Top 10 most expensive cities for expats

Top 10 most expensive cities for expats

A new survey analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cost of living across the world’s most popular cities has been released by Mercer.
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The 2020 Cost of Living Survey was released in June 2020 and is the 26th annual Cost of Living survey from the consulting firm.

The survey revealed that specific factors such as currency fluctuations, cost inflation and accommodation prices are essential to determining the cost of expatriate packages for employees on assignments overseas.

The research was carried out in March 2020, as the pandemic started to unfold globally. It ranked over 200 cities around the world and for the third year in a row, Hong Kong was ranked as the world’s most expensive city to live and work overseas in.

According to the annual cost of living survey, the top 10 most expensive cities for expats are:

  1. Hong Kong, China
  2. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  3. Tokyo, Japan
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Singapore
  6. New York City, United States
  7. Shanghai, China
  8. Bern, Switzerland
  9. Geneva, Switzerland
  10. Beijing, China

The survey is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive expatriate surveys in the world and is designed to assist multinational companies determine strategies for expatriate employees. For all comparisons in the survey, New York City is used as the base city and currency is measured against the US dollar.

The comparative cost of over 200 items are measured, including the cost of:

  • Food
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Domestic supplies
  • Housing
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Home services
  • Utilities
  • Personal care
  • Transportation
  • Recreation and entertainment

Speaking for Mercer, Kate Fitzpatrick, Global Mobility Practice Leader UK & Ireland, spoke about the expectations for international assignments once countries reopen their borders.

"Looking ahead to when travel can resume, there is a broad expectation that those expatriates out of position will return to their host locations to see out their original assignment periods, and new assignments will commence as originally planned."

She added that due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may take this into account when offering packages to expatriate employees.

"Companies therefore need to closely monitor how fluctuations in currencies have impacted expat costs of living, and if necessary, adjust their compensation packages. Cost savings will also remain high on the agenda as companies decide when and where to send employees."

International health insurance for expats

At Cigna Global, we offer individual international health insurance plans to meet the needs of expatriates and globally mobile individuals.

We understand that every customer is unique and that’s why we offer you the flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs, with 4 levels of annual cover to choose from.

Why choose Cigna?

We can provide international cover- We have an extensive medical network of over 1.65 million partnerships. Our network is comprised of trusted hospitals, clinics and medical practitioners all around the world.

We’re here for you 24/7- Our multilingual, highly experienced Customer Care team are available 24 hours a day to ensure we are available for you, when you need us most.

We give you flexibility- Tailor a plan to meet the needs and budget of you and your family.

We’ve got years of experience- Specialising in delivering international healthcare for many years.

Find out more about our plans here.


1. Organizations revamp mobility programs with alternate forms of international assignments and a focus on employee well-being – Mercer -

2. 2020 Cost of Living city rankings – Mercer -

3. Hong Kong ranks top among 10 most expensive cities to be an expat – CNBC -

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