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2012 Expat Cost of Living Ranking

Published in October 2012
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  • • Tokyo remains the most expensive city in the world for expats
  • • In Europe, Moscow still leads but is now followed by London
  • • Euro zone cities have disappeared from the top 30

The 2012 cost of living ranking from EuroCost International is based on prices collected in June 2012 and updated with August exchange rates; it compares expat living costs in major locations worldwide, including housing costs.

Tokyo, Luanda and Moscow still the most expensive cities in the world

Tokyo (Japan) remains the world's most expensive city for expats, followed by Luanda (Angola) that has overtaken Moscow this year.

Although the top 3 has hardly evolved, the rest of the ranking has undergone substantial changes.

Part of the evolution comes from the inflation differential between the various countries, but changes are mainly due to exchange rate fluctuations. That is why all euro zone cities have disappeared from the top 30 this year, whereas last year cities like Paris, Helsinki or Amsterdam were still present. The euro has indeed depreciated against most world currencies. The same is true for the Swiss franc and therefore Swiss locations have fallen several places: Geneva is down 5 places to 9th, Zurich has dropped 10 places to 17th, Lausanne 11 places to 21st and Bern has fallen 14 places to 29th.

Another notable fall in the ranking concerns Brazil whose currency has devaluated by 10% against the euro between August 2011 and August 2012. Sao Paulo has thus dropped from 6th to 18th and Rio de Janeiro from 8th to 19th.

On the other hand, the strengthening of the pound sterling has propelled London from 11th to 5th place, just behind Singapore. Similarly, Hong Kong has jumped from 13th to 6th place.

Australian cities have consolidated their position among the most expensive cities in the world: Sydney is 7th and Canberra 12th.

Most expensive cities in 2012 – worldwide ranking
1 Tokyo Japan (1)
2 Luanda Angola (3)
3 Moscow Russia (2)
4 Singapore Singapore (5)
5 London United Kingdom (11)
6 Hong Kong Hong Kong (13)
7 Sydney Australia (9)
8 Port Moresby Papua New Guinea
9 Geneva Switzerland (4)
10 Kinshasa Congo, Dem. Rep. (20)
11 Oslo Norway (12)
12 Canberra Australia (16)
13 Shanghai China (21)
14 Beirut Lebanon (22)
15 Seoul South Korea (18)
16 Beijing China (24)
17 Zurich Switzerland (7)
18 Sao Paulo Brazil (6)
19 Rio de Janeiro Brazil (8)
20 Caracas Venezuela (43)
21 Lausanne Switzerland (10)
22 New York United States (29)
23 Guangzhou China (33)
24 Honiara Solomon Islands (53)
25 Kiev Ukraine (32)
26 Copenhagen Denmark (19)
27 Almaty Kazakhstan (37)
28 Bogota Colombia (36)
29 Berne Switzerland (15)
30 Brasilia Brazil (14)


Moscow remains Europe's most expensive city for expats. London is second, followed by Geneva. Switzerland is well represented in the top part of the ranking with Zurich, Lausanne, Bern and Basel. Oslo ranks 4th, between Geneva and Zurich.

Ukrainian capital, Kiev, has jumped 8 places to reach rank 7th, mainly due to the reinforcement of its currency that has gained nearly 15% against the euro.

At the bottom of the ranking, the cheapest European cities are Pristina (Kosovo), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Bucharest (Romania).

Most expensive cities in 2012 – European ranking
1 Moscow Russia
2 London United Kingdom
3 Geneva Switzerland
4 Oslo Norway
5 Zurich Switzerland
6 Lausanne Switzerland
7 Kiev Ukraine
8 Copenhagen Denmark
9 Berne Switzerland
10 Stockholm Sweden
11 Basel Switzerland
12 Paris France
13 Helsinki Finland
14 Istanbul Turkey
15 Gothenburg Sweden
16 Rome Italy
17 Amsterdam Netherlands
18 Vienna Austria
19 Malmö Sweden
20 Milan Italy


Cost of living for expats varies a lot from one location to another across the African continent. Availability of some goods and services can make the difference; the same is true for adequacy between demand and supply.

Angola is the most expensive African country for expats: its capital, Luanda, is 2nd in worldwide ranking.

At the other hand of this ranking, cities like Tunis, Niamey (Niger) or Banjul (Gambia) are amongst the cheapest.

The ranking of this part of the world can quickly evolve: exchange rate fluctuations or inflation surge can rapidly alter the cost of living level of a country.


Despite the devaluation of the Brazilian currency since last year, the major two Brazilian cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the most expensive locations of the American continent.

Caracas (Venezuela) has surged 23 places to reach the 3rd place of the American ranking. New York has gained 7 places and remains the United States most expensive place. Vancouver tops the ranking for Canadian cities, followed by Toronto.

The cheapest cities of the American continent are Managua (Nicaragua) and La Paz (Bolivia).

Asia and Middle East

Tokyo remains the world's most expensive city for expats, unchallenged. Behind, several Asian cities have well progressed. Singapore is 4th and Hong Kong 6th. With a reinforcing currency, Chinese cities have climbed the ranking: Shanghai and Beijing, respectively 13th and 16th, have gained 8 places and Guanzhou has gained 10 places to reach 23rd.

Indian cities have dropped places because of a devaluating currency; Mumbai, India's most expensive city, has dropped from 27th to 40th. The cheapest Asia cities for expats are Kathmandu (Nepal), Pune (India) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan).

The most expensive city in Middle East is still Beirut, well ahead from Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. The cheapest city in the region is Sanaa (Yemen's capital).


EuroCost International’s cost of living surveys aim at comparing the cost of living for expatriates worldwide. They cover the whole basket of goods and services consumed by expatriates, excepted health and school costs (specific reports are provided for the latter).

The ranking is based on surveys conducted in June 2012 and includes rent costs. It should be noted that the rent prices used in this study are those paid by expatriates and that they are not representative for average rents paid by local inhabitants of the surveyed locations.

Rent prices used for this ranking are average rents for different types of housing favoured by expatriates and collected in the specific areas where they live. In some cities, prices for a specific type of housing can significantly differ from one area to another. This is for example the case for London, Mumbai or New York. Detailed information per city can be obtained in EuroCost International’s rent surveys.