Currency fluctuations are contributing to the cost of living for expats, which makes sending an employee abroad increasingly expensive.

According to a comprehensive survey on the costs of expat packages from global firm Mercer, Asian and European cities are the most expensive in the world.


The firm’s 21st annual Cost of Living Survey shows that while the capital of Angola, Luanda, is the most expensive, Hong Kong takes second place, followed by Zurich, Singapore and Geneva.

Shanghai is sixth, followed by Beijing, Seoul, Bern and N’Djamena to complete the top 10, while the world’s least expensive cities for expats are Bishkek at 207, followed by Windhoek and Karachi.

The survey uses New York as the base city, with all other cities compared against it. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar and the comparative cost of more than 200 items is measured in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

Cities in the United States climbed dramatically in the cost of living ranking due to the strengthening of the US dollar against other major currencies. While New York (16), the highest-ranked city in the region, remained the same as last year, cities on the West Coast, including Los Angeles (36) and Seattle (106) climbed 26 and 47 places, respectively.

Among other major US cities, Chicago (42) moved up 43 places, Washington, DC (50) moved up 42 places, Honolulu (52) moved up 45 places, and Houston (92) moved up 51 places. Cleveland (133) and Winston-Salem (157) were among the less expensive cities in the US.

In South America, Buenos Aires (19) climbed 67 places to rank as the costliest South American city this year due to a strong price increase for goods and services. The Argentinean capital and financial hub is followed by São Paolo (40) and Rio de Janeiro (67). Other cities in South America that rose on the list of costliest cities for expatriates include Santiago (70) and Managua (199).

Canadian cities dropped in this year’s ranking with the country’s highest-ranked city, Vancouver (119), falling 23 places. Toronto (126) dropped 25 spots, while Montreal (140) and Calgary (146) fell 17 and 21 spots, respectively.

Moscow (50) and St. Petersburg (152) dropped 41 and 117 spots, respectively, as a result of Russia’s rouble losing significant value against the US dollar, lower oil prices, and a lack of confidence in the currency following Western sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.

Aside from cities in the United Kingdom, Western European cities dropped in the rankings mainly due to the weakening of local currencies against the US dollar. While London (12) remained steady, Aberdeen (82) and Birmingham (80) rose in the ranking. Paris (46), Vienna (56), and Rome (59) fell in the ranking by 19, 24, and 28 spots, respectively. The German cities of Munich (87), Frankfurt (98), and Berlin (106) dropped significantly as did Dusseldorf (114) and Hamburg (124).

As a result of local currencies depreciating against the US dollar, most cities in Eastern and Central Europe fell in the ranking as well. Prague (142), Budapest (170), and Minsk (200) dropped 50, 35, and 9 spots, respectively, despite stable accommodations in these locations.

Tel Aviv (18) continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (23), Abu Dhabi (33), and Beirut (44), which have all climbed in this year’s ranking. Jeddah (151) continues to be the least expensive city in the region despite rising 24 places.

Australian cities have continued to fall in the ranking due to the depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar. Sydney (31), Australia’s most expensive city for expatriates dropped 5 places in the ranking along with Melbourne (47) and Perth (48) which fell 14 and 11 spots, respectively.