Expat winners and losers in currency changes...

The strength of the dollar has resulted in many more American cities entering the top 100 in a table ranking the cost of living in locations around the world.

Conversely, this year's report compiled by global mobility firm ECA International, says the weakness of the euro has resulted in European cities now accounting for less than a fifth of the world’s 100 most expensive cities.The survey of 482 locations worldwide is intended as a guide to enable companies to assess the spending needs of employees sent on international assignments. It compares a basket of commonly purchased, like-for-like consumer goods and services.

Euro poor performance has affected prices

Steven Kilfedder, production manager at ECA, said, “The euro has suffered a difficult 12 months compared to other major currencies, causing nearly all European cities to drop in the cost of living rankings."The only European locations that buck this trend were cities in the UK and some in Eastern European locations that were unaffected by the poor performance of the euro. As the dollar gains strength against the euro, most Europeans will find general basket goods more expensive in the USA this year, such as a loaf of bread costing around £3.70 in New York City versus £1.18 in London.”

Ashgabat in Turkmenistan in top spot 

The unexpected occupant of top spot in this year's list is Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, which was in 110th position in 2018.“Although the rise of Ashgabat in the rankings may be a surprise to some, those familiar with the economic and currency issues experienced by Turkmenistan over the past few years may have seen this coming," said Mr Kilfedder."Ever-escalating levels of inflation, coupled with a prominent illegal black market for foreign currencies pushing up the cost of imports, mean that at the official exchange rate, costs for visitors to the capital city Ashgabat have increased enormously – putting it firmly at the top of the rankings.”More familiar names – Zurich and Geneva – fill the second and third places on the list while Hong Kong, which dropped out of the top ten last year, is back in at number four.

London has dropped out of the top 100

Overall, 11 European cities have dropped out of the top 100. London is now in 106th place globally and rates as the 23rd most expensive city in Europe."The weakened euro has caused many major eurozone cities to fall behind central London in the cost of living rankings, including Milan in Italy, Rotterdam and Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Toulouse in France and German cities such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt," reported ECA.

US cities amongst the most expensive in the world 

"Conversely, 25 US cities now feature in the top 100 most expensive in the world, up from only ten last year, due to the strengthened dollar."Manhattan is the most expensive US location followed by Honolulu (27th) and greater New York City (31st), while San Francisco and Los Angeles have both re-entered the top 50 after dropping out last year (45th and 48th respectively). “The strong US dollar has resulted in dramatic rises in the rankings for all locations in the United States, meaning that expats and overseas visitors to the US will now find that they need more of their home currency to buy the same goods and services as they did just one year ago,” explained Mr Kilfedder.

Sanctions have made Russia cheaper for foreign workers 

Moscow, meanwhile, dropped significantly in this year’s rankings – down 66 places from 54th. “Lower oil prices and economic sanctions in Russia have put the rouble under pressure and its resulting depreciation against other major currencies has made the country cheaper for foreign workers this year,” said Mr Kilfedder.The biggest drop in this year's rankings is Caracas, which was in first place in 2018 but in 238th place this year. Despite inflation of almost 350,000 per cent, Venezuela's hyper-inflation has been more than offset by, "an equally spectacular drop" in the value of the bolivar.Hong Kong's return to the top ten is being attributed to the continued strength of the HK dollar. "Despite low inflation, the cost of living in Hong Kong was relatively higher in the past 12 months than all other Asian cities in our list, with the exception of Ashgabat,” said Mr Kilfedder.

Almost a third of Asian cities in top 100 

There are, in fact, 28 Asian cities in the top 100, with Singapore jumping to 12th place – part of a long-term, rising trend over the past five years, ECA reported.“All 14 of the Chinese cities in our rankings feature in the global top 50 most expensive, with a number of developing cities such as Chengdu and Tianjin rising significantly in the rankings over the course of the past five years," added Mr Kilfedder.The city ranked the world's cheapest this year is Tehran, primarily as a result of US sanctions, while Doha has seen on of the most significant rises, jumping more than 50 places to 52nd.

ECA International cost of living top ten:

  1. Ashgabat
  2. Zurich
  3. Geneva
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Basel
  6. Bern
  7. Tokyo
  8. Seoul
  9. Tel Aviv
  10. Shanghai
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