The cheapest (and best) city in the world to live

Each year, Mercer publishes a list of the most livable cities around the world and I find myself asking which cities I would rank if I had free reign over the results.


Deciding on which city to live is a personal choice, affected by a myriad of factors including family, jobs, climate, and inertia.  Personally I consider the weather, culture, and environment, as well as the cost of living , after all what’s the point in living in a marvelous city if you can’t afford to enjoy it? Like buying a car, as much as I would love to drive an Aston Martin for the day I honestly wouldn’t want to own one . I would be too nervous about driving it, worrying that it might get scratched, stolen or written off, not to mention the extraordinary high costs. To me the value for money isn’t worth it, I would rather spend the cash on new experiences or my life goals. I find the same is true with a city, I love going to New York, London and Sydney, but I wouldn’t want to live there (despite having lived in both Sydney and London, I wouldn’t want to live there again).


In an attempt to find the best value city in the world I have taken Mercer’s list of most livable cities and plotted them against the cost of living index from Numbeo. From both a cost of living, and quality of living perspective, New York City is given a baseline score of 100 and other cities are rated in comparison. For example if another city had a score of 110, it would mean that the cost of living is 10% more than New York City,  if a different city had a score of 60, their cost of living would be 40% cheaper than New York City.

The Results:


Click here for a larger version of the graph above


The first thing that sticks out is the African city of Lauanda. If it wasn’t bad enough living in the city with the highest cost of living, the kick in the teeth is that the quality of life in the second lowest too! On closer inspection you can see that the cities with the highest quality of life,  are mainly in Europe and Oceania and these, not surprisingly, have the highest cost of living too. So if you were looking to move to a new city to get the best bang for your buck where should you go? Let’s drill down into the cities that have a quality of life above 85:

Click here for a larger version of the graph above


Cost Conscious 

If cost is the most important factor for you, then depending on the continent/area that is most preferable to you, your options could include:

  • North America: Detroit, Cleveland, Portland, Pittsburgh and Miami
  • Europe: Budapest and Prague
  • South America: Buenos Aires and Montevideo
  • Oceania: You’re choices are limited but your best option would be either Wellington or Auckland
  • Asia: Taipei or Jerusalem


Quality Conscious


If cost of living is less of an issue (but you still want value for money) there are a number of cities to choose from:


  • 2749622638_c0d89612db_bNorth America: Vancouver and Honolulu,
  • Europe: Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Birmingham and Lisbon
  • South America: Buenos Aires and Montevide
  • Oceania: Auckland, Melbourne and Perth
  • Asia: Singapore



The Overall Winner: Budapest


How many people would rank Budapest as the best city in the world to live? Not many I bet. What makes it surprising is that when you see these ‘best-city-in-the-world’ reports, they only take into account either ‘Quality of Life’ or ‘Cost of living’, as a result, we are not accustomed to seeing  Budapest ranking so high. When you factor in it’s quality of life score of 91, (just 10% lower than New York City) and it’s insanely low cost of living, it makes for an unbeatable combination.  No other city comes even close when you take into account these two variables. What factors are important for you when deciding on where to live? I am thinking about creating more bubble graphs like this using variables such as temperatures and if the city has a beach, two important factors for me!


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