyed is Mumbai (ranked 123 in the world), followed by New Delhi (ranked 157), and Chennai (ranked 160). The cheapest city in South Asia, and in the world, is Thimphu in Bhutan (ranked 300).
Most expensive cities in South Asia (Global rank in brackets)
1. India, Mumbai (123)
2. India, New Delhi (157)
3. India, Chennai (160)
4. India, Calcutta (161)
5. Sri Lanka, Colombo (168)
6. India, Hyderabad (169)
7. Maldives, Male (181)
8. India, Bangalore (183)
9. Afghanistan, Kabul (221)
10. Nepal, Kathmandu 275)
Europe’s most expensive cities are mostly those that are not on the Euro. The most expensive city in Europe is Geneva (ranked 4 in the world), followed by Zurich (ranked 5), making Switzerland the most expensive country in Europe. Zurich is followed by Vaduz in Liechtenstein (ranked 9). The cheapest city in Europe is Tirana in Albania (ranked 284 in the world) with a cost of living index of 62.4.
Most expensive cities in Europe (Global rank in brackets)
1. Switzerland, Geneva (4)
2. Switzerland, Zurich (5)
3. Liechtenstein, Vaduz (9)
4. Norway, Oslo (10)
5. Denmark, Copenhagen (16)
6. Russia, Moscow (17)
7. United Kingdom, London (20)
8. Monaco, Monaco (26)
9. France, Paris (27)
10.Jersey, Saint Helier (29)
The Middle East’s most expensive city is Abu Dhabi (ranked 45 in the world), followed by Doha (ranked 59), and Israel (ranked 93). Bahrain is the fourth most expensive city in the Middle East (ranked 97 in the world) with a cost of living index of 90.4. The cheapest city surveyed in the Middle East (and cheapest in the world) is Sanaa in Yemen (ranked 299 in the world) with a cost of living index of 53.1.
Most expensive cities in the Middle East (Global rank in brackets)
1. United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi (45)
2. Qatar, Doha (59)
3. Israel, Jerusalem (93)
4. Bahrain, Manama (97)
5. Lebanon, Beirut (104)
6. United Arab Emirates, Dubai (115)
7. Iran, Tehran (148)
8. Palestinian Territories, West Bank (154)
9. Syria, Damascus (174)
10. Saudi Arabia, Riyadh (190)
The Americas most expensive city is Caracas, which is the world’s second most expensive city to live in for expatriates.
Brazil has 3 of the 4 most expensive cities in the Americas. Sao Paulo (ranked 7 in the world), Rio de Janeiro (ranked 11) are followed by Brasilia (ranked 14). Toronto (ranked 35) is the fifth most expensive city. New York (ranked 43) is the eighth most expensive city in the America’s and most expensive in the United States of America. Interestingly Canada now has 3 cities in the top 10 most expensive cities in the Americas. The cheapest city to live in the Americas is La Paz in Bolivia (ranked 294 in the world). The cheapest city surveyed in the United States of America is Indianapolis Ind (ranked 282 in the world).
Most expensive cities in the Americas (Global rank in brackets)
1. Venezuela, Caracas (2)
2. Brazil, Sao Paulo (7)
3. Brazil, Rio de Janeiro (11)
4. Brazil, Brasilia (14)
5. Canada, Toronto (35)
6. Falkland Islands, Stanley (36)
7. Bahamas, Nassau (41)
8. USA, New York NY (43)
9. Canada, Vancouver (51)
10. Canada, Calgary (61)
Figures used in this report were taken from’s cost of living database as at 1 April 2011. The above ranks are based on the overall cost of living index using all 13 basket groups with New York as the base city (Cost of living index = 100).
About’s Cost of Living Data’s cost of living data is based on prices for the same quantity and quality of goods and services, representative of expatriate lifestyle, in each city. The data is collected and updated on a quarterly basis. The cost of living data is used by clients to calculate salary purchasing power parity, cost of living allowances, and customized (i.e. clients can select their own base city) cost of living indexes for expatriate assignments online, using’s 3 premium content calculators.
The 13 basket groups do not count equally and are weighted according to expatriate expenditure norms as follows (weighting percentage is in brackets):
1. Alcohol & Tobacco (2%): Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.
2. Clothing (2.5%): Clothing and footwear products.
3. Communication (2%): Telephone, Internet, Mobile Contract and Calls.
4. Education (5%): Creche Fees, School Fees, College Fees, and Tertiary Study Fees.
5. Furniture & Appliances (5%): Furniture, household equipment and appliances.
6. Groceries (16.5%): Food, non-alcoholic beverages and cleaning materials.
7. Healthcare (5%): Doctor Consultation rates, Private Ward Rate, Prescription Medicine, and Private Medical Insurance Contributions.
8. Household (30%): Housing rental, utilities, local rates and residential taxes.
9. Miscellaneous (3%): Stationary, Linen and general goods and services.
10. Personal Care (3%): Personal Care products and services.
11. Recreation & Culture (6%): Books, Camera Film, Cinema Ticket, DVD and CD’s, Sports goods, Theatre Tickets.
12. Restaurants Meals Out and Hotels (2%): Dinner at Restaurant (non fast food), Hotel Rates, Take Away, Drinks & Snacks (fast Food).
13. Transport (18%): Public Transport, Vehicle Costs, Vehicle Fuel, Vehicle Insurance and Vehicle Maintenance.
About is the most comprehensive source of international cost of living information. We provide free international cost of living overviews and rank information covering 13 cost of living baskets and 300 global locations as well as 3 premium content calculators.
Founded in 2007,’s mission is to organize the world’s cost of living indices, exchange rates and relative hardship indices and make it accessible and useful to all.
Premium Content Calculators:
Salary Purchasing Power Parity Calculator (SPPP):  Download Demo SPPP Report
The SPPP report calculates how much you need to earn in another location to compensate for a higher cost of living, hardship, and the exchange rate, in order to have the same relative spending power and as a result have a similar standard of living as you have in your current location. Each new SPPP report uses 1 credit ($99).Recommended for a detailed comparison of 2 locations.
Cost of Living Allowance Calculator (COLA):  Download Demo COLA Report
The COLA report calculates how much additional allowance (over and above your current salary) you need to earn in another location to compensate for a higher cost of living, hardship and the exchange rate, in order to have the same relative spending power and as a result have a similar standard of living as you have in your current location. Each new COLA report uses 1 credit ($99). Recommended for calculation of a cost of living allowance for short-term assignments.
Cost of Living Index Calculator (COLI) :  Download Demo COLI Report
The COLI report calculates cost of living indexes for the host locations you select, using the home location you specify. You can choose from any one of the 13 baskets or you can choose the overall cost of living index.  Each new COLI report uses 1 credit ($99) allowing you to choose 1 home location and up to 300 available host locations. Recommended for the calculation of 3 or more cost of living indexes using your choice of base city.
1 credit costs $99. Register, buy credits online and you can run the premium content calculators and receive your reports online within minutes.
For any queries:
The full April 2011 list of all 300 international locations using all 13 basket groups is as follows:
April 2011 Rank Country, City

Japan, Tokyo
Venezuela, Caracas
China, Hong Kong
Switzerland, Geneva
Switzerland, Zurich
Japan, Osaka
Brazil, Sao Paulo
Japan, Nagoya
Liechtenstein, Vaduz
10 Norway, Oslo
11 Brazil, Rio de Janeiro
12 Australia, Sydney
13 Japan, Yokohama
14 Brazil, Brasilia
15 Australia, Canberra
16 Denmark, Copenhagen
17 Russia, Moscow
18 China, Shanghai
19 Angola, Luanda
20 United Kingdom, London
21 Vanuatu, Port Vila
22 Australia, Melbourne
23 Australia, Perth
24 Korea Republic of, Seoul
25 Singapore, Singapore
26 Monaco, Monaco
27 France, Paris
28 Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby
29 Jersey, Saint Helier
30 Australia, Brisbane
31 Guernsey, St Peter Port
32 Nigeria, Lagos
33 United Kingdom, Glasgow
34 Central African Republic, Bangui
35 Canada, Toronto
36 Falkland Islands, Stanley
37 Isle of Man, Douglas
38 Finland, Helsinki
39 Austria, Vienna
40 Germany, Munich
41 Bahamas, Nassau
42 Saint Helena, Jamestown
43 USA, New York NY
44 Micronesia, Palikir
45 United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi
46 New Zealand, Auckland
47 Italy, Milan
48 Germany, Frankfurt
49 United Kingdom, Birmingham
50 Taiwan, Taipei
51 Canada, Vancouver
52 Australia, Adelaide
53 United Kingdom, Leeds
54 Italy, Rome
55 New Caledonia, Noumea
56 Belgium, Brussels
57 Sweden, Stockholm
58 Germany, Cologne
59 Qatar, Doha
60 Chad, NDjamena
61 Canada, Calgary
62 San Marino, San Marino
63 Gabon, Libreville
64 Germany, Hamburg
65 Trinidad and Tobago, Port-of-Spain
66 Iceland, Reykjavik
67 Cote DIvoire, Abidjan
68 Mali, Bamako
69 Russia, St. Petersburg
70 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
71 United Kingdom, Belfast
72 Solomon Islands, Honiara
73 Slovakia, Bratislava
74 Germany, Berlin
75 Germany, Bonn
76 Canada, Montreal
77 Netherlands, Amsterdam
78 Croatia, Zagreb
79 Ireland, Dublin
80 Bermuda, Hamilton
81 Azerbaijan, Baku
82 Sao Tome and Principe, Sao Tome
83 Turkey, Istanbul
84 Spain, Madrid
85 Sudan, Khartoum
86 Barbados, Bridgetown
87 Cook Islands, Avarua
88 Estonia, Tallinn
89 Cameroon, Douala
90 USA, San Francisco Calif
91 France, Lyon
92 Indonesia, Jakarta
93 Israel, Jerusalem
94 USA, Boston Mass
95 Czech Republic, Prague
96 Cayman Islands, George Town
97 Bahrain, Manama
98 Congo Democratic Rep, Kinshasa
99 Kiribati, South Tarawa
100 Vatican City, Vatican City
101 Chile, Santiago
102 Spain, Barcelona
103 Cameroon, Yaounde
104 Lebanon, Beirut
105 Samoa, Apia
106 South Africa, Johannesburg
107 Canada, Ottawa
108 USA, San Jose Calif
109 Colombia, Bogota
110 Jamaica, Kingston
111 France, Marseille
112 Greenland, Nuuk
113 Guinea-Bissau, Bissau
114 USA, Washington DC
115 United Arab Emirates, Dubai
116 China, Beijing
117 Turkey, Ankara
118 Zambia, Lusaka
119 USA, Anchorage AK
120 Malta, Velletta
121 USA, Philadelphia Pa
122 Marshall Islands, Majuro
123 India, Mumbai
124 Nauru, Yaren
125 Portugal, Lisbon
126 Cuba, Havana
127 Martinique, Fort-de-France
128 Sierra Leone, Freetown
129 Djibouti, Djibouti
130 Georgia Republic of, Tbilisi
131 Guam, Hagatna
132 Senegal, Dakar
133 Tuvalu, Funafuti
134 South Africa, Pretoria
135 Togo, Lome
136 Congo, Brazzaville
137 South Africa, Cape Town
138 Puerto Rico, San Juan
139 Liberia, Monrovia
140 Cape Verde, Praia
141 Comores, Moroni
142 USA, Los Angeles Calif
143 Hungary, Budapest
144 Philippines, Manila
145 Namibia, Windhoek
146 Kazakhstan, Almaty
147 Greece, Athens
148 Iran, Tehran
149 Uruguay, Montevideo
150 Andorra, Andorra la Vella
151 Turkmenistan, Ashgabat
152 Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou
153 Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan
154 Palestinian Territories, West Bank
155 Malawi, Lilongwe
156 Ghana, Accra
157 India, New Delhi
158 South Africa, Durban
159 USA, San Diego Calif
160 India, Chennai
161 India, Calcutta
162 Thailand, Bangkok
163 Madagascar, Antananarivo
164 USA, Chicago Ill
165 USA, Portland Ore
166 Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre
167 French Polynesia, Papeete
168 Sri Lanka, Colombo
169 India, Hyderabad
170 USA, Baltimore Md
171 Mexico, Mexico City
172 Montenegro, Podgorica
173 USA, Seattle Wash
174 Syria, Damascus
175 Peru, Lima
176 Lithuania, Vilnius
177 Benin, Cotonou
178 Gibraltar, Gibraltar
179 USA, Miami Fla
180 Ukraine, Kiev
181 Maldives, Male
182 Cyprus, Nicosia
183 India, Bangalore
184 Rwanda, Kigali
185 Niger, Niamey
186 Tanzania, Dar es Salaam
187 Lesotho, Maseru
188 Fiji, Suva
189 Timor-Leste, Dili
190 Saudi Arabia, Riyadh
191 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kingstown
192 Guinea, Conakry
193 Poland, Warsaw
194 Egypt, Cairo
195 Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
196 USA, Phoenix Ariz
197 Guatemala, Guatemala City
198 Swaziland, Mbabane
199 USA, Las Vegas Nev
200 Grenada, Saint Georges
201 Slovenia, Ljubljana
202 Armenia, Yerevan
203 Gambia, Banjul
204 Guyana, Georgetown
205 Botswana, Gaborone
206 Latvia, Riga
207 Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan
208 Serbia, Belgrade
209 Costa Rica, San Jose
210 Jordan, Amman
211 USA, Detroit Mich
212 USA, Denver Colo
213 Haiti, Port-au-Prince
214 USA, Cleveland Ohio
215 Dominica, Roseau
216 Mauritius, Port Louis
217 Kuwait, Kuwait City
218 China, Wuhan
219 China, Shenzhen
220 USA, Atlanta GA
221 Afghanistan, Kabul
222 Palau, Melekeok
223 Panama, Panama City
224 USA, Charlotte NC
225 Belarus, Minsk
226 Algeria, Algiers
227 Argentina, Buenos Aires
228 Romania, Bucharest
229 USA, Jacksonville Fla
230 Saint Kitts and Nevis, Basseterre
231 USA, Milwaukee Wis
232 USA, Pittsburgh Penn
233 Eritrea, Asmara
234 Oman, Muscat
235 Equatorial Guinea, Malabo
236 Mozambique, Maputo
237 Seychelles, Victoria
238 USA, Tampa Fla
239 China, Dalian
240 Saudi Arabia, Jeddah
241 Iraq, Baghdad
242 USA, Dallas Tex
243 Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Johns
244 French Guiana, Cayenne
245 USA, Fort Worth Tex
246 Moldova, Chisinau
247 Macedonia, Skopje
248 Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo
249 USA, San Antonio Tex
250 Somalia, Mogadishu
251 USA, Houston Tex
252 Laos, Vientiane
253 Myanmar, Yangon
254 Kosovo, Pristina
255 USA, Columbus Ohio
256 Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek
257 USA, St Louis MO
258 Nepal, Kathmandu
259 Vietnam, Hanoi
260 Kenya, Nairobi
261 Honduras, Tegucigalpa
262 Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar
263 USA, Austin Tex
264 Morocco, Rabat
265 Bulgaria, Sofia
266 Nicaragua, Managua
267 Zimbabwe, Harare
268 Burundi, Bujumbura
269 China, Guangzhou
270 USA, El Paso Tex
271 Belize, Belmopan
272 USA, Memphis Tenn
273 China, Macao
274 Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City
275 Pakistan, Lahore
276 Paraguay, Asuncion
277 Saint Lucia, Castries
278 China, Tianjin
279 Mauritania, Nouakchott
280 El Salvador, San Salvador
281 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo
282 USA, Indianapolis Ind
283 Bangladesh, Dhaka
284 Albania, Tirana
285 Ecuador, Quito
286 Pakistan, Islamabad
287 Korea Democratic Republic of, Pyongyang
288 Tajikistan, Dushanbe
289 Pakistan, Karachi
290 Suriname, Paramaribo
291 Tonga, NukuAlofa
292 Tunisia, Tunis
293 Uzbekistan, Tashkent
294 Bolivia, La Paz
295 Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
296 Libya, Tripoli
297 Uganda, Kampala
298 Cambodia, Phnom Penh
299 Yemen, Sanaa
300 Bhutan, Thimphu

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2 Responses to International Cost of Living Ranking – April 2011

  1. Aileen says:

    Singapore is also getting higher on the list now I guess.

    • stevenxp says:

      Singapore is currently ranked 25 overall, most expensive place in the world for expatriates to live, out of 300 international locations.

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