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Warsaw and Budapest among Europe’s cheapest cities for expats

Warsaw, Poland – U.S.-based consultancy firm Mercer released earlier this year its annual Cost of Living Survey, now in its 25th year. While the capital cities of Poland and Hungary rank among Europe’s cheapest for expats, Prague and Bratislava complete Central and Eastern Europe’s five most expensive cities with Moscow, St. Petersburg and Riga.

Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey finds that Europe’s five cheapest cities for expats are Skopje, Minsk, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Sofia.

Hong Kong remains the most expensive city for expats

At number five, Zurich is the only European city is among the top ten list of most expensive cities for expats, followed by Bern and Geneva. Central European cities, including Prague (97th), Bratislava (131st), Budapest (164th) and Warsaw (173th), all dropped fourteen, eighteen, thirteen and nineteen spots, respectively.

“Despite moderate price increases in most of the European cities, European currencies have weakened against the US dollar, which pushed most cities down in the ranking,” explained Yvonne Traber, Global Mobility Product Solutions Leader at Mercer. “Additionally, other factors like recent security issues and concern about the economic outlook, have impacted the region.”

Eight of the top ten cities in this year’s ranking are in Asia due in part to a strong housing market. Hong Kong remains the most expensive city for expats both in Asia and globally as a result of the housing market and currency being pegged to the US dollar, driving up the cost of living locally. The global financial center is followed by Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai.

The top five most expensive cities for expats by region. Credit: Mercer

An important component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses

Mercer’s widely recognised survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. The results differ from other surveys such as the Economist’s Worldwide Cost of Living as Mercer focuses specifically on products bought by expats.

New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements are measured against the US dollar. This year’s ranking includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

“Cost of living is an important component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses,” said Yvonne Traber. “Decision makers increasingly acknowledge that globalization is challenging cities to inform, innovate, and compete to foster the kind of satisfaction that attracts both people and investment – the keys to a city’s future.”

The best cities to live and work?

According to the 21st edition of Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey, a separate Mercer study released earlier this year, Prague is nevertheless the most livable city in Central and Eastern Europe. Globally, the Czech capital rank 69th best city to live in, slightly ahead of neighboring Central European capitals like Budapest (76th), Bratislava (80th) and Warsaw (82nd). Meanwhile, Bratislava, Warsaw and Budapest were recent named among the 10 most underrated cities in Europe.

The Czech Republic also ranks among the best places for expats to live, according to a recent survey conducted by the international expat community InterNations, while Poland also moved up from to 13th in HSBC Expat’s Annual League Table of Best Places to Live and Work, overtaking countries like Hong Kong, France, India, Sweden, Thailand, Mexico and the US.

In fact, not only is Poland the sixth best country in the world to invest in this year, according to a recent U.S. News ranking, it also stands out as the tenth best country in the world to start a career.

“Poland has become Europe’s growth champion,” even says Arkadiusz Regiec, CEO of the equity trading platform Beesfund, in a recent interview to Kafkadesk, before adding that “Warsaw is the best city to launch your business”.