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MY 10 CENTS: World's most expensive cities list, 2019

These ‘World’s Most…” lists are always fraught with danger and should be taken with a grain of overpriced truffle salt, but the recent Worldwide Cost of Living Survey report released by The Economist Intelligence Unit is taking a particular beating from online pundits.



Without further ado (or annoying scrolling), here’s the list in its bare bones:

1 (tied) Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore

4 Zurich

5 (tied) Osaka and Geneva

7 (tied) Seoul and Copenhagen

10 (tied) Los Angeles and Tel Aviv


First of all, if one of our contributors came to me with a ‘10’ list with as many tied places as that, I’d throw it out the window and suggest gently, through gritted teeth, that they might want to make some damn decisions and order them properly.


This dog’s breakfast from the usually brilliant The Economist has given us all something to think about, though – what makes an expensive city?


Apparently Singapore made it to number 1 (and has consistently done the same for years) due to the expense of having a car there… but who the hell has a car in Singers? The metro system is practical, well organised and very widely used, putting car ownership on a par with a gold watch or a diamond tennis bracelet. Certainly, the ‘Crazy Rich Asian’ phenomenon should place both Singapore and Hong Kong at or near the top in any case, but this particular point of judgement does show the American lens through which the researchers have peered.


Speaking of the USA, many commentators have pointed out the differences between LA and San Francisco in terms of everyday affordability, arguing that LA offers a wide spread of socioeconomic diversity in terms of housing and liveability, while San Fran does not. Simply put? You can slum it in LA if you need to, but there’s no way to do the same in San Fran, making the latter, in practical terms, a more expensive prospect.


Meanwhile, poor Paris continues to get hammered, making it to number 1 as well. It’s not its fault it’s so damn beautiful and everyone wants to live there, munching decoratively on baguettes, having an ultimately unsuccessful fling with a short, mendacious Parisien and then tapping out a novel peppered with French phrases in italics to show how much they’ve grown as a person. This kind of behaviour does tend to drive up the cost of housing for everyone else, but I do argue that the car ownership issue mentioned above for Singapore goes almost equally here. And, as a regular visitor and show-off Francophone (see how I slipped that in there? Should I have put that in italics?) I do argue that everyday living costs can be remarkably low if you eat fresh from the markets, keep up on those crusty baguettes and avoid the big shopping centres.


PS You may notice I have no commentary regarding the Swiss city entries in the list. Yerp. They got those just about dead right. They’re bloody expensive.



1,2, don’t sue: These are strictly the personal opinions of Jac Taylor, our lovable yet occasionally irascible Editor in Chief, and don’t represent the official stance of The Travel Ten as an entity. We just gave her this column so she’d stop loudly going on about things in the office.


If you'd like to ask her a travel question to include in this month's Ask Me Anything LIVE video session, simply sign up to our free newsletter and you'll get the link to do it. She's fun on video, especially when she's jetlagged.

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