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World’s most expensive cities for expats 2023: Singapore ranks top 5

Singapore break into the top five as the world's most expensive cities for expat in 2023 (Photo: Bloomberg)
Singapore break into the top five as the world's expensive cities for expat in 2023 (Photo: Bloomberg) (Bloomberg)

By Nurin Sofia

(Bloomberg) — New York has leapfrogged Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive city to live in as an expat, while skyrocketing rents saw Singapore crash into the top five, according to a new study.

Soaring inflation and rising accommodation costs were cited as reasons for New York topping ECA International’s Cost of Living Rankings for 2023, while Geneva and London remained in third and fourth places.

lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., on Thursday June 17, 2021. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg
lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., on Thursday June 17, 2021. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

Singapore climbed from 13th place last year to break into the top five for the first time. That move bucks a general trend among Asian cities of slipping down the rankings, partly attributed to lower rates of inflation relative to other regions.

The Southeast Asian financial hub’s rise “was due largely to major increases in accommodation costs,” said ECA International’s Regional Director for Asia, Lee Quane. Increased demand for rental homes, partially driven by the earlier relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions compared to other key locations in the region, was not matched by corresponding increases in the supply of accommodation.

The biggest riser of the year was Istanbul, which climbed 95 spots to 108th place, on the back of an 80% surge in prices driven by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s economic policies, according to the report.

Vendors and shoppers inside the Great Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday, May 15, 2023. Photographer: Moe Zoyari/Bloomberg
Vendors and shoppers inside the Great Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday, May 15, 2023. Photographer: Moe Zoyari/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

The survey also found:

  • Dubai rents rose by almost one third on an influx of Russian expatriates, pushing the city up to 12th place

  • While most European cities rose in rankings, Norwegian and Swedish cities fell on weak currencies and French cities slipped on lower inflation rates compared to EU peers

  • Chinese cities fell in the rankings due to the impact of a weaker currency and lower inflation rates relative to other countries

  • Rankings for all US cities surged on the strong dollar and high inflation, with San Francisco breaking into the top 10

ECA International analyzes the cost of consumer goods and services, factoring in rental costs in areas typically inhabited by expats, to rank 207 cities in 120 countries and territories around the world.

Customers outside restaurants in the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife area in Hong Kong. Photographer: Bertha Wang/Bloomberg
Customers outside restaurants in the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife area in Hong Kong. Photographer: Bertha Wang/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

These are the world’s top 20 most expensive places for expats to live (with the 2022 rankings in parentheses):

  1. New York, US (2022 ranking: 2)

  2. Hong Kong, China (1)

  3. Geneva, Switzerland (3)

  4. London, UK (4)

  5. Singapore (13)

  6. Zurich, Switzerland (7)

  7. San Francisco, US (11)

  8. Tel Aviv, Israel (6)

  9. Seoul, South Korea (10)

  10. Tokyo, Japan (5)

  11. Bern, Switzerland (16)

  12. Dubai, UAE (23)

  13. Shanghai, China (8)

  14. Guangzhou, China (9)

  15. Los Angeles, US (21)

  16. Shenzhen, China (12)

  17. Beijing, China (14)

  18. Copenhagen, Denmark (18)

  19. Abu Dhabi, UAE (22)

  20. Chicago, US (25)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.