The most expensive cities in the world

 ·7 Dec 2013
World cities

If you’re thinking of leaving South Africa’s shores on a long-term basis for work, be careful you don’t end up in one of the most expensive cities in the world for expats.

This is according to ECA International’s 2013 Cost of Living Survey, which look at which cities in the world prove to be most costly for reassigned and expatriated employees.

According to the index, Caracas of Venezuela has been ranked the most expensive city in the world – replacing Tokyo, Japan, which held the top spot last year.

ECA noted that it does not take certain living costs into account – as these are typically dealt with by employers who assign staff to the new locations – which would subsequently put populous Asian cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo higher on the list.

African Cities

Moving to Africa is costly, too, with Angola’s capital, Luanda, topping costs for the continents, and placing 2nd, overall (up two spots from 2012).

Congo is the African continent’s second most expensive country, with Congolese cities, Brazzaville (13th) and Pointe Noir (22nd) featuring, while Gabon’s Libreville (17th) also lists fairly high up in terms of cost.

Two Nigerian cities – Abuja (36th) and Lagos (37th) – also appear on the top 50 listing.

No South African cities were listed as costly – though ECA noted that, due to the weaker local currency, South African cities and cities in countries tied to the rand (such as Lesotho) all saw lower positions in the index.

ECA noted that Maseru, Lesotho, was the “cheapest location, not only in Africa, but worldwide”.

Top 25 most expensive cities in the world

# City Country 2012
1 Caracas Venezuela 7
2 Luanda Angola 4
3 Oslo Norway 3
4 Juba South Sudan 14
5 Stavanger Norway 8
6 Zurich Switzerland 9
7 Geneva Switzerland 10
8 Bern Switzerland 11
9 Basel Switzerland 12
10 Tokyo Japan 1
11 Copenhagen Denmark 17
12 Moscow Russia 15
13 Brazzaville Congo 29
14 Helsinki Finland 28
15 Beijing China 21
16 Nagoya Japan 2
17 Libreville Gabon 30
18 Shanghai China 25
19 Stockholm Sweden 19
20 Yokohama Japan 5
21 Seoul Korea Republic 22
22 Pointe Noire Congo 33
23 Osaka Japan 6
24 Tel Aviv Israel 46
25 Port Moresby Papua New Guinea 13

Norway’s capital, Oslo (3rd), was ranked the most expensive city in Europe, while Israeli city, Tel Aviv (24th) topped the Middle Eastern region.

Manhattan (33rd overall) is the most expensive city in North America and Australia – one of the most popular countries for South African expats – had five of its major cities appear in the top 50: Sydney (31st), Canberra (39th), Melbourne (45th), Adelaide (46th) and Perth (47th).


ECA International’s cost of living indices are calculated based on surveys carried out annually in March and September, using a basket of day-to-day goods and services:

  • 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;

The data represented in this article refers to year-on-year movements between ECA’s September 2012 and 2013 surveys.

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