Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2011

Worldwide Cost of Living 2011 Which city is the most expensive to live in? Which city is the cheapest?

July 2011

Economist Intelligence Unit


Tokyo holds the dubious honour of once again being the world’s most expensive city. Until 2006, Tokyo had been at the top of the global cost-of-living ranking for 14 uninterrupted years before low inflation, weak consumer confidence and a declining Japanese yen reduced the cost of living. Between 2006 and 2009 Oslo and then Paris were the costliest cities in the survey, with Tokyo pushed down to fifth place in the ranking. Low inflation and poor consumer confidence have persisted in Japan, but the yen has strengthened significantly over the last two years, pushing Tokyo back to the top of the ranking last year. This year the cost of living has increased further in Tokyo, despite the human and economic cost of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Tokyo in March and the subsequent nuclear reactor scare in Fukushima. Most other cities in the top ten have a familiar European flavour. Oslo, Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Frankfurt have all long been regarded as traditionally expensive places to visit. This is despite economic weakness in the euro zone, with the high-profile problems in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain depressing demand elsewhere in Europe and pegging back the strength of the single currency.