Oslo, Norway

Once every three years, UBS Wealth Management Research publishes its Prices and Earnings study. The 2009 report has recently been updated, surveying prices and wages in 73 of the world’s major metropolitan outlets. Because of persistent global economic fluctuations that have become a byproduct of the Great Recession, the study’s data reflects new statistics on cumulative inflation, GDP growth and changes in foreign exchange rates.

In conjunction with the release of the revised report, UBS Wealth Management Research has also introduced a free iPhone app which leverages the study’s wealth of information. At the touch of an iPhone keypad, users can evaluate housing prices across the globe, public transportation fares in Paris, New York and Moscow, or corporate salaries in the world’s business capitals.  Currency exchange rates are updated every twenty minutes. The Prices and Earnings study thus becomes a tool for the 21st century that streams in real time.

So to answer the question posed by the title of the post, what does UBS data posit as the most expensive cities in the world? Using a “shopping basket” of 122 common goods and services to develop rankings, here are the top three:

  1. Oslo, Norway – Norway never joined the European Union, and as a country, is known for protectionist policies, comparatively high taxes and a strong currency. In addition, housing prices for renters are buyers have risen quickly in recent years.
  2. Zurich, Switzerland – The first of Switzerland’s two entries in the top three. But the good news is that residents of this city benefit from the highest purchasing power based on net hourly wages.
  3. Geneva, Switzerland – This Swiss city’s place may be secure for quite awhile as long as the average restaurant lunch comes in at $30 per person and a dozen eggs runs a whopping $7.64.


In contrast, UBS’s data finds that the least expensive cities to call home are Mumbai, India, Manila, Philippines and Delhi, India.