The most expensive city in the world to be a foreigner is not what you think

Any guesses?
Any guesses?
Image: Mike Hutchings / Reuters
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The most expensive city in the world for expatriates to live and work isn’t any of the usual suspects. It’s not London, it’s not Tokyo, and it isn’t Hong Kong. Instead, it’s Luanda, Angola, a city of about four million people on the coast of one of Africa’s biggest oil-producing nations, according to a new report.

A pair of blue jeans in Luanda runs about $204, a club sandwich and a soda costs $20, and a liter of milk is $3.18. Residents do get a break on gas—it’s only $0.63 per liter, or $2.38 per gallon—as oil production accounts for 85% of the country’s GDP.

But it’s the cost of housing that landed Luanda the top spot. Renting a nice two bedroom apartment is around $6,500 a month, and a three-bedroom house is $15,000 a month. Most of Angola is poor, yet housing that is both safe and equal to foreign standards of living can be very expensive. Here’s how Luanda compares to other expensive cities:


The cost of living for foreigners differs from the cost of living for nationals. To determine the former, Mercer, the consultancy who compiled the report, looks at a basket of some 200 goods and services in cities around the world, selected with expats in mind. For instance, when it comes to real estate, the costs of renting are considered, but not buying. The basket also includes goods that foreigners are more likely to purchase, such as copies of an international newspaper.

Mercer conducts its survey annually to help multinationals set salaries, and this isn’t the first time that Luanda topped its rankings. It was also the most expensive city in 2010 and 2011.