Hong Kong fell two places to become the sixth-most expensive city in the world for expats, but remains the second-priciest place in Asia, according to a survey released on Wednesday. Ashgabat in Turkmenistan topped research data firm ECA International’s list – followed by Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern – while Tokyo remained in seventh place globally. Singapore dropped two places to 14th. “Despite political and social unrest last year, coupled with the impact of Covid-19 making some people more reluctant to move to the SAR, Hong Kong has only seen a small drop in the global rankings,” said Lee Quane, the firm’s regional director for Asia. Conducted in March and September every year since 2005, the survey compared a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly bought by international assignees in more than 480 places across the world. The items include groceries, meat and fish, household goods, recreational goods, clothing, motoring expenses and electrical goods. The latest survey studied year-on-year movements in data collected in March with those taken in the same month last year. But living costs – such as accommodation rentals and utility charges – are excluded in the survey, as such items are usually compensated for in expatriate packages. For example, Hong Kong’s petrol cost is US$2.35 per litre, costlier than US$1.77 in London, US$0.93 in New York and US$1.08 in Sydney. Schroders buys Hong Kong’s real estate manager Pamfleet A one-year gym membership in Hong Kong costs US$1,355 – which is more expensive than the charges in the three other big cities. Compared to New York, the city’s charges are more than US$400 more expensive. The last time Hong Kong sat outside the top five in the ranking was in 2018 when the city was placed 11th. Researchers found all cities in mainland China dropped in the ranking due to signs of a weakening economy and poorly performing currency. Beijing and Shanghai both fell nine places, to 24th and 19th, respectively. “One of the key factors was undoubtedly the coronavirus outbreak, but it should also be noted that the yuan was performing poorly before this period too, with the Covid-19 outbreak exacerbating the relative weakness of the Chinese currency against other major currencies,” Quane said. The Covid-19 pandemic also hit the cost of living in South Korea. Seoul fell from eighth place to 17th in the global ranking. Hong Kong still most expensive housing for high-end expats But most US cities jumped in their rankings, because the US dollar continued to perform well against other major currencies, with New York and Honolulu entering the global top 20. “In uncertain times, as we are seeing currently with Covid-19 and with a global recession around the corner, many people will put their money into what is seen as ‘safe haven’ economies such as the US, and as a result the US dollar has strengthened – making things more expensive for expats than in the past,” Quane said.