The 2014 global rankings by consultancy firm Mercer feature no German cities in the top 50, but six in the top 100.
Munich is the most expensive of the German cities, ranking at 55 internationally, followed by Frankfurt am Main at 59 and Berlin at 68.
Berlin is ranked more expensive than Düsseldorf and Hamburg for expats, despite average rents per square metre in the German capital being lower than in both those cities, according to property portal immowelt.de.
All German cities leapt up from 2013’s rankings. Munich rose 26 places, Frankfurt 24 and Berlin 31 spots from 99th last year.
Düsseldorf was 73rd and Hamburg 76nd. The other German city in the top 100 was Stuttgart, which placed as the 91st most expensive city in the world for expats.
Ira Spitzer, a US TV journalist in Berlin, said: “Life in Berlin is definitely cheaper than in New York City. I was surprised by the low rents in Berlin. While food and drink is a little cheaper here, the rent is significantly less than New York.”
@TheLocalGermany Only in Berlin a couple of months, but it's far cheaper to live in than Dublin – my hometown.
— Darren Holland (@darren__holland) July 11, 2014
Based on the study, which compares the cost of over 200 goods and services, such as housing and transport, the most expensive cities for expats are in Africa. The top spot was taken by Luanda, the Angolan capital, followed by Chad’s capital N'Djamena.
In Europe three cities made it into the top ten, all in Switzerland. Zurich was ranked fifth, closely followed by sixth-place Geneva and the capital, Bern, coming in eighth place.
At the other end of the scale, the cheapest expat city in the world was named as Karachi, in Pakistan.