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Ranked: The 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World



Mapped: The 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World

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The Most Expensive Cities in the World

Where personal wealth is concerned, there are two sides to every story.

The first of which is the amount of money a person earns, and the other is what they choose to spend their money on. The latter is influenced by the cost of living in the city where they reside—an ever-changing metric that is driven by a wide variety of factors, such as currency, population growth, or external market movements.

Today’s graphic visualizes the findings from the 2020 Worldwide Cost of Living report and uses data from 133 cities to rank the most expensive cities in the world.

Note: Report research was conducted towards the end of 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Asia Dominates the Ranking

Globally, the cost of living has fallen by an average of 4% over the last year, with much of the movement up and down the ranking being driven by currency fluctuations.

The locations with the highest cost of living are largely split between Europe and Asia. For the second time in the report’s 30-year history, three cities are tied as the top spot—Singapore, Hong Kong, and Osaka.

RankCountryCityIndex Score (New York=100)Rank Movement
#1(t)🇸🇬 SingaporeSingapore1020
#1(t)🇨🇳 ChinaHong Kong1020
#1(t)🇯🇵 JapanOsaka1024
#4🇺🇸 United StatesNew York1003
#5(t)🇫🇷 FranceParis99-4
#5(t)🇨🇭 SwitzerlandZurich99-1
#7🇮🇱 IsraelTel Aviv973
#8(t)🇺🇸 United StatesLos Angeles962
#8(t)🇯🇵 JapanTokyo965
#10🇨🇭 SwitzerlandGeneva95-5

Source: EIU. New York City is index baseline (score = 100). Ties in index score values are denoted by (t).

Osaka is a newcomer to the top spot, climbing four places over the last year to join cost of living heavyweight champions, Singapore and Hong Kong. As Japan’s third-largest city, Osaka is a major financial hub and a breeding ground for emerging startups, with relatively low real estate costs compared to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Three European cities (Paris, Zurich, and Geneva) sit atop the most expensive city rankings, compared to seven cities only 10 years ago. Similarly, 31 of the 37 European cities have seen a decrease in cost of living overall—largely as a result of the Euro or local currencies losing value relative to the U.S. dollar.

Finally, the top 10 is rounded out with two cities from the United States (New York, Los Angeles) and one from Israel (Tel Aviv).

The Cheapest Cities

While East Asia is home to many of the world’s most expensive cities, South Asia hosts the largest grouping of cities with the lowest cost of living.

RankCountryCityIndex Score (New York=100)Rank Movement
#133🇸🇾 SyriaDamascus25-1
#132🇺🇿 UzbekistanTashkent30-1
#131🇰🇿 KazakhstanAlmaty34-1
#129(t)🇦🇷 ArgentinaBuenos Aires35-4
#129(t)🇵🇰 PakistanKarachi35-2
#128🇻🇪 VenezuelaCaracas365
#127🇿🇲 ZambiaLusaka38-13
#126🇮🇳 IndiaChennai39-1
#125🇮🇳 IndiaBangalore404
#122(t)🇮🇳 IndiaNew Delhi421

Source: EIU. New York City is index baseline (score = 100). Ties in index score values are denoted by (t).

Three Indian cities dominate the cheapest cities ranking due to a combination of low wages and high levels of income inequality, preventing any price increases.

Meanwhile, political and economic turmoil is a common denominator among the cheapest cities outside of South Asia. For example, the Syrian Civil War resulted in an economic collapse, leading to high inflation and a downward spiral in value for the Syrian pound.

A Spanner in the Works

The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to cost the global economy up to $2 trillion in 2020, so while governments attempt to boost the economy, many are concerned about higher inflation rates spreading across the world.

With a recession becoming more likely, uncertainty around real estate prices will heighten for every city, regardless of their cost of living ranking.

As we navigate chaotic and uncertain times, the next cost of living survey could look very different to today—the most important question will be how permanent the damaging effects of the pandemic will be.

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Visualized: Air Quality and Pollution in 50 Capital Cities

This visual compares air quality in 50 capital cities around the world by average PM2.5 concentrations in 2022.



A chart comparing air quality in 50 capital cities around the world by average PM2.5 concentrations in 2022.

Comparing Air Quality and Pollution in 50 Capital Cities

We know bad air quality when we breathe it in—but how does it measure and compare across different cities?

To assess air quality, agencies measure the amount of particulate matter in an area to arrive at a number the resident population is breathing in over a period of time.

ℹ️ Airborne particulate matter (PM) is a complex mix of solids and aerosols and is defined by diameter for regulatory purposes. Particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10) are inhalable and can induce adverse health effects.

In this case, Planet Anomaly visualized the concentration of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) in 50 select capital cities across the globe, using data from IQAir’s 2022 World Air Quality Report.

The report applied population-based adjustments to standardize its results and calculated an annual average of the data. If a city exceeded the WHO safety guideline of 5 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³) for annual average PM2.5 levels, it implied potential health risks for its residents.

Ranked: Capital Cities With the Best and Worst Air Quality

At the top of the list with the best air quality, Canberra, the capital of Australia, had an average PM2.5 level of 2.8 μg/m³ in 2022. Vehicle emissions and dust storms are the few sources of air pollutants in the city.

However, while Canberra did well in 2022, it had some of the worst air quality in 2020 when bushfire smoke blackened the skies.

Here’s the full list of all 116 capital cities measured by IQAir’s report, ranked by air quality from best to worst.

RankCityCountryRegion2022 Average
PM2.5 Concentration
1Canberra🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania2.8
2Hamilton🇧🇲 BermudaNorth America3.0
3Reykjavik🇮🇸 IcelandEurope3.3
4San Juan🇵🇷 Puerto RicoNorth America3.3
5Noumea🇳🇨 New CaledoniaOceania3.5
6Saint George’s🇬🇩 GrenadaCentral America3.8
7Tallinn🇪🇪 EstoniaEurope4.8
8Port of Spain🇹🇹 Trinidad & TobagoCentral America5.0
9Helsinki🇫🇮 FinlandEurope5.5
10Cape Town🇿🇦 South AfricaAfrica6.7
11Ottawa🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America6.8
12Stockholm🇸🇪 SwedenEurope6.8
13Oslo🇳🇴 NorwayEurope6.9
14Paramaribo🇸🇷 SurinameSouth America7.0
15Dublin🇮🇪 IrelandEurope7.1
16La Paz🇧🇴 BoliviaSouth America7.3
17Lisbon🇵🇹 PortugalEurope7.5
18San Jose🇨🇷 Costa RicaCentral America7.9
19Phnom Penh🇰🇭 CambodiaAsia8.3
20Vaduz🇱🇮 LiechtensteinEurope8.3
21Copenhagen🇩🇰 DenmarkEurope8.7
22Luanda🇦🇴 AngolaAfrica8.8
23Managua🇳🇮 NicaraguaCentral America8.9
24Panama🇵🇦 PanamaCentral America9.0
25Tokyo🇯🇵 JapanAsia9.2
26Madrid🇪🇸 SpainEurope9.5
27Kyiv🇺🇦 UkraineEurope9.5
28London🇬🇧 UKEurope9.6
29Washington🇺🇸 U.S.North America9.8
30Taipei🇹🇼 TaiwanAsia9.9
31Amsterdam🇳🇱 NetherlandsEurope10.1
32Tegucigalpa🇭🇳 HondurasCentral America10.2
33Vienna🇦🇹 AustriaEurope10.5
34Bern🇨🇭 SwitzerlandEurope10.5
35Brussels🇧🇪 BelgiumEurope10.6
36Moscow🇷🇺 RussiaEurope10.8
37Budapest🇭🇺 HungaryEurope11.2
38Montevideo🇺🇾 UruguaySouth America11.3
39Nairobi🇰🇪 KenyaAfrica11.5
40Podgorica🇲🇪 MontenegroEurope11.8
41Prague🇨🇿 Czech RepublicEurope11.9
42Berlin🇩🇪 GermanyEurope12.6
43Rome🇮🇹 ItalyEurope12.6
44Paris🇫🇷 FranceEurope12.7
45Georgetown🇬🇾 GuyanaSouth America12.7
46Singapore🇸🇬 SingaporeAsia13.3
47San Salvador🇸🇻 El SalvadorCentral America13.4
48Bratislava🇸🇰 SlovakiaEurope13.4
49Pristina🇽🇰 KosovoEurope13.7
50Ankara🇹🇷 TürkiyeAsia14.0
51Buenos Aires🇦🇷 ArgentinaSouth America14.2
52Hong Kong🇭🇰 Hong Kong SARAsia14.4
53Tirana🇦🇱 AlbaniaEurope14.5
54Vilnius🇱🇹 LithuaniaEurope14.5
55Metro Manila🇵🇭 PhilippinesAsia14.6
56Bogota🇨🇴 ColombiaSouth America15.1
57Warsaw🇵🇱 PolandEurope15.3
58Kinshasa🇨🇩 DRCAfrica15.5
59Ljubljana🇸🇮 SloveniaEurope16.2
60Tbilisi🇬🇪 GeorgiaEurope16.3
61Nicosia🇨🇾 CyprusEurope16.4
62Bucharest🇷🇴 RomaniaEurope17.1
63Kuala Lumpur🇲🇾 MalaysiaAsia17.6
64Algiers🇩🇿 AlgeriaAfrica17.8
65Bangkok🇹🇭 ThailandAsia18.0
66Seoul🇰🇷 South KoreaAsia18.3
67Guatemala City🇬🇹 GuatemalaCentral America18.5
68Baku🇦🇿 AzerbaijanAsia18.9
69Sofia🇧🇬 BulgariaEurope19.1
70Athens🇬🇷 GreeceEurope19.2
71Tel Aviv-Yafo🇮🇱 IsraelMiddle East19.5
72Dakar🇸🇳 SenegalAfrica20.4
73Colombo🇱🇰 Sri LankaAsia20.9
74Astana🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia21.4
75Ashgabat🇹🇲 TurkmenistanAsia21.6
76Mexico City🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America22.1
77Belgrade🇷🇸 SerbiaEurope22.1
78Zagreb🇭🇷 CroatiaEurope22.4
79Abidjan🇨🇮 Ivory CoastAfrica22.5
80Chisinau🇲🇩 MoldovaEurope22.6
81Antananarivo🇲🇬 MadagascarAfrica23.7
82Yangon🇲🇲 MyanmarAsia24.3
83Lusaka🇿🇲 ZambiaAfrica24.6
84Lima🇵🇪 PeruSouth America25.6
85Santiago🇨🇱 ChileSouth America25.8
86Skopje🇲🇰 North MacedoniaEurope26.6
87Vientiane🇱🇦 LaosAsia27.6
88Bishkek🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanAsia29.0
89Beijing🇨🇳 ChinaAsia29.8
90Accra🇬🇭 GhanaAfrica30.1
91Ulaanbaatar🇲🇳 MongoliaAsia30.6
92Addis Ababa🇪🇹 EthiopiaAfrica31.3
93Yerevan🇦🇲 ArmeniaAsia31.4
94Sarajevo🇧🇦 Bosnia HerzegovinaEurope32.4
95Tashkent🇺🇿 UzbekistanAsia33.5
96Tehran🇮🇷 IranAsia36.1
97Jakarta🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia36.2
98Kampala🇺🇬 UgandaAfrica39.6
99Hanoi🇻🇳 VietnamAsia40.1
100Islamabad🇵🇰 PakistanAsia40.6
101Kathmandu🇳🇵 NepalAsia40.7
102Doha🇶🇦 QatarMiddle East41.8
103Kigali🇷🇼 RwandaAfrica44.0
104Khartoum🇸🇩 SudanAfrica44.6
105Riyadh🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaMiddle East46.2
106Abuja🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica46.5
107Cairo🇪🇬 EgyptAfrica47.4
108Dushanbe🇹🇯 TajikistanAsia47.7
109Abu Dhabi🇦🇪 UAEMiddle East48.0
110Kuwait City🇰🇼 KuwaitMiddle East57.5
111Ougadougou🇧🇫 Burkina FasoAfrica63.0
112Dhaka🇧🇩 BangladeshAsia65.8
113Manama🇧🇭 BahrainMiddle East66.6
114Baghdad🇮🇶 IraqAsia86.7
115New Delhi🇮🇳 IndiaAsia89.1
116N’Djamena🇹🇩 ChadAfrica89.7

Hamilton, Bermuda (3.8 μg/m³) and Reykjavik, Iceland (3.3 μg/m³) rank second and third respectively, followed by three more capitals on island nations. In fact, nine of the top 10 capitals are situated directly on a coastline and take advantage of ocean breezes that can act as air filters.

Ranked 8th, the Port of Spain (capital of Trinidad & Tobago) is the last city whose air quality is considered safe (5.0 μg/m³) by the WHO.

From a broader perspective, fewer than 10% of all countries have air quality that meets safety guidelines.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the list with the worst air quality, Chad’s capital city N’Djamena, recorded a PM2.5 concentration of nearly 90 μg/m³ per day in 2022—almost 18x the recommended WHO safety guideline.

Air Quality Correlates With Countries’ Income Levels

Perhaps the most striking feature of the rankings is how air quality worsens with countries that are in the low and middle-income categories and improves in high income countries.

As an example, compare the distribution of the ranks of capital cities in Asia (generally lower and middle income countries) versus capitals in Europe (general high income countries).

Air Quality RanksCities in AsiaCities in Europe
Top 203.33%20.51%

The majority of European capital cities are ranked 20–60 versus Asian capitals which are mostly ranked 60–100.

Lower and middle income countries have larger structural economic concerns and many of them are still in the process of transitioning away from polluting materials that affect air quality.

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