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The 20 Most Expensive Cities in Asia

While some places are relatively cheap to live, others are extortionately expensive. There are many factors that can impact on the cost of living in a city. These include the demand for property, employment rates, the location, technological advancements in the area, access to amenities, entertainment and culture, utilities, low crime rates, and public opinion about a city.

Even the infrastructure of a city can have an impact on the cost of living in that location. While Europe and the United States once held all the top spots for the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living, developments in Asia mean this continent has soon caught up and now boasts some of the most in-demand destinations in the world with costs of living that reflect their popularity as places in which to live.

Technological advancements have played a significant role in the rise of the cost of living in many Asian Cities. Asia is one of the leaders in technological innovation and the development of new technologies. This has led to these cities becoming exciting places to live, especially for those who work in technology industries.

Here are the top 20 most expensive cities in Asia to live right now.

20. Makati, Philippines

Makati is one of the sixteen cities that combine to make the Metro Manila. It is the financial center of the Philippines and has the highest concentration of local corporations and multinational companies in the country. Makati is the 17th largest city in the Philippines and the 41st most densely populated in the world as it is home to almost 600,000 people.

However, many people commute to the city and the daytime population can exceed one million. The type of businesses that are run from this city attracts both Filipinos and expats. This has pushed up the prices of property and made it an expensive city in which to live. Many food products are expensive in this city, especially if they are imported. However, it is not all bad in this city as technology and clothing are relatively inexpensive.

19. Baotou, Mongolia, China

Baotou is a prefecture-level city that is the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. It is made up of five urban districts and is home to over 2.65 million people. This city is the largest economy of Inner Mongolia and the economy is gradually rising. It is home to the Bayan Obo mines that are the best source of rare-earth metals in the world.

There are many employment opportunities in mining and manufacturing and this attracts people to live in the area and has caused a rise in house prices. Due to its location, many things are imported into this city making food, clothing, and electrical goods all expensive to buy. Utilities and Internet access are also expensive. Not everything is costly in this city, though. Smoking and drinking alcohol are much cheaper than in many other cities across the world.

18. Datong, China

Datong is a rapidly growing city in the northern Shanxi province which borders Inner Mongolia and Hebei. The main industries in this area are power, utilities, mining, transportation, and manufacturing synthetic products.

There are good employment opportunities in Datong and this is one factor that attracts people to live in this area. For this reason, housing is expensive as are many other elements that contribute to the overall cost of living. One particularly expensive commodity is food. Datong is in an elevated position and many food products are imported. This means that residents of the city pay higher costs for food.

17. Hamamatsu, Japan

Hamamatsu is the third Japanese city to be included in the list of the most expensive cities in Asia. The name of this city translates as ‘Coast Pine Tree’ and it is located in western Shizuoka Prefecture. The population of this city is estimated at around 800,000. This city also absorbed the neighboring cities of Hamakita and Tenryu in 2005.

Technology and automobiles are two of the most important industries in this city and these have both seen growth. In turn, this has improved employment opportunities in these fields and made Hamamatsu a desirable city in which to live. Of course, this has directly impacted on the demand for housing and there is very little available space to build new developments. The impact of this is soaring house prices in the city.

16. Pyongyang, North Korea

Pyongyang is the capital and largest city in North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. There are two main reasons for the high cost of living in North Korean cities; the political regime and economic growth. House prices in Pyongyang are higher than in the rest of North Korea and many people rent apartments.

The lower the apartment is in a housing block, the higher the cost. Therefore, richer people occupy the lower apartments while the poor live in the higher apartments. Food and goods are also expensive in this city and this is possibly because the country is in an era of the post-famine regime.

15. Busan, South Korea

While it has long been acknowledged that Seoul is a city in which it is expensive to live, people do not often think of other areas of South Korea. However, the economic growth in this country means that some of its other major cities are now catching up. Not only is it the country’s second most populous city, it is also an economic, cultural, and educational center for South Korea.

Furthermore, this city and the surrounding towns are South Korea’s largest industrial area and constitute the ‘Southeast Economic Zone’. When these factors are taken into consideration, it is little wonder that the cost of living in Busan is on the rise. On the plus side, the food in Busan is reasonably priced and the city boasts some amazing beaches.

14. Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan and it sits at the northern tip of the country. This city has seen massive growth and development in recent years and is one of the leading cities in manufacturing and technology in the world. This is one of the main reasons why this is now one of the most expensive cities in which to live in 2017. The housing market in Taipei has become one of the most unaffordable in the world and the property rises are out of reach to many who were born and bred in this city.

One explanation for the rise in house prices is the stagnant income levels in Taiwan. The lack of available land for new developments is also an issue. However, it is not just the property prices that are high in this city as many other aspects of daily life also come at a premium. Travel just a few miles outside of the capital and it is a different story altogether as the cost of living is significantly lower.

13. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi is the second most expensive to live in the Middle East, the 13th in Asia, and the 23rd in the world. This city has seen massive growth and investment in recent years and this has had a direct impact on the cost of living. The glamorous attractions in the area are also attracting people from abroad, both in terms of tourism and those looking to live in a new country. Just like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has high property prices in both the rental and buying markets and this reflects the demand to live in these cities. The cost of food is high, regardless of whether you are shopping for home or you are eating out.

12. Osaka, Japan

After Tokyo, Osaka is the second most expensive country to live in Japan and the 12th most expensive in Asia. It is just short of making to the top 20 most expensive cities to live in the world as it ranks in 21st position. Osaka is one of the thriving commercial centers of Japan so it is an appealing city for expats. This large port city is located on the island of Honshu.

There are many reasons why people are so attracted to living here and the prices are pushed up. It combines Japanese history with modern innovations, has fantastic restaurants, delicious street food, attractive outdoor spaces, and a vibrant nightlife. However, taking advantage of everything this city has to offer comes at a cost as almost all aspects of the cost of living are high.

11. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is one of the top tourist destinations in Asia and is renowned for its beautiful beaches, modern architecture, and vibrant atmosphere. This city also attracts businesspeople from across all fields who are looking for new and exciting business ventures.

This relatively small city is densely populated so the demand for properties is high and costs are continuing to rise in real estate and this is one reason why Dubai is now ranked one position higher than in 2016 at 20th in the worldwide rankings. Food, utilities, and other goods and services have also risen costs which has contribute to the overall rise in the cost of living in this city.

10. Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou is located in southern China. It is the capital and most populous city in the province of Guangdong and is surrounded by important cities including Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Foshan. This city is an important industrial and technological area of China. This port city is the cheapest of the five major cities in China but still ranks as the 19th most expensive city in which to live in the world and the 10th in Asia. The technological and industrial advancements combined with the high employment opportunities are two of the main factors that have contributed to the high cost of living in this city.

9. Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel, has jumped two spots since 2016. It is now the 17th most expensive city to live in the world, the 9th most expensive city to live in Asia and the most expensive city in the Middle East. Israel is a country of two extremes with large portions of the country living in poverty while other areas are affluent.

Tel Aviv is clearly the most expensive area in which to live in Israel. Political unrest is one explanation for the high prices while the availability of commodities is another. A further explanation is that Israel’s government focuses very little on its economy as there are other political issues to which they devote their attention. Houses prices are astronomically high in Israel’s capital and there are huge restrictions on place on the food market.

8. Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen is located just on the border of Hong Kong and this is one of the predominant reasons why it has consistently ranked highly on lists of the most expensive cities in which to live.

However, it has dropped down one place since 2016 as Tianjin now ranks higher due to industry-growth in that city. It has a lower cost of living than Hong Kong so it attracts people who work in Hong Kong who can afford to live in that city as they can commute to work. This is only further escalating the problem for Shenzhen in terms of high demand for property which is escalating the costs.

Shopping, eating out and drinking are expensive activities if you live in this city. One area that has not been affected by inflation is transportation as getting around is still relatively cheap in this city

7. Tianjin, China

Tianjin is a major port city located on the north-eastern coast of China. This city is a hub for transportation, logistics, modern manufacturing, research, and development. Other major industries in this area include electronic information technology, biotechnology, automobile, petrochemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

As these are all growing industries in this area, it is little wonder that so many people are drawn to living in this city. In 2016, this city was ranked as the 30th most expensive place to live in the world and is now in 12th position. This ideally demonstrates how the growing industries have impacted on the cost of living in this city.

6. Beijing, China

Beijing sits high on the list of the costliest places to live in China and consistently lands on the list of most expensive places to live in the world. The capital of China is highly populated with approximately 21.5 million living in the city. It is this high demand to reside in the city and the lack of space available to create new dwellings that have gradually risen up property prices to the point of ridiculous.

You would need a high salary or two incomes to afford even the most basic properties in this city. The sectors for which Shanghai is well-known are pharmaceuticals, food processing, automobiles and aerospace products.

This means there are high employment opportunities in these sectors. The cost of eating out varies depending on which area of the city you are in and you can potentially pay over $6 for a cup of coffee. Similarly, the cost of buying groceries for home can also vary. If you are considering living in Shanghai as a family, you will find that childcare is relatively cheap compared to prices in cities in the United States.

5. Shanghai, China

Shanghai is the second most expensive city in China to live and the fifth most expensive in Asia. It is also the eighth most expensive in the world as a whole. Despite its high rankings, it has dropped in the last year and now has many cheaper elements that are taken into account in the cost of living. Like most major cities, the cost of properties is high due to high demand and low availability. The cost of groceries is variable. If you buy local produce that is in season, you can feed a family cheaply.

However, if you are buying imported goods from the supermarkets, you will pay a premium. Employment rates are high in Shanghai with jobs available in a wide range of industries. However, this city is particularly well-known for the production of electronic goods and this is where there are many employment opportunities.

4. Seoul, South Korea

In 2015, Seoul ranked at just 15th in the most expensive places in the world to live and has shot up the ranking in just one year. It is now the 6th most expensive city in the world to live and the 4th in Asia. The family-oriented South Korean culture is one reason why so many people want to live in this part of the world but it comes at a price.

Both renting a property and buying a home in the capital of South Kore is expensive. If you are willing to live just outside the city, you will find a dramatic drop in the price of property. The cost of clothing and leisure activities is also high. On the other hand, electronic goods and food are relatively cheap.

3. Singapore

Singapore has regularly featured on the lists of most expensive places to live. However, it has dropped down one place on the overall world list of expensive cities in the last year as some of the cost of living prices have fallen in comparison to other Asian cities.

While much of the high prices relate to the demand to live in this city, the residents often blame the poor management of resources as an explanation as to why they are paying such high prices for being residents of Singapore.

This city has become an attractive place to live and work. This has resulted in more people wanting the same properties and resources and created inflation. Property prices are high but people need a place to live.

One thing most people do without in Singapore is a car as the cost of buying, taxing, and running a car are high. Therefore, they see using public transport or walking as a better option. On the upside, salaries are relatively high in this city and taxes are comparably low.

2. Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is another city that has ranked consistently highly on the list of the most expensive cities in Asia and the world for many years. The capital of Japan has risen two places on the world’s rankings in 2017 and this is predominantly because of the continued appreciation of the Yen.

Property prices are high with an average two-bedroom apartment in the city costing around $350 more to rent than a comparable property in New York City and renting a three-bedroom property can cost almost $10,000 a month.

Entertainment and leisure activities are ridiculously high in this city as are eating out and drinking. Bizarrely, smoking cigarettes is a relatively cheap activity if you live in Tokyo compared to many other major cities.

1. Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong has consistently ranked at the top of lists for the most expensive places to live in Asia and has often topped the list of the most expensive places to live in the world. In the last year, Hong Kong has dropped from the top spot which is now held by Luanda, the port capital of Angola. The political unrest in Angola has driven up the cost of living as people are paying high prices for exported good and security.

This has led to this city overtaking Hong Kong. Another reason why Hong Kong has dipped slightly as the Yen has strengthened against the dollar in the past year and this is why many other Asian cities have also dropped in the rankings. Hong Kong’s currency is pegged to the United States dollar and this has driven the housing market and also the cost of food and many amenities.

The prices are now so extortionate in this city that you can expect to pay almost $8 dollars for a cup of coffee in a café. Something to consider for all Chinese cities is the cost of healthcare as it may be necessary to pay privately. Medical insurance is a necessity and this is an additional cost of living that you must consider when weighing up all the costs.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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