Hong Kong Named The Most Expensive Expat City



Hong Kong has topped an annual expat city cost of living index published by recruitment consultants and professional services provider Mercer.

Hong Kong is closely followed by Tokyo, Zurich and Singapore.

The survey is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation strategies for their expatriate employees.

New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

Last year’s chart topper Luanda, in Angola, came off the top spot after its housing market fell back.

Other cities appearing in the top 10 of the lists are Seoul, Luanda, Shanghai, N’Djamena, Beijing, and Bern.

The world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tashkent, Uzbekistan (209th), Tunis, Tunisia (208th), and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (207th).

Regional Watch: Asia

A strong Chinese economy and push to reinforce regulations, coupled with Beijing’s efforts to position the Renminbi as an international currency, have all contributed to Hong Kong’s ascendance this year.

Mumbai is India’s most expensive city at 55, while Kolkata is the cheapest in 182nd place.

Australian expat centres Brisbane and Perth fell 13 and 11 spots, respectively, to rank 84th and 61st.

Sydney, the country’s most expensive city, fell five places to 29th.


Switzerland is the best represented European nation in the upper echelons of the rankings with Geneva ranking just outside the top 10 behind Zurich and Bern.

Overall, Western European cities have all risen in the rankings, a result of strong local currencies against the US dollar and the rising cost of goods and services.

Cities in Germany experienced some of this year’s biggest surges in the ranking. Frankfurt rose 49 spots to 68th, Berlin was also up 49 places to 71st and Munich climbed 41 rungs to 57th.

In the UK Birmingham went up 19 places from last year to 128th, Belfast jumped 18 spots to 152nd, Aberdeen climbed 12 places to 134th and London jumped 10 spots to rank 19th.

As for other major European cities, Paris made it to 34th, up 28 places from last year; Rome shot up 34 spots to reach 46th; Madrid jumped 47 places to reach 64th and Vienna rose 39 places to rank 39th.

Middle East

A cooling property market in the Middle East contributed to more affordable lifestyles across the region compared to 2017.

Tel Aviv, ranked 16th, continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (26th), Abu Dhabi (40th), and Riyadh (45th).


Oil rich Luanda is still Africa’s most expensive city for expats, having first topped the rankings in 2015.

N’Djamena, Chad ranked eighth; Libreville, Gabon is 18th; followed by Brazzaville, Congo at 19th.

According to the World Economic Forum, the high cost of living in Luanda is not reflected for locals.

For example, having emerged from a 30-year civil war in 2002, quality expat-style housing is still in short supply.

However, since 2002, Luanda has boomed with oil corporations offering bumper cost-of-living allowances to entice workers to Angola.

Trudi Hayes

The Author

Trudi Hayes

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