Thinking of Moving Overseas? These Are the Most Expensive Cities for Expats


In pre-pandemic times, around 310,000 Australians (approximately 1.3% of the population) lived overseas. Of course, a number of these expats have moved back since COVID-19 took hold, that is, those who were fortunate enough to be able to come home — at least 35,000 Australians remain stuck overseas.

But when the pandemic comes to an end and the skies reopen, we’d be willing to bet a bunch of Australians will seek to move overseas once more. Call it ‘revenge travel‘, but we can sense that a large number of us will be eager to make up for lost time and travel, and maybe even make that drastic move we’ve always dreamed of.

Which comes the fun part: choosing a country to move to. Will you move for work, perhaps to a city that your current workplace already has an office in? Or will you go somewhere unfamiliar, somewhere where you’ll be forced to learn a new language in addition to a whole new way of life?

Wherever you go, make sure you do your research. You’ll want to know about potential visas and go into your move with a rough idea of how much money you’ll need to live there, because some cities will drain your bank account a lot faster than others.

The biannual Cost of Living Survey from Mercer has this year ranked the most expensive cities for expats. Out of 209 cities, and taking into account factors like housing, transportation, food and entertainment, the research has found the top 10 most expensive cities for people living overseas. They are as follows:

1. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

2. Hong Kong

3. Beirut, Lebanon

4. Tokyo, Japan

5. Zurich, Switzerland

6. Shanghai, China

7. Singapore

8. Geneva, Switzerland

9. Beijing, China

10. Bern, Switzerland

Tokyo ranked as the 4th most expensive city for expats. Getty Images

Ashgabat in Turkmenistan is something of a surprise, taking out the top spot as the most expensive city for expats. CNN Travel says the city is dealing with an ongoing financial crisis, which has led to food shortages and hyperinflation, hence the rise in the cost of living.

A number of European cities also made the list (Switzerland appears thrice), and the theory behind this comes down to the fact the Euro gained 11% against the US dollar, basically pushing New York City out of the top 10 to sit in 14th place when last year NYC sat in 6th place.

As for our own cities, Sydney ranked in 31st place (up from 66th place in 2020), Melbourne is the 59th most expensive city (up from 99), and Perth clocked in at number 63 (up from 104). The appreciation of the Australian dollar is the reason our cities are more expensive in 2021.

If you’re thinking of a move, it could be worth checking out the full report to get a feel for just how much you might like to set aside. And if a move feels a bit optimistic, then you could always arrange an adult gap year instead.

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