Cheap Cities?

World’s cheapest cities for expensive living By Venessa Wong of Bloomberg Businessweek

Have you ever thought about chucking it all and moving to a place where the greenback goes farther? Although many people do, the spots that used to be considered cheap — the Bahamas in the 1970s, Paris in the ’60s — aren’t such bargains now. Don’t worry. There are still plenty of places where the slightly well-heeled can live comfortably without spending an arm and a leg. International consulting firm Mercer has conducted its annual survey of which cities cost the most for expatriate workers, providing a pretty good cost yardstick. Mercer measures the prices for what an average American might require overseas to lead a relatively decent life — no gold-plated Rolls-Royces or rooftop helipads, just decent food, an apartment, a cup of coffee and so forth. Although expatriate assignments generally are expensive for companies, living well in some places is far less expensive than in major U.S. cities. These locations include cities in Africa, South America, South Asia and some former Soviet republics. In its 2011 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Mercer collected price data from 214 cities on more than 200 items, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment, but not the cost of health care, education and other items. Not all winning locations are family-friendly. The Libyan capital of Tripoli is one of the least expensive places to live, living there entails significant risk from military rockets. Many of the cheapest cities are in developing countries, but not all of those are low-cost: The world’s most expensive city for expatriates is Luanda, Angola, followed by Tokyo and N’Djamena, Chad, Mercer says. On the other hand, inexpensive living doesn’t always require a foreign posting: Winston-Salem, N.C., ranks No. 18 among cheap cities.

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