The most expensive city in the world is…

Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, according to the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2017 (#WCOL2017). This might not be a surprise for many expats living there or expats who have visited, but it’s not true for every expat there. Read on to find out why and how to reduce the cost of living in Singapore…

Early morning view of Singapore skyline

Asia is now home to five out of the top six cities in the survey as Asian cities rise up the rankings. According to the Economist’s report, Singapore retains its title as the world’s most expensive city for a fourth consecutive year in a top ten that may have a familiar feel to it.

Ranking of top ten countries and cities in WCOL

“Not only has Singapore stayed top but Hong Kong remains second, closely followed by Zurich. The latest survey has also seen a return to the top ten most expensive cities for Tokyo and Osaka. The Japanese capital, which was the world’s most expensive city until 2012, has moved seven places up the ranking owing to a sustained recovery in the strength of the Japanese yen,” write the #WCOL2017 editors.

Local fresh produce on a market stall in Hong Kong

Currency shifts affect cost of living

“With the strength of the US dollar moderating and the euro remaining relatively stable, currencies such as the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar have appreciated in value. As a result, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, and Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand all feature among the 20 most expensive cities.”

“Although the relative cost of living has fallen slightly in the Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva, both remain cemented among the ten most expensive, in third place and joint seventh place respectively. Joining Geneva in seventh place is Paris, which has featured among the ten most expensive cities for 15 years, although the relative cost of living in the French capital has moderated. Currently, living in Paris is 7% more expensive than living in New York, but just five years ago it was 50% pricier.”

Business couple sitting in the sun in Zurich

However, though Singapore ranks as the most expensive place to live, Jonathan Hesketh, an expat who was raised in Singapore and now works at Angloinfo Singapore, doesn’t agree. Hesketh writes, “If you can live without imported cheese, filet mignon and three-course, high-end dinners, then you’ll find you can make your money go far if you spend it in the right places. From the public transport (Buses, taxis and the MRT – Singapore’s version of the London Tube) to local food outlets found away from Orchard Road, and the low income tax, compared to Europe, you’ll find you have a sizeable chunk of spare cash at the end of each month compared to living somewhere like London.”

Political uncertainty affects cost of living, worldwide

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo with hundreds of people walking

“2017 could see fallout from a number of political and economic shocks taking deeper effect. The UK has already seen sharp declines in the relative cost of living owing to the Brexit referendum and related currency weaknesses. In 2017, these are expected to translate into price rises as supply chains become more complicated and import costs rise. These inflationary effects could be compounded if sterling stages a recovery. Similarly, elections across the EU have created uncertainty as to whether other member states will face referendums of their own concerning EU membership. Levels of Greek debt, which were a catalyst of the euro zone debt crisis in 2012, have risen back up the global economic agenda.”


Osaka Castle looked at through pink blossom

More than 50,000 individual prices are collected in each survey, conducted each March and September and published in June and December. Economist Intelligence Unit researchers survey a range of stores: supermarkets, mid-priced stores and higher-priced speciality outlets. You access the full Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2017 here.

Do these ranking seem right to you? Do you live in Singapore and agree with Jonathan Hesketh? Let us know on your favourite Social media network: