August 20, 2019

The 10 Most and Least Expensive Cities in the World: A 5-Year Comparison

Blog Image



The 10 Most and Least Expensive Cities in the World: A 5-Year Comparison

Posted by: Louise Koncowski, Senior Communications and Content Development Specialist

The Economist has released the results of its 2019 Cost of Living survey, which ranks the world’s most and least expensive cities. For the first time in the research’s 30-year history, three locations share the top spot for most expensive: Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore. Relocation can be a challenge wherever an assignee is moving to, but especially so if the host location is more expensive than the home location. Setting expectations with regards to the cost of living can be key to ensuring a successful transition. Here, we take a closer look at the world’s current most and least expensive cities and compare them to the locations ranked five years ago, when we also posted a blog on the survey findings, 10 Most Expensive and Least Expensive Cities in the World.

Most Expensive Cities in the World

Most Expensive Cities Table 2019.jpg


The list of most expensive cities is largely split across Asia and Europe. Paris (joint first), has been ranked in the top 10 since 2003 and is typically a very expensive city for international assignees. Interestingly, the other European cities featured in both the 2019 and 2014 lists are all non-euro areas like Zurich (in fourth place for 2019), Geneva (joint fifth) and Copenhagen (joint seventh). The only European city ranked in 2014 not to make this year’s list is Norway’s capital, Oslo.

Five years ago no U.S. city made the top 10, but today there are two: New York (joint seventh) and Los Angeles (joint tenth). Considering that in 2014 both these cities were in joint 39th position, this has been a rapid rise and one that may be attributed to a stronger dollar, which – by world standards – has led many cities across the U.S. to become generally more expensive in recent years.

When looking at the specific cost of things by city, Asian locations are typically the most expensive for grocery shopping. European cities on the other hand, tend to be the priciest for household, personal care, recreation and entertainment categories, with Zurich and Geneva the most expensive. In addition to the local currency value, other factors that contribute to The Economist’s survey ratings include the price of clothes, private schools, gasoline, utilities and transport. The Cost of Living survey compares the cost of 160 products and services across 133 cities. For more information visit

Least Expensive Cities in the World

Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, has been named the least expensive city in the world for 2019. This is interesting, given that it was listed in the 10 most expensive cities five years ago, although this was largely due to inflation and currency restrictions.

Least Expensive Cities Table 2019.jpg



Political instability can be a key influence in lowering a city’s cost of living, which is demonstrated by the inclusion of Caracas, Damascus and Lagos in the 2019 list.

Managing a Relocation

Although many locations in the last five yeras, have consistently featured in the list of most or least expensive cities in the world, we have also seen a lot of changes. With this in mind, when managing a relocation and supporting your assignees, it’s important to assess a host destination’s typical cost of living, housing markets and overall infrastructure, as well as the potential for them to change and fluctuate throughout the period of an assignment. For example, an average rental property may cost a certain amount in the first year of a move, but this could dramatically increase (or decrease) in the second, third or fourth year of that assignment, and a housing allowance (if provided), should reflect such a change.

Have a query about your international mobility programme? Contact your Cartus representative, or email


Picture of Louise Koncowski

Posted By

Louise Koncowski

About Louise

Based in our Swindon office, Louise has been a member of the global marketing team for over 10 years, working with internal and external stakeholders to deliver key messages. She has experience in marketing, communications, and content development, focusing primarily on the EMEA and APAC regions.

Share email LinkedIn Twitter Facebook Google Plus Xing


Post a Comment

Thank you for your submission. Submissions are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *