Most Expensive Expat Destinations: You May Be Surprised

Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in live abroad, moving abroad | No Comments
Most Expensive Expat Destinations: You May Be Surprised

One of the big decisions you have to make when choosing a location to live and work overseas is the cost of living. Now ECA International has released its Cost of Living survey to reveal where in the world it is most expensive for expats to live – and there are some surprising results.

The survey mainly targets companies employing expats around the world, and it compares consumer services and goods in the different locations. It does not include data for rental accommodation, school fees and utilities because companies normally cover these in separate allowances, but it can still be a useful guide for remote workers choosing a destination.

Venezuela the Most Expensive Destination (and the Cheapest)

At the top of the list is Caracas in Venezuela. However, this is a strange case because there are various exchange rates in the country. The official exchange rate overvalues the bolivar, making it the most expensive city in the world for expats.


However, the black-market rate and other more competitive rates provide better value to expats, turning Caracas into the cheapest place to live. Issues like this may not be clear to expats when they are choosing a location, but such issues can have a huge impact on the experience of living overseas.

Other Expensive Destinations

The other destinations in the top 10 include:

  • Luanda in Angola
  • Oslo and Stavanger in Norway
  • Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Basel in Switzerland
  • Juba in South Sudan
  • Seoul in South Korea

As you can see, the list is made up of a mix of more economically developed countries and less economically developed countries. It’s therefore important to never assume that a country will be cheap to live just because it is not particularly wealthy.

What Affects the Cost of Living?

There are various factors that affect the cost of living in different countries. As seen in Venezuela, the exchange rates can have a huge impact on your spending power. Exchange rates can also fluctuate, affecting your earnings from week to week. It is a good idea to find out about exchange rate predictions before you book your trip in case the rate is expected to worsen over coming months.

Some countries are plagued by inflation, and this can seriously affect the cost of living. Find out before you go whether inflation is expected to increase over the coming months to help you prepare for it.

Try to find out the cost of accommodation as well. Sometimes tourist rentals can be a lot more expensive than the rental prices for residents.

Find Out More About Your Destination

Research like the ECA International survey can provide you with a useful guide to the cost of living overseas. However, try to spend some time doing your own research. Read up about the destination to find out about aspects such as exchange rates and inflation, and ask questions in expat forums to find out what life is really like there before you travel.

It is better to do your research in advance rather than find out when you get there that the cost of living is far more than you expected it to be, which could end up cutting your trip short.

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