Luanda is the priciest city in world for expats, says survey for second time
Luxury traffic jams and Hugo Boss stores common
Corruption endemic and services appalling
Possible to visit without breaking bank -- and have a memorable experience
For the second time in three years, the African city of Luanda has been declared the most expensive city in the world for expats by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.
While it’s true that most of the Angolan capital’s population lives in poverty on the outskirts of the city, in the center, Porsche Cayennes share the road with Cadillac Escalades and the latest Range Rovers.
Hugo Boss makes such a killing here that it opened a second store within walking distance of the first.
For those not familiar with Luanda, however, the ranking may come as a surprise.
Tokyo (which took top spot in Mercer’s survey last year) makes sense as the world’s most expensive expat city.
So might Moscow or New York.
What’s it like to visit?
So, what’s this scandalously expensive place – where a mid-level expat professional might earn $10,000 a month – like to visit?
First, some context.
Luanda is the capital of Africa’s second largest oil producer, Angola (Nigeria beats it), a rising political and economic powerhouse.
Yet the country also suffered a destructive and violent 27-year civil war, ending only in 2002, which crippled its infrastructure and decimated its ability to produce its own food.
As a consequence, almost everything in Luanda has to be imported.
Heavy import duties, along with high taxes and monopolized supply chains linked to the powerful political elite further drive up the price of goods and services to astronomical levels.
Then there’s institutional corruption, which creates high prices through price fixing and price collusion.
Sky-high hotel bills
Hotels are the visitor’s biggest expense.
Despite more opening in recent years, prices have remained stuck at about $500 a night for five-star hotels, $350-400 for four-stars and $300-350 for mid-level lodging.
A meal at Luanda’s smartest restaurants will easily top $100 per person, including appetizers and drinks.
Such prices can