Most expensive city for expats revealed

Singapore has once again been crowned the most expensive city in the world for expatriates and business travellers, in the latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

It’s the third year in a row that Singapore has received this dubious accolade, in a top 10 that was otherwise strikingly different from the previous year. The most notable changes were the disappearance of Sydney, Melbourne and Oslo from the list, and the energetic return of New York, Los Angeles and London.

The survey compares the cost of consumer staples – such as bread, wine, cigarettes and petrol – in cities around the world. The prices are in US dollars, meaning the results are almost exclusively determined by the value of the various local currencies against the dollar. The survey is therefore directly relevant to expats and business travellers, but largely irrelevant to permanent domestic residents.

The top ten

The second most expensive city was Zurich, followed by Hong Kong, Geneva, Paris, London, New York, Copenhagen, Seoul and Los Angeles.

The biggest change was Los Angeles, which last year was 28th, and New York, which was 22nd. London jumped up five places from 11th.

Sydney and Melbourne, which in 2015 were 5th and 6th respectively, dropped way down the list to 20th and 21st, thanks to a dramatic decline in the value of the Aussie dollar as a result of plummeting iron ore prices. Iron ore is far and away Australia’s biggest export.

The EIU paid particular attention to South Korean capital Seoul, which has shot up the list in recent years, from 36th place five years ago. It is now on a par with Copenhagen and Los Angeles.

Breakdown of commodities

The most expensive loaf of bread in the world for a business traveller can be found in Seoul, for the bargain price of $12.44 – though it might be worth remembering that Koreans aren’t the biggest consumers of toast and marmalade, preferring a roll or two of ‘kimpap’ (Korea’s spam-filled answer to sushi) of a morning. If it is toast and marmalade you’re after, then London, the spiritual home of that illustrious breakfast, is your best bet. There, a 1kg loaf of bread will set you back just $2.46.

Conversely, if you prefer a cigarette with your morning coffee, then don’t go to London. There a pack of fags will cost you $14.30, making it the most expensive place to finance a nicotine addiction, just ahead of New York. Neatly, Seoul is far and away the cheapest place to be a smoker, with the average 20-pack of durries selling for just $3.71. The second cheapest of the top 10 is Copenhagen, where a packet costs $6.41.

The most expensive country in the world to drink wine is, once again, Seoul, where an average bottle costs $25.43. But this is really only relevant to wine-loving expats and business travellers. Koreans themselves tend not to drink any wine at all, preferring beer and soju, both of which are extremely cheap. The second most expensive average bottle of wine in the world can be bought in Los Angeles for $23.43, followed by Singapore, for $22.39. The cheapest is found in Geneva, for $8.06.

Finally, the most expensive place to fill up your tank was London, where a litre of unleaded petrol cost $1.73. The cheapest was New York, where it was 63 cents.

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