Singapore and Paris knock Tokyo off top of list of most expensive cities

by Ray Clancy on March 11, 2014

Singapore has been named as the world’s most expensive city, knocking Tokyo off the top spot, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey.

The report compares the cost of living between 131 cities worldwide comparing a basket of goods ranging from household items, alcohol and clothing to petrol and utilities.

singapore flag

Singapore has become the world’s most expensive city over Tokyo and Paris

Expats wondering what their living costs could be will find out from the report that Paris is now the second most expensive city. It is popular with expats from the UK, the United States and Australia.

But baguettes, a glass of beer and bills now cost more after the city moved up six places on the annual list. The report suggests that this is due to recovering European prices and currencies. Other European cities such as Oslo, Zurich, Geneva and Copenhagen are also in the top 20 most expensive cities.

London is ranked 15th most expensive, but expats in the UK looking for a big city with lower living costs could consider Manchester which is ranked 49 and offers better value for money with living costs about 20% cheaper than the capital city.

Mumbai in India offers the best value for money and is joined among the cheapest locations by South Asian cities such as New Delhi, Karachi in Pakistan and Kathmandu in Nepal. Economic instability relating to the civil war and the collapse of the Syrian Pound has placed Damascus among the world’s cheapest cities.

Currencies are important when working out living costs for expats as many are paid in different currency to the country where they live and work. The report points out that the sliding Yen has made Japanese cities cheaper as far as the cost of living is concerned.

Price rises and a stronger currency mean that Singapore has become the world’s most expensive city and Singapore’s rise comes at the expense of Tokyo, traditionally the world’s most expensive city, which is now in sixth place.

While some may point to a 40% appreciation in the value of the Singapore dollar over the last decade as the driver behind Singapore’s current position, the city state is also subject to some structural factors, such as car related costs, which have contributed to rising prices, the report explains. Meanwhile, currency appreciation has cemented Sydney in fifth place and Melbourne in joint 6th.

‘Improving sentiment in structurally expensive European cities combined with the continued rise of Asian hubs means that these two regions continue to supply most of the world’s most expensive cities,’ said Jon Copestake, editor of the report, which looks at over 400 individual prices.

‘But Asian cities also continue to make up many of the world’s cheapest, especially in the Indian subcontinent,’ he added.

But other emerging cities are seeing the cost of living rise. For example, Caracas adds a Latin American flavour to the 10 most expensive, but the report points out that its position is largely due to the imposition of an artificially high official exchange rate. If alternative black market rates were applied Caracas would comfortably become the world’s cheapest city in which to live.

Beyond Caracas the most expensive city in the Americas is New York in 26th place, with the US city becoming more expensive than Vancouver, Canada over the last year.


Thumbnail image for Japan hit by tsunami warning

Japan hit by tsunami warning

December 7, 2012 Japan

Japan is yet again under the cloud of a tsunami warning after an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hit Japan’s east coast. The epicentre of the quake was around 245 km miles south-east of Kamiashi at a depth of 36 km. The US geological survey reported that the shock from the quake was [...]

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Tokyo is most expensive city in the world for expats, survey shows

Tokyo is most expensive city in the world for expats, survey shows

August 14, 2012 General

Tokyo is the world’s most expensive city for expats, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from consultants Mercer which covers 214 cities and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items including transport, food, clothing and household goods. Luanda in Angola is pushed off the top spot into second place and in third [...]

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Expat bankers and finance services workers leaving Japan

Expat bankers and finance services workers leaving Japan

March 18, 2011 Japan

Expat bankers and finance workers are leaving Tokyo in the aftermath of the severe earthquake and the on-going nuclear crisis. A week since the earthquake and tsunami struck staff from BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Morgan Stanley are among the banks whose staff have left.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Think tank urges Japan to be more open to expat workers

Think tank urges Japan to be more open to expat workers

November 30, 2010 Japan

Job opportunities for expats could open up in Japan if the country relaxed its traditionally restrictive immigration system, according to a report from a leading international think tank. A skills shortage means that Japan would benefit from skilled immigration but needs to have a more open system, says the Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR).

Read the full article →

Furnishing your new apartment in Japan

May 28, 2009 Japan

In simple terms there are two groups of people who normally move overseas, those who want to relocate forever and those who move for employment purposes. A new discussion has been opened on the Japan thread which covers the subject of furnishing your apartment. This may sound like a very simple choice, to ship in [...]

Read the full article →

Teaching English in Japan

January 21, 2009 Japan

The Japanese forum is one which seems to get a lot less attention than areas such as Dubai and Spain for example but there are some very interesting posts in the expat forum. This particular post covers an Australian university student who is looking to take some time out before finishing his degree and looking [...]

Read the full article →

Buying a SIM card in Japan

December 25, 2008 Japan

The subject of using mobile phones in Japan and buying SIM cards which will work in the country is a subject which has attracted a number of posters in the Japan Forum. Like so many everyday products and services which we use, many people just assume that a well-known mobile phone brand will work overseas [...]

Read the full article →

Kyoto City Guide

August 15, 2007 Japan

Kyoto, Japan’s old imperial capital, is found in the Middle Western part of the island of Honshu.  It sits about 50 kilometers northeast of Osaka and is roughly the same from Nara.  Kyoto is surrounded by the mountains of Higashiyama,  Kitayama, and Nishiyama on three sides, giving the city hot and stifling summers.  The land [...]

Read the full article →

Yokohama City Guide

August 15, 2007 Japan

The city of Yokohama, or Yokohama-shi, is a bustling metropolis and port in the southern part of the island of Honshū in Japan.  Situated at the western   shore of Tokyo Bay directly south of Tokyo, Yokohama is the capital of the Kanagawa Prefecture in the region of Kantō. It is one of Japan’s major ports, [...]

Read the full article →