Have you ever wondered where you can literally get more bang for your buck? That’s a question globetrotters continually ask, and certainly the backpacker generation hoping to traverse the world on a shoestring budget. A slew of websites are now dedicated to adding up the cost of living in various countries, aimed at expatriates in-the-making and also the growing number of remote workers, sometimes called the ‘digital nomad’. Today we’ll be focusing on the places only the most extravagant expatriate might lay their hat. The places where you cannot possibly live in reasonable comfort without a healthy bank balance, regardless of if you have a penchant for partying in the big city or prefer just nurturing your vegetable garden. Join us on this trip into the pricey climes, in this episode of The Infographics Show, the most expensive countries in the world.
One digital nomad writer calls Bermuda the ‘Impossible Budget Destination’, giving the reason that this idyllic paradise of an island nation has absolutely nothing at all going for cheap. One of the reasons is that much of its 5 billion dollar-plus GDP is derived from offering a luxurious retreat to rich foreign tourists. A World Bank study in 2014 said Bermuda was four times more expensive to live in than the USA, but its median annual wage of 85,000 dollars should help. That said, according to research on cost of living, Bermuda will soon eat that wage up. The average rental of a two-bedroom apartment is about $4,000 per month with an extra 300-plus dollars for utilities. Groceries will cost twice as much as they do in the U.S., while you can expect to pay a staggering $140 a month for Internet. A nice meal for two should cost around 120 dollars, while a budget meal at a restaurant will still be around 30 dollars. A quick restaurant search reveals that at Flanagans Irish Pub in Hamilton, Bermuda, 12 chicken wings will cost 22 dollars; add to that a 9 dollar Mango Mousse cake, a 15 dollar beer and 15% service charge and it seems having fun in the Bermudan sun is not for penny-pinchers. The expense hits the lowest wage-earners hard, with the 20 percent of Bermudans on less than $42,000 a year, according to one news article, not even able “to purchase the basic necessities for their children”.
If you’ve seen our other shows relating to money, you’ll know Switzerland is notoriously expensive, where finding goodies for one dollar might mean having to settle with dog food, and where a Big Mac holds the esteemed position of being the most expensive in the world. According to a Salary Survey report, the Swiss are the highest paid people on the planet on average, with the average wage being a little over 100,000 dollars a year. The same survey put Norway in second and the USA in third. Low paid workers in the country earn considerably less than the average, with domestic workers’ wages being around $2,900 a month. While the impression we may sometimes have of Switzerland is everyone living the good life, yodeling the sounds of comfort from snow-capped peaks of prosperity, reports suggest 1 in 13 Swiss people live in relative poverty. Relative poverty, however, does not equate to near-starvation but a person living on less than $2,466 a month. Considering Switzerland has some of the highest rental costs in the world, that amount would not go very far in a city like Geneva.
According to McDonald’s own website, at one point in time 7 out of 10 of its busiest outlets in the world were in Hong Kong. This might have something to do with McDonald’s being one of the only cheap places to eat, with a combo Big Mac meal in 2017 only costing $4.64. The average wage in Hong Kong is around $3,500 a month, but with so little space to move, a tiny one bedroom shoebox apartment downtown will set you back a lot. We went online apartment hunting and found that furnished apartments downtown at the low cost end of the scale were around 2,000 dollars a month. A larger place for a family would take up most of your 3,500 dollar average wage. As we said in another show, even a parking space this year was sold for $664,000. Nightlife is also very expensive, with a meal for two in a mid-range downtown restaurant costing around 60 dollars. A pint of beer will cost over 10 dollars, and that’s why many Hong Kong expats only go out during happy hour periods.
According to expat cost of living site Numbeo, the same McDonald’s combo meal you had in Hong Kong will cost you over 12 dollars in Norway. Rent should be cheaper, though, with a one bedroom apartment downtown costing around $1,200 a month. Salary polls tell us the average wage in Norway is around 68,000 dollars a year, and while there is no minimum wage it seems most workers do ok. Even a McDonald’s starting wage is more than 18 dollars an hour, and with that there is 25 days paid vacation and 12 days in public holidays. You’ll pay high taxes in Norway, around 30 percent income tax, but you’ll also get full healthcare for free or next to nothing. Norwegians like to say they are proud of their egalitarian culture, and while a hot cappuccino might cost almost 5 bucks, there is very little relative poverty in the country. At the same time, a 2016 report said more than a third of immigrants in Norway lived in poverty, while the number of homeless people was growing due to high housing costs.
In 2017 the Iceland Review asked if Iceland is the most expensive country in the world. It gives some examples of how much more its citizens are paying than EU countries. It said Icelanders pay 44 percent higher than the EU average for accommodation and eating out, 52 percent higher for transportation, and a whopping 126 percent more for alcoholic drinks. A pair of Levi jeans in Iceland might be the most expensive pair in the world at 161 dollars, which is 40 bucks more than the Swiss pay. It’s about 120 dollars more than they are in their homeland, the USA. A pair of mid-range Nike running shoes will cost in the region of 190 dollars. The average wage in Iceland before tax is 3,160 US dollars, but then on that you’d be paying about 37 percent income tax. A one bedroom apartment in the city will be about 1,500 dollars, plus 120 dollars for utilities and about 60 bucks for Internet. In 2017 Forbes said Reykjavik was the most expensive city in Europe, along with Zurich in Switzerland.
The nation that will host the world cup in 2022 will spend a total of 200 billion dollars on infrastructure in time for the tournament. The oil rich country, called the most advanced Arab state, is said to have the highest GDP per capita income in the world at around 138,000 dollars. This does not mean all the folks are sharing the wealth. The Guardian reported that the Indian laborers building much of the futuristic-looking Qatar are paid as little as 7 dollars a day, while a taxi driver can hope for around 980 dollars a month according to the website onlineQatar. This is closer to the average wage of 3,250 dollars after tax. Rent in downtown Doha for a one bedroom apartment is around 1,900 dollars, while eating out isn’t too expensive with one online food ordering service showing that pizzas at an Italian restaurant are mostly around 15 bucks.
Luxemburg is said to be up there in Europe’s most expensive countries, but then it is also home to a lot of rich people. The average salary is said to be about 6,800 dollars a month, and the median salary is 5,200 dollars a month. The latest proposal for the minimum wage in Luxemburg is 2,234 dollars a month. This won’t get you too far as it costs around 1,900 dollars for a lower-priced 85 square meter apartment in the city, and utilities and Internet will put you in the red. McDonald’s can’t even help you as a combo meal is 10 dollars, while a basic meal on a night out will cost about 53 dollars according to expatriate-focused websites. Movie prices are not too outrageous at 10 dollars a ticket, and you can buy a pint of beer for around 4 dollars 90 in a neighborhood pub. The general consensus is that as Luxembourg is full of wealthy people, that can mean it’s an expensive place to live, but visiting there isn’t such a tax on the wallet.
Many other countries could have been on this list, including Australia, where rents are rising fast in some cities and going out on the town can break the bank. In the USA both New York and San Francisco are notoriously expensive, where living in comfort can cost you a metaphorical arm and a leg. Parts of the UK can be crippling in terms of costs, as can the small city-country of Singapore. Do you live in any of the countries above, or do you think you know of more expensive countries in the world? Let us know in the comments!