Survey: Norwegians pay most for beer, Big Macs

/ Source: The Associated Press

Norwegians pay the most for booze and Big Macs, while Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians pay the least, a comparison of consumer prices among 18 European countries found Wednesday.

While the findings for Norway and neighboring Sweden and Denmark weren't surprising, the Scandinavian countries are considered some of the most expensive places to live in the world, other Europeans are getting good bargains on everything from plasma screen TVs to movie tickets.

The survey, conducted in October by Pricerunner AB, a Stockholm-based consumer price comparison Web site owned by ValueClick Inc., looked at prices paid by consumers in 18 European countries for goods as varied as a McDonald's Big Mac meal to ticket prices for an evening showing of "The Bourne Supremacy."

"Particularly with new countries joining the EU, this year's survey has revealed even greater gaps, but it has also highlighted some interesting facts," said Pricerunner spokesman Patric Blixt.

Costs vary across Europe
Britons, for example, pay the most to see a movie at a cinema, on average about $18.55. Lithuanians pay an average of $5 for a ticket.

Those who prefer to see their films on DVD would do well to buy them in France, where a Sony region-free player can be had for $121.81. The same player goes for $160.69 in Finland.

In the market for a 32-inch Sony TV? Head for Greece and pay $972, but avoid buying it in Sweden, where the same model goes for $1,283.

The Swiss have the best price on Apple's iPod mini, which retails for an average of $311, but the same device will set you back more than $425 in Finland.

That Big Mac and booze? Depends on where you are.

A Big Mac meal from McDonald's, including medium fries and a Coke, ranged from $3.50 in Estonia to $11 in Norway.

At the main train station in Frankfurt, Germany, the same meal costs $5.70. "That's cheaper than in Berlin," said Neill Young, a Scottish spokesman for the Merchant Navy on business in Germany, while chomping on a Big Mac. He said he paid about $6.75 for the meal.

But Young, 49, can buy the same meal in Scotland for only about $3.70.

Meanwhile, a 24-ounce bottle of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey cost just under $20.50 in Spain, but goes for $34 in Sweden and $43 in Norway. In Lithuania, the price was about $26.

"Swedish prices have always been high, so it's not very surprising," said Emma Strandberg, a 25-year-old student in Stockholm. "We can see that every time we travel in Europe."

A gallon of milk was cheapest in the Czech Republic, where it cost about $2.76, but goes for $6.08 in Norway.

For gasoline, which has seen its price rise as oil surged this year, Estonia had the cheapest, $3.72 a gallon, while that would cost $6.36 in Finland.

Indeed, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia had the cheapest prices on just about everything, 26 percent lower than average across Europe.

A pack of Marlboro Lights sold for an average $1.60 in Lithuania, but was more than $9 in Norway, which taxes tobacco heavily. A 16-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola sold for an average 75 cents in Lithuania, but cost $3.05 in France.

The survey fails to point out, however, that Baltic salaries, like Baltic prices, are far lower than in most Western European countries. In Latvia, where a Big Mac costs $2.06, the pretax monthly income averages around $394.

"I don't eat Big Macs or see many movies, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask. But I can't believe it's much cheaper here for people to do so than in other countries," said Ieva Cernisova, 20, a Latvian university student. "People here don't earn as much as people do in Western Europe."

Pricerunner has compiled the survey annually since 2002. It measures prices by looking at specific items in three stores to calculate a mean average for the country. The European average price was calculated by compiling all 18 countries' prices, then dividing by the average price for all the countries.