A business traveller's survival guide to the world's top 4 most expensive cities


New York is the most expensive location in the world for business travel.

This was one of the findings of the latest Daily Rates research published by ECA International, a leading provider of business travel costs for cities across the world. 

“New York tops the rankings as the most expensive location for business travel due to the high cost of hotels and travel, as well as mandatory 15-20% tipping policies during meals out” says Simon Franklin, Daily Rates Manager at ECA International. 

According to ECA, the full cost of a business trip to New York is USD 793 (about R9 856/R12,43/$) per day, on average.

Updated annually, ECA’s Daily Rates reports provide average costs for hotel accommodation, which makes up the bulk of any daily allowance, as well as meals, drinks, laundry, taxi transport and daily essentials. This information is used by companies to determine daily expense allowances for staff who undertake business travel. 

Second in the global rankings, and the most expensive European location for business travel, is Geneva where the average business trip would cost USD 720 per day. 

Meanwhile in Asia, the cost of business travel was much cheaper comparatively. Hong Kong is the most expensive location for business travel in Asia but is only 29th most expensive globally.

Franklin explained “Hong Kong has returned as the most expensive place in Asia to visit on business, after overtaking Tokyo in the rankings. However, this change is mostly due to the overall price of business travel in Japan decreasing over the course of 2017. The cost of business travel in Hong Kong has remained relatively unchanged from last year with the typical business trip now costing USD 508 per day on average.”

Advice for local travellers

Oz Desai, Corporate Traveller South Africa GM sas, “When we travel for business, our choice of destination has little to do with how expensive it is to visit that city. Rather, we travel to cities where we have business interests even if it costs a great deal to fly there, stay in a hotel and buy a meal.

“The bulk of the daily spend will usually be the cost of a hotel room, but other business expenses like taxis, food and drink and even the cost of WiFi quickly add up when you’re travelling for business.” 

Travelling to one of these? Then you need to heed this advice: 

1.            New York (Number 1 at R10 375 a day)

Accommodation prices in New York are subject to extreme fluctuations depending on the season and whether there’s a large-scale event in town.

Plan your business travel so that it takes place at off-peak times. Rule of thumb is that from mid-January to mid-March is a good time to visit New York for business even though it’s winter.

Also look for hotels uptown or downtown instead of staying midtown. Public transport is excellent in New York so provided you’ve clustered your meetings smartly you will have no issue getting down to business speedily.

2. Hong Kong (Number 1 in Asia @ R6 065 a day)

Hong Kong is the most expensive location for business travellers, overtaking Tokyo which drops to second in the rankings.

If you want to eat cheap in Hong Kong, consider taking a foodie tour after hours where you’ll be introduced to some of the lively local hotspots and indulge in dim sum, noodle soups and barbecued meat.

If you don’t have time to go on a foodie tour, take a trip to Hong Kong Island and find Dim Sum Square, or be adventurous and visit one of the night markets which always serves up an array of delectable street food.

3. Switzerland – Zurich and Geneva (Number 1 and 2 in Europe @ R9 408 and R8 728)

Geneva and Zurich take the first and second places respectively of the most expensive cities in Europe.

An easy way to save money in Geneva is to grab a free transport pass when you arrive at the airport. The pass is good for 80 minutes and covers trains, busses and trams for Zone 10, which is pretty much anywhere in Geneva you’d want to go. Throughout Geneva, there's free WiFi. Simply look out for a network called "((o)) Ville de Geneve."

Unfortunately, affordable eateries are difficult to find in Geneva, but don’t despair. Just hop on the 12 tram to the end of the line and walk across the border to the French town of Gaillard for some great restaurants. 

For Zurich, it’s a good idea to purchase a city card, which will offer free public transportation as well as discounts or free admission to local attractions. If you like to eat out, it might be worth considering the Easy Dining app. It costs 95 francs (R1 210) per year but the app claims to cut your bill by half with its discounts at restaurants across the canton.

4. Luanda, Angola(Number 1 in Africa)

As Angola’s largest city, Luanda takes the No. 4 spot on the global list - in part because of security factors. Travelling executives end up staying in pricey tourist areas, rather than more competitively-priced business areas.

Although it’s tempting to explore the upper end restaurants on Ilha do Cabo, if budget is a concern, rather head to Luanda’s central neighborhoods with their backyard restaurants (quintais) where you’ll be able to eat fantastic local specialities at a fraction of the price. 

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