Ever wondered where the world’s most expensive countries are? A table can tell you a lot, but convert that table into one big colourful world map and suddenly the results get a lot more interesting. At MoveHub, we’ve taken the data from Numbeo’s 2020 Cost of Living Index and made it really beautiful. To create the Index, Numbeo collates a huge amount of information from thousands of worldwide contributions, focusing on consumer costs and prices. There are nearly fifty factors, ranging from meals at mid-range restaurants to gym memberships, bottles of wine and cappuccinos. A quick guide to our maps: green is cheap and pink is pricey.
As you can see, there’s somewhere expensive in nearly every continent, although the most significant concentration is clearly in Europe. Funnily enough, some of the world’s most expensive lifestyles are found in countries that are barely visible on a world map, so you’ll have to scroll down for more detail. Southeast Asia looks pretty cheap until you zoom in on Hong Kong and Singapore!
Who knew that world flags would look so great as little circles? If a country was lucky enough to be in one of the top tens, we gave its flag a pretty jazzy treatment. So it turns out Bermuda and Pakistan are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, with every other country falling in between. The number ‘100’ represents the cost of living in New York, so every country has been scored in relation to the prices in the Big Apple. Looking at the results above, it’s pretty noticeable how geographically concentrated the world’s cheapest countries are. In contrast, the world’s most expensive countries are spread out all over the place
There’s a pretty distinct divide when it comes to living costs in Europe. While the Eastern states are painted in bright green, the countries of Western Europe have that expensive pinky-orange colour. That’s right: if you want a super cheap holiday in Europe then you should head to the Balkans and beyond. Europe’s most affordable country is Ukraine, which places 113th in the global rankings, followed by Kosovo at 109th and Moldova at 101st. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s no surprise to find that Switzerland is Europe’s most expensive country, ranking as the world’s second-priciest place to live. Life in the land of chocolate, cheese and mountains clearly comes with a rather hefty cost. A recent survey by Expat Insider from 2017 actually found Switzerland to be one of the world’s most unfriendly countries, so perhaps it’s better to be cheap and cheerful.
You wouldn’t expect the biggest talking point in North America to be Bermuda! The British Overseas Territory is the world’s most expensive place to live, boasting a gorgeous subtropical climate and 181 islands. You can expect a trip to beautiful Bermuda to be jolly good fun, as long as you steer clear of that fateful triangle.
There’s another mega expensive country here too, with the Bahamas ranking 5th in the global table. It blows Bermuda out of the water when it comes to its number of islands, possessing a mighty 700. If you fancy a holiday there, don’t miss the beach of swimming pigs (yes, really) and the island of iguanas. Elsewhere, things are mostly quite affordable, although life in Puerto Rico can also set you back a bit.
South America is pretty cheap across the board (especially in the Northwestern areas) but Uruguay is the world’s 30th most expensive country – hence the pink blotch halfway down the continent. However, you get what you pay for down there; Uruguay has some of South America’s highest levels of peace, press freedom, democracy and GDP growth. On another note, its population is also vastly outnumbered by cows; there are nearly 3.5 head of cattle per person.
Your money will go far in the majority of Northern Asia and the Middle East. In particular, Pakistan is the world’s cheapest country, with India only three places above. The obvious outliers are at opposite ends of the continent, with Israel and UAE to the west and Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong to the east. Japan just makes it into the world’s top ten most expensive countries, nipping in at 9th place. It seems that the Land of the Rising Sun is not one of the most affordable options for travellers and expats, but that doesn’t stop people going there. You won’t get faster trains and better sushi anywhere else.
Southeast Asia and Australia
Drift down to Southeast Asia and you’ll find somewhere even more expensive; Singapore is the priciest country in the whole of Asia and it places 8th in the global rankings. This tiny seaport nation is clearly in pretty modest company – particularly the Philippines, which is the cheapest country in Southeast Asia. if you’re travelling through the continent on a budget, it might be wise to pass through Singapore rather quickly.
Based on the countries we have the data for, you can see that Africa is easily the least expensive of all the world’s continents. The steepest prices can be found in Ghana, which is surprising considering South Africa’s huge popularity as a global tourist destination. Ghana ranks 38th in the world table, with the second highest being Mauritius at 49th.
The key takeaways
So there you have it. If you’re thinking of starting an affordable new life, you know which colourful map you should consult. For hot weather and brilliant value for money, look no further than the Philippines, but the Bahamas are best avoided until you’ve got some cash to burn.