Singapore, Hong Kong, and Osaka are the three most expensive cities to visit and live in for the year 2020, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). They are followed by New York in the fourth place, while the European cities of Paris and Zurich jointly occupy the fifth spot among the world’s most expensive cities.

Like last year, the top rank is shared by three cities. However, Osaka has replaced Paris on the joint-top rank, making the three most expensive cities in the world all Asian. Such cities contrast sharply with the cheapest cities in the world in terms of their cost of living. The Worldwide Cost of Living survey, conducted annually by EIU, includes 133 cities worldwide.  

10 Most Expensive Cities in 2020

The top 10 most expensive cities in the world are all found in Asia, Europe, or North America. They are ranked, along with their index scores, as follows.

  • Singapore (Singapore) – 102
  • Hong Kong (China) – 102
  • Osaka (Japan) – 102
  • New York (USA) – 100
  • Paris (France) – 99
  • Zurich (Switzerland) – 99
  • Tel Aviv (Israel) – 97
  • Los Angeles (USA) – 96
  • Tokyo (Japan) – 96
  • Geneva (Switzerland) – 95
Paris is jointly the fifth most expensive city in the world in 2020
Paris is jointly the fifth most expensive city in the world in 2020

Two factors play an important role in determining these rankings: inflation and currency fluctuations. The Swiss cities in the list, Zurich and Geneva, have moved down one and five places, respectively, from 2019. Tokyo, meanwhile, has moved up five places to be among the 10 most expensive cities in the world. No city from South America, Australasia, or Africa features in the top 10.

Most Expensive Cities by Category

European cities, such as Zurich and Geneva, tend to be the most expensive ones for household, personal care, and entertainment categories. Grocery shopping is most expensive in Asian cities, such as Osaka and Seoul.

The average current price for a 1kg loaf of bread is the highest in New York at $8.62. A two-piece men’s business suit also costs the highest, on average, in New York by some distance, at $3,073. It is further the most expensive city among the top 10 for a woman’s haircut, costing $210. New York is followed by Tokyo, Tel Aviv, and Los Angeles in the loaf of bread, men’s business suit, and women’s haircut categories, respectively.

South Korea's capital, Seoul, has dropped out of the 10 most expensive cities in 2020 due to currency depreciation
South Korea’s capital, Seoul, has dropped out of the 10 most expensive cities in 2020 due to currency depreciation

Cities Getting Costlier

The city of Isanbul in Turkey has moved 24 places up from 2019 as a result of the relative strengthening of the lira following its sharp decline in 2018. Other biggest movers up in the rankings for 2020 include Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which climbed 22 ranks; the US city of Boston, climbing 18 places; and Moscow (Russia) and Bangkok (Thailand), climbing 16 and 15 places, respectively, from 2019.

Find out about the most democratic countries in the world here

Global Cost of Living   

Taking New York as the base city, the global cost of living has fallen by around 4 percent, based on the 133 cities included in the survey. This change is explained by various factors, such as the impact of easing monetary policy on global currencies, the US-China trade war and the uncertainty surrounding it, and the strength of the US economy. This is a trend continuing from previous years, with oil prices being another major factor impacting the cost of living in major cities.

Ranking Methodology

The rankings are based on a bi-annual survey comparing over 400 individual prices for 160 goods and services in each of the 133 cities included in the survey. These include food, clothing, home rents, utility bills, transport, personal care items, recreation, and private schools. The gathered prices are then converted into the US dollar and are weighted identically across all cities to create a comparative index.

You can download the Worldwide Cost of Living 2020 report after registering on The Economist Intelligence Unit website.