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The World’s Most and Least Expensive Cities, Ranked

As any seasoned traveler knows, your dollar goes much further in some places than it does in others. I’ll never forget reviewing my credit card account after my first trip to Copenhagen and realizing all those to-go cups of coffee came to $6 each. Or, conversely, how affordable a beer is in Berlin.

The Economist’s new list of the most (and least) expensive cities confirms this fact. Its Worldwide Cost of Living Survey compares prices across 160 products and services to determine and rank the most expensive cities in the world. While not all of those products and services will apply to visitors, the list is a good indicator of what travelers can expect when they arrive.

The Most Expensive Cities in the World:

  • Singapore, Paris, and Hong Kong (tied for first)
  • Zurich
  • Osaka
  • Seoul, New York, and Copenhagen
  • Los Angeles, Tel Aviv

This year, Singapore, Paris, and Hong Kong tied for title of most expensive city, while Caracas, Damascus, and Tashkent in Uzbekistan were the least expensive. In terms of popular tourist destinations, New York came in seventh (tied with the aforementioned Copenhagen), with Tokyo, Los Angeles, Zurich, Reykjavik, Seoul, Dublin, and Sydney all finding a home in the top 20.

Follow the Value

But while the expensive cities may grab the headlines, travelers may be more interested in the destinations with lower costs. All of the Eastern European cities are relative values, for example: Prague is the most expensive from that region, but only ranks 82nd on the list. Cities like Warsaw, Budapest, and St. Petersburg are well below the top of the list cities. So are Western European cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, and Lisbon and North American cities like Boston, Miami, and Montreal.

Lists like these don’t tell the whole story, of course. Using Copenhagen as an example, I was astonished to find a wealth of affordable (read: around $70 per night) Airbnb options for my trip last spring. I also made use of discounts on mass transit and attractions via the Copenhagen Card, all of which helped offset those $5 coffees (which, admittedly, were very good).

Point is, travelers shouldn’t shy away from a destination that ranks high on a list like this. Many cities offer discounts and programs to ease the cost of visiting, and creative travelers can always find a way make the most of their budget.

Readers: What is the most expensive city you’ve ever visited? Comment below.

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