World Cost of Living Table – 100 Major Cities Compared

cost of living around the world

The world cost of living table features 100 major cities from a vast range of countries and every continent. It should help you get an idea of how living costs around the world compare whilst highlighting some of the cheapest cities to live in.

Scroll down for a full cost of living comparison for major cities around the world. Alternatively, you may want to focus on one region:

North America Living Costs | South America Living Costs | Europe Living Costs | Asia Living Costs

The above articles and the country cost of living pages linked to in the table below go into more detail about how the cost of living index was calculated. Like any cost of living calculator, this is not an exact science and your actual expenses will depend greatly on your lifestyle. 

However, as a rough guide, the figure for each city is loosely designed to cover the cost of rented accommodation for one person plus typical day-to-day living expenses (groceries etc).

Table of Contents

Living in Cairo, Egypt
Cairo, Egypt – one of the cheapest major global cities to live in.

Living Costs Guide – Living Expenses around the World

Cheapest Cities to Live in

CityCountryCost of Living Index ($US/Month)
Buenos AiresArgentina700
La PazBolivia700
Dar es SalaamTanzania750

Some of the cheapest cities to live in the world are found in South Asia with Pakistan exceptionally cheap to live in by global standards. Of the 100 major global cities we looked at, the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Lahore ranked as the two most affordable.

There is great value to be found right across the Indian subcontinent though with many cities in India and Bangladesh also very possible to live on as little as $500/month or less in some cases. The average monthly salary in this part of the world is typically well under that amount.

There are cities from a wide range of regions that feature in this section though. While none are quite as cheap as Karachi, the city with the lowest cost of living, you can also live for very little in major cities in places like Egypt, Colombia and Turkey. 

Perhaps the most livable city in this section is Buenos Aires, the vibrant Argentine capital which is now very cheap for foreigners moving there given the collapse of the Argentine Peso and major economic difficulties in the country in recent years.

Affordable Cities to Live in

CityCountryCost of Living Index ($US/Month)
Kuala LumpurMalaysia950
JohannesburgSouth Africa950
Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam1000
Santo DomingoDominican Republic1000
Rio de JaneiroBrazil1000
San JoséCosta Rica1050
ManilaThe Philippines1050

There are a range of interesting options here including some of the most beautiful and cheapest coastal cities to live in such as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil which comes in at $1000/month on this index.

Slightly cheaper than that, the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is one of the best cities to live in Southeast Asia, while Jakarta and Hanoi are other cities in that region with similar costs. This section also includes some more of the cheapest major Arab cities such as Casablanca and Baghdad.

Meanwhile Tirana also sneaks in proving there are affordable places to live in Europe. There are cheaper smaller cities across the Balkans while Istanbul, located on the Bosphorus where Europe meets Asia, is another of the most affordable major global cities with living costs similar to that of Rio and Ho Chi Minh City.

Mid Range Living Costs

CityCountryCost of Living Index ($US/Month)
Phnom PenhCambodia1100
São PauloBrazil1150
Panama CityPanama1150
AbidjanIvory Coast1150
Addis AbabaEthiopia1200
Mexico CityMexico1200
RiyadhSaudi Arabia1350

The above destinations fall more into the mid-range category when looking at the living costs in cities around the world. It features some of the cheaper European cities as well as some of the most expensive places to live in Latin America and Africa.

Montevideo for example is widely regarded as one of the best places to live in South America, and it’s also the most expensive major city in the continent. Costs in the Uruguayan capital are more than in European cities such as Zagreb, Riga, Sofia and Bucharest.

In Asia, there are some exciting major cities that are still relatively affordable such as Bangkok and Beijing, although living costs have risen rapidly in recent years in both. Going the other way is the Japanese city of Osaka which works out as surprisingly affordable. Japan overall is now considered a cheaper place to live for foreigners than it once was, at least in relative terms when looked at from the point of view of an international cost of living comparison.

Expensive Cities to Live in

CityCountryCost of Living Index ($US/Month)
Abu DhabiUAE1850
SeoulSouth Korea1950
AucklandNew Zealand2100

Things are starting to get quite a bit more expensive now in this cost of living by city rundown, certainly by the end of this section where costs spiral to past $2000/month, around five times the living costs of the very cheapest cities.

Cities like Athens, Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona are some of the most attractive places to live in Europe and costs aren’t as high as they are in some of the continent’s most expensive countries. As well as a West-East divide in Europe, there is also a North-South one with Northern European capitals like Stockholm and Berlin more expensive than their Southern counterparts.

Elsewhere, this section features expensive Arab cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, as well as the major Far East capitals of Tokyo and Seoul. It also includes some of the cheaper major cities in North America like Houston and Montreal.

Most Expensive Major Cities

CityCountryCost of Living Index ($US/Month)
AmsterdamThe Netherlands2150
Tel AvivIsrael2150
WellingtonNew Zealand2150
Hong KongHong Kong2500
Los AngelesUSA2800
New YorkUSA3600

Any cost of living comparison by country will typically lead to similar conclusions with places like the USA, Australia, Switzerland and the odd pricey microstate such as Singapore ranking as the most expensive places in the world to live in.

Of the 100 we looked at, Zurich ranks as the most expensive city to live, with costs marginally more expensive than New York. Singapore, London and Los Angeles round off the top five most expensive cities.

Sydney is Oceania’s most expensive place to live and another of the costliest global options. A host of other expensive Western European capitals like Dublin, Paris and Copenhagen also feature. As does Hong Kong, which remains considerably more expensive than mainland China, as it approaches three decades of Chinese rule.

Cost of living 2023 - New York
New York City – one of the world’s most expensive places to live.

Global Living Costs – Other Things to Consider

The world cost of living table above is only designed to be a rough guide and may not necessarily accurately reflect your living expenses were you to live in one of these cities. Much will depend on your lifestyle and accommodation preferences but it hopefully demonstrates the enormous range in living costs with cities like Zurich and New York nearly 10 times as expensive as some of the cheapest cities in the world.

Unless you’re a student, retiree or somebody working remotely, you also of course need to factor in the vastly different earning potential depending on where you live. Cities like New York and Zurich also rank amongst the cities with the highest salaries and despite the extremely high cost of living, they may still provide the best opportunity to save money if you manage to land the right job!

If you’re a digital nomad or not in a position to work, you’ll most likely want to avoid at least the very bottom section of the table above and perhaps the previous one too, although that does feature some slightly more affordable and highly livable cities like Tokyo, Barcelona, Lisbon and Berlin.

It’s also worth noting that the international cost of living index above does not allow for the cost of healthcare or medical insurance which will vary between countries and according to your individual circumstances.

You can get a quote in just a minute from SafetyWing who specialise in providing travel medical insurance for nomads and those living away from their own country. There is more detail about them in our SafetyWing review.

The living costs on this page were fully updated in June 2023.

World Cost of Living Table – 100 Major Cities Compared

One thought on “World Cost of Living Table – 100 Major Cities Compared

  1. Nice post and good work. Of course it is always a challenge to compare the cost of living versus the quality of life, and ultimately that is subjective. Oslo is very expensive, but some, like myself, would much prefer to live in Paris or Nice, France, Rome, or some country town in France and Italy even if they are not the cheapest places on earth to live. Others would prefer Thailand, for example, over Laos, even if it more expensive, due to the large expat community. So many factors, but cost is certainly a huge one, especially for a digital nomad!

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