Once a year Mercer puts out its “Cost of Living City Ranking.” This year marks the 27th time it has issued the report. The study looks at 209 cities against over 200 “factors,” which include housing, transportation, and food costs. It focuses on the cost of living for foreign residents. Changes in currency values also affect where cities stand on the list. The study reviews the costs for international employees living in these places. Normally, well-known, large metro areas top the list. These have included Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Zurich in the past. New York City is often in the top 10. This year, that is not the case. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, is the most expensive city this year. Meanwhile, obscure cities in nations that most Americans don’t know often fall at the bottom of the list.
The cheapest of the 209 cities to live in is Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz Republic is located between Uzbekistan and China. It has a population of about 6.5 million. Most of the population is Muslim. It is considered a presidential republic. Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Agriculture and mining are among the largest contributors to GDP. Tourism has also become a thriving business.
Bishkek is the largest city and the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Its population is just over 1 million.
The experts at the CIA World Factbook report: “Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked, mountainous, lower middle income country with an economy dominated by minerals extraction, agriculture, and reliance on remittances from citizens working abroad. Cotton, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only cotton is exported in any quantity.”
Bishkek may be cheap, but it sounds unpleasant.