Fuel is one of the major contributing factors to the rising cost of living across the world as demand for fuel has surged ahead of supply. Escalated by the war in Ukraine, petrol prices have risen in all ranked locations, bar Bamako in Mali, averaging a 37% increase.
Most dramatically, Beirut, Lebanon saw a 1128% increase since last year, while Istanbul, Turkey experienced a 156% increase. Elsewhere in Europe, petrol prices have increased across the continent, with Tirana, Albania seeing the next largest increase at 46%. St Petersburg in Russia saw the smallest price increase in Europe, rising only 10% despite the sweeping sanctions in place – thanks to their domestic oil supply and refining capacity. Meanwhile, in London, motorists are paying 23% more for their petrol than last year – or £18.72 more for a 60 litre tank.
As car owners across the UK feel the dramatic cost increase at the pumps, the most expensive petrol in the world is in Hong Kong at £2.26 per litre – up 39p per litre from a year ago. This is compared to £1.69 in London and £0.93 in New York. On the other end of the scale, Luanda, Angola and Tehran, Iran report the cheapest petrol at 0.24p and 0.07p per litre respectively.
Moscow’s dramatic rise in prices spurred by sanctions on Russia
Although down one place in the global ranking since last year, Moscow (62nd) has seen prices rise by 17% year on year. This increase can be attributed to new sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations, in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, however the weakness of the rouble maintained the buying power for expatriates in the country.
Steven Kilfedder, Production Manager at ECA International, explained: “As sanctions on Russia start to hit, imports have become scarce and costs have risen significantly and are likely to rise further. While the currency fell in the survey period, capital controls to stop money fleeing the country have stopped the slide of the rouble. The full, long-term impact of the war and foreign businesses pulling out of Russia on the cost of living in the country will likely not become apparent for some time.”
Cooking oil prices soar globally – although full extent still to come in UK
The war in Ukraine has created a global shortage of crops including sunflowers used for oil. This, along with a palm oil shortage, has seen cooking oil prices increase by 25% on average in the last year across the cities in the ranking, although it has been much higher in some cities. Sarajevo, Bosnia saw prices more than double (113%) while prices rose by more than 50% in Mexico City (87%), Istanbul (66%) and Casablanca (55%) among others. By comparison, the UK fares relatively well, at only 4% increase across major cities in the year to March 2022.
Kilfedder continued: “The rise of cooking oil prices has not been very significant in the UK so far, but the impact is likely to be felt later in the year. We’ve already seen some retailers impose restrictions on the number of bottles of oil per customer to manage limited supplies.”
A strong shekel see Tel Aviv rise the ranks
The middle eastern tech hub, Tel Aviv (6th), climbs one place in the ranking. Its thriving tech scene, which was turbocharged by the pandemic and the shift towards remote work, became an attractive hotspot for many multinational corporations, drawing in a significant amount of foreign investment. The growth in exports, including of natural gas, and better relations with its neighbours has also contributed to the Israeli shekel appreciating against the US dollar – making it one of the strongest global currencies in the last 10 years, and making Israel increasingly one of the most expensive locations in the world for expats.
Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean Sea, Istanbul, Turkey (203rd) becomes considerably more affordable for expats and tourists compared to its neighbouring countries, after dropping 42 places in the ranking – down from 161st place last year. Ranked in last place, Ankara (207th) is now the cheapest city in the world for expats and tourists, after falling 5 places from 2021. Erdogan’s unorthodox monetary policy of lowering interest rates has not had the desired effect of bringing inflation down, instead sending it soaring to over 60% – but did push down the value of the lira significantly, more than counteracting the impact of price rises.
Santiago, Chile drops out of the top 100 most expensive in the world
Santiago, Chile (119th) is one of the few Latin American locations to drop (-21) in the ranking, falling from 98th in 2021.
Kilfedder added: “The intended left-wing policies of President Gabriel Boric raised alarm bells among investors and contributed to the currency dropping 10% against the US dollar. As Chile is a major exporter of copper, which has seen rising prices, the depreciation of the currency highlights the extent of investor concerns.”
Similarly, Tegucigalpa, Honduras (161st) has dropped two places, and La Paz, Bolivia (179th) and Bogota, Colombia (143rd) have both dropped four places. On the surface Colombia should have seen its currency strengthen, as a key exporter of oil while prices are rising, however, political uncertainty ahead of the election caused the reverse effect on the Colombian peso**, meaning it’s cheaper for many expats or tourists to visit than it was last year.
Conversely, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro (118th) and Sao Paulo (138th) have risen 45 and 38 places respectively.
Providing region-specific insight, Kilfedder explains: “Following challenges in previous years due to covid and political unrest which sent the Brazilian real plummeting, Brazil’s currency has experienced a turnaround as rising interest rates to combat inflation combined with rising commodity prices and the covid landscape improving has strengthened the real, making the country more expensive for expats and visitors than last year.”
Rising prices and a stronger currency push Luanda, Angola, up 108 places in the cost of living ranking
Many African countries’ economies are deeply tied to just one or two commodities, notably oil – which tends to be reflected in the value of their currency. Luanda, Angola (30th) is a prime example of this, with its economy so dependent on oil which has surged in price in the last year, pushing up the kwanza and causing Luanda to jump up 108 places from last year’s ranking. Other major African oil producing countries also rose in the rankings, with Maputo, Mozambique (80th) up by 40 places, and Lagos, Nigeria (93rd) entering the global top 100 ranking this year.
The unexpected peaceful transition of power in Zambia in August 2021, from a corrupt government that had long deterred investors, saw Lusaka (157th) climb by 49 places in the ranking. Prior to the change of hands, the currency had dropped in anticipation of civil unrest – but the new president has made early steps to improve the business environment and bring in investment to the country boosting the currency and helping to bring down inflation.
Top 15 most expensive cities globally includes four Chinese cities, with Shanghai now 3rd in Asia
Many locations in Asia have witnessed above-trend inflation rates in the past twelve months. Colombo, Sri Lanka has seen the biggest price increase, rising 23 places in ECA’s rankings to 149th globally. Many mainland Chinese cities have also continued to rise in the rankings, with four cities now included in the 15 most expensive cities globally. Shanghai is now the 3rd most expensive city in Asia, after Hong Kong and Tokyo. Singapore’s ranking remained unchanged in 2022, despite significant price rises, with housing rental costs, utilities and petrol prices seeing particular growth.
Notes to Editors
*Across all 207 cities in 120 countries and territories that make up the ECA ranking.
**Colombian election took place on Sunday 29th May 2022.
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About ECA's Cost of Living Ranking
ECA International's cost of living rankings combine ECA’s Cost of Living research and Accommodation research to enable a comparison of costs faced by expatriates around the world in 207 cities in 120 countries and territories.
This comparison of cost of living is calculated on a base composed of various developed countries and is used to reflect an international lifestyle. Other indices available from ECA reflect specific city-to-city comparisons and different levels of shopping efficiency.
ECA’s Cost of Living research
ECA International’s cost of living research is carried out in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees. The data used above refers to the March 2022 data collection period with changes compared to the March 2021 period. ECA’s Cost of Living rankings began in 2005.
Cost of living indices are used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The research covers:
- Food: Groceries; dairy produce; meat and fish; fresh fruit and vegetables
- Basic: Household goods; recreational goods; general services; leisure services
- General: Clothing; electrical goods; motoring; meals out; alcohol and tobacco
- Utilities costs
- Public transport
ECA’s Accommodation research
This ranking uses data from ECA's 2022 Accommodation reports. The reports have been published annually since 1996.
The reports provide comprehensive and reliable information for locations worldwide on the rental trends, types of accommodation and districts commonly sought by expatriates. To ensure impartiality and to maintain the accuracy of information, data from a number of sources is used to compile each accommodation report. ECA uses a global network of estate agents, relocation agents and extensive in-house research into worldwide property markets to establish and verify the housing data in the reports.
About ECA International
ECA International is a market leader in the provision of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.
Partnering with thousands of clients globally, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.
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