Bangkok and Chiang Mai Among the 30 Most Expensive Cities in Asia for Expats

Chiang Mai City at Night

Chiang Mai and Bangkok are among the 30 most expensive cities for ex-pats in Asia, with Ashgabat in Turkmenistan still on top of the global and Asian tables.

The Thai capital ranked 28th, one place above Chiang Mai, according to the latest ECA International survey on the cost of living for expatriates. In the global rankings, Bangkok was 60th and Chiang Mai 142nd.

But Bangkok dropped out of the top 50 global rankings from the last survey released in December last year.

Bangkok has lost a considerable amount of its appeal for budget-conscious expatriates, having risen 64 places over the past five years, according to the survey.

ECA International said the growing economy and increased foreign investment, at least prior to the coronavirus pandemic, had made Thailand more expensive, fuelled by the stronger baht.

Lee Quane, Regional Director for Asia at ECA International said “The baht has strengthened considerably making the country more expensive for expatriates and tourists. However, this trend has slowed over the past year, partly in response to government attempts to weaken the baht in order to keep the country competitive.”

The survey has been carried out in March and September every year since 2005. It is calculated based on a basket of items such as accommodation rental and utility fees. Car prices and school fees are not included.

Hong Kong was the second most expensive city in Asia after Ashgabat but ahead of Tokyo and Singapore. Singapore was also the most expensive place for ex-pats in Southeast Asia.

The Chinese territory also remained sixth in the global standings, one place ahead of the Japanese capital. Singapore was 14th in Asia despite dropping two notches from the previous survey.

According to ECA, Ashgabat’s meteoric rise to the top of the ranking is largely attributable to the economic problems of the Turkmenistan government. The energy-rich Central Asian nation has faced severe inflation and a black market for foreign currencies has caused the cost of imports to rise, said Mr Quane. Both of these factors have sparked a large increase in the costs visitors pay in Ashgabat.

Mr Quane said Chinese cities fell across the board in the latest rankings due to signs of a weakening economy and poorly performing currency, even before COVID 19 started to take its toll.