New York City has a reputation for being one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. — and it’s also one of the costliest cities in the world. Only four countries are more expensive to live in than the Big Apple, with a cost of living up to 31% higher.
However, even if a country has cheap rent and bargain prices on food, it could be pricey in other areas. High taxes, low wages and above-average transportation costs can all contribute to a high cost of living for residents.
GOBankingRates crunched numbers from around the world to find the places where you might struggle to cover the costs of daily living. The study also included the local purchasing power for each country, which shows how much your dollar can buy. Generally, the higher the overall cost of living and the lower the purchasing power, the higher the country ranked on this list of the most expensive places to live.
Last updated: Jan. 7, 2020
Cost-of-living index: 123.96
Local purchasing power: 87.84
Iceland’s high cost of living isn’t due to housing. You can rent a home for less than half of what you could in the Big Apple. It’s food that’s pricey — you’ll spend 33% more to eat out and 19% more on groceries compared to New York. And the local purchasing power is lower than all but one of the other top 15 most expensive countries.
Cost-of-living index: 131.39
Local purchasing power: 126.15
Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living in the world — 31% higher than in New York City — plus the world’s most expensive groceries. Rents are half of what you’d pay in the Big Apple, but worldwide income tax can run up to 40%. You’re even taxed for living in your own home. However, Swiss citizens at least enjoy purchasing power that’s 26% higher compared to New York.
Cost-of-living index: 113.70
Local purchasing power: 107.95
Rent in Norway costs under half as much as in the U.S., but the food is pricey. Norway ranks as the third costliest in the world for groceries and eating out, with restaurant food prices up to 25% higher than in New York City.
Cost-of-living index: 100.68
Local purchasing power: 71.40
At first glance, life in the sunny Bahamas costs about the same as living in the Big Apple. However, rent costs are 65% less, and the country is the third-most tax-friendly in the world.
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Cost-of-living index: 96.56
Local purchasing power: 116.73
Rounding out the top five most expensive countries to live in, Luxembourg boasts a purchasing power that is 16% higher than in New York City. That purchasing power doesn’t apply to dining — it’s the fifth-most expensive place to eat out and 8% more expensive compared to New York.
Cost-of-living index: 93.30
Local purchasing power: 117.53
Although this country is marginally cheaper to live in and residents enjoy significantly more purchasing power than in New York City, Denmark ranks No. 4 among the world’s most expensive places to dine out. Expect menu prices that are 13% higher compared to the Big Apple.
Cost-of-living index: 91.40
Local purchasing power: 95.89
Life in Singapore costs only slightly less than in New York City. Renters will notice prices that are 28% less compared to the Big Apple.
Cost-of-living index: 86.58
Local purchasing power: 107.35
With an overall cost of living that’s 13% lower compared to New York City, Japan also offers rents that are 74% cheaper than what you’d pay in New York. Expect to pay 8% less for groceries and around 51% less to eat out, all while enjoying a purchasing power that’s at least 7% greater than what New Yorkers are used to.
Cost-of-living index: 86.53
Local purchasing power: 102.30
Although Israel has a high cost of living, it’s still 13% cheaper than life in New York City. The biggest savings come from rent, which is 64% cheaper by comparison.
Cost-of-living index: 85.45
Local purchasing power: 96.10
Rounding out the top 10 most expensive countries to live in, Ireland is still 15% less expensive to live in compared to New York City. You’ll notice the most significant savings on rent, which is typically 53% cheaper.
Cost-of-living index: 84.30
Local purchasing power: 122.98
Although Australia is one of the most expensive countries to live in, residents enjoy some of the highest purchasing power in the world. The country ranks No. 5 in this regard, granting its citizens 23% more purchasing power than in New York City.
Cost-of-living index: 83.86
Local purchasing power: 101.21
France has a high cost of living, but it’s also 16% less expensive compared to life in New York City. You save the most on rent, which is typically 71% cheaper.
Cost-of-living index: 83.70
Local purchasing power: 113.01
Sweden’s high cost of living is tempered with a purchasing power that’s 13% greater compared to New York City. However, this country also has one of the least friendly tax rates, with personal income tax hovering around 62%.
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14. New Zealand
Cost-of-living index: 83.41
Local purchasing power: 98.61
New Zealand’s cost of living runs nearly 17% below New York City’s, even though it’s one of the most expensive countries to live in. The nation’s income taxes are also lower than that of the U.S. by about 4%.
Cost-of-living index: 83.35
Local purchasing power: 98.91
Your life will be less expensive in Belgium than in New York City, especially when it comes to rent, which is 72% cheaper. However, Belgian residents have a comparable local purchasing power that’s just 1% lower than in the Big Apple.
16. South Korea
Cost-of-living index: 82.94
Local purchasing power: 109.36
Life in South Korea is pricier than in the U.S. as a whole, but it’s still 17% cheaper compared to New York City. Rent in South Korea is particularly inexpensive, with 77% lower prices on average.
Cost-of-living index: 82.69
Local purchasing power: 109.48
The Netherlands might be less expensive than New York City, but don’t fool yourself — it costs far more to live in the Netherlands than in the U.S. in general. It’s also not very tax-friendly, with personal income tax rates of up to 52%.
Cost-of-living index: 81.70
Local purchasing power: 119.42
Even though Finland is one of the world’s most expensive countries to live in, rent prices are 70% lower than in the Big Apple, and groceries run 31% cheaper. Residents also enjoy a 20% higher local purchasing power.
Cost-of-living index: 81.47
Local purchasing power: 98.69
A 55% income tax rate is just one factor that makes Austria an expensive country to live in. However, softening the blow is a local purchasing power that’s just 1% less than that of New York City and rent that’s 71% cheaper.
Cost-of-living index: 79.06
Local purchasing power: 81.07
Italy has a high cost of living that’s more expensive than the U.S. in general and ranks in the top 20 worldwide. However, costs run 21% under New York City’s, with rent that’s 77% cheaper and groceries costing 32% less.
21. United Kingdom
Cost-of-living index: 75.85
Local purchasing power: 108.54
The U.K. pays 39% less in groceries than New York City, and it’s about 24% cheaper in general. Britons pay more taxes, though, with a 45% personal income tax rate.
Cost-of-living index: 74.35
Local purchasing power: 125.01
It costs 25% less to live in Germany than in New York City. Germany also delivers 25% more purchasing power. However, its 47.5% personal tax rate makes Germany one of the most heavily taxed countries in the world.
23. United States
Cost-of-living index: 72.95
Local purchasing power: 127.62
Even though it’s one of the most expensive countries to live in, the U.S. as a whole enjoys a significantly lower cost of living than New York City. The rest of the country also averages purchasing power that’s 28% greater than the Big Apple’s.
Cost-of-living index: 72.48
Local purchasing power: 118.92
Canada enjoys a cost of living that’s comparable to the U.S. as a whole. When compared to New York City, however, the Great White North offers around 70% savings on rent and groceries that are 29% cheaper. Canadians also enjoy 4% less in income taxes.
Cost-of-living index: 70.92
Local purchasing power: 66.24
Although Malta has a high cost of living, there are benefits to living there over New York City. Rent is 71% cheaper, and grocery shopping costs 40% less.
26. United Arab Emirates
Cost-of-living index: 67.21
Local purchasing power: 124.78
The UAE is one of the most expensive countries, yet it costs 33% less to live there compared to New York City. Other advantages come through in the local purchasing power, which is 25% higher than in the Big Apple, and lack of a personal income tax.
27. Puerto Rico
Cost-of-living index: 66.99
Local purchasing power: 103.77
It costs less to live in Puerto Rico than it does in New York City or the U.S. as a whole. Rent is 81% cheaper than in the Big Apple, and groceries cost 33% less.
Cost-of-living index: 66.88
Local purchasing power: 34.31
Although Uruguay makes the list of the most expensive countries to live in, its cost of living is about one-third lower than New York City’s. Rent is 80% cheaper, groceries are 45% less expensive, and a meal out costs less than a third of New York prices.
Cost-of-living index: 65.42
Local purchasing power: 106.38
Even though Taiwan is one of the most expensive countries to live in, you can rent a place to live for 85% cheaper than in New York City. Eating out is a steal, too, with prices averaging 71% less. Taiwanese residents enjoy a local purchasing power that’s 6% higher than in the Big Apple.
Cost-of-living index: 65.37
Local purchasing power: 125.05
It’s no secret that Qatar has a high cost of living. The upside is a local purchasing power that’s 25% higher than in New York City and no personal income tax.
Cost-of-living index: 63.15
Local purchasing power: 53.80
Grecian living is 37% less expensive than New York City living. Rent is almost laughably cheaper, at an impressive 89% difference — which is good because the 45% personal income tax rate in Greece will take a large bite from budgets.
Cost-of-living index: 61.75
Local purchasing power: 90.67
Life in Spain costs 38% less than life in the Big Apple, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheaper across the board. Spain’s personal income tax rate is 45%.
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Cost-of-living index: 60.62
Local purchasing power: 35.26
Jamaica enjoys a cost of living that’s 40% lower than in New York City. But before you strike out for the island life, understand that it’s still one of the most expensive countries to live in. Mortgage rates are three times higher in Jamaica than in the Big Apple, and the average monthly salary is 92% lower.
Cost-of-living index: 60.32
Local purchasing power: 94.78
Although Cyprus has a high cost of living, it’s less pricey than both New York City and the U.S. as a whole. The personal income tax rate is 2% less, rent is 85% cheaper than in New York and going out to eat is over one-third less expensive.
Cost-of-living index: 60.23
Local purchasing power: 56.36
Lebanon is considerably less costly to live in than New York City, but some things are much more expensive. Expect to pay nearly twice as much for a gallon of milk, 59% more for a pair of jeans and 53% higher mortgage rates.
Cost-of-living index: 59.79
Local purchasing power: 15.95
Ghana’s cost of living is 40% cheaper than that of New York City, with rent averaging 67% less. Still, it’s considered one of the most expensive countries to live in.
Cost-of-living index: 59.65
Local purchasing power: 80.33
Living in Slovenia might look attractive at first glance thanks to its cost of living, which is 40% lower than New York City’s. However, residents pay a 50% personal income tax and live on monthly net salaries that are 67% lower.
Cost-of-living index: 59.63
Local purchasing power: 72.29
Although the overall cost of living in Bahrain is 40% lower than in New York City, it’s still one of the most expensive countries to live in. Residents make 69% less compared to New Yorkers.
Cost-of-living index: 57.65
Local purchasing power: 74.82
Residents of Estonia enjoy 84% lower rent costs than New Yorkers. However, if you rely on Estonian income for your livelihood, expect to feel the pinch of a high cost of living with 70% less money in your paycheck.
Cost-of-living index: 56.90
Local purchasing power: 100.58
The cost of living in Kuwait is 43% cheaper than in New York City, but residents have a slightly higher purchasing power. There’s no personal income tax, which is the financial upside of average salaries that run 48% lower than those in the Big Apple.
41. Costa Rica
Cost-of-living index: 56.20
Local purchasing power: 54.70
Costa Rica is one of the most expensive countries to live in — the average monthly salary is 78% lower than that earned by the average New Yorker. Rent costs are 82% lower than in the Big Apple, but those opting to buy a home will pay 133% higher mortgage interest than in the U.S.
Cost-of-living index: 55.86
Local purchasing power: 61.97
A cost of living that’s 44% lower than New York City’s might make Portugal look like a sweet deal. However, expect to take home a paycheck that’s 74% smaller than your Big Apple payday. Combine that with a 48% income tax rate, and you’ll soon discover that Portugal is one of the most expensive countries to live in.
Cost-of-living index: 55.24
Local purchasing power: 54.53
Chile might not seem to have a high cost of living, as it’s 45% cheaper than in the Big Apple. Rent alone is 83% less expensive. However, be prepared to join the ranks of starving artists in the “land of poets” — wages are 79% lower compared to New York City.
Cost-of-living index: 55.09
Local purchasing power: 43.43
You’ll pay less for rent, groceries and dining out in Jordan than you would in New York City, but with wages averaging 83% lower, it’s easy to see why Jordan is one of the most expensive countries to live in.
Cost-of-living index: 55.06
Local purchasing power: 59.77
Croatia’s high cost of living is relative to monthly salaries that average 75% less than in New York City. Rent is 88% cheaper, but you’ll pay more than twice as much for a tank of gas and 88% more for a pair of jeans.
Cost-of-living index: 55.04
Local purchasing power: 46.66
Living in Mauritius costs an average of 45% less than life in the Big Apple, but you’ll also make 85% less working there, making it one of the most expensive countries to live in.
47. Trinidad and Tobago
Cost-of-living index: 54.57
Local purchasing power: 54.91
With rent costs that are 81% cheaper than in New York City and groceries at a discount of 47%, it’s easy to live the good life in Trinidad and Tobago. However, if you’re planning to work, you’ll need to account for incomes that are 78% less than what you’d make in the Big Apple.
Cost-of-living index: 53.74
Local purchasing power: 60.15
Argentina has lower prices than New York City on just about everything, from 86% cheaper rent to 55% cheaper groceries. However, it’s 151% more expensive to talk on a prepaid phone and 56% more expensive to fill up your gas tank in Argentina.
Cost-of-living index: 53.42
Local purchasing power: 53.1
Rent costs are 86% cheaper in Latvia than in the Big Apple, which is part of the reason why Latvia has a cost of living that’s 47% lower than in New York City. Add in wages that are 80% below New York salaries, however, and Latvia becomes one of the most expensive countries to live in.
Cost-of-living index: 53.24
Local purchasing power: 57.29
Renting an apartment in Lithuania will cost you 85% less than what you’d pay in New York City, and you’ll spend less than half as much to eat out and buy groceries.
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Methodology: GBR determined the 50 costliest countries (including Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory) by analyzing five different indices relative to New York City (meaning that for New York City, each index should be 100). If another city has, for example, a rent index of 120, it means that rents in that city are 20% more expensive, on average, than in New York City. If a city has a rent index of 70, rents average 30% below that of New York City. The five indices include: (1) the cost-of-living index, which is the relative indicator of consumer goods prices, including groceries, restaurants, transportation and utilities (does not include rent or mortgage expenses); (2) the rent index, which is an estimate of apartment rental prices in the city compared to New York City; (3) the grocery index, which is an estimation of grocery prices in the city compared to New York City; (4) the restaurant index, which is a comparison of prices of meals and drinks in restaurants and bars compared to New York City; and (5) local purchasing power, which shows the relative purchasing power in buying goods and services in a given city for the average wage in that city. If domestic purchasing power is 40, this means that the inhabitants of that city with the average salary can afford to buy, on average, 60% less goods and services than New York City residents with an average salary. Data was sourced from Numbeo on April 5, 2018, and all percentages are approximations.