Expensive Expat Living: Singapore Takes 2nd Spot in Asia’s Costliest Cities

Living in Asia as an expat offers dynamic urban landscapes and a rich cultural blend, making it an enticing prospect. Yet, this allure comes at a price. According to recent studies, several Asian cities rank among the world’s most expensive places for expatriates.

In a 2023 study by ECA International, cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, and Shanghai made it to the top 10 global rankings for expat living costs. The rising cost of living, driven by high rental prices, inflation, and strong currencies, propels these cities up the ranks.

Image Credits: unsplash.com


Singapore, renowned for its efficient infrastructure, safety, and quality of life, has seen a significant increase in expatriate living costs. The Lion City now ranks as the second most expensive city globally for expats. According to ECA International, soaring rental costs play a crucial role in this rise, making it increasingly challenging for expats to find affordable housing.


While Singapore’s ascent is remarkable, it’s not alone in experiencing a surge in living costs. According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2024, here are the most expensive cities for expats in Asia:

1. Hong Kong – This city frequently tops the list due to overwhelming housing prices and a competitive job market, yet it continues to attract international businesses and expats alike.

2. Singapore – Rapidly rising rental costs place Singapore as the second most expensive city globally for expats.

3. Shanghai – As a global financial hub, Shanghai has seen significant increases in housing expenses, cementing its status as one of Asia’s costliest cities.

4. Seoul – Known for its tech-savvy lifestyle and vibrant culture, Seoul demands a high price, particularly in housing and education.

5. Tokyo – With its blend of tradition and modernity, Tokyo’s high living costs are driven by pricey real estate and high standards of living.

Image Credits: unsplash.com


As Asia evolves into a hub for international business and lifestyle, understanding the financial landscape is crucial for prospective expatriates. High living costs in cities like Singapore offer world-class amenities and cultural experiences. Yet, balancing luxury and expenses is tricky. It will take time to navigate these financial pressures while enjoying the unique city living.

Sources: 1, 2, & 3


Do these things to bring down your cost of living

a man holding on to his car key

The term “cost of living” can be translated as the money needed to uphold our current lifestyle habits.

When finances are on a stretch, lowering the cost of living can weigh heavily on our minds. If you’re ready to hit the pause button on your spendings or make lifestyle changes because of a recent job loss or pay cut, that’s not impossible.

Try doing these things to bring down your cost of living.

Move to a smaller home

Downgrading can be a powerful punch in the face for the prideful. But when it comes to finances, it’s a massive boost for maintenance. Take a good look at your money matters right now and decide if it makes sense for you to downsize. Remember that selling your property takes time, so plan ahead and get started early.

But sometimes, selling your home can be made secondary by getting rid of your car instead. With most of us shifting back to working from home, maybe you don’t really need a vehicle to add to your existing financial burdens?

Rent out rooms
a room with a double bed

Image Credits: ohmyhome.com

For peeps who are not so keen on selling their house, see if you can empty a room or two to rent out. This presents a quick solution to bring in extra cash every month, on top of your salary.

Alternatively, you can also choose to downsize and then rent out a small room for someone to occupy temporarily. But this method might only be suitable for people who don’t mind sharing their living spaces with an outsider. Be sure to discuss thoroughly with your family members beforehand.

Minimise your energy consumption

Your current electricity appliances can be the culprit contributing to your steep monthly bills. Check to see if they are energy-efficient and make the switch if they aren’t. Since they are products you use for a long time to come, be sure to do your research and ask the salesperson about the specs before buying.

Another factor to consider is your air-conditioner. Yes, we get how Singapore’s weather is so humid and unbearable at times, but if you want to bring down your cost of living significantly, learn how to embrace the warmness. Can’t seem to give up on that? Use the timer setting to work your way around it when you hit the sack.

Rework your budget
budgeting with a calculator

Image Credits: procurementexpress.com

As we approach mid-year, maybe it’s time that you take a look at the budget you’ve drawn at the start of 2021. Changes are inevitable, and it’s okay to replan your spreadsheet to accommodate your income changes.

Study the spendings closely you have each month and maybe let go of a few inactive subscriptions. Examine if you genuinely require multiple content streaming services, or you could just do with one for the time being.

Singapore is undoubtedly a city with a high cost of living and seems to rise a little more each year. Unless you’re planning to move to another country with a lower cost of living, consider the above strategies to cut your money outputs.


4 Ways To Significantly Decrease Your Living Costs In Singapore

According to Investopedia, “Cost of Living” is the amount needed to sustain a certain level of living that includes basic expenses such as food, taxes, housing, and healthcare. This factor can make a difference especially if your salary is sustained in an expensive city such as ours. Your salary can go further at a developing city but it may barely go buy at a developed one. Logically, it is important to take measures that help you decrease the costs. Start with these four ways:


Aside from transportation, housing, and food, one of the family’s major expenses is the education fee. Childcare as well as tertiary education is costly for the parents especially if they have two or more students in the family. Topping the fees are the pile of miscellaneous such as school supplies, uniforms, camps, and other extracurricular activity expenses. Fortunately, there are some organizations that offer student grants.

The NTUC Bright Horizons Fund offers financial assistance to children from underprivileged families. The amount of assistance varies according to the gross household income or per capita income. Also, there is a minimum co-payment fee of 2% and an additional S$20 for Union Members.

While adults’ aged 35 and above that earn not more than S$1,900 can upgrade their skills with the Workfare Training Support (WTS) scheme. These adults can benefit from 95% course fee funding on various courses including part-time diploma or specialist diploma at the five local Polytechnics. Imagine how many opportunities you can get after!


Each year, hundreds of tax deductions and credits may go unclaimed due to the lack of taxing knowledge. Be sure to maximize the tax reloads that are applicable to you by checking out the information provided by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, here.


The good news just keeps on rolling! Early commuters can board the MRT for free before 7:45 am on the weekdays (i.e., excluding public holidays)! The no-cost rides are available at 18 MRT stations namely: Somerset, Bayfront, Bras Basah, Bugis, Orchard, Chinatown, City Hall, Clarke Quay, Dhoby Ghaut, Downtown, Esplanade, Lavender, Marina Bay, Outram Park, Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar, Promenade, and Telok Ayer.

If you missed the cut-off timing for a few minutes, fret not. You can still indulge on 50 cents off your fare if you exited the designated stations. To be eligible for these, you must not enter from the 18 stations mentioned above. Your savings on transportation can pile up as time goes by.


We cannot live without clean water. Therefore, you must employ saving habits to lower down your bills. Learn a thing or two from this illustration:

Image Credits: pub.gov.sg/CONSERVE/HOUSEHOLDS/Pages/Watersavinghabits.aspx

Image Credits: pub.gov.sg/CONSERVE/HOUSEHOLDS/Pages/Watersavinghabits.aspx


Sources: 1, 2, & 3


Hey Globetrotter! How Much Is Your Money Worth Around The World?

Has your strong desire to travel been itching you these past several weeks? Is your schedule free enough for you to travel at least 3 days away? If all your answers point to “YES” then, it is time to give in to your wanderlust!

As you let your heart decide which country you shall go next, it is paramount to understand the value of your money and the cost of living dynamics. These said information would help you build the travel fund that is suited best for your trip. Furthermore, you can carry a little more pocket cash in case an emergency rises.

Looking into the globe through a microscope, a few of the countries you may visit are Australia (Continent: Australia), Italy (Europe), China (Asia), South Africa (Africa), Canada (North America), and Peru (South America). Hooked to the globetrotter idea already?

Then, browse through the things that you can buy with S$2.50, S$52.50, and S$1,500…


In Australia, or Commonwealth of Australia, you can buy 1 liter of milk for S$1.53 or a 1.5-liter of water for S$2.48.

Are you a salad enthusiast? Try the lettuce (1 head) from Italy for S$1.35. The 1.5-liter of water there costs S$0.76 only!

If you love imported beer, get a 0.33 liter bottle for S$1.59 in China. Otherwise, conquer your thirst with the very affordable S$0.65 1.5 liter of water.

Image Credits: takuki via Flickr

Image Credits: takuki via Flickr

In South Africa, you can purchase 500 grams of white bread loaf for S$1.31. And, their 1.5-liter of water retails for S$1.47.

Going up to Canada, you may purchase a kilo of tomato for S$1.90 that is otherwise S$2.66 in Singapore. The 1.5-liter of water? It costs about S$2.43.

Lastly, Peru offers friendly priced domestic beers (0.5 liter bottle) for S$1.84 while their 1.5-liter of water is priced at S$1.16.


You can ride a cab (normal tariff) with an hour of waiting for S$51.31 in Brisbane, Australia.

And, if you are a sucker for cheese, get 2 kilos for S$46.14 in Milan, Italy.

There is nothing but pure regard for your money at Zhuhai, China where a three-course meal at a restaurant can cost about S$43.38 for 4 people!

However, in Johannesburg, South Africa it is a tad pricier as the three-course meal at a restaurant can cost about S$48.74 for 2 people.

In Cold Lake, Canada, chain store (e.g., Zara) dresses are priced cheaper at S$43.78 whereas it retails for S$63.60 in Singapore. That is saving you S$19.82!

In the capital of Peru called Lima, you can enjoy 3 hours of playing tennis on a weekend (S$35.94) plus catching a flick on its international release (2 seats for S$15.76). Talk about an ideal date!


With this larger amount, you can rent an apartment for a month (inclusive of Internet services) at all these countries discussed. For instance, in Australia, you can rent a 1-bedroom apartment on the outskirts for S$1,187.62.

While in the world’s eight largest economy, an Italian 1 bedroom apartment outside the city costs S$1,034.54.

Image Credits: Julia via Flickr

Image Credits: Julia via Flickr

For an incredibly cheaper price, visit China where you can rent a 3-bedroom apartment at the city for S$1,030.15.

Or go to South Africa where a 3-bedroom apartment at the city is about S$1,409.27.

And, if you have a month long business trip in Canada, consider renting the 1 bedroom apartment in the city for S$1,340.63.

Finally, Peru’s 3-bedroom apartment at the city will cost you approximately S$1,107.23.

Image Credits: blog.absolutvision.com

Image Credits: blog.absolutvision.com

Oh! By the way…all these data were collected from Numbeo. It is a website that stores the world’s largest database of user contributed information about global living conditions. It has been mentioned in internationally renowned newspapers and magazines such as BBC, Forbes, The Economist, and New York Times among others. See for yourself! 🙂



How Much Will It Cost To Live in USA, Singapore, Australia or Italy?

Cost of living is the total expense of maintaining a standard of living in a certain country. This changes over time and is often operationalized in a cost of living index.

In this chart is the comparison of the cost of living of four countries namely: United States of America, Australia, Singapore, and Italy.


Clothing And Shoes Ave. (in SGD) USA SG AUS ITALY
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis) 54.95 111.92 111.35 129.67
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, F21, etc.) 47.82 63.24 76.26 53.99
1 Pair of Men Leather Shoes 113.77 136.22 147.41 166.62
Total Clothing: 216.54 311.38 335.02 350.28
Rent Per Month Ave. (in SGD)
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 1,359.20 3,312.03 1,944.27 928.25
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 1,032.05 2,133.33 1,380.82 709.08
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 2,313.77 5,955.30 3,335.58 1,634.16
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 1,743.47 3,579.49 2,186.44 1,192.56
Total Rent: 6,448.49 14,980.15 8,847.11 4464.05
Ave. Salary After Tax (in SGD)
Monthly Salary 4,103.69 3,875.20 4,732.34 2,439.03


All the data were collated from Numbeo. It is a website that stores the world’s largest database of user contributed information about global living conditions.

Before discussing the variables in the chart, let us first explore a brief introduction of these four countries. United States of America, commonly referred to as U.S., is a federal republic country that is consists of 50 states. According to the International Monetary Fund, U.S. has the world’s largest national economy. It is considered as a developed country.

Australia, or Commonwealth of Australia, consists of the mainland and numerous smaller islands. In 2012, International Monetary Fund ranked Australia as the fifth highest per capita income among the world. It is also considered as a developed country.

Singapore, officially known as Republic of Singapore, is an island country in Southeast Asia. Despite its size, Singapore had the third highest per capita income around the world. It boasts its high regard on education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness.

Lastly, Italy is a parliamentary republic in Southern Europe. Human Development Report highlighted that Italy is a very developed country with its economy being the eighth largest in the world.

In the comparative chart above, Italy was shown to have the highest cost in Clothing and Shoes. Most of the famous chain brands originated from the U.S., which is why the country had the least cost on clothing and shoes. Furthermore, it is the reason why some items are cheaper when you buy it on its online store.

The Average Rent per Month is overwhelmingly dominated by Singapore. Renting a bedroom apartment at the city center will cost you about S$3,312.03 in Singapore. With that amount, a person can already rent two 3-bedroom apartments in Italy’s city center. The higher cost of rent in Singapore is due to the 718.3 km2 total area of land wherein millions of people reside.

Image Credits: Lina Hughes via Flickr

Image Credits: Lina Hughes via Flickr

Lastly, in most of the factors, Australia sits strong on the second place. Although rent and clothing may be costly in Australia, the average salary per month is S$4,732.34. It is the highest among the other four countries.

So, if you are moving to a different country and curious about its cost of living, look it up on Numbeo. It has been mentioned in internationally renowned newspapers and magazines such as BBC, Forbes, The Economist, and New York Times among others.

Sources: International Monetary Fund, Numbeo, and Wikipedia