Vladimir Ilyich Lenin must be rolling over in his grave. Just 17 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the one-time capital of communism is now home to the world's most expensive cup of coffee. The average cup of joe in Moscow is $10.19, including service, according to a new survey by the London office of U.S. consulting firm Mercer.
The rest of Europe isn't much kinder — coffee is $6.77 in Paris and $6.62 in Athens. International travelers looking to satisfy their caffeine cravings should look to South America and Africa for relief: At $2.03 per cup in Buenos Aires and $2.36 in Johannesburg, both continents offer relief to cash-strapped java seekers. New York is far from the most expensive, weighing in at a mere $3.75.
"The cost of living survey is conducted in stores of international standard, frequented by expatriates," says Nathalie Constantin Métral, a research manager at Mercer's office in Geneva, Switzerland. "We collected the price for a cup of coffee in bars and cafés of international standard frequented by expatriates in Moscow, and those places are very expensive."
The figures are a part of Mercer's annual cost of living survey, which covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the relative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. The results are used to help government agencies and multinational companies determine compensation allowances when sending employees abroad.
They better up the budget for Moscow trips, if they haven't already. Along with that $10 cup of coffee, an international newspaper clocks in at $6. So along with something to eat, even a modest-spending business traveler has racked up more than $20 in expenses from waking up and starting the day just as he or she would at home.
In addition to purveying the world's most ruinous roast, Moscow topped Mercer's overall cost of living index for the third year in a row, finishing ahead of Tokyo and London. The average monthly rent on a two-bedroom luxury apartment in Moscow costs $4,500. (In Tokyo, where space is at a premium, the apartment rent averages out to $5,128.84 ... but the coffee there is only five bucks, not 10, and the morning paper will only run you $1.40).
Though it can feel expensive at times, New York isn't even among the top 20 most expensive cities, according to Mercer. This year the Big Apple slipped from No. 15 to No. 22 on the list, and is the only American city in the top 50.
Coffee isn't the only everyday commodity that will cost U.S. citizens abroad. A ride on London's tube costs $5.89, the highest mass transit cost of any city on Mercer's list. If you want to buy a CD, don't go to Prague — unless you want to dish out $33.53, on average. Americans traveling to Dublin might want to go on a vegetarian diet — the average burger is $10.12, nearly twice as much as Moscow's $5.75.
Moscow's prices continue to rise across the board, but there is some relief in sight for coffee drinkers. Last year, beleaguered Starbucks opened its first location in the Russian capital following a victory in a lengthy dispute with a Russian patent squatter. Muscovites complained about the prices from the get-go, but Starbucks' brew is actually lighter on the wallet than most. According to The Moscow News, the company's notorious lattes ranged in price from 150 to 200 rubles, or $6.42 to $8.56 at today's exchange rates.
Either way, Moscow's elite can afford the costly beverage — the city boasts 74 billionaires, the most in the world.