Is NYC the Most Expensive City in the World for Expats?

Is NYC the Most Expensive City in the World for Expats?

According to a new survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the cost of living in New York City has surpassed top contenders like London and Shanghai, making it among the most expensive cities for expats. However, the ranking of expensive cities in the world is constantly evolving and there are different results, depending on the group that does the study.

List of the Most Expensive Cities Per EIU

Amidst the ever-changing worldwide cost of living, the Worldwide Cost of Living’s annual survey identified the most expensive cities in 2023. The list featured four cities from European countries, three from Asian nations, and three from the United States.

Zurich and Singapore topped the list. Singapore has kept the title of the most expensive city across the world for the ninth time in 11 years.

Singapore and Hong Kong have maintained their status in the top 10 expensive places, securing first place and fifth place, respectively. European cities Zurich and Geneva made it to the top and second spot, respectively. Making it to the top five are Zurich and Singapore sharing the first spot, New York and Geneva sharing the second spot and Hong Kong in the third spot.

Dubai and London failed to make it into the list of the priciest, as well as Chinese cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing.

Here’s the complete list of the ten most expensive cities with a high cost of living at EIU.

1. Zurich and Singapore (tie)

3. New York and Geneva (tie)

5. Hong Kong

6. Los Angeles

7. Paris

8. Tel Aviv and Copenhagen (tie)

10. San Francisco

Meanwhile, here are the least expensive cities across the globe.

1. Damascus, Syria

2. Tehran, Iran

3. Tripoli Libya

4. Karachi, Pakistan

5. Tashkent, Uzbekistan

According to Upasana Dutt, Head of Worldwide Cost of Living, the supply side that drove prices to increase in 2021-22 reduced after China lifted its COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, the energy price hikes after Russia invaded Ukraine in February have started to ease.

Prices are still far above historical patterns and the problem caused by rising costs of living is far from ended. As the delayed effects of interest rate increases begin to damage economic activity and, consequently, consumer demand, we anticipate inflation will continue to slow down in 2024. However, there are also risks associated with the upside —a stronger than anticipated effect from El Niño would raise food prices even more, and further escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict would escalate energy costs, Dutt added..

2023: NYC in Third Place

In the latest 2023 edition of the Worldwide Cost of Living Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), New York ranks the distinguished third place among the world’s most expensive cities to call home. This ranking solidifies the city’s reputation for its high cost of living, a facet intricately woven into the fabric of the iconic skyline and cultural richness that define the Big Apple. While New York City is celebrated as a global financial hub and cultural melting pot, its residents grapple with exorbitant living expenses, ranging from skyrocketing rents in sought-after neighborhoods to the premium attached to dining at renowned restaurants.

Its standing underscores the complex interplay of factors contributing to its elevated living expenses. The city’s unparalleled career opportunities, world-class amenities, and diverse entertainment options come with a commensurate price tag, demanding a resilient financial strategy from its residents. As global economic landscapes evolve, the ranking positions New York City as a focal point where the dynamism of urban life converges with the practicalities of navigating one of the world’s most expensive cities.

Hong Kong as Fifth Most Expensive City to Live

As of 2023, Hong Kong has solidified its position as the fifth spot. It has long been an attractive hub for expats seeking dynamic career opportunities. However, this allure is tempered by the city’s steep living costs, which extend beyond exorbitant real estate prices to include high expenses for dining, entertainment, and transportation.

For expats in Hong Kong, the cost of living is notably elevated, driven by the city’s status as a major financial and business center. The demand for limited living space, coupled with the international appeal of this metropolis, contributes to soaring accommodation costs.

New York and Singapore in Top Spot in 2022

In the illustrious realm of global extravagance, New York City and Singapore shared the coveted title of the world’s most expensive cities for the year 2022. While the Big Apple seems to be an expensive city, it was the first time NYC tops the list. Yes, NYC was officially the most expensive place to live for the first time ever last year. The convergence of these two economic powerhouses signals a dynamic shift in the landscape of affluence, showcasing the undeniable allure and financial prowess of these iconic urban landscapes.

Both cities, although geographically distant, share commonalities in their unwavering commitment to fostering economic dynamism, cultural richness, and a standard of living that comes with a hefty price tag. From the soaring real estate prices that characterize the Manhattan skyline to the gleaming skyscrapers that punctuate Singapore’s cityscape, residents and visitors alike navigate an intricate tapestry of opulence, solidifying the joint reign of New York and Singapore as the epitome of modern-day urban luxury.

Singapore and Hong Kong in 2022

Singapore and Hong Kong have also strengthened their positions in the 2022 ranking, with Singapore securing the no. 1 spot alongside New York and Hong Kong maintaining its status as the fifth most expensive city for expatriates. These two Asian cities are consistently featured in the list of the top 10 most expensive cities to live in, indicative of the rising cost of living worldwide.

ECA International Cost Of Living Rankings 2023

A different list featured NYC at the top spot, surpassing Hong Kong. The latest report ended Hong Kong’s four-year reign at the top. Meanwhile, Geneva and London managed to hold their respective third and fourth positions.

The rankings of European cities showed a general upward trend. In contrast, the Norwegian and Swedish cities had weak currencies, causing them to miss their spot. French cities witnessed lower rates of inflation than those of other EU members. Due to their lower inflation rates and weaker currency compared to other nations, Chinese cities also declined in the rankings.

A strong dollar and high inflation drove a notable increase in the rankings for all US cities. San Francisco’s entry into the top 10 underscores how expensive metropolitan living can be.

The study examines consumer goods and services expenditures, accounting for rental costs in expat-populated areas. The research was conducted in 207 cities throughout 120 countries and territories.

Here’s the complete list from ECA International with their respective ranking in 2022.

1. New York, US (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)

High Inflation and a Strong Dollar

High inflation and a strong dollar significantly impact the cost of living in major cities around the world. These economic factors contribute to the rising prices of goods and services, making urban centers even more expensive for residents and expatriates alike. The fluctuating value of the dollar and high inflation rates result in increased living costs, particularly in cities where the currency plays a significant role in the local economy.

Expats’ Experience in NYC and Hong Kong

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual survey has identified Hong Kong as the fifth most expensive city for expatriates, solidifying its position as a costly destination for those living and working abroad. Expat communities in cities like NYC are faced with the reality of higher living costs, impacting their ability to maintain a comfortable standard of living.

Hong Kong: Fifth Most Expensive City for Expats (EIU)

Hong Kong’s limited living space, coupled with its status as a major international financial hub, contributes to exorbitant real estate prices, making accommodation a significant expense for expats. Beyond housing, the city’s high living costs extend to dining, entertainment, and transportation, requiring expatriates to carefully manage their budgets to enjoy the diverse culinary scene and cultural experiences that Hong Kong has to offer. Despite the financial considerations, the expat journey in Hong Kong is enriched by the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, career opportunities, and the unique blend of tradition and modernity that characterizes daily life in this captivating Asian hub.

NYC is Officially The Most Expensive City (ECA)

As per the latest survey, New York City has solidified its position as the most expensive city for expats. The ranking takes into account the cost of various goods and services, emphasizing the financial challenges that outsiders encounter when living in such metropolitan areas. However, foreigners, lured by the promise of career advancement, cultural richness, and the thrill of living in the city that never sleeps, willingly navigate the financial challenges to partake in the vibrant tapestry of life that defines the Big Apple.


Western sanctions on Russia, the COVID-19 restrictions and zero-covid policies have caused supply-chain problems. The surge in monthly rent prices, utility and non-essential items also contribute to the cost-of-living crisis. But the world is slowly moving forward. So, if you are planning to move to any of the most expensive cities in the world, make sure to consider the cost of living crisis.

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