Choosing a retiring destination or city you want to move to is a big step. Before you up and move to a place with the lowest unemployment rate or other benefits, note that the cost of living varies around with world. Take Switzerland for example. There are several Swiss cities that are almost 30% more expensive to live in than New York City (one of the most expensive in the U.S.) There are many other cities where the cost of living is notably higher than average. On the other hand, there are also cities where the cost of living is low. Plus, there are pairs of cities that while geographically faraway, are closer than you think when it comes to nearly identical costs of living. Find out all this and more as you keep on reading about the cost of living in 388 cities worldwide.
View Cost of Living in 388 Cities in a full screen map
The map above shows Numbeo’s list of the cost of living for 388 cities collected on June 27, 2019. While the list is ever-fluctuating, you’ll be able to see which cities are generally the most expensive when you sort by the highest cost of living range. The map also contains more information than the cost of living for each of these cities. In fact, there are multiple indices of interest.
Information about rent, groceries, restaurant prices, and local purchasing power are included on the map. The main cost of living index takes into account groceries, restaurants, transportation, and utilities, though it doesn’t include rent. That’s what the cost of living plus rent index is for. As for the local purchasing power, this describes the ability to buy goods and services based on the average wage in the city.
It’s important to note that New York City serves as the baseline for each city. As you’ll find on the map, the Big Apple gets 100’s across the board. Each index is subsequently compared to New York. For example, if Guatemala City’s cost of living is 44.23, it means that on average, Guatemala City is 55% cheaper to live in than New York. As with the cost of living, if a city’s local purchasing power is 41.92, as it is in Guatemala City, the inhabitants of that city with the average salary can afford to buy 58% fewer goods and services than New York City residents with an average salary.
With all that in mind, here are ten cities with the highest cost of living:
- Basel, Switzerland
- Zurich, Switzerland
- Lausanne, Switzerland
- Geneva, Switzerland
- Bern, Switzerland
- Stavanger, Norway
- Oslo, Norway
- Trondheim, Norway
- New York, NY, United States
- Bergen, Norway
If this list looks familiar, it’s because the ten most expensive cities to live in mirrors the ten most expensive cities to spend Valentine’s Day. Swiss cities cost a lot of cash and Basel, Zurich, Lausanne, Geneva, and Bern make up 50% of the top ten list of the highest costs of living. Basel is the highest.
After the Swiss cities, the cost of living faces a steep decline. Stavanger, Norway, the 6th most expensive city, has a cost of living of 105.21, a nearly 15-point drop from #5. Like Switzerland, Norway monopolizes much of the top ten cities with the highest cost of living. Cities ranked #6, #7, #8, and #10 on the list are in Norway. And the U.S. makes its first appearance with the ninth city with the highest cost of living and the baseline for the rest of the world: New York. We mentioned #10 on the list belonged to Norway. Bergen happens to have the exact same cost of living as New York: 100. However, Bergen’s rent index is 37.11, and its cost of living plus rent is nearly 30% cheaper than N.Y. so it isn’t all the same.
As with the commute times and transportation rates within the U.S., we’re forever comparing Los Angeles to New York. You can’t just not compare two of the largest cities on opposite ends of the country. Though L.A. doesn’t appear in the top ten, the City of Angels is ranked #42. The average cost of living in L.A. is 20% less than living in New York. In fact, everything from rent to groceries and restaurants will cost you less in L.A. Los Angeles residents also have a higher purchasing power. Your hard-earned cash has 15% more power in L.A. when compared to N.Y.C.
The ten cities where the cost of living is the lowest are all located in India or Pakistan:
- Rawalpindi, Pakistan
- Karachi, Pakistan
- Thiruvananthapuram, India
- Visakhapatnam, India
- Islamabad, Pakistan
- Lahore, Pakistan
- Vijayawada, India
- Kochi, India
- Mysore, India
- Bhubaneswar, India
Rawalpindi and Karachi are the least expensive cities to live in with respective cost of livings of 17.17 and 19.73. That means that living in Rawalpindi is nearly 83% cheaper than it would cost to live in New York City. However, there may be a downside to cheaper costs of living: houses could be worth little in these cities. India has six cities on this list, the cheapest of which is Thiruvananthapuram, which has a cost of living of 20.41.
While not the lowest of the low, the major cities of South America make for another interesting trend. The majority of South American cities have costs of living on the lower side, ranging between 54.29-41.76.
We’ve discussed the cities with the highest cost of living and those with the lowest, but what about the cities with the nearly identical cost of livings? No, it’s not Basel, Zurich, Lausanne, Geneva, or Bern, Switzerland. The following cities are on opposite sides of the globe, yet though they are distant, they have duplicate costs of living. Aalborg, Denmark, and Tokyo, Japan have nearly identical costs of living despite being over 8,500 miles from each other. Aalborg’s cost of living is 90.28 while Tokyo’s is just .02 less at 90.26. A different Danish city has a similar cost of living as Boston, Massachusetts. Arhus, DK has a cost of living of 86.92 while Boston’s is 86.87. That’s only a .05 difference.
Now for the “thruple:” Dublin, Ireland, Sydney, Australia, and Singapore. The costs of living in these three cities are all within less than .2 of each other. Dublin cost of living is 79.61, followed by Sydney’s which is 79.52, and Singapore’s cost of living which is 79.4. And even though Paris, France is only officially a twin city with Rome, when it comes to cost of living, Paris is nearly identical — fraternal twins if you will — to Seattle, Washington. Though these two cities are 4,993 miles apart, their costs of living are only .09 away from each other. The cost of living in Paris is 85.91 while Seattle’s is 85.82. In case you were wondering, Rome’s cost of living is 71.08 which is nowhere near Paris’s. Seattle: 1; Rome: 0.
We found nine nearly identical costs of living between very distant cities. How many more can you find? There are lots of cities that are so close — in cost — yet so far away in distance. To calculate the distances between cities with similar costs of living on the map, just break out the digital measuring tape. BatchGeo’s Advanced Mode allows you to select the measuring tool (ruler icon in the top left corner of the map.) You can either click on the first option and drag your cursor from one location to another to see the distance between the two points, or you can nmeasure a boatload of distances from one point all at once by clicking on the multi-measure tool.
Well, we’re off to move to a nice moderately-priced city like Valencia, Spain (cost of living: 54.76), Ljubljana, Slovenia (cost of living: 55.82), or pretty much any city in Europe, aside from Switzerland, of course. The map showed us that the majority of the average-costing cities can be found in Europe. Maps like this one really illuminate data trends, so be sure to check out related maps you can make in minutes, including how to apartment hunting visually with a custom map, how to make an open house map, and how to visualize local crime data with a map.