London leads the world in costly hotels

British athletics may be going through a dodgy patch, but there are two areas in which we still have clear world records: London has the most expensive hotels on the planet, while the UK has the highest-priced rail travel.

These chastening facts come from the tenth edition of the Prices and Earnings Around the Globe survey from UBS. The Swiss bank started producing the survey in the 1970s, and it appears every three years.

According to its compiler, Daniel Kalt, head of UBS Economic Research in Zurich, many companies use the report to fix employee pay levels around the world.

Thankfully the UK doesn't break the bank in every department. London is the world's ninth-most expensive city in a top ten dominated by Scandinavian cities, although Tokyo leads the pack.

The survey finds that an overnight stay for two in the British capital will cost an average pounds 248, well ahead of the global figure of $168 (pounds 104). Eating out on the other hand is good value compared with most Asian cities and Moscow.

For hard-pressed rail travellers in the UK, privatisation does not seem to have translated into more competitive prices quite yet, to put it mildly. The UK is the most expensive in the world with fare prices of pounds 32 for a 120-mile second-class train ticket, some way ahead of the next most expensive - Switzerland. The global average is just pounds 10.50.

The survey will further fuel dinner-party gossip in London about house prices; London has the highest rents for unfurnished two-bedroom flats, along with Moscow and Jakarta. For three-bedroom flats London is on a par with cities in Asia, New York and Moscow.

On the other hand, poor old Londoners earn less than their counterparts in 20 other cities around the globe, including Paris and Frankfurt. London wages are the same as those in Sydney and only just ahead of Dublin - this, despite the fact that Londoners put in some of the longest hours in western Europe. They make up for it a bit with their holidays, an average of 20.8 days, which is in the middle of global comparisons.

Globally the top earners are to be found in Zurich (home of UBS), Geneva, Copenhagen, Tokyo and New York. The lowest gross wages were paid in places like Shanghai, Moscow, Budapest, Mexico City and Caracas.

If you decide to leave the restaurants behind and buy your own food, a basket of grub as defined by UBS would cost pounds 226 in London, just below the European average of pounds 244, cheaper than Zurich at pounds 342 but ahead of Lisbon at pounds 168. (At pounds 226 this is obviously a Swiss bank's idea of a "food basket".)

As for getting around, Londoners have the fifth-most expensive tube and bus fares - 13 times dearer than Shanghai - but Londoners get a slightly better deal when it comes to taxis with black cabs only the 10th-most expensive in the world.

UBS likes to jazz up its figures by working out how long it takes to earn enough money to buy a Big Mac anywhere in the world, to give an idea of comparative purchasing power. Fast-food fanatics in the US come off the best, taking just 12 minutes to earn enough for a burger, while their colleagues in London have to slog away for 20 minutes. That compares with three hours for a worker in Nairobi.

It looks as if Brits travelling to the Continent to buy their cars more cheaply are right to do so. Car prices are lowest in central and eastern Europe and in North America. Prices in the UK are the sixth-most dear. Russian motorists get the best deal on road tax at pounds 9.30, while Singaporeans pay pounds 617.

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