Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore figure in the list of 144 most expensive cities in the world. However, the cost of living in India is much lesser than elsewhere as no Indian city ranks amongst the top 100 most expensive cities in the world.
The list is lead by Tokyo which is the world's most expensive city, followed by London. Asuncion in Paraguay is the cheapest, says a Worldwide Cost Of Living Survey 2004, conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
Mumbai ranks 109th most expensive city in the world. The other Indian cities are New Delhi at 116th, Chennai at 132nd and Bangalore at 137th.
Three of the five cheapest European cities are in countries that recently gained European Union accession.
London has moved up five places in the rankings to take second position, followed by Moscow which moves down a place this year.
Australian and New Zealand cities rise steeply in rankings due to appreciation of currencies against US dollar.
"There have been some dramatic movements in the rankings this year which are largely due to currency fluctuations, particularly of the US dollar and the Euro," said Marie-Laurence Sepede, Senior Researcher at Mercer, in a media release.
With New York as the base city scoring 100 points, Tokyo scores 130.7 and is more than three times costlier than Asuncion which has an index of 42.7.
The gap between the world's most and least expensive cities has narrowed only marginally this year, by less than two points compared to four points last year and 15 points in 2002.
The survey covers 144 cities and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location. These include housing, food, clothing and household goods as well as transportation and entertainment.
The data is used to help multinational companies to determine compensation allowances for their expatriate workers.
Four of the world's ten costliest cities are in Asia, with Tokyo being the most expensive city globally. Osaka takes 4th position (116.1) followed by Hong Kong in 5th place (109.5) and Seoul, ranked 7th (104.1).
Indian cities, though by no means cheap, are certainly not as expensive as the other cities listed in the survey.
Chinese cities, though still relatively expensive, have dropped in the rankings, as the Chinese currency is pegged to the US dollar and has therefore been affected by its depreciation. Beijing is at position 11 (score 101.1) followed by Shanghai in 16th place (95.3).
London is the most expensive city in Europe, with a score of 119. High accommodation and transport costs together with the appreciation of the pound against the US dollar have pushed the city up in the rankings. However, Sepede said: "The scores are based on the cost of living for expatriates, who are more likely to stay in Central London where accommodation is most expensive."
Glasgow and Birmingham rank lower in the United Kingdom at positions 41 and 51, respectively (scores 84.1 and 82.8).
After London, Geneva is the next most expensive city in Europe ranked in 6th position (106.2) followed by Copenhagen in 8th place (102.2).
Other high scoring cities include Zurich ranked 9th (101.6), Milan ranked 13th (98.7), Dublin in 14th place (96.9), Oslo in 15th place (96.2) and Paris in 17th position (94.8). Sepede commented: "Since the Euro was introduced in 2002, many European cities have moved up in the rankings."
At the other extreme, three of the five cheapest European cities are in countries that gained EU accession in May. Bucharest in Romania is the least expensive European city ranked 129 (60.1) followed by Limassol in Cyprus in 95th place (70.3).
Sepede commented: "Looking ahead, we are likely to see cities in the new EU accession countries rise in the rankings, as more investment is made in commercial development and standards of living increase."
New York remains the most expensive city in North America, at 12th position in the rankings (score 100). Other costly cities include Los Angeles ranked 27 (86.6), Chicago in 35th place (84.5) and San Francisco in 38th place (84.3). Pittsburgh is the cheapest US city surveyed, ranked 112 (66.5).
All the US cities have dropped in the rankings due to the depreciation of the dollar against European, Canadian and Asian Pacific currencies.
"Cost of living differences within the US can be even more than those between the US and other popular destinations worldwide, mainly due to variations in accommodation costs," said Sepede.
Though still relatively inexpensive, Canadian cities continue to move up in the rankings due to the strength of the Canadian dollar.
Toronto is in 89th place (71.8) and has become more expensive than a number of US cities. Ottawa is the least expensive Canadian city and takes 124th position (62.6).
Since the devaluation of the Argentinean currency in 2002 and the subsequent financial crisis, cities in Latin America have become among the cheapest in the survey.
Asuncion is the least expensive city globally, at 144th position with a score of 42.7. Other cheap cities include Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Bogotá in places 143 (score 47.2), 141 (47.7) and 139 (48.6), respectively.
At the other extreme, Lima in Peru is the most expensive city in Latin America, at position 118 with a score of 63.6.
San Juan in Puerto Rico is the costliest city in Central America and the Caribbean, ranked 65 (score 77.9). Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is the least expensive, in 142nd place (47.3), due to a dramatic devaluation in the local currency, high inflation and a bank crisis that hit the country last year.
Cities in Australia and New Zealand have risen most in the rankings this year due to the significant appreciation of local currencies against the US dollar.
Sydney is the most expensive city in the region, increasing from 67th place in 2003 to 20th position, with a score of 91.8. Other high-scoring cities in Australia include Melbourne in 67th position (77.5) and Brisbane in 87th place (72.7). Auckland is the costliest city in New Zealand, ranked 80 with a score of 74.2.
Although they have increased in the rankings this year, these cities continue to rate among the highest for high quality of life.
"Living costs in Australia and New Zealand have risen faster than anywhere else globally, mainly due to the strength of the currencies in these countries," said Sepede.