The world's most expensive cities of 2011

Americans might complain about the high cost of living, but the weak US dollar makes some foreign cities far more expensive. Find out where it buys the least.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 15, 2011 9:29PM

Image: New York (© Tom Grill/Corbis)By Venessa Wong, Bloomberg BusinessWeeksinessWeek on MSN Money

 

These days, most Americans are angry about the fact that things like fuel, food and football tickets cost more. In fact, consumer prices increased 2.1% year over year in the first quarter. In April, they were up 3.2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet on a global basis, the U.S. has become a bargain compared with some other countries as the U.S. dollar weakens and costs balloon in other places, according to results from a new report by ECA International, a global human resources company.

 

The semiannual survey, which compares the price of food and basic goods and services -- but not housing, utilities or school fees -- for expatriates in more than 400 cities around the world, ranked Australian cities higher for cost of living this year, mainly the result of currency changes. The Australian dollar has appreciated about 30% against the U.S. dollar since June 2010, and the Swiss franc has jumped about 37%. Of U.S. cities, Manhattan, which ranked No. 28 on last year's list, fell to No. 44. Honolulu dropped to No. 62 from No. 40.

 

The following are the top 10:

 

No. 1: Tokyo

Quick lunch: $20.80
Beer at a bar: $10.56
Kilogram of rice: $9.80
Dozen eggs: $4.50
Movie theater ticket: $23.80

 

Although the consumer price index in the Tokyo area has been falling since 2009, according to data from Japan's statistics bureau, the city remains the world's most expensive. While housing costs are not included in this survey, ECA International estimates that the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo stood at $4,352 in September 2010.

 

No. 2: Oslo

Quick lunch: $45.20
Beer at a bar: $13.18
Kilogram of rice: $6.10
Dozen eggs: $8.50
Movie theater ticket: $18.80

 

Norway's capital is a major hub for trade, shipping and finance and is home to the Oslo Stock Exchange. Oslo has ranked among the world's most expensive cities for years, which is not surprising when a quick lunch costs about $45 and a dozen eggs go for $8.50.

 

No. 3: Nagoya, Japan

Quick lunch: $19
Beer at a bar: $11.37
Kilogram of rice: $8.50
Dozen eggs: $3.60
Movie theater ticket: $21.80

 

Nagoya is one of Japan's premier industrial and technological centers and is well known for its high quality of life and competitive business costs, according to the U.S. Commercial Service. Unlike Japan's other major cities, Nagoya was not significantly harmed by the global economic downturn and has maintained its growth.

 

No. 4: Stavanger, Norway

Quick lunch: $32.30
Beer at a bar: $12.83
Kilogram of rice: $5.70
Dozen eggs: $6.80
Movie theater ticket: $17.30

 

Stavanger was mainly a fishing community until oil was found in the North Sea in the 1960s, transforming it into a major Norwegian city. Today, Norway is a leading oil exporter, with Statoil as the largest oil company in the Stavanger region. The industry has become central to the local economy and has attracted many residents from other countries.

 

No. 5: Yokohama, Japan

Quick lunch: $16.90
Beer at a bar: $6.59
Kilogram of rice: $4.20
Dozen eggs: $2.50
Movie theater ticket: $21.70

 

Japan's second-largest city after Tokyo, Yokohama is easily reached from Tokyo by train. The port city is home to more than 300 IT companies and has a growing biotechnology base. Yokohama has nine main business districts and exports many cars and auto parts.

 

No. 6: Zurich

Quick lunch: $32.90
Beer at a bar: $10.54
Kilogram of rice: $3.70
Dozen eggs: $7.90
Movie theater ticket: $19.60

 

The financial sector is an important part of Zurich's economy, and the city is home to the Swiss Stock Exchange and companies such as Credit Suisse and Swiss Re. Zurich is also a major transportation hub. Mercer ranked the city second in the world for quality of life in 2010, but such a high standard of living does not come cheap: Zurich jumped to No. 6 from 10.


No. 7: Luanda, Angola

Quick lunch: $52.40
Beer at a bar: $6.62
Kilogram of rice: $4.60
Dozen eggs: $5.20
Movie theater ticket: $13.90

 

Luanda was the most expensive city in the world in ECA International's 2009 ranking. Last year it slipped to third place, on the depreciation of the kwanza, and this year it fell again. While the city has a high poverty rate, it remains one of the most expensive places for expatriates to maintain standards of living comparable to those in their home countries.

 

No. 8: Geneva

Quick lunch: $33.70
Beer at a bar: $9.12
Kilogram of rice: $4.70
Dozen eggs: $8.60
Movie theater ticket: $19.20

 

Truly a global city, Geneva is home to such international organizations as the United Nations (which has an office in the city) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. An important center for banking, government and technology, Geneva attracts many professional visitors as well as tourists. It ranked as the third-best city in the world for quality of life in Mercer's 2010 report.

 

No. 9: Kobe, Japan

Quick lunch: $15.60
Beer at a bar: $8.69
Kilogram of rice: $9.30
Dozen eggs: $3.10
Movie theater ticket: $20.80

 

Kobe is one of Japan's busiest ports and is a manufacturing center for appliances, food and transportation equipment. The city offers many types of cuisine, though it's known best for high-grade and pricey Kobe beef.

 

No. 10: Bern, Switzerland

Quick lunch: $28.80
Beer at a bar: $7.46
Kilogram of rice: $4.70
Dozen eggs: $8.40
Movie theater ticket: $19.10

 

Switzerland's capital, Bern is the center of Swiss government, the engineering industry and the precision industry. It's also a manufacturing center for watches and other technology used in the medical, IT and automotive sectors, according to the Bern Economic Development Agency. Branded watches such as Rolex, Longines, Swatch and Rado are manufactured in the Canton of Bern.

 

See gallery of top 30 most expensive cities

 

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