Avoid These Most Expensive Cities in the World — and Go Here Instead

Most expensive cities in the world Zurich

With travel planning for the year ahead now in full swing, it’s helpful to know what the most expensive places to visit are. Fortunately, The Economist publishes an annual list focused on just that, based on data from its Worldwide Cost of Living survey.

The data from 2023 found that, on average, prices of commonly used goods and services around the world had risen by 7.4% year-on-year in local currency terms. Of all the countries included in the survey, though, Singapore and Zurich were found to be the most expensive. Though Singapore has been in the top position for the ninth time in the last 11 years, Zurich rose a spot from its sixth-place spot last year, pushing New York City down to third place.

Ahead, we share the full list of the priciest cities in the world, along with some options for places with a similar look and feel to the originals, but that visiting won’t cost you nearly as much.

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, is tied with Singapore as the most expensive city in the world, thanks to the strength of the Swiss franc. If you want to visit a European city similar to Zurich, consider Prague in the Czech Republic or Vienna, Austria. Like Zurich, both have rich histories, music scenes and nightlife. In the winter, you can also find in both nearby great skiing.

Most expensive cities in the world Zurich
Image: Getty Images


Singapore also topped the list of most expensive cities in the world, tying with Zurich. Transportation and clothing are two categories where costs are significantly above average. The country’s prices are significantly higher than in other places in Southeast Asia, an area known for being affordable to live in and travel to. Consider visiting Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Bangkok in Thailand instead.

Geneva, Switzerland

Given the growing strength of the Swiss franc, it’s no surprise to see another Swiss spot on the list of most expensive places in the world. Residents of Geneva and Zurich share similarly high taxes that help drive up the cost of living. While Zurich is on the German-speaking side of Switzerland, Geneva is on the French-speaking side.

New York City

While it would be an almost literal crime to visit the US’s north-east coast and not pencil in a stop to New York City, if you’ve never been before, you might want to think about also spending time in other north-east US cities where accommodation will be significantly less. Some options with plenty of things to do and see include Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and Boston, Massachusetts.

Image: Unsplash

Hong Kong

Fifth on the list is Hong Kong, a Chinese territory spread over 260 mountainous islands. If you want a similar mix of ancient Chinese history and modern skyscrapers, there are dozens of cities in China you can visit instead, though the most like Hong Kong is easily Shanghai. The city is significantly more affordable than Hong Kong.

Los Angeles, California

The strong dollar is a large factor behind Los Angeles and New York’s high ranking this year. The city is also well-known for its sprawl and traffic, so you might find a holiday here could be expensive due mainly to the cost of getting around.

Things to do in LA
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After spending a day or two seeing LA’s main attractions like Venice and Santa Monica Beach and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, rent a car and head south along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping along the coastal towns along the way. They will be far less busy, and accommodation will be much more affordable.

Paris, France

Though prices have risen in Paris, the relative weakness of the euro to other countries has pushed the French capital down in the rankings. After seeing the Eiffel Tower and walking down the Champs Elysse, fly, drive or take a train or bus to other cities around France. Consider Nantes in Brittany, Lyon in East France or Metz in Northeast France.

Copenhagen, Denmark

There is a 25% tax imposed on all goods and services in the Danish capital, with additional taxes on some products like tobacco, alcohol and chocolate. No other Scandinavian countries made the top 10 most expensive cities list. Though you won’t find too much of a difference from Copenhagen in their affordability, Stockholm, Sweden, Oslo, Norway and Helsinki, Finland are worth considering.

Copenhagen Denmark
Image: Getty Images

San Francisco, California

Finally, San Francisco placed 10th on the list, the second Californian city on it. Prices for homes in San Francisco are far above those in other American cities, likely due in large part to it being home to countless millionaires who work in Silicon Valley. Portland, Oregon is considered to have a similar climate, though slightly rainier than San Francisco. It also offers tourists plenty of activities in the city, as well as easy nature-heavy day trips.

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