The High Cost of Living in Beirut

A strike was set today in Beirut to protest the increasingly high cost of living. The inflation which took place since 2005 and rocketed after 2007 moved the then middle class to low-income status. The economical miracle that held Lebanon steady during the global crisis of 2009 anchored this inflation, as expats and gulf money poured in local real estate and banks. Buying a house today is something that needs considerable savings, now that Beirut is ranked the 10th  most expensive city in the world in real-estate (see herehere and here).
However, the GDP did not increase with the price rise, and economists are puzzled how low income people can manage to live.
To make things worse, civil unrest in Syria has started to shake the economy, which has been declining since the beginning of 2011.

Having lived in Boston and Beirut, i could say that Boston is as expensive as Beirut* ( Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the US), except that the GDP per capita in Lebanon is $10,300 versus $46000 in the US. (see indexmundi
As a way of assessing the impact of both cities on my lifestyle & living costs, i made a very basic comparative study** of Beirut and Boston based on my daily expenses: food, commute, rent and bills.
As a disclaimer, my living conditions have changed: I shop now for two in Beirut instead of one in Boston. I also switched from biking/walking to work (20 mn commuting trip) to car (2 hours trip).  But in a way, this also account to the impact of both cities' of dictating a certain lifestyle and the cost that comes with it.

Beirut: 60$ weekly groceries at TSC -Beirut
Boston: 40$ groceries at Trader Joe's in Boston.
(I get organic food and better quality at Trader Joe's for the same price).

Beirut: some 240$/month fuel for my Jounieh Hamra commute.
Boston: 40$/ month T-pass in Boston + 40$/couple of late-night cabs +my bike

Beirut:  free accommodation ( Thank God for parents!)
Boston: 500$ for a room.
(Rent starts from 500$/month in the same apt-building i live in. the more it gets closer to Beirut, the higher. In closer suburbs like Bsalim, Antelias, Dekwaneh and Sin El Fil, average prices range between 1200$ and 1500$ a month)

Beirut: 60-70$ Mobile ( without internet), 20$ landline, 30$ electricity, 140$ moteur, 40$ for the worst internet connection in the world, 30$ for drinking water.
Boston: 40$ Mobile, 40$ internet connection, 75$ electricity ( 125$ in winter), free drinking water.

Beirut: 730$ excluding rent
Boston: 775$ incl rent.

* This link says that Beirut is cheaper 37% than Boston. This other link says Lebanon is more expensive than all Arab countries.
**I have not expanded in this comparison the costs of entertainment & shopping (really subjective), education (exhorbitant in Lebanon in relation to GDP), health care, and the cost/impact of indirect factors on physical and mental health (quality of living, air and water quality, sustainable mobility, availability of public green space, ect...).
**Looking at the World Food Price Index, one could trace parallels between the increase of food prices and the major political and social revolutions that rocked the Arab region this spring, as brilliantly highlighted in this article.


  1. For more on the links between food prices and the Arab revolutions, try here http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/25/eat_drink_protest?page=full and here http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67672/annia-ciezadlo/let-them-eat-bread.

  2. Brilliant articles by Annia! thanks for posting them