By Western Standards, Moscow Costs a Lot

Moscow is the most expensive city in Europe for those who want to maintain the cushy standard of living that they are accustomed to in the West, according to a new survey.

Ramstore is the cheapest supermarket that stocks the imports foreigners want, while Sedmoi Kontinent is medium-priced and Kalinka Stockmann is high-end, according to the annual survey by the Geneva-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

In its section on bars and cafes, Delifrance is considered "low price," the John Bull Pub is "good or typical" and B.B. King and the eateries at the Radisson Slavjanskaya are "elegant."

The least expensive unfurnished one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,900 a month, and the cheapest unfurnished house -- with 200 square meters and three bedrooms -- costs $5,250 a month.

"The survey is based on the international way of consumption, assuming that expats coming from the U.S. or Western Europe would consume the same items, same quality, same brands," said senior Mercer researcher Marie-Laurence Sepede. "Even for the low-price categories, we had to maintain the idea of meeting high standards."

Top 10 Most Expensive Cities

13Hong Kong
56Shanghai, China
65Osaka, Japan
78New York
87St. Petersburg
910Seoul, South Korea

The survey, which was released Monday, names St. Petersburg as the second-most expensive city in Europe and the eighth-most expensive place to live in the world.

Moscow is ranked as the second most expensive city worldwide, topped only by Hong Kong. Tokyo is ranked third, followed by Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka and New York. Seoul and London are in ninth and 10th place, respectively.

Using New York as the base city at 100 points on the index, Hong Kong scored 124.2 points, Moscow had 120 points and St. Petersburg 98.6.

The survey of 144 cities measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, food, clothing, household goods, transport and entertainment. Each item is classified in three price categories -- low, middle and high.

The survey places Moscow in the same ranking as last year and in nearly the same ranking as the past four years.

However, another annual survey shows Moscow is steadily becoming more pricey. Last year's survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit found Moscow to be the world's 34th-most expensive city, a rebound from a low of 88th in 1999 after the financial crisis.

Sepede said Mercer, unlike the Economist Intelligence Unit, does not take into account locally produced goods -- only imports.

As such, Moscow becomes a much more costly place to live than many expats who live here have found.

For example, Mercer figures that a taxi ride will cost a foreigner about $1 per kilometer, while a resident can travel just about anywhere within the Garden Ring for 50 rubles ($1.50). Bus and metro tickets, which cost about 5 rubles one way, are not addressed.

Compact discs are priced at $15.50, a price that certainly does not consider the 85 ruble pirated CDs offered by Gorbushka and many outdoor vendors.

"We cannot deal with pirated CDs or DVDs as we cannot compare them with other countries," Sepede said.

While the prices for groceries and nonfood household supplies listed by Mercer fall into line with actual costs at Ramstore and Stockmann, clothing price tags once again fail to reflect that many residents prefer to buy generic wear. Mercer says the cheapest boy's cotton school shirt costs $38.40, and the least expensive adult's casual polo shirt goes for $115.80.

The lowest price for an elegant three-course dinner for two is a staggering $232, and a pizza meal for two costs $54.79.

The survey found that the least expensive city in the world is Johannesburg.

Of the former Soviet republics, Kiev is ranked 17th, Riga is 22nd, Almaty 51st, Tallinn 80th and Vilnius 86th.

New York (7) is the costliest city in North America, followed by Los Angeles (19), Chicago (20) and San Francisco (21).

In the European Union, London (10) is far ahead of Copenhagen (62), Milan (63), Dublin (73) and Paris (74). The survey found that the introduction of the euro has not raised retail prices.

Cities in Australia and New Zealand are the cheapest while maintaining high standards of living.

The biggest changes in rank since last year were Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Harare, Zimbabwe, where political and economic turmoil have buffeted their economies. Buenos Aires dropped from 23 to 133, while Harare shot up to 26 from 130.

Mercer's Cost of Living Survey

Selected List of Stores and Services

Low PriceMedium PriceHigh Price
FoodRamstoreSedmoi KontinentStockmann
ClothingModny BazarTsUMStockmann
Durable Consumer GoodsPartiyaTekhnosilaStockmann
RestaurantsPatio PizzaNostalgia, MetropolMarriott
Bars & CafesDelifranceJohn Bull PubB.B. King, Radisson
Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting

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