Survey shows the most expensive locations for expats; British nationals are especially hard-hit

Dec 23, 2023 | 1 comment

By Aimee Robinson

The British are huge fans of travel, with the latest data revealing that 5.5 million British people live permanently abroad. Some locations, however, are far more expensive than others and the drop in the value of the pound hits British expats particularly hard. New research has revealed that Britons opting to move to parts of Asia, the U.S. and Switzerland could be shelling out far more in order to cover their expenses.

Geneva, Switzerland ranks fourth in the cost of living.

The new rankings were released as part of ECA International’s cost of living report.

According to ECA, British travelers and expats destined for Japan, Switzerland and Turkmenistan will find these areas particularly expensive. The higher costs come as the result of a weakened pound due to Brexit and recent political turbulence.

A strong performance for the U.S. dollar has seen all American locations rise by an average of 18 spots, with eight locations featured in the top 50 with New York returning to the global top 20 for the first time in four years.

Canadian locations were also more expensive with Toronto and Montreal both rising the cost-of-living rankings.

Across the Middle East, expats can expect to pull out more money as part of daily life.

A strong performance from the shekel has seen Tel Aviv enter the top 10 most expensive locations for the first time. This continues a trend that has seen the city ranking rise a little in each of the last five years from 22nd to 9th now.

Global top 20 most expensive cities for expatriates.

Muscat in Oman saw the biggest increase, rising 37 places to 97th, while Abu Dhabi (40th) entered the top 50 for the first time.

“Israeli cities have been slowly rising up our ranking for the last five years thanks to the strength of the local economy, boosting the shekel and making the country more expensive for expatriates,” commented Steven Kilfedder, Systems Manager at ECA International.

Travelers jetting off to Asia could also be faced with financial fluctuations. Kilfedder explained: “Bangkok, long seen as a cheap destination for holidaymakers and businesses alike, has seen a huge rise in the cost of living for people from other countries over the past few years. The strong economy has pushed up the value of the Thai baht and made the country more expensive for expatriates.”

Kilfedder continues: “We have seen Thai cities moving significantly up the rankings over the past few years; Bangkok has moved up 75 places in the last two years alone and Chiang Mai has moved up 56 places in the same period.” Bangkok has risen 43 places to the 47th most expensive living cost.

Cost of living in Hong Kong remains steady, retaining its position as the sixth costliest location in the world; however, the region has slipped from second to third in Asia following a strong performance by the yen, seeing Tokyo rise six places to second place in the world. Singapore saw its ranking increase five places to 13th.

According to Kilfedder: “Hong Kong’s place in the rankings has remained stable this year with the city continuing to be the sixth most expensive location in the world for expatriates.

“Despite the ongoing socio-political upheavals and the fact that the economy is in recession, we have yet to see a real impact on the cost of living in the city. Inflation remains high relative to many other locations that occupy the upper reaches of our rankings.”

He added that prices in Japan are set for further increase owing to the recent boost in the consumption tax.

Meanwhile, the report also found that the cost of living in the UK capital is at its lowest in recent years. The findings show that the cost of living in central London has dropped eight places on average over the last 12 months, with Central London posting its lowest ever position in the global rankings at 140th.

Kilfedder said: “The UK is the cheapest it has been for foreign workers but figures suggest that this is not leading to an influx of investment because of the uncertainty over Brexit. Meanwhile, it has become more expensive for UK firms to send staff abroad.

“While uncertainty may decrease after the election and push up the value of the pound, there could be years of complicated trade talks ahead so expect the UK to see more fluctuations in the ranking in years to come,” he says.

For those looking for lower costs of living, Kilfedder says there are a number of attractive options in Latin America. “There have been protests recently in a number of countries in the region but we expect these to subside. Cities such as Santiago in Chile, Arequipa in Peru, Panama City, Panama and Cuenca and Quito in Ecuador are all very liveable with costs of living less than half of many destinations in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.”


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