These Are The Most Expensive (And Best) Cities Around The World

Tyler Durden's picture

Every year Deutsche Bank releases its fascinating index of real-time prices around the world which looks at the cost of goods and services from a purchase-price parity basis, to determine the most expensive - and in this year's edition, best - cities. As have done on several occasions in the past, we traditionally focus on one specific subindex: the cost of "cheap dates" in the world's top cities.

The index consists of i) cab rides, ii) dinner/lunch for two at a pub or diner, iii) soft drinks, iv) two movie tickets and a v) couple of beers. Deutsche Bank's advice to those in Zurich is either to marry young or choose your blind dates carefully as its "cheap date" index continues to see Zurich as the most expensive place for courtship. Tokyo climbs to second and Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm make up the top 5. Indeed these 5 cities are also the most expensive for a haircut so the pre-date investment costs are also high!

If you're in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Mexico a date is around a quarter of the cost of that in Zurich and a haircut about a tenth of the price. So if you're young, free and single in Zurich, depending on how much you date it might be profitable to migrate to parts of Asia even after the salary sacrifice, the German bank suggests.

And while traditionally we end it here, focusing merely on the most (and least) expensive cities part of the study, this year it is worth expanding because what started off as a pet project for Jim Reid back in 2011 has turned into a purchase-price parity masterpiece, as well as a crowdsourced "quality of life" index, which ranks some 50 of the world's top cities on par with any of the rankings seen in various other, more popular rankings such as that by Mercer. As the London-based banker writes, "We continue to add new cities, refine our methodology and while it’s impossible to exactly match products and services around the world we try to ensure as much uniformity as possible and then convert prices back to USD."

Some further details:

This year Deutsche has added a few new series. In particular average after-tax salaries, average 2-bed apartment rental costs and finally a quality-of-life index that is the most subjective measure in the report and will probably cause most arguments, debates and disagreements. A lot of the data in the report is crowdsourced (including this new quality-of-life index). Wellington, NZ comes out on top out of the 47 cities we cover based on purchasing power, crime, healthcare, cost of living, house prices, commuting time, pollution and climate. Edinburgh, Vienna, Melbourne, Zurich and Copenhagen are next. Of our 47 cities, the 'mega cities' like Tokyo (rank 27), NYC (28), Paris (30), London (33), Shanghai (37) and Mumbai (45) rank very low mostly due to high living costs, crime, pollution and commuting time. Megacity dwellers may also forsake short-term quality of life for aspirational reasons with these cities providing more upside rewards from the average for those most successful.

Looking simply at most expensive cities, Reid finds that Zurich remains the most expensive place to do and buy a lot of things but does have the highest average salaries, followed by several US cities and then Sydney. London has slipped out of the top 10 post the Brexit-FX fall.  

Rents are highest in San Fran, HK, NYC, London and then Zurich. Of note: the difference for a 2 bedroom rental between the most expensive city, San Francisco, and India's Bangalore, when indexed in USD is a whopping 12 times.

Zurich is home to the highest ‘disposable income after rents’ and at the top of the purchasing power index.

However it might depend on how many dates and haircuts you have in a month (see top chart) as to how wealthy you feel. At the other end of the scale if you're in Jakarta, Manila, Rio, New Delhi and Istanbul and a job comes up in Zurich then you could potentially increase your salary by ten-fold. Mind the cost of living increases though.


Global brands continue to be relatively cheaper in the US than across its DM peers. The top 10 most expensive regions across goods and services remain dominated by European cities. Swiss and Nordic/Scandinavian cities in particular require a tolerant bank manager to enable consumption. If you find yourself on holiday in Turkey, Brazil, Russia or Greece try to avoid the Apple store as iPhones are  25-50% more expensive than in the US - still the cheapest place to buy. Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Canada only see a small premium over US prices.


The "weekend getaway" index reflects the general cost of living around the world but is perhaps biased by hotel costs.

Milan is the new number-one (very expensive hotels), followed by Copenhagen, Zurich, London, Stockholm, Vienna and NYC. Much lower hotel costs in Asia continue to keep these cities as attractive holiday destinations.

The 'bad habits' index of cigarettes and beers is most costly in Australia, NZ and Singapore. At the opposite end of the spectrum it’s very cheap to indulge in such habits in the Czech Republic and South Africa.

If you relocate to Singapore, Copenhagen or Oslo consider a bike rather than a new car as duties etc. make the cost very prohibitive.

Avoid car rentals in Amsterdam and try not to get thirsty in Oslo (beer or coke)...

... and refrain from buying jeans and trainers in Copenhagen.

Petrol costs most in HK and public transport most in London.

Zurich also tops the rankings for most expensive movie tickets, while those who want to stay in shape will spend the most in Tokyo (with Zurich 2nd).

Hungry? A basic dinner will set up back some $73.70 in Zurich, while a full course dinner for two is most expensive in Oslo and costs just about $130.

Finally, new to this year’s study is a quality-of-life index of the 47 major cities DB collected prices for across the rest of this document. Figure 1 shows the overall index level plus the ranks for the individual components. The data has been collected by - a large crowd-sourced information database on global prices, quality of living etc. The data is based on the following 8 variables; purchasing power, safety, healthcare, cost of living, house prices/income, commuting time, pollution and climate.

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cossack55's picture

Do the Chicago sub-sets include the cost of body armor?

Argenta's picture

The fact that Chicago even made any list with the word "best" in it tells you this list and subsequent story is a load of crap.


Laowei Gweilo's picture

the 'cheap date' index is completely flawed.

for Hong Kong and Vancouver, it forgot to factor in the cost of a mortgage downpayment

old naughty's picture


You could try book flights early with Elon Musk’s SpaceX (so you, your children, and your grand children don’t have to be in debt too much ! )

now that Stephen Hawking gave humans only 100 years to live on Earth !


Or you could listen to DB and migrate to part of Asia !?



Perhaps as last resort, you could join V ?

toady's picture

I must have misinterpreted the word "date".

virgule's picture

Another reason why this list feels like crap, is they include Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur - but not Bangkok.

The first 2 cities are interesting and exotic, but no where near as international as the 3rd, wether you count by the number of foreigners living there, tourists visiting, foreign businesses established with a company, marriages with locals, etc. And life to western standards is not cheap in Bangkok, so an economic comparison would be more meaningful than eg with Jakarta where such comparison is meaningless. 

OscarWhisky's picture

Indeed, nor the expat hotspots of Dubai, Bahrain and the compounds of KSA.

giovanni_f's picture

In Germany, Munich is the benchmark for quality of life and cost of living. Most Germans want to live in Munich which leaves in the dust any other Germany city by a long shot according to every poll of the last 50 years. There are plenty other cities around the globe that are superior to Chicago by any standard. Sapporo, Kobe in Japan, e.g. Did Obama intervene?

This list is pure, bare, unmitigated shit.


Oldrepublic's picture

I have noticed that many countries around the world are tightening up visa and residency requirements, many are enforcing a 90/180 day rule, when it use to be possible to leave a country on a visa run and get an automatic renewal, now one has to stay out of a country for 90 days, this is common in all of Europe, both in the EU and outside the EU. It includes places like Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Thailand use to be easy to get a long term visa, but now one only gets 30 days on arrival by air and 15 days by land. Long term visas require a very large deposit in the bank

Argentina and Brazil have small fines for visa overstays. Cambodia and the Philippines are easy to stay a long time for a small fee.

Mexico allows 180 days stays and can be renewed by a simple border exit

roddy6667's picture

Hong Kong can be affordable. The last time my wife and I were there, we took the subway to the end of the line in several directions and walked around. Everyday people live in these neighborhoods, just 15-20 minutes away from Admiral and Tsim Sha Tsui by MTR. It is foolish to buy. Save your money and find a modest rent.

Dr.Bullish's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

Casey Stengel's picture

WB7 is a great resource for info about housing issues in HK. It is well worth it to take the WB7 tour of HK. (He was quick to point out the site of the Snowden interview.) Mrs Stengel and I had a great time on our tour. 

slammin_dude's picture

NO shit eh?

And seattle is significantly more expensive than every city except the top 10....

i think people that do these indexes never visit any of the places they write about....just assholes looking at a spreadsheet...

ScratInTheHat's picture

Or the cost of being in any city when the SHTF!

RightEdge's picture

Chicago is the 3rd best city in US based on quality of life. That's the best laugh i've had so far today.

jjtech's picture

remember that excitement and the fact it prepares you for a war/civil uprising can be a plus

shovelhead's picture

Black market arms sales?

Anderson Coopers Gerbil's picture

Leftist shitholes. Fake News

Phillpots's picture

Swiss Octogon springs to mind

One of We's picture

$20 gets me a cocktail and a gram of coke at route 36 in Bolivia.  $10 for all you can take from a nice gal.  Of course you don't get to freeze your ass off and there are creepy crawlies to deal with but northern Europe can pay for their own socialism.

Condition 1SQ's picture

I'm intrigued .. how's the food?  Security?

Dancing Disraeli's picture

There should definitely be a hookers and blow index.

JamesBond's picture

Boston is a shithole under any category



83_vf_1100_c's picture

  My takeaway from all this is I would be better off retiring to the Phillipines.

  My neighbor goes over there about once a year and brings back a wife. Last one died, he went back and got a replacement under warranty.

Duc888's picture



I'm importing one now from MalayBalay, she's a RN, 26 years old.  We're gonna hang in NH for about 5 years, live at my little hut up there and bank 40K+ a year, go back to Philippines and retire.  PHP to dollar ratio is sweet.  So it will be like having $9,000,000 to retire on over there.   Buy 5 or 6 new construction Condo's in Davao and not even use up 1/4 of the savings and have income each month over there.  Gonna pull my money out of Uncle Sham faster than shit through a goose.

Ungaro's picture

Caveat emptor:

(1) Careful with your asawa, don't let her get americanized. They are very adaptable people but can also pick up the undesirable qualities, like material orientation.

(2) Live there for a year or two before buying any real estate. Buying is easy, selling not so much.

(3) Check the things you cannot live without. If cottage cheese, sour cream, different kinds of cheeses and other dairy products are essential, you will either not find them in Davao or pay through the nose. We take great quality beef (steak) for granted in the US but in the PI it is a rarity and typically comes from NZ, flash frozen.

(4) The PHPUSD rate has been steady around 42 - 45 for years and recently started moving to 50. Don't try to catch a falling knife. The PI is becoming more isolationist and anti-American (thank you, Duterte) so the currency could see 60 pesos to the USD in the not too distant future.

(5) If you like peace and quiet, Davao is not the place. Honking, barking dogs and crowing roosters create a 24/7 cacophony. If there are window panes, they are single-paned. Remote places are quieter but not well supplied and you may have to travel a long way to get to Gaisano or Robinson's.

(6) If you like breathing without having to chew, big cities in the Philippines are a poor choice as the air pollution is dismal.

(7) If you like efficient and effective government and utility services, then reconsider living in the PI. Electricity and water service is provided on an as available basis. Sewers do not exists (in a monsoon climate!!!) so flooding is commonplace. For all government and other services, you must appear in person (do they need to smell you, or something?) and you cannot perform many common and essential tasks online. Services sometimes are so inefficient and non-sensical that it boggles the mind. You may have to wait in line for hours just to get a form you should be able to download, then you have to wait in line to have the form evaluated and processed and then again in another line to make your payment.

(8) Choose your location with care. Davao is outside the "hurricane belt" but it is very hot and humid. Forget Samar, Leyte and southern Luzon.  Cebu City is well-supplied but almost as crowded as Manila. Bohol is an expat favorite, especially Panglao but you have to go to Tagbilaran for most of your supplies. Tagbilaran traffic is awful, getting around is a chore.

Good luck!

yrad's picture

Wow, good info. But why you steal my avatar?

One of We's picture

Lotta snakes in PI.  Corruption is part of the culture as well which can be good as long as you're aware.

Duc888's picture



"Corruption is part of the culture............."


Same as here, same as everywhere.

One of We's picture

At least the corruption in PI is honest corruption kinda like Mexico but I'll take pancit and adobo over beans and rice any day.

toady's picture

I believe the saying is;

"Here, there, same-same"

Or the colloquial;

"Here, there, same-samey"


Ungaro's picture

I lived in the PI for three years and got a fantastic wife. The people are wonderful, the weather is hot and humid most of the time but the country is a 3rd world hell-hole with air, water and noise pollution unlike any other. Utilities are an occasional luxury. If there are sidewalks, they are unfit for walking. The traffic is horrific with jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs clogging up all the roads. We now live in central Europe in a mid-sized city and love it.

Duc888's picture



What a crap least it is for me.


I'd rather be in Cebu, or Williamstead Curacao...I'll take Panglao.....fuck, even take my chances in Cartegena way before going to Europe.

BlindMonkey's picture



Moscow flew in under the radar again.  I don't want anyone getting any ideas that is a good place to be.

Zest's picture

I've spent quite a bit of time in more than few of these cities (including Chicago, which is complete crap even on a good day) and what's most surprising is which cities are NOT on the list.

_ConanTheLibertarian_'s picture

The list would be way too long then.

Sauerkraut-Opinion's picture

Form a currency area with Greek, Portugal, Spain, Italy....look how your salary is devalued - enjoy debt socialication and be prepared to pay in a transfer-union for your right to be dumpt. 

Wonderfull - greetings from Germany...

Akhenaten II's picture

Given the choice, give me New Zealand but it is a long way from everywhere.  NZ will be great when they release anti-gravity (Sydney to London in 20 minutes) or superfast planes, say 3hrs from NZ to Asia and 6hrs to London will do it.

August's picture

On an overall quality-of-life basis, Wellington NZ is in fact the best city on the planet. 

The beaches could be better, and the ocean warmer, but that just helps to keep the riff-raff in Australia, and in Auckland.

DoctorFix's picture

I love Christchurch on the south island.  Small towns elsewhere are a dream.  No... I'll stay away from all big cities thank you.  

assistedliving's picture

healthcare costs?  purchase price parity?  crime rates?  Misses the point boys.  Best city itw, bar none :  NYC baby

most beautiful women per block.  

only stat u need

Ajax-1's picture

Q: Why wasn't Jesus born in NYC?

A: Because God couldn't find 3 wise men and a virgin.

ali-ali-al-qomfri's picture

Last year I set up a trip to see all of Central Africa.....

It took just two stops on the Paris metro.

simpleminded's picture

Numbeo has a lot of good data on cities, but these kinds of surveys always seem to only consider all the high end prices in these places. In the list for hotels, the prices they list are for the high end. I stayed in Paris at the Timhotel Berthier for less than $100 a night, instead of $616 a night like this list states. It is a 3 star hotel but I don't think a $600 a night hotel is 6 times better. That goes with most of the items on the list. You can get a beer and a tapa for 2 Euros in most places in Spain outside Barcelona and Madrid. I'm no Simon Black, but I have travelled around a bit to look for possible places to live. From what I 've seen, most of Asia is cheap outside of the big cities. South America is not that cheap compared to some places in Europe like Greece, Italy, Spain for food and housing. I know there are stories about crime in Europe but I feel much safer walking around Europe at 2am than I do in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, or Chicago. Overall, Spain looks like it has the best overall quality of life for the amount of money you pay. It is the only one in the top 10 greatest country list that has thousands of apartments, and even some houses, for under $50,000.

bigrooster's picture

Seems like the most expensive cities, except the US, are white majority with not enough black/brown immigrants to cause white flight.

squid's picture

Why is there no 'likelyhood of being gang raped' catagory?

Or, 'how many times a week your kids are offered drugs' catagory?


Me thingks thevrankings would be a bit differt then.


Also, where is the incometax chart?



Rock On Roger's picture

An excellent list of places I never want to set foot in.