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Expat Alert: The most expensive cities to live in


According to ECA International’s latest cost of living survey, Hong Kong is the second most expensive location in Asia for expatriates to live, behind only Ashgabat, and sixth most expensive globally.

“2018 was another strong year for the Hong Kong dollar and this has seen its rise from ninth overall last year to sixth, leapfrogging locations such as Tokyo and Oslo where the respective currencies have been slightly weaker,” Lee Quane, regional director- Asia at ECA International, commented.

Top ten most expensive locations- Asia

In 2018, all 14 Chinese cities surveyed managed to stay within the global top 50. Shanghai was ranked as 14th most expensive location.

Quane predicted, “Developing Chinese cities such as Dalian, Chengdu, and Nanjing are now firmly established in the global top 50 alongside Beijing and Shanghai, and it is likely that they will remain expensive destinations for mobile employees for the foreseeable future.”

Singapore, after briefing dropping out of the global top 20 in 2017, returned at 18th place globally.

“The Singapore dollar has performed strongly this year, making the city state more expensive for visitors and overseas workers. Singapore has long been considered one of the most expensive cities for expats to live and work in, and this looks set to continue,” Quane explained.

Among all Asian cities, cities in Thailand leaped the most. Bangkok rocketed from 122nd in 2017 and debuted as 90th in 2018’s top 100 most expensive locations.

Malaysian cities have also set their feet in the cost of living rankings, although the three surveyed locations were still out of the global top 150. Kuala Lumpur has climbed up 24 places to 188th.

Top ten most expensive locations- Global

The capital city of the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, Ashgabt snatched the top spot amid a deepening economic crisis. The cost of living rose across the board of overseas workers due to a plunging black market exchange rate, foreign exchange shortages, inflation, and a shortage of goods.

In Europe, Swiss and Scandinavian cities continued to secure the top seats.

New York among the US was featured in 24th place globally.

Starting in 2005, ECA International has been carrying out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances. The data used above refers to year-on-year movements between ECA’s September 2017 and September 2018 surveys.

The survey covers food (groceries, daily produce, meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables), basic areas (household goods, recreational goods, general services, leisure services), and general needs (clothing, electrical goods, motoring, meals out, alcohol and tobacco)

Certain living costs, such as accommodation rental, utilities, car purchases and school fees are excluded in the survey, considering these items are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages.

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