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Singapore’s Sky-High Living Costs: A Comparison with Switzerland

① Singapore: The Most Expensive Southeast Asian Country for Living Expenses

National Geographic

Singapore has been recognized as one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, alongside Zurich, Switzerland. Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, and Singapore is not far behind.

According to the “2023 World Cost of Living” report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a subsidiary of the British weekly The Economist, Singapore ranked first due to the high cost of car ownership, expensive liquors, and the hike of food prices.

In 2022, Singapore was named the most expensive country to live in, alongside New York. Over the past decade, Singapore has taken the top spot in this survey eight times.

While Singapore is recognized as one of the most expensive places in the world, it greatly varies depending on the item.

The prices of food and other ingredients are relatively low. Singapore’s most expensive parts can be divided into real estate and cars. You could say the cost is astronomical for them.

In addition, the price of liquors and cigarettes in Singapore is the highest among Southeast Asian countries.

There also are strict regulations on alcohol and cigarettes.

② The High Cost of Buying a Car in Singapore


The most expensive part of living in Singapore is the cost of a car. With a total area of 277 square miles, Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. There is a specific limit to the number of people who can own cars. Singapore has strict restrictions on car purchases. Buying a car, import taxes, registration fees, and other expenses are very high.

In 1990, the Singapore government introduced a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) valid for 10 years to prevent traffic congestion. You can drive a vehicle for 10 years; after that, you must purchase another COE. To buy a car, you must first obtain a COE.

Last year, the BBC reported that the average cost of owning a car in Singapore is about $78,300 per vehicle. They reported that the amount you must pay to get a COE has increased.


The Singapore government sells COEs through auctions every two weeks. The cheapest COE is about $76,900. The price of a COE that can be used regardless of the type of car is even higher.

In addition to the COE, there are vehicle registration fees, insurance, a 7% Goods and Services Tax, and a 20% consumption tax. If you buy a Toyota Camry Hybrid in Singapore, it will cost you a total of about $185,300. This is six times more expensive than in the United States—a Hyundai car you can buy in Korea for about $37,500 costs about $187,600 in Singapore.

Due to these reasons, the number of cars in Singapore, which has a population of 5.5 million, is less than one million.

③ Singapore’s High Housing Prices

Japan Times

Last year, Singapore had the most expensive private housing in Asia-Pacific. It even surpassed Hong Kong, known for its expensive housing prices. The rental rates for housing in Singapore are rising faster than anywhere else.

According to the Housing Affordability Index by the Urban Land Institute’s Asia Pacific Housing Center, the median price for private housing in Singapore in 2022 was about $1.17 million. The monthly rent for a private rental property in Singapore is about $2,250.

Due to soaring rents, shared housing has significantly increased in Singapore. A shared house of about 10 square meters, with no windows, where laundry and cooking must be done in a shared space, costs about $2,400 monthly rent. Even this is difficult to afford due to the high prices.

Buying an apartment in Singapore starts at about $1.50 million. The monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment starts at around $3,750. Due to the ridiculously high prices, ordinary people live in public rental flats, known as government apartments.

These public apartments, known as HDBs, are from the system where the government owns the land and only supplies the house. They can be purchased at half the market price. When the Singapore Housing Development Board builds an apartment, it is distributed to residents. Only the HDB can sell these apartments. After a mandatory residence period of 5 years, you can sell it on the resale market and make a profit from the price difference. You only need to deposit about $15,000 to $30,000. Most citizens live in these apartments because they are in a permanent rental form.

This system is recognized as a global public housing supply system. However, for foreigners who are not Singaporean citizens, the cost of housing in Singapore is a huge burden.

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