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The Ten Most Expensive Cities for Expats

The cost of living is usually one of the primary factors that people keep in mind when making the decision to move to a foreign country. However, there are some nations that are more expensive for expatriates than for the locals, especially when the average income for foreigners is taken into consideration. Read on to find out about the top 10 most expensive cities for expats across the globe, according to a report published by Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI) in Singapore.10. Sydney

In the last few years, Australia has gained the reputation of an expensive expat destination, mainly because its local currency has become stronger and rental prices have gone up significantly. Sydney ranks as the most costly city in the country, followed by Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Even the local population often complains about having to stretch their household income.

Rents in Sydney are very high because of a shortage of property. Most expats living in this city spend around 30% of their incomes just for an average-sized house or apartment. People pay anywhere between AU $1100 (US $793, £538, €728) and AU $1400 (US $1010, £685, €927) per month for a two-bedroom unit, depending upon the location.

Expats with a permanent residency qualify for Medicare, which is highly affordable. However, other foreigners must have private health insurance, which costs more than AU $500 (US $360, £244, €331) per month.

Expenses in Sydney are significantly higher for students or families with children, even though public education is cheap and of good quality. However, expats who prefer to send their children to private or international schools pay up to AU $20,000 (US $14420, £9784, €13234) per year.

The cost of groceries, utilities, traveling and entertainment is more or less on par with other developed cities across the world.

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9. Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Mein, Germany’s highly industrialized financial hub, is also one of the most expensive cities in country, and ranks 9th in the world in terms of cost of living. This city has an affluent multicultural population, which is one reason why the cost of living is so high. An individual should have a net income of at least €2000 (US $2178, £1477) per month to get by comfortably. Families with children will need a higher income.

Like in most other developed cities, people pay around 30% of their income towards rent. A 2-bedroom house or apartment can cost anywhere between €850 (US $926, £628) and €1600 (US $1743, £1182) per month. Most rentals include some amount of utility expenses too.

The quality of healthcare across Germany is excellent, and everyone living in this country, including expats, must have health insurance. People can opt for public insurance, which is much cheaper, or private insurance if their income is on the higher side.

Traveling in Frankfurt is cheap as long as people use public transport, which is excellent. There are several schemes and passes that allow people to save a considerable amount of money when using public transport. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to own a car to get around in the city. Those who wish to drive should remember that parking fees and petrol costs will increase their monthly expenditure considerably.

While public schools are cheap in Frankfurt, they aren’t a viable option for most foreigners, because the language of education is German. Expats usually pay a hefty fee to send their children to international schools.

8. Oslo

Norway is well-known for being among the most expensive countries in the world. For years now, almost all global surveys have featured its capital, Oslo, as one of the costliest places to live in. Since high salaries offset most of the living costs, the locals rarely complain about the taxes and prices they have to pay. However, expats moving to this city may experience a bit of a shock to the wallet.

Housing is expensive in Oslo, and some people pay up to 50% of their salaries in rentals. Many residents have no choice but to lease their homes outside the city. The rent for an apartment could vary anywhere between NOK 9,000 (US $1017, £691, €934) and NOK 20000 (US $2261, £1534, €2075) per month, depending upon location and size.

Since most food items are imported into the country, there is a 14% VAT on them, which increases their cost to a great extent. Due to limited dining options, eating out also becomes a very expensive affair. Many residents actually drive down to Sweden for shopping, to save about 20% on food staples.

7. London

For decades, London has been described as one of the most expensive cities to live in, and most people from Asia and North America who have visited or lived here will definitely agree with this assessment. Of course, salaries in this city as also fairly high compared to those in other places.

Considering the huge demand for rental property across all the zones of the city, it is only natural for expats to pay high housing costs. Even a studio apartment in a decent location will cost approximately £1200 (US $1770, €1623) per month. People pay around £2000 (US $2946, €2705) a month for a 2-bedroom apartment. This usually does not include utilities like water, electricity, gas, cable, and council tax; these latter expenses could easily account for almost £1000 (US $1473, €1353) a month.

Food prices in London are generally much higher (at least 20%) than the US, Europe, and Asia. A meal for one person at a reasonably priced restaurant costs around £15 (US $22, €21). Shopping for food in cheaper supermarkets helps cut down grocery bills to a great extent.

Tuition fees for studying in a university in London are approximately £12000 (US $17700, €16230) per year. This may vary significantly, depending upon the university and course chosen.

Travelling by taxi in London is very expensive, although the rise of affordable cab apps is beginning to ease this to some extent. Owning a car in London is not generally necessary due to the excellent public transport system, which is also a far more reasonably priced way of getting around.

6. Tokyo

This Asian city features in almost every global survey as one of the most expensive places around the world. The cost of living for expats in Tokyo continues to rise every year as the Yen gets stronger against the US Dollar. It is recommended that an individual should have an income of at least ¥150000 (US $1263, £855, €1155) per month to live comfortably in Tokyo. While this amount may be relatively low compared to Europe and North America, it is quite high for expats from Asia.

The residents have a wide variety of housing options to choose from, depending upon their budgets. There is a stark difference in rental costs of new and old apartments. People can pay anywhere between ¥35600 (US $300, £203, €275) and ¥178150 (US $1500, £1015, €1372) per month, depending upon the size, type, and location of the apartment they are leasing.

Food isn’t as expensive as most people believe, since it is easy to find good deals in many eating establishments. In fact, those who can survive on a diet of ramen may save a considerable amount of money by eating out regularly. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood are more costly.

Commuting and traveling in Japan is expensive, even for those who use public transport. Owning a vehicle turns out to be so costly that most people decide they just cannot afford it.

5. Geneva

Switzerland is definitely one of the costliest nations in the world, and Geneva is its 2nd most expensive city. Fortunately, the high salaries offset the expenditure that residents incur on a monthly basis.

Since there is a severe shortage of rental accommodation across the city, landlords are free to charge a premium for leasing out their housing properties. Many of them ask for a security deposit that is equal to three months’ rent. People pay anywhere between CHF 1600 (US $1610, £1090, €1472) and CHF 4000 (US $4024, £2725, €3681) for monthly accommodation.

Expats living in this country with their families also spend a lot of money on their children’s education. School fees are approximately CHF 20000 (US $20120, £13613, €18406) per year. This does not include the cost of uniforms, books, stationery, and extracurricular activities.

Most eating establishments, bars, cafes, and clubs across Switzerland are quite expensive. Leisure activities and eating out further increase an expat’s monthly expenditure to a great extent.

4. Singapore

The cost of living in this country continues to remain high and rises further every year, making Singapore more expensive than several European and American cities. Fortunately, professional salaries and benefits match the cost and standard of living in this city. On the downside, many expats from other Asian countries have begun accepting jobs at a lower salary or with reduced benefits in Singapore. This is beginning to have an adverse impact on the income-expenditure index.

The main factors that increase the cost of living in Singapore include accommodation, private health insurance, international school fees, and commuting by taxi. Since most consumer products available in this country are imported, food items can be quite expensive too.

Many expats in Singapore save a considerable amount of money by opting for public housing, schooling, and transport.

3. Zurich

Even those who earn and live in Switzerland find Zurich very expensive. The minimum recommended salary for a couple living in this city is around CHF 5000 (US $5026, £3400, €4600) per month.

Apart from high accommodation, food, transport, and education costs, residents of Zurich have to pay high taxes, insurance premiums, and license fees. Even though the living cost is mitigated by substantial salaries, high purchasing power, and excellent quality of life, it is essential for expats to plan their expenses carefully.

Certain expenses are unique to the residents of Zurich. These include:

– Purchase of tickets to transport bicycles on a train
– Yearly dog taxes and mandatory training sessions (cost may vary by location)
– Garbage bags taxed by the council
– License fees for television and radio
– Health insurance, which doesn’t include dental care
– Public parking charges for all vehicle owners, even in front of one’s own residence

Swiss law has made it mandatory for all residents, including expats, to have private healthcare, which is very expensive.

Traveling, eating out, sightseeing, and most other leisure activities are also very expensive across the country, including in Zurich.

2. New York

The United States of America’s most popular city is home to more than 8 million people from all around the world. New York is still one of the most common tourist and expat destinations for people across the globe. Factors that make this city expensive are rent, commuting (by taxi), utilities, and eating out. Groceries across the US are relatively cheap compared to Europe.

Since New York is usually the first port of call for expats moving to the US, accommodation in many areas is considerably more expensive than in the rest of the country. Even though prices are on the rise, properties sell and are rented quickly. People can pay anywhere between US $900 (£610, €825) and US $6000 (£4060, €5500) per month for accommodation, depending upon the type, size, and location of the unit.

On average, a person’s monthly grocery bill comes to US $200 or so. This mainly includes fruits, vegetables, meat, and local food products. Many expats spend a lot more on groceries because they buy food items that have been imported from their home countries.

1. Caracas

Venezuela’s capital is also its largest and most expensive city. This exciting place offers a great expat experience, from its scenic beauty to its high standard of living.

This does come at a premium, however. Caracas is considered the most expensive city to live in for expats, mainly because the Venezuelan Bolivar is fixed to the US Dollar. Moreover, problems like shortages and hoarding of most items, from housing to everyday products, have increased the cost of almost everything across the country.

Have you lived in any of these cities? How did you find the cost of living? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: [1], [2]