If you’re looking to move to another city or country anytime soon, you probably know that some places are way, way more expensive than others. Sure, with that expense, you’re paying for lodgings in some of the most beautiful and relevant cities in the world, that boast some of the greatest culture, restaurants and entertainment the world has to offer. However, all of that comes with a cost, and that cost can be measured with the amount of money it takes to live there.
There are a lot of beautiful, yet expensive cities in the world, but depending on where you are, living there doesn’t come cheap. Here are fifteen cities that it will cost a nice chunk of change to live there, and it’ll be up to you to decide if that move is really worth the money.
15. Sydney, Australia
Sydney is an incredible city with a lot to offer. However, when you look at just how much it costs to live there, you might just reconsider. Incidentals tend to run a little on the expensive side, with meals in the city running you anywhere from $10 at a fast food place to $15 for a meal with a drink in the business district. For some of us, who are living off of ramen packets and prayer, fifteen dollars for a meal is pretty steep. Clothes are a bit expensive there, too. Jeans can cost something like 101 Australian dollars, which is unheard of if you’re living on a strict budget.
As for housing, some of us might not even want to hear these numbers. The average rent for an Aussie living in a furnished apartment in Sydney is somewhere above $3,000 dollars, regardless of where you’re renting from. The difference between a more expensive area and a more affordable area is around 500 Australian dollars, which isn’t really saying much in the long run. Studios and smaller apartments are less expensive, but they’re still a lot of money. Transportation will also be a big chunk of your budget, which is another thing to consider, too. Sure, you get the Sydney opera house and a ton of things that make the city great, but you’ll be paying for those things, too.
14. Tokyo, Japan
I was honestly expecting Tokyo to be higher on this list, considering just how much there is to do in Tokyo and the amount of things that come out of Japan. Japan is the birthplace of Nintendo, not to mention a ton of other tech companies like Sony. We owe a lot to Japan, so I was honestly thinking that Tokyo, the capital, would end up somewhere in the top five. Much to my surprise, it’s not quite so expensive to live in Tokyo, but it is still pretty expensive.
While the numbers themselves look pretty scary when you consider just how big they are, they start to look a lot less scary when you take into account the conversion rate for Yen, which is 0.00947 USD / JPY. That means that Yen are worth a fraction of what US dollars are worth. Sure, ¥979 looks like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on lunch in a nice part of town, but in all honesty, ¥979 amounts to about nine dollars, which actually looks cheap compared to some other places on this list. Sydney ranked lower than Tokyo on this list and lunchtime there actually costs a bit more. Basically, the numbers make it look like you’re making it rain, but you’re not really. It’s the same for just about all of the other prices in Tokyo: the numbers are big, but it’s not quite so bad. For most of us, it’s just getting to Tokyo that would be the problem.
Singapore’s prices, much like Japan’s, aren’t quite as scary as some of the other prices on this list, but the place is on this list for a reason. After taking into account Singapore’s conversion rate (which is 0.742 USD / SGD, by the way), I found that Singapore’s prices aren’t too far away from Tokyo’s. A nice lunch costs about 9 US dollars, a carton of eggs is something like three dollars, and the average rent doesn’t seem to climb above $3,000 US, which isn’t so bad. However, it’s the other things here that might break your bank. A pair of jeans here cost 84 US dollars, and a brand new car is just a few thousand dollars below $100K, which is obscene for many people. Thankfully, the cost of gas there isn’t so bad, but I can’t even imagine what that car payment would look like.
12. Oslo, Norway
Norway is another country with a really weird conversion rate, so I couldn’t even talk about what the prices are in Oslo without learning the country’s conversion rate, which is 0.11815 USD / NOK. That means that Norwegian dollars are worth about ten percent of a US dollar. However, unlike in Tokyo, even the converted prices in Oslo are pretty pricey.
For example, a nice lunch in Oslo would run you something like kr 197. To be fair, this number isn’t quite so scary as when you’re dealing with Yen, but it’s still pretty out there. However, when you apply the conversion rate, you find that a nice lunch in Oslo will cost you something like $23 US. I know some people who wouldn’t pay $23 for a meal in a fancy sit down restaurant, so I can’t imagine how those people would deal with a $23 lunch. Fast food is also more expensive here, as is a carton of eggs. The rent isn’t quite so bad in Oslo, but you might want to grow your hair long in Norway, because a men’s haircut will run you about $57 US. Gym memberships are around the same price in Oslo, which seems a bit odd to me, but maybe the gyms and haircuts there are amazing and I don’t know about it. Who knows?
11. Bern, Switzerland
Bern is the first of many Swiss cities on this list, but just because Bern might be the least expensive of the most expensive cities in Switzerland, doesn’t mean that Bern still isn’t wildly expensive in its own way. While a nice lunch might be a little cheaper, groceries will run you a pretty penny. Eggs cost $6 US here, and doctor’s visits lasting about fifteen minutes will run you something like $107 US. Oddly enough, jeans cost about three US dollars more than a doctor’s visit, which seems a bit strange to me, but who am I to question Switzerland?
10. Lausanne, Switzerland
Kicking off our top 10 is Lausanne, another Swiss city where things do not come cheap. The exchange rate in Switzerland is a little different than the cities that we’ve learned a little about, because the exchange rate from Swiss francs to US dollars is actually above one at 1.017 USD / CHF. That means that the US dollar amount is actually slightly less than it would be in Switzerland.
However, just because we’re spending less US dollars doesn’t mean that it’s not expensive living in Switzerland. In Lausanne, it costs $11 US for a pound of chicken breast and nearly six dollars for a carton of twelve eggs. Business shoes cost 176 US dollars and jeans are something like $103. It also costs nearly five dollars for four rolls of toilet paper and nearly $100 for a gym membership in a nice part of town. Rent doesn’t climb above three grand on average, but depending on who you are, paying a hair less than three grand a month for an apartment is unheard of.
9. Basel, Switzerland
Basel is yet another incredibly expensive Swiss city, and the amount of Switzerland on this list so far is enough to make me wonder just what they’re making things with in that country. A carton of eggs is a whopping seven dollars out there, and leather business shoes are just a hair under 200 US dollars there. A cocktail is $16 US, and twelve doses of antibiotics are a little under $40. Oddly enough, rent in Basel isn’t too bad in comparison to some others on this list, and neither is a monthly public transportation pass. However, I could absolutely see how the costs of living here could rack up quickly. Sure, you might not be worrying about getting around your new city, but you’re going to have to break more than eggshells to make your morning omelet, you’ll have to break your budget, too.
8. Hong Kong
We’re taking a break from Switzerland for a bit and moving on to Asia. Hong Kong is a big city, and it’s an expensive one, too. The conversion rate in Hong Kong puts their dollars at ten percent of the US dollar, at 0.12893 USD / HKD, but even at that rate, some things do not come cheap in Hong Kong. Sure, a nice lunch or a Big Mac won’t be too bad, and prepaid mobile minutes come in at about six US cents, which is nothing compared to some of these other cities, but real estate costs here are astronomical. A furnished apartment’s rent will run you something like five thousand dollars. That’s not Hong Kong dollars, that’s US dollars. Imagine paying five thousand dollars a month for rent. There are some people I know who wouldn’t even dream of spending five thousand dollars on anything. I’m trying to wrap my head around a five thousand dollar rent right now and my brain just can’t do it. Props to you, Hong Kong.
7. London, UK
London is one of my personal “must live” cities. It’s been a goal of mine to live there for at least a year, because the city is filled with so much history, theater, and just culture in general. However, the price of living there is enough to give me pause. Not too much pause, like I wouldn’t still do it, but enough that I’m seriously rethinking my budget when I do go there.
Compared to Hong Kong, rent actually isn’t that bad, especially when you consider that the UK to US conversion rate is 1.311 USD / GBP. Studio apartments in London are actually quite reasonable, as are the prices for internet connections and microwaves. However, little expenses are just on the pricey side, so while nothing is really unreasonable, the costs add up quickly, which is something to keep in mind if you’re like me and want to try living there one day.
6. Washington D.C., United States
The capital of the United States is a city rich in history, but it’s also a city that costs a pretty penny. Rent isn’t too bad, but entertainment prices are out there for this city. It costs over $250 to buy two theater tickets, which is pretty steep considering this isn’t the home of the Great White Way. On top of that, it’s more expensive to consistently use public transportation here than it is to use it anywhere else in North America. That’s definitely a huge thing to consider if you don’t drive. It’s also really expensive to get a simple men’s haircut here, as well. The politics of this city are also pretty strange as well, since D.C. is squarely federal territory and not really in any state proper at all, so that’s another thing to consider.
5. New York City, United States
I’ve talked about every other city with research, numbers and aggregate prices, because even though I’ve been to a few of these places, I haven’t lived there. However, New York City is different. This is my city, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is beyond expensive to live here. The rent here is so high, a lot of the rent prices actually look like bargains to me, and I’m sure a lot of New Yorkers can say the same. A lot of that depends on what borough you live in (Manhattan and Brooklyn rent isn’t Queens and the Bronx rent, for example), and much like any of these other cities, the numbers themselves can vary astronomically, but the rent is still pretty high regardless.
This isn’t even taking into account some of the other expenses that comes with being a New Yorker. Unsurprisingly, it’s more expensive to go to the theater here than it is anywhere else in the entire world. I can tell you that from experience as well, and so can anyone who’s tried getting tickets to see Hamilton. As for transportation, the price is already pretty steep, but once you factor in the craziness of the MTA, the unpredictability of the service, and the ever increasing fares, that price is only going to get steeper. I currently live here and was born here, so I’m used to these prices, but an expatriate moving here might end up being totally surprised by it.
4. San Francisco, United States
I was honestly surprised that there’s a city in the United States that’s more expensive than New York City, but here we are in San Francisco. San Francisco is a gorgeous city with an interesting culture that looks like an amazing place to live, but when it comes to real estate, there is no other place in the world that is more expensive. San Francisco, according to Expatistan, leads the pack among major cities in apartment prices on a worldwide level, which is nothing to sneeze at.
It’s also expensive to go to the theater in San Francisco. While it’s not quite as expensive as New York, it’s expensive enough that it’s the third most expensive city in the world to get theater tickets in. It also costs $16 to get lunch in the area, so budget wisely.
3. Geneva, Switzerland
We’re going to take a trip away from the United States and back to Switzerland. Geneva is the second most populous city in the country, and I’m not sure why, but some pictures of the city remind me of what Ancient Greece might look like if it were in modern times. I don’t know why that’s where I go with that, but either way, that’s a compliment, because Geneva is a gorgeous city. Switzerland in general is a gorgeous country, too.
While it’s in the top 3 most expensive cities in the entire world, it’s there for a reason: it has the third highest quality of life of any city in the world. That being said, that quality of life comes at a price, and that price mostly affects your wallet. A basic lunch in the business district costs $25 US, which is the most expensive price in the world. Doctor visits in Geneva don’t come cheap, either. You might not have the problems finding a reasonably priced place to live in Geneva, but having a place in Geneva and actually living in Geneva are two totally different things.
2. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman isn’t a city, it’s the largest of the three Cayman Islands and home of the capital, George Town. It’s no surprise that Grand Cayman is so high on this list, since 43 of the 50 largest banks in the entire world are here, and offshore banking is a huge thing here, too. However, while it’s no surprise that this British territory is expensive, it might surprise you when you start to make your budget to move. Your budget for certain things might be lower than you thought, but you’re going to have to make up for that somewhere else, and that somewhere else is probably going to seem a bit random.
First, let’s talk about real estate. While the cost of rent won’t be too bad, utilities are more expensive here than they are anywhere else in the entire world, and that is really saying something. Among the things you can’t get at a higher price anywhere else are: potatoes, dresses, and nice two person dinners. Also, it costs seven dollars for two pounds of apples here, which is unheard of in a lot of places.
1. Zurich, Switzerland
Personally, I find it really appropriate that the most expensive city to live in the entire world is in Switzerland, since Switzerland somehow managed to take up a full third of this list. Zurich in particular is the nation’s capital and has a history that dates back at least two millennia. Zurich has more history than a lot of other cities on this list combined. However, being an old city in a very expensive country does not come cheap, and since Zurich is literally at the very top of this list for the entire world, that’s really saying something.
For one thing, when you apply the US to Swiss conversion rate, a nice lunch in the business district will run you almost thirty US dollars. That’s on par with a modest dinner at a chain restaurant in any of these other cities. It costs more to eat in Zurich than it costs for two Americans to get an entree and appetizer each at a local Applebee’s. Think about that. Dinner in Zurich will run you over double that at nearly eighty US dollars, and the movies cost more here than they do in America, even after you add in 3D and IMAX charges. Honestly, I thought I knew high prices being a New Yorker and my brain can hardly wrap around some of these. It does help that Zurich has a rich cultural tradition and a lot of things to do, and this city is definitely on my “must live in for at least a year” list, but clearly I have a lot of saving up to do, as does anyone who wants to move there.