Cities and Urbanization

These are the most expensive cities in the world

The sunset is reflected off the buildings of The Barcode Project in Oslo November 18, 2012. The row of new high-rise buildings are part of a redevelopment project on the former dock and industrial land in central Oslo, due to be completed in 2014. REUTERS/Cornelius Poppe/NTB Scanpix (NORWAY - Tags: BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION) NO COMMERCIAL OR BOOK SALES. NORWAY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES INNORWAY. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Costs of living can vary dramatically from place to place thanks to factors like local taxes and regional employment figures. Image: REUTERS/Cornelius Poppe

Adam Jezard
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Cities and Urbanization?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Cities and Urbanization is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Cities and Urbanization

For travellers and businesses alike, knowing where you will get more bang for your buck is crucial if you want to make your yen, yuan, krona or euro stretch as far as possible. To this end, a survey of the most expensive cities from Swiss bank UBS may prove a handy tool.

Between January and April, UBS gathered more than 75,000 data points on prices and earnings from 77 cities worldwide. By using a complicated formula, the study provides a breakdown of how much it would cost for a European family of three to visit or live in rental accommodation in cities around the world.

The chart above, for example, gives a points-based ranking of the most expensive cities in the world. It uses New York as its base reference. But, somewhat counterintuitively as UBS’s authors admit, housing costs in the US city are so high that cities “lose price-index points” if they cost less to live in. So it may seem to anyone who does not know this that the costs of living in some places appears to go down once rent is stripped out of the equation.

Meanwhile, cities further down the list such as Hong Kong and Doha (33 and 49 in the list respectively) “rise in their price level when accounting for rent,” the researchers say. “Housing in these notable exceptions are relatively more expensive than our benchmark.”

For the patient, drilling down into UBS’ data provides some revealing insights.

One chart compares monthly living costs for a European family in 13 cities, including food, household goods, clothing and local “expat extras”, such as renting a two-bedroom furnished apartment, international school tuition fees for the children, household help twice a month and a language course.

The cost of family living compared across 13 cities. Image: UBS

Intriguing titbits include the fact that accommodation in Frankfurt, fourth of the 13, is lower than in the top three, but international school fees can reach $1,756.71 a month, while accommodation in fifth-placed Honk Kong is higher than in any other city on the list.

Another chart examines the costs of millennial-generation essentials, ranging from the latest iPhones to avocados. This finds that, while Buenos Aires is one of the cheapest of the 13 cities for families to live in, for millennials “the Argentinian capital is actually the most expensive city on our list. The iPhone X is the culprit: it costs a whopping $2,244 here – almost twice what it costs elsewhere.” But the writers do point out that avocados here “are a bargain”.

It seems that what young people lose on the devices, they may at least regain in healthy eating.

The most expensive place for millennial essentials. Image: UBS
Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Cities and UrbanizationEconomic ProgressFuture of Work
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

From São Paulo to Venice: 15 cities with ambitious zero-carbon projects

Victoria Masterson

April 12, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum