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The 10 Most Expensive Cities for Expats in 2021

by Olivia Harden Jun 23, 2021

It’s no secret that expat life can be expensive depending on the city and country you choose, yet exactly which cities take the biggest toll on your bank account may come as a surprise. According to this year’s Mercer Cost of Living Survey, the three most expensive cities for expats are: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; Hong Kong, China; and Beirut, Lebanon.

The annual Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks the affordability of 209 cities worldwide. Factors include housing, transportation, food, and entertainment, and Mercer uses New York City as the baseline — so not a low starting point.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, which ranked number two in 2020, climbed to the top of the ranks in 2021. This is primarily due to the country’s current financial crisis and hyperinflation, according to CNN. Ashgabat pushed Hong Kong, which topped the list last year, into the number two spot.

One of the most drastic changes to the ranking is where Beirut, Lebanon, lands. In 2020, the city was number 45. Now it’s number three, which is also due to an ongoing financial crisis. The rest of the top 10 each only changed by one or two points from 2020, and are all major business hubs.

The world’s 10 most expensive cities for expats in 2021 are:

  • Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  • Hong Kong, China
  • Beirut, Lebanon
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Zurich Switzerland
  • Shanghai, China
  • Singapore, Singapore
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • Beijing, China
  • Bern, Switzerland

New York, the baseline city, ranked number six in 2020. It dropped out of the top 10 and now rests at 14. Paris, which previously sat at number 50, is now number 33. Cities in Switzerland, unsurprisingly, appear three times in the top 10.

The five at the bottom of the list (205-209) are:

  • Brasilia, Brazil
  • Tunis, Tunisia
  • Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Lusaka, Zambia
  • Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Check the full list — it may help you decide what your next big move will be.

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