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The most and least expensive cities for expatriates

Daryl Paranada Jul 1, 2010

The world’s most expensive city for expatriates is Luanda, Angola (pictured below). The Angolan capital beat out Tokyo for the top spot, with N’Djamena, Chad, Moscow, Russia, and Geneva, Switzerland, rounding out the top 5.

The Cost of Living Survey from Mercer used data from 214 cities across five continents, measuring the comparative costs of over 200 items in each location – such as housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York topped is the U.S. city most expensive for expats. It ranked 27th. Los Angeles was the next highest-ranking U.S. city at 55.

From the survey:

New York is used as the base city for the index and all cities are compared against New York. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar. The cost of housing – often the biggest expense for expats – plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked.

For the first time, the ranking of the world’s top 10 most expensive cities includes three African urban centres: Luanda (1) in Angola, Ndjamena (3) in Chad and Libreville (7) in Gabon. The top ten also includes three Asian cities; Tokyo (2), Osaka (6) and Hong Kong (jointly ranked 8). Moscow (4), Geneva (5) and Zurich (joint 8) are the most expensive European cities, followed by Copenhagen (10).

The world’s cheapest city for expats? Karachi, Pakistan, where rent levels are low compared to other cities worldwide. The least expensive U.S. city in the survey is Winston-Salem, N.C., which is a community of about 230,000 people whose average income is $35,500. It’s the 17th-lowest ranked city on the survey.

The cheapest cities for expats:

  1. Karachi, Pakistan
  2. Managua, Nicaragua
  3. Islamabad, Pakistan
  4. La Paz, Bolivia
  5. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  6. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  7. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  8. Kolkata, India
  9. Tegucigalpa, Honduras
  10. Windhoek, Namibia

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