The World’s Most Expensive Cities (and Why They’re Worth It)

  • luxury hub
  • 02/23/21
If you’re considering a move or just a vacation, check out these expensive cities and learn why they’re so pricey — and why they’re worth the hype. 
Cost of living is a big factor for most of us when deciding where to live, work, and raise our families. Cost of living is determined by comparing the expenses of an average person. It takes food, energy, clothing, transportation, housing costs, healthcare, childcare, entertainment, and education into consideration and tracks how much it costs to live in certain areas based on these expenses. Smaller towns often have a lower cost of living than large ones, but many people find that the amenities and career opportunities in big cities justify the higher cost.
Wonder if your city makes the list of the world’s most expensive cities to live in? Here are the top ten and how their cost is justified.
Eiffel Tower at Paris, France

1. Paris

Paris tops the list of most expensive cities to live in due to high real estate prices that trickle down into high retail prices. However, those who live and work in Paris also make comparatively higher wages that allow them to live in a more expensive city. For those 2.5 million people who live in the City of Light, paying extra to live there is well worth it due to the benefits, taxes, and health care, as well as the extraordinary history, architecture, and rich culture of food and entertainment.
Not everything is overly expensive in Paris, either. The cost of a bottle of table wine is less expensive in this city compared to other European towns, and transportation is also relatively affordable.

2. Hong Kong

High housing prices have kept Hong Kong near the top of the list of most expensive cities for the past few years. The fourth-most densely populated city in the world, Hong Kong has too much demand for the amount of housing on offer and very little space left to develop into future housing. For those in the financial industry, though, this high cost of living could well be worth it, as Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading international financial centers. Hong Kong also tops the list of safest cities in the world and also has a local education system that is beyond compare.
landscape photo of cityscape

3. Zurich

In contrast to Hong Kong, where the cost of housing drives up the cost of living, Zurich ranks near the top of the list due to its cost of goods and services. Groceries, entertainment, clothing, transportation, and health insurance are all expensive in this Swiss city, though lower taxes and education costs somewhat balance them. Living in Zurich usually does mean a higher salary than in other countries, and these high salaries lead to a high standard of living that includes luxury shopping, world-class restaurants, and a low crime rate. For those who picture skiing in the Alps during the winter and exploring a historic old town during mild summer months, Zurich very well may be worth the price.

4. Singapore

The cost of living in Singapore is elevated due to one factor: the cost of buying and operating a car. Singapore’s government controls car ownership and only issues a limited number of permits. Permits cost as much as $37,000 and are valid for ten years. The cost of purchasing a vehicle is also high, with small SUVs running upwards of $74,000. If you don’t need a car (or can afford to pay the steep prices to get one), you’ll find plenty of reasons to love Singapore, including the tropical weather, inexpensive public transportation, low income taxes, and low crime rate. It’s also just a short plane jaunt from exotic destinations like Bali, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.
people standing between buildings at night

5. Osaka

The hub of Western Japan’s commerce and culture, Osaka is a beautiful and exciting city to live in. It’s also expensive, mostly due to the high cost of clothing, food, and recreation. It’s well worth the extra money, though, as Osaka has been the cultural and political center of Japan since the 17th century and offers plenty of amazing historical locations to visit. It’s also well-connected to beautiful beaches and rivers and has some of the most diverse and delicious cuisines in the world. Keep in mind that Osaka also embraces the bargaining culture, so you can always haggle to get a better price on some of your goods (and meet some locals while doing it!).

6. Tel Aviv

Currency appreciation and the sky-high transportation costs are two of the reasons why Tel Aviv, the only Middle Eastern city on this list, is so expensive. Though there is plenty of unrest in this Israeli metropolis, it still has plenty going for it, including stunning beaches, plenty of cultural amenities, and a nightlife that some describe as being second to none. It’s also small compared to the other cities on the list, making it an easy and enjoyable place to explore on foot when the weather cooperates.

7. New York

New York City routinely makes the list of most expensive places to live in the world, due mostly to its high housing costs (the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,500 and buying a home in Manhattan routinely costs more than $1 million). The costs for parking a car, eating at restaurants, and buying groceries are also more expensive than most other cities. However, the booming economy, diversity, energy, and landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station make New York one of the most exciting places in the world to live. If you really can’t afford to live in Manhattan itself, you can choose from one of its seven boroughs, where rents drop to a more manageable $1,100-$1250 per month. Even in the furthest suburb, those who work downtown can still get to work in the city in less than an hour.
Some of the world’s most expensive cities are also the most exciting places to live, work, and play. If you have the bankroll, visit one of these pricey cities first to see if you might enjoy relocating and embracing a culture of luxury.

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