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"Best of" highlights from our international data researchers


More weird and wonderful in Ashgabat
Ashgabat - The most expensive bag of sushi rice found this year
Bujumbura - Small, but Geordie friendly...
Havana - A highlight for Matt
Kuwait-City - Home to the expat friendly Avenues Mall
Lae - A challenging place to live and work.
Moscow Metro
The famous Moscow Metro
Rio - A highlight for Hugh
Rwanda and its burgeoning restaurant scene
Kigali, Rwanda
The green hills of Kigali, Rwanda
Fish prices in Rwanda
Fish prices in Rwanda
Seoul - No shortage of things to do
Seoul - Some calm amongst the chaos
Stavanger - One for the outdoor loving expat
St Petersburg
St Petersburg - More culture
St Petersburg
St Petersburg - A great place for people and culture
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
The 'excellent' public transport in Taipei
Taipei - Tropical weather and world class streetfood, what's not to like!
Taipei - The best street food of the year...
The Tehran mountains
The Tehran mountains
Tehran - A challenging but fascinating location
Tehran - A challenging but fascinating location
Ulaanbataar - Tough place to find a beer, if you time it wrong...
Visakhapatnam - Where gramophones are still readily available

After another year out on the road collecting data, some of our IDR team – ECA’s globetrotting International Data Researchers – share highlights from recent experiences and give some interesting snippets of information about various locations around the world.  

1.  What is the best location you’ve visited while collecting data?

Rob: Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana was a real delight. The airport is among the most picturesque I’ve visited, surrounded by mountains in a lush green alpine setting, and the city itself is equally beautiful. The data collection was straightforward and mostly contained within the slightly out of town and well laid out BTC retail park and everyone spoke great English. I can also recommend the nightlife as I ended up on an impromptu pub crawl.

Hugh: Difficult to look past Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So, I’ll say Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Matt: Havana in Cuba was my favourite location I’d say. I loved riding the old classic American cars and the fact that a mojito was cheaper than water at bars and restaurants!

Dan: Probably New Orleans, USA. One of those places that feels like you’re in a film. After a long hard day collecting data, listening to jazz and eating shrimp come evening time was very cool.

2.  Is there an expat location you could see yourself living in, and why?

Conor: Taipei, Taiwan, was very appealing – tropical weather, excellent public transport, world-class street food and a comparatively low cost of living.          

Rob: Being from Nottingham, you could argue that I’m a small-town boy so it’s no wonder that I found Stavanger on the West coast of Norway particularly appealing and somewhere I could see myself living. With so much amazing scenery (think fjords, vistas etc.) on your doorstep, an outdoor-loving expat would never get bored. 

Mark: Probably Helsinki, Finland, because it’s one of those places where everything seems to work and things run smoothly. Everything is available, they speak English and it’s safe and clean. The only downside is the freezing temperatures throughout the winter months. 

Dan: Seoul, South Korea. Language barrier aside, I thought Seoul would be a fantastic place to live for expats, with lots to explore and seemingly no shortage of things to do. ECA’s accommodation team had tipped me off about the lively Hongdae district before my visit, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.   

Tom: St Petersburg, Russia. I struggle to explain why, but something about the Russian people and culture seemed to click with me and I would love to spend more time there. Having said that, Cambridge also seemed nice. 

3.  What is the best expat environment you’ve encountered?

Matt: Not specifically an expat environment, but the metro in Moscow, Russia, had some amazingly ornate stations, and played music as you navigated your way. Beats the London commute for sure!

Mark: The Meat Master is a delicatessen in a small suburb of Amman in Jordan which is expat heaven with all of the cheeses and cuts of meat you could wish for. Mind you, if you’re an expat and you’re a fan of shopping then you can’t really get much better than the Siam area of Bangkok, Thailand – an absolute shopper’s paradise.

Dan: Rwanda’s burgeoning restaurant scene. I was lucky enough to have a friend living in Kigali who showed me around the city, in particular the hillside restaurants serving up all sorts of international cuisine, from sushi to steak. Economic prosperity has led to a growing number of high quality food options dotted around the city. Great food in a lush, green setting.

Rob: The Avenues Mall in Kuwait City is literally kilometres long and caters to any level of shopping. It has its own indoor souk for local fare in addition to all major Western brands from H&M and Zara to Louis Vuitton and Valentino.

Tom: Lagos, Nigeria. I thought Lagos would be crowded, chaotic and stressful. But the Victoria Island area where I collected data was a delight; calm streets sprinkled with expat-focused delis and supermarkets and French style cafes serving some of the best coffee I’ve had this year.

4.  Best expat bar/restaurant you’ve come across?

Matt: Bar Rouge in Shanghai, purely for the breath-taking views of the Bund. One of the best spots to see the city skyline by night.

Hugh: Calypso Beach Bar in Bakau, The Gambia. Expats come for the fantastic food and drink and spectacular views of the local wildlife, which include numerous crocodiles which relax in the adjacent pond – a little unnerving after the sun sets though!

Rob: O’Learys, Oslo. Norway were playing Northern Ireland in a World Cup Qualifier at the time of my visit so I thought it only right to sample the local football and bar culture at the same time. Unfortunately, Norway were terrible and limped to a 2-0 defeat, but the locals were used to it and were in good spirits nonetheless. They also must be used to the 100 NOK (£10) beers which came as a bit of a shock to me! 

Conor: Brussels Beer Garden in Wuhan, China. Went in for a minute to price their drinks and ended up staying all evening.

Nick: Mami Wata, Brazzaville, Congo Republic – views across the Congo River with plenty of Guinness Foreign Extra - deceptively strong stuff

5.  What is the most challenging location you’ve been to, and why?

Mark: Lae in Papua New Guinea, based solely on the security issue. It’s not exactly a warzone but it’s essential for expats to move around with security. My guide/security guard even followed me up and down every aisle in the supermarket! 

Hugh: I would have to agree with Mark here, Lae in Papua New Guinea. It was no surprise, therefore, that the city is in the highest band of our location ratings.

Rob: Islamabad, Pakistan. Arriving in green and pleasant Islamabad felt a bit of a relief after the chaos of Karachi. However, data collection was a big challenge. The majority of items in ECA’s Cost of Living basket did not have a displayed price in the shops, so you can imagine how tedious it gets asking for specific prices when we collect about 1000 per city.

Conor: I wasn’t looking forward to Poland in January – I hate the cold. Fortunately, most of the shops and services I had to visit were located inside shopping malls.

Dan: In terms of the work itself, Tehran, Iran, was a tough city. It was a vast, sprawling place with heavy traffic and a packed metro. On top of this, most of the data was priced in Farsi numerals which meant a lot of double checking prices and figuring out which symbol was what. A fascinating place to visit though.

6.  What has been your most unexpected find while out working? 

Matt: More so what I couldn’t find. On certain days of each month in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, the sale of alcohol is strictly forbidden, be it a restaurant, pub or even the mini-bar in my hotel room. Pretty tricky when it came to collecting prices.  

Tom: In Turkmenistan, I found a 750g pack of Sunrice branded sushi rice which was 150 TMT – working out at around $43 or £34!

Mark: Not really a niche item but I sampled the local delicacy in Vilnius, Lithuania; Cepelinai. They are zeppelins – balls of dumplings with three types of meat inside. Yum.

Nick: I just got off the phone from someone who said it costs $68 to rent a tennis court for one hour in Greenwich, Connecticut - so much for encouraging an active lifestyle.

Rob: Nothing specific but I always have a chuckle when I see “Barry’s Tea” when I’m out and about in the world.

Dan: Three dusty bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale in a tiny supermarket in Burundi. I then subsequently hoped I’d find a particularly thirsty Geordie wandering the streets of the capital, Bujumbura. 

Hugh: In Conakry, Guinea, I was surprised to find a genuine Mattel branded scrabble board-game. Although it was still in pristine condition, I’m still not sure it was worth the $110 USD price tag!

Conor: In Visakhapatnam, India, a man on the street tried to sell me a gramophone. Unfortunately, gramophones are not one of the items in our cost of living basket…. yet…


ECA publishes Cost of Living data for more than 460 cities around the world. It is available from ECA in several forms: as part of subscription in a calculator which allows you to experiment with different types of index and review the outputs; in reports, providing background detail for specific indices; and as part of the Build-up Calculator for performing balance-sheet calculations. Cost of living data is also pre-populated in ECAEnterprise, our Assignment Management System, and in our Net-to-Net Calculator.

  Please contact us to speak to a member of our team directly.

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