Downtime: cheapest places to join Asia's jet set

A new survey reveals that the cost of a luxury lifestyle is going up. But you can still live well for less and avoid seeing cash go up in smoke ... if you know where to look.

Lighting up the silkiest of Cuban cigars or donning a suit made of the finest fabric are more costly this year – though fortunately you can save on hotel suites and the kids’ British education.

And, if you really want to make your luxury dollar stretch a little further, your best bet is to hop on a flight (first class, of course) from pricy Hong Kong to bargain-basement Kuala Lumpur. 

Those are among the findings of this year’s Wealth Report Asia, prepared by Swiss bank Julius Baer. It assessed the relative cost of a basket of goods and services associated with the luxury lifestyle of the region’s super rich – from a piano to a golf club membership and a botox injection – in 11 key Asian cities.

To no one’s great surprise, Hong Kong took the top spot in the list of costly cities, surging from third place to surpass Shanghai in first. The city ranked highest for business class flights, luxury property and dégustation dinner, though it was the cheapest for jewellery, wine, ladies handbags and watches also relatively cheap – perhaps suggesting the survey compilers picked up a few bargains on Kowloon’s infamous Nathan Road.

Shanghai ranked second, with the most expensive hospital rooms, wines, jewellery, botox, cigars and skin cream, while pricey cars and lawyers left Singapore in third.

Looking to make those millions stretch further? Try Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Jakarta, which made up the bottom three. Perhaps India isn’t such a cheap destination these days, however: Mumbai leapt three places after finishing bottom last year.

Visitors to Malaysia can perhaps thank Prime Minister Najib Razak; the scandal over his ties to state fund 1MDB has cast a cloud over the country’s economy, sending the ringgit plunging and making its capital the cheapest city (in US dollar terms) for homes, watches, wine and that all-important piano, as well as hotel suites.

The study also looked at broader pricing trends for luxuries goods and services. Cigars showed the biggest uptick – you’ll see 17.8% more of your money go up in smoke every time you light up. A men’s suit costs 10.5% more, while suing over dodgy tailoring or getting treatment for your smoking addiction will cost more, with lawyer’s fees up 7.4% and hospital rooms up 5.1%.

At the other end of the table, university fees are down  4.3% – attributed to the British pound’s post-Brexit stumbles – and hotel suites are 4.8% cheaper.

But for the truly wealthy, the question is: does it really matter?

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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