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Most Expensive Cities Worldwide in 2010 (EAI)

21 June, 2010 22:15  Erin Erin

of LivingPeople's standard of living can vary greatly according to their wealth, personal choices, and willingness to do without. However, there are some cities, that are expensive no matter what choices a person makes.

EA International is a world leader in managing employees around the world. EA offers data and advice about everything concerning expatriates and the companies that hire them. The most recent list of the most expensive cities worldwide was published on June 10, 2010.

Top 20 Most Expensive Cities Worldwide

1. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo ranks as the most expensive city in Asia and the world for expatriate and citizens alike. This is the first time Tokyo has taken the top spot since 2005.

2. Oslo, Norway
Oslo is consistently among the most expensive European cities and the strengthening of the Norwegian krone has bumped the city to the second slot.

3. Luanda, Angola
Ranked first in 2008 and 2009, this comes as a surprise to some casual observers. However, living in a developing country can elevate the costs of acquiring basic goods because of transport fees. Angola, in particular, has suffered through decades of war making acquisition of goods especially difficult.

4. Nagoya, Japan
The strengthening of the yen has led the way for several Japanese cities to take top spots.

5. Yokohama, Japan

6. Stavanger, Norway

7. Kobe, Japan

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

9. Geneva, Switzerland

10. Zurich, Switzerland

11. Bern, Switzerland

12. Basel, Switzerland

13. Libreville, Gabon

14. Helsinki , Finland
Like Norway, Finland is seen as a safe haven for investors in comparison to Euro zone countries.

15. Moscow, Russia
Increases in oil prices benefited Moscow as Russia is the largest producer of oil in the world.

16. Paris, France
Prices remain high in this romantic capital.

17. Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire

18. Abuja, Nigeria

19. Tel Aviv, Israel

20. Seoul, South Korea
Appreciation of the Korean won has allowed it to surpass Hong Kong.


Cost of living rankings are calculated upon annually surveys conducted in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services. Certain living costs such as accommodation, utilities (electricity, gas, water costs), car purchase and school fees are not included in the survey.

The comparison is created by composing a base of costs within developed countries. ECA's cost of living data compares a basket of 125 consumer goods and services commonly purchased by international assignees in over 370 locations worldwide.

    The survey covers:
  • Food- Groceries; dairy produce; meat and fish; fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Basic- Drink and tobacco; miscellaneous goods; services
  • General- Clothing; electrical goods; motoring; meals out

Recent Changes

Currency fluctuation are the major reason behind changes in ranking. For example, growth in most western countries has slowed considerably while Asian cities were much more resilient. Asian economies cushioned their citizens against rising fuel and food costs through subsidies and price controls while Western nations suffered through economic free fall.


Tokyo's yen has helped to make Tokyo the most expensive city. The Korean won has also done well and pushed Seoul into the top 20. The Thai baht and the Indonesian rupiah have also increased in value.

On the other hand, locations in mainland China have become cheaper. Hong Kong has also fallen lower on the list as SARs is still detracting from the city's business sector. Karachi, Islamabad and Kolkata are the cheapest locations in the region


Some of the standard cities at the top of the list have been replaced by other European capitals. Oslo has replaced Copenhagen as the region's most costly location. Oil prices have benefited the region and Scandinavia's abstinence from the Euro has allowed it to avoid some of the issues currently troubling mainland Europe. Sweden and Finland have also gained favor from investors. Scandinavia is the most expensive area in Europe for expatriates.

Moscow had fallen in the rankings in 2009, but the rouble has strengthened. An increase in oil prices has been the most important change.

The United Kingdom has also fallen in rank as the sterling continues to be weak throughout the last year. Locations within London like Chelsea may still be quite costly, but the city as a whole has dropped in comparative costs significantly.


South America has traditionally been on the lower end when considering expensive cities, but Rio de Janeiro is now the most expensive location in the Americas.

In general, US locations have fallen down the rankings slightly, reflecting the weakened dollar. Manhattan is the most expensive location in North America but is only ranked 29th worldwide. Honolulu, Hawaii is the second most expensive.

Canadian dollars have actually strengthened, with Vancouver holding the most expensive position.


Australia has become significantly more expensive in the past year. The economy has developed steadily and their currency has strengthened. Canberra is currently the most expensive location.

Africa & the Middle East

Luanda was ranked as the most expensive city in 2008 and 2009, but has slipped to third in the 2010 survey.

South African locations rate as some of the in among the cheapest.

Tel Aviv made it into the top 20 and is the most expensive place for visitors to the Middle East. Jeddah in Saudi Arabia is the cheapest

StarDon't forget our cost of living calculator for planning your life abroad and your expatriate move.

We are using the data provided by the UBS study in our Cost of Living Calculator on Easy Expat. Our nifty machine allows you to calculate the salary you should make regarding you current wage and your style of life. Unselect the category of goods you wish to exclude, enter your current salary and choose the current city and the one you want to compare with.

In order to compare different countries, all our data are translated into indexes (e.g. if London/food index is 100, Paris/food index is 93). Therefore the same currency or index is represented in both boxes.


Erin Ball
Freelance Writer from Seattle



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Well these cities are really expensive. However this doesn't prevent people from moving to live in them. To my mind the will of the person to live there or not depends only up to his own lifestyle mostly.

  Land Montenegro     28 Jun 2010, 09:55

Moscow [Reply]

Yes, Moscow is enormous expensive city, fantastic expensive. But the reason why it happened is not because of oil. The reason is - unbelievable corruption. Higher than in some African's countries.

  Russian woman     28 Jun 2010, 14:04


I could not believe the corruption in Moscow. Nice list about the expensive city. These days India is also becoming expensive..I think soon you will add this in your list

  GuideGecko Travel Guide     10 Jul 2010, 17:40