Image: Scandinavia, Sweden, Vastergotland, Petrol station on roadside
Johner Images / Alamy  /  Alamy
If you thought Sweden was affordable because of prices at your local Ikea, think again. Sweden has one of the highest costs of living in the world and gas is no exception, topping $8 a gallon.
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updated 6/10/2011 8:27:05 AM ET 2011-06-10T12:27:05

Next time you pull over to refuel, be grateful you don’t live in Istanbul. While there may be bargains within the city’s Grand Bazaar, haggling won’t get you anywhere at the local gas station — where Turkish drivers must now pay $9.63 per gallon.

Slideshow: World's highest gas prices

Sure, here in the U.S., we’re forking over about 30 percent more at the pump than last year. The nationwide average for self-serve unleaded regular gasoline was $3.96 in mid-May, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. But a March 2011 survey conducted by AIRINC, a Cambridge, MA–based consulting firm, confirms that compared to many other countries, Americans still have it good — and cheap.

Turkey and Eritrea are saddled with the world’s highest gas prices, with the latter hitting $9.59 a gallon, according the survey. It’s only a matter of time until gas crests the $10 a gallon mark, especially if the year’s pattern of natural disasters and revolutions continues.

“Unrest and uncertainty in the Middle East are disrupting major supplies,” says Avery Ash, AAA’s manager of regulatory affairs. “As a result, that’s driven prices up on the commodities markets.”

Government policies and priorities also have a big impact on pricing. European countries like the Netherlands have traditionally imposed high taxes on fuel to encourage conservation, maintain air quality, and fund public transportation that is vastly superior to that found in the U.S. When you live in Amsterdam, the world’s most bike-friendly city, it doesn’t matter so much that gas has surpassed $8 a gallon.

Still other governments work overtime to ensure that gas stays as cheap as possible. Generous subsidies keep prices down around six cents per gallon in the oil-rich, yet impoverished country of Venezuela.

As prices continue to rise in most corners of the world, AAA’s Ash looks for the silver lining. “When gas prices get higher, you reach a point where people ration their demand and then you usually see prices get pushed downward.”

Be part of that supply-and-demand solution by leaving the car at home, especially when heading to these countries with the world’s highest gas prices, as determined by AIRINC.

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