Tbilisi, Georgia, via Vladimer Shioshvili
Tbilisi, Georgia, via Vladimer Shioshvili

Moving overseas is the perennial dream of many travelers, including me. The idea of learning about a new place and diving deep into a different culture is endlessly alluring.

Luckily for dreamers with wanderlust, a new report out this week breaks down the cost of living in the most and least expensive cities across the world. Here are the cheapest cities for expats:

1. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

2. Windhoek, Namibia

3. Karachi, Pakistan

4. Tunis, Tunisia

5. Skopje, Macedonia

6. Banjul, Gambia

7. Minsk, Belarus

8. Cape Town, South Africa

9. Managua, Nicaragua

10. Tbilisi, Georgia

Tunis, Tunisia, via Michael Foley
Tunis, Tunisia, via Michael Foley

That’s a pretty diverse group with cities on four continents, in various climates, and with an array of cultural distinctions. And while some of these cities have a reputation for violence and turmoil (Karachi), many seem like places where a new expat could have stable and fascinating experience. All of which is to say, these are the most affordable cities to go to if you’re looking to move over seas and stretch your money.

Here are the most expensive cities:

1. Luanda, Angola

2. Hong Kong, Hong Kong

3. Zurich, Switzerland

4. Singapore, Singapore

5. Geneva, Switzerland

6. Shanghai, China

7. Beijing, China

8. Seoul, South Korea

9. Bern, Switzerland

10. N’Djamena, Chad

Hong Kong, via Harald Kobler
Hong Kong, via Harald Kobler

That’s a curious list; while Hong Kong and Switzerland are obviously expensive, N’Djamena, Chad, does not immediately come to mind as an expensive city. Nevertheless, for those seeking a really cheap extended stay overseas, these are the places to avoid.

In any case, these rankings use New York City as a base and are designed to help companies and governments determine compensation. While travelers-turned-expats don’t necessarily have the same needs as, say, government workers, rankings like these are still useful for figuring out much it would cost to maintain a similar standard of living in different places. The rankings were created by looking at housing, food, transportation, and other cost of living expenses.

If you’re interested in more information, Mercer has created a useful interactive map that breaks cities down by region.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Cover photo: Geneva, Switzerland, via Viktar Palstsiuk.


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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