The rent and cost of living, including food and transportation, in different cities worldwide vary substantially.
According to the largest database of cities in the world, Numbeo, multiple cities from Switzerland cover the top 10 most expensive cities. In contrast, towns from the United States cover most of the 11th to 20th spots.
To give you an overview, here are the top 20 most expensive cities in the world according to cost of living plus rent index!
Most Expensive Cities to Live in the World
If you think international metropolitan cities like New York City or Hong Kong may be ranking 1st, you’re mistaken! Topping Numbeo’s list of the most expensive cities in the world is the beautiful and colorful island of Hamilton, Bermuda, with the cost of living plus rent index of 118.1.
Since not a single thing is produced on the island, transportation costs drive up the price of commodities. It affects the supply of goods and services, increasing the demand while stock is minimal. Whether it be the overall cost of living, rent, groceries, restaurants, or transportation, everything is expensive, making it in the top 0.2% of the most expensive cities in the world.
Zurich, Switzerland, which Numbeo ranked second in the top 10 most expensive cities to live in, in terms of cost of living plus rent, and placed at third most expensive cities for international employees by Mercer 2023 report.
Famous for its luxurious lifestyle and hub for international businesses and banks, there are several other reasons why Zurich is an expensive city. Foods and drinks are mainly imported, so there are high Swiss tariffs, especially because the topography of Zurich is very mountainous and not fitting for farming or agribusiness.
According to Numbeo, the beautiful summer vacation spot in the Cayman Islands has a cost of living 56% higher than that in the United States, mainly shown from its capital city, George Town. The city is the largest in the islands, has been an international business center for the super-wealthy, and doesn’t charge taxes on income, pushing costs up.
With almost everything imported, utilities and food are almost twice the price compared to other countries, and most significantly, the rental price is skyrocketing because of the expensive value of the city due to sought-after tourism.
The United States dominates the world’s top 10 most expensive rent, and New York City tops the list of the highest rent index at 100.
The base reason why New York City is one of the most expensive cities to live in is because of the costly real estate result of the rapid growth of population and demand in the city. In fact, rent can go up to $180,000 monthly in the town.
Compared to New York City, rent in San Francisco is 9% lower and 2.3% lower in terms of consumer prices, yet still at the top rank of the most expensive cities to live in the US.
What drives up the living costs in San Francisco is the skyrocketing housing or real estate, whereas demand needs to meet supply. More than that, utilities, healthcare, and groceries are expensive too.
Since Zug, Switzerland, is currently the city with the highest average monthly net salary globally, the cost of living also pushes up. With this, living in Zug could be more expensive than living in the United States. If ever comes a time you visit Zug, you’ll notice that many things are costly, including the housing, transportation, and even the food and drinks, which are charged at premium costs.
Relatively at the same level as Zurich, Geneva also stands as one of the most expensive cities in the world from Switzerland. But why do they say it’s expensive in Geneva? The wages in the city are high, which pulls up the prices for everything, including food, houses, public transport, education, and groceries. Even entertainment options are pricey too.
8. Basel, Switzerland
Switzerland has some of the top 2% of the world’s most expensive cities, including Basel. According to Hikersbay, average prices of goods and services in Basel, Switzerland, are generally higher than in the United States.
The cost of living in Basel is 25% more expensive than in New York City and 48% more than in Washington. If you’re staying for a few days, you can find hotels 1.29 times more expensive and shopping items to be 1.72 times more than in the United States.
The only Asian country in the list of the top 20 most expensive cities in the world, Singapore has been included in the top 10 most expensive cities to live in — including pricey rent, high cost of buying a house, and expensive goods.
Some key factors contributing to Singapore’s high cost of living are the high transport prices, high inflation, substantial Singaporean dollar value, and land scarcity, making Singapore’s land a prized commodity.
Even car ownership is priced high in the city due to some government law restrictions imposed as they are a small island.
Generally 14.4% lower than Zurich in terms of cost of living, Lausanne is also one of the top most expensive cities in the world and Switzerland. The high cost of living is due to costly accommodations, tourist attractions, pricey food restaurants, higher employee salaries, and less income taxes. Although prices are high, the quality of life is commendable.
According to Salary.com, the cost of living in Oakland, California, is 10.5% lower than in San Francisco, California. Some of the significant aspects that contribute to the high cost of living in the city are the high cost of houses due to its location near the San Francisco Bay Area, the shortage of housing supply, and pricey food and utilities.
Seattle is a very wealthy city, and it is not a shock that it’s one of the 20 most expensive cities in the world. Some major drivers of the high cost of living are high sales tax, the high price of real estate due to zoning regulations imposed and low housing supply, high transportation costs, and taxes.
Like any other city in California, real estate or housing has been the major driving factor to a higher cost of living plus rent in San Diego. Since the Mexican border bounds the town and the Pacific Ocean from both sides, there needs to be more room for further land developments resulting in scarcity, increasing the demand for a higher cost.
San Jose is one of the most flourishing cities in California, with plenty of job opportunities where you can have an affluent lifestyle. However, it is one of the top high-cost-of-living cities in the world due to the thriving job market, especially the tech industry, housing storage, inflation, wealth gap, and the sense of strong demand to live in the city.
Boston is one of the US cities desirable for many professionals and students because of its historical significance driving up the prices for everything. More than that, the geographical location of Boston is quite a problem because it is surrounded by water so land developments would be a challenge increasing the demand for housing and prices after that.
Boston is also known for its high rental prices and the high cost of goods and services, which, according to Numbeo, is 11.4% lower than New York City.
Honolulu is known for its “Aloha spirit” and tourism and its higher cost of living. Foreign investors are piling up their property investments in the city, driving up housing costs; goods and services are shipped into the island charging more transport costs, and taxes and utility fees are overwhelmingly high.
The Numbeo shows that Washington’s consumer goods prices plus rent are 19.6% lower than New York, yet still in the high set of classes.
Washington’s high cost of living is due to several factors, including increased government salaries, less supply of houses compared to people’s demand, and high land values available than economic values.
Los Angeles in California is an attractive city because of the culture, beaches, and climate.
The expensive cost of living in Los Angeles is all due to the high demand but limited housing supply, high taxes, high goods, and services because of extra costs associated with running a business, and high labor costs due to some LA labor laws and union deals.
London in the United Kingdom is a big city and living in a big city means you ought to live a little bit costly. The cost of living in the vibrant town has risen due to inflation, energy prices, rental fees, and other things like entertainment, cinemas, bars, and clubs.
In Miami, there is access to world-class beaches and many recreation opportunities. Still, the cost of living in the city is high, way above the average. It is due to limited housing, increased transportation and food prices, and high taxes.
What Are the Most Expensive Cities to Live in the US?
According to US News, the top three most expensive cities to live in the US for 2023-2024 are San Diego, Los Angeles, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
On the top spot, San Diego has an overall score of 6.2/10, the cost of living at $1,351, an average home price of $919,507, and a median rent of $1,842. At the second rank in Los Angeles, California, with a cost of living of $1,278, a median home price of $836,831, and monthly rent of $1,685. Finally, in the third spot is the city of Honolulu, Hawaii, with $1,499, a median home price of $581,658, and a monthly median rent of $1,870.
Most Expensive Cities to Live in Canada
According to the 2023 Mercer Report, the most expensive cities to live in Canada are Victoria, Vancouver, and Toronto. Vancouver has an average cost of living of $2,298. It is well known for its high housing costs, with the median price for a home ranging from $1,400,000 and above, and the average monthly rent is priced at $2,500.
On the other hand, Toronto has a median cost of living of $2,286. The average monthly rent is priced at $2,279, and the median home pricing is almost $1,000,000. Lastly, Victoria has a cost of living of $1906, a monthly rent of $2095, and a house cost averaging $1,600,000.
What Are the Cheapest Cities in the World?
As per Numbeo’s least cost of living index, the cheapest cities in the world are Islamabad and Karachi in Pakistan and Alexandria in Egypt. According to Numbeo, Islamabad, and Karachi, ‘s cost of living for a single person is estimated at $320 and $312, almost 87% lower than the most expensive city in the world, Hamilton in Bermuda. Rent prices from the two cities are nearly 97% lower than in Hamilton, priced in the $100-$150 monthly range.
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According to CNBC, living in New York is more expensive than living in London—for instance, you need to spend at least $900-9500 in New York to maintain your $7000-7200 lifestyle in London.
According to Forbes, Brownsville, Texas, has the lowest living cost. During the past successive years, it has been frequently seen to be of the top 10 lowest cost-of-living cities. Placing at number six in 2021, three in 2022, and finally at number 1 in 2023.