Numbeo cost of living map

Cairo, the Cheapest City to Live in 2017

I’m always looking for new places to call home. Cost of living is an important consideration.

Having lived in London, Hong Kong and San Francisco I know how disheartening it is to watch a significant portion of income go on rent — especially when friends from other cities wonder why anyone would ever pay $3000 a month in rent.

When travelling on business or vacation the cost of living variations can be even more astounding. According to Nomadlist (Feb 2017) you can live comfortably $600 a month in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

How has cost of living changed over the last few years around the world? Are there any cities you can live cheaply and comfortably, without being cut off from the outside world?

Methodology

I pulled data from Numbeo’s Cost of Living rankings, starting 2009. Numbeo collates data on cost of living – down to the cost of milk – from cities around the world. They also collate datasets for other localised metrics including property prices and air quality.

The index uses New York as the index value (New York = 100). The index values therefore represent changes in cost of living against the current cost of living in New York. I used a subset of Numbeo’s Cost of Living rankings using cities that only had data for every year from 2017 to 2011. The Cost of Living index does not account for rental costs.

Results

Most expensive cities 2017

2017 Top 10 Most Expensive (rank changes 2011 - 2017)

Download chart.

You can see there has been some movement into the top 10 in recent years — most notably Reykjavik, New York, Seattle and San Francisco all becoming more expensive.

Rekyavik has gone from 42nd to 4th most expensive in just over 5 years. Similarly, San Francisco has moved from 57th to 8th over the same period for cost of living ranking.

Most expensive cities 2011 vs. 2017

City Country 2017 rank 2016 – 2017 2011 – 2017
Geneva, Switzerland 1 3.72 -10.92
Zurich, Switzerland 2 -0.95 -13.89
Stavanger, Norway 3 5.28 -33.36
Reykjavik, Iceland 4 14.6 18.28
Oslo, Norway 5 10.95 -42.33
Bergen, Norway 6 1.78 -38.06
New York, NY, United States 7 0 0.00
San Francisco, CA, United States 8 -4.22 11.06
Tokyo, Japan 9 5.88 -9.06
Seattle, WA, United States 10 7.32 -3.19

Full list.

In real terms, 7 of the 10 cities (in the top 10) have seen cost of living fall vs. New York in the period 2011 to 2017. In Oslo it has fallen by over 42 points! Only San Francisco and Reykjavik increased in price by over 11 and 18 points respectively over the 7 year period.

Between 2016 and 2017 cost of living actually decreased vs. New York. Oslo, whilst seeing the biggest drop between 2011 – 2017 of 42 points, saw a large increase of cost of living between 2016 – 2017 of 11 points.

Cheapest cities 2017

2017 Top 10 cheapest rank changes 2011 2017

Download chart.

Overall, the cheapest cities have remained fairly static over the years — up until 2017 Indian cities were at the bottom list (until Cairo in 2017).

Over the last few year Cairo has seen a turbulent change in cost of living compared to New York. It finds itself at the bottom of our list (144th) comparing 2017 to 2011.

Most notably, Baku in Azerbaijan has seen a massive fall in cost of living compared to New York falling from 83rd in 2015 to 136th / 144 in 2017.

Cheapest cities 2011 vs 2017

City Country 2017 rank 2016 – 2017 2011 – 2017
Delhi, India 135 0.45 -7.63
Baku, Azerbaijan 136 -2.12 -38.72
Kiev, Ukraine 137 -2.05 -22.7
Pune, India 138 0.65 -1.84
Bangalore, India 139 1.16 -5.89
Chennai, India 140 1.98 -4.46
Kolkata, India 141 1.73 -5.9
Ahmedabad, India 142 3.26 -11.07
Hyderabad, India 143 0 -7.98
Cairo, Egypt 144 -14.97 -28.56

Full list.

In real terms between 2011 and 2017 cost of living in Baku, Azerbaijan has fallen by just short of 39 points compared to New York (most of this change happened in 2015). Cairo saw the largest drop in index value between 2016 and 2017, by -15 points.

Biggest changes in cost of living vs New York

City Country 2017 rank 2016 – 2017 2011 – 2017
Perth, Australia 15 0.65 -44.42
Oslo, Norway 5 10.95 -42.33
Turin, Italy 70 -3.11 -40.49
Baku, Azerbaijan 136 -2.12 -38.72
Dublin, Ireland 33 -0.62 -38.48
Bergen, Norway 6 1.78 -38.06
Vienna, Austria 65 2.72 -37.33
Brasilia, Brazil 80 15.37 -37.26
Amsterdam, Netherlands 35 1.72 -36.19
Copenhagen, Denmark 12 -1.32 -35.91

Full list.

Whilst Baku has seen a significant drop in cost of living versus New York, some of the most expensive cities have seen the biggest drops in cost of living between 2011 – 2017 — showing just how expensive they once were! In Perth, Oslo and Turin index values have all dropped by over 40 points. Many non-US cities have all seen drops in cost of living vs New York.

Improvements

Numbeo only provides index values for each of the cities against a New York baseline. It would be good to compare actual cost of living rather than just index values to make the numbers more quantifiable.

tl;dr

Cairo, Egypt is a major city with one of the lowest costs of living.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

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