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Bangkok: 46th Most Expensive City for Expats in the World

The world’s most expensive cities for expats to live in have been revealed by Mercer, the world’s largest human resources consulting firm.

Its annual Cost of Living Survey is in its 26th year: the 2021 edition has judged that six of the top 10 priciest cities are in Asia.

Bangkok, although in the top 50 at number 46, has actually dropped 11 places from last year, where it ranked at number 35.

Hong Kong was the most costly expat city in 2020 but now ranks as second, swapping places this year with the relatively unknown Ashgabat in Turkmenistan.

Ashgabat is the capital of the Central Asian country Turkmenistan. The city has a population of just over 1 million and is close to the border that Turkmenistan shares with Iran.

Ashgabat and Hong Kong were followed on the list by Beirut in Lebanon, Tokyo in Japan, and Zurich in Switzerland.

Mercer’s annual report judges 209 cities based on the price of various expenses including accommodation, transportation and food.

There are In excess of 200 goods and services taken into account for the report. It is used as a barometer for firms and governments to accurately calculate how much they should be paying their expatriate staff.

Expatriates, also known as expats for short, are those who live and/or work outside of their home countries.

Shanghai, Singapore, Geneva, Beijing and Bern also feature in the top 10 cities. All of the cities, aside from Ashgabat, are business hubs that have experienced strong economic growth resulting in spikes in accommodation and other living costs.

Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat is the priciest city however based on economic woes, with unusually high levels of inflation due to their dependency on natural gas exports to Russia and the recent low gas prices.

Energy prices went into a spiral in 2014, which drastically increased inflation and food prices. Since then, the daily lives of the less wealthy all over Turkmenistan has led to them having to queue for hours on end to buy affordable groceries, of which there is hardly any supply.

Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, jumped from 45th a year earlier to 3rd in the 2021 report.

The survey highlighted factors such as the “political turmoil” of recent years and the “severe and extensive economic depression”.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the Port of Beirut explosion have all amplified the economic effects, causing record-high inflation,” Mercer said.

New York was judged to be the 14th most expensive city for expats in 2021, and London to be the 18th.

Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek was ranked as the least expensive city for foreigners by the survey.