The most expensive cities in the world

According to the Economist, among the top ten there are three Asian, three American and four European: to find an Italian one you have to go below the top twenty (and it’s the one you think)

The Economist publishes the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey every year , a ranking of the cost of living in various cities around the world which establishes which are the most expensive and the least expensive. This year, Singapore and Zurich tied for first place, two cities that have historically always been considered among the most expensive. In third place is Geneva. At the bottom of the ranking are cities in medium-poor countries, where the cost of living is linked to a lack of economic development or complex political situations, such as wars and authoritarian regimes: in last place is Damascus, in Syria, preceded by Tehran, in Iran, and from Tripoli, in Libya.

For two years the list has been quite disrupted by inflation , i.e. by the fact that prices continue to increase everywhere since mid-2021 and to different extents depending on the country: the Economist survey , conducted between August 14 and September 11, found that prices on the monitored products increased on average by 7.4 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

The ranking is constructed through the development of an index that summarizes the prices of over 200 commonly used products representative of the cost of living, such as food, drinks, clothing, bills, household and personal care items, rents and mortgages , transport, school fees, restaurant dinners, cinema tickets and so on. The term of comparison is the cost of living in the city of New York, notoriously one of the most expensive in the world, which has an index equal to 100 and which is the basis for all the others: the cities that have an index higher than 100 are on average more expensive, on the contrary those with an index lower than 100 are cheaper.

The cost of living index map. Source: Economist

More expensive than New York are only the cities in the first two places in the ranking, namely Singapore and Zurich, which have a score of 104.

Singapore has ranked as the most expensive place to live in 9 of the last 11 years: among the most expensive goods are food, alcohol and clothes. Owning a car is also very expensive, because the government has imposed rather high taxes on vehicle ownership which can even exceed 100 thousand dollars.

Singapore’s financial center (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Zurich is also a city historically considered very expensive: it was first in the ranking in 2020 and always ranks among the top ten positions. Compared to last year, it rose five positions, mainly due to the strong appreciation of the Swiss franc: in the last year the currency has gained more than 10 percent against the dollar.

This greatly influences the ranking, because the comparison between cities is made with prices in dollars: and with the Swiss franc being worth more, more and more dollars are needed to live in Zurich. Net of this recent factor, Zurich is still a city where living is generally very expensive: among the components that penalize it the most are the price of food, the cost of houses and the cost of frequenting clubs and restaurants.

Zurich’s historic center (Joern Pollex/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

In third place is Geneva, tied with New York. They were then followed by Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Paris, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv and San Francisco. Overall, in the top ten there are three Asian cities, three American and four European cities.

To find an Italian city you have to go below the top twenty positions in the ranking: Milan is twenty-second with 80 points; Rome is the fiftieth with 72. They are the only two Italian cities monitored by the Economist.

– Read also: Why house prices in Milan are so high

US cities are, on average, those that have lost the most positions compared to last year, because inflation has been lower than in other countries. The opposite occurred in the cities of Latin America and Western Europe, where inflation was higher on average. The cities that have risen the most in the ranking are in order: Santiago de Querétaro and Aguascalientes in Mexico, which have gained 10 positions, and San Josè in Costa Rica with 9; then there are all European cities, such as Berlin, Luxembourg, Manchester, Prague, Lyon, Rotterdam and Stuttgart.

The cheapest city in the ranking is Damascus, like last year: it has a score of 13 points, which means that living there costs just over a tenth of that of living in New York. And this despite the fact that prices in terms of local currency have increased by 321 percent in one year (meaning they have more than quadrupled). Above Damascus are Tehran with 20 points and Tripoli with 23 points. The latter three cities are particularly economical for groceries, as well as home and personal care products.

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