From Singapore to Dubai: The world’s most expensive cities for luxury living

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Singapore surged to top the rankings as the most expensive city in the world for luxury living for the first time as it vies to be a leading global center for the rich.

The city-state, ranked fifth in 2022, leapfrogged ahead of Shanghai and Hong Kong, which are in second and third spots respectively, according to a report by Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer Group Ltd.

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One of the first places in Asia to reopen its borders during the pandemic, Singapore’s attractiveness to high-net-worth individuals is reflected in rising prices that locals now face. By the end of 2022, Singapore counted an estimated 1,500 family offices in the territory, twice the number of the previous year, according to the report. It’s the most expensive city globally for car prices.

“High living standards and ballooning demands on local infrastructure mean life here does not come cheap, according to the report released Tuesday. “Residential property is in extremely high demand, and punitively taxed cars and essential health insurance are 133 percent and 109 percent more expensive than the global average respectively.

Julius Baer’s Lifestyle Index ranks the world’s 25 most expensive cities by analyzing residential property, cars, business class flights, business school, degustation dinners and other luxuries. Asia remained the costliest region for luxury living for the fourth straight year.

Another big gainer was New York, which rose to fifth from 11th last year, due to a strengthening dollar and a rebound from the pandemic.

London slipped to fourth place from second. Brexit and the “ensuing turmoil continue to dent UK’s reputation and London now faces strong competition from burgeoning financial centers such as Dubai and Singapore, according to Julius Baer.

For the first time since the report began, Europe, the Middle East and Africa is the most affordable region to live well, with European cities dropping in rankings.

Dubai

Dubai vaulted into the top 10 for the first time, becoming the seventh most expensive city, relegating Zurich to 14th place. The Emirate is a “star performer in this year’s index, and the relocation of large numbers of wealthy individuals has affected property prices and demand, said Julius Baer.

The survey found rising demand for travel and entertainment as pandemic restrictions were lifted and freedom returned. The cost of luxury items such as wine, benchmarked by a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild 2018 vintage, and whiskey globally surged the most by 17.2 percent and 16.2 percent and respectively.

“Experiential spending has increased with people embracing their freedom and indulging in social experiences, said the report.

Other big gainers included hotel suites and business class flights. There were some exceptions though. The prices of bicycles, which became “hugely expensive during the pandemic, dropped by 1.8 percent.

Julius Baer surveyed high-net-worth individuals with bankable household assets of $1 million or more between February to March 2023.

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