The Most Expensive Cities for Business Travel

When traveling on business, you typically don’t have the luxury of choosing which cities to visit; you go where business takes you. Still, if only for budgeting purposes (and to avoid sticker shock), it’s good to know which cities are more and less expensive.

Helpfully, Business Travel News publishes an annual Corporate Travel Index, a ranked listing of 200 cities’ daily travel costs, incorporating the average costs of hotel, car rental, and food.

It might come as a surprise that the three most expensive of the 200 cities were all in the U.S., out-costing other notoriously expensive cities like Tokyo, London, and Paris.

Here are the 20 cities with the highest average per diems:

  1. New York ($549.04)
  2. San Francisco ($534.03)
  3. Boston ($510.97)
  4. Tokyo ($489.37)
  5. Zurich ($471.96)
  6. London ($468.63)
  7. Washington, D.C. ($462.37)
  8. Chicago ($443.72)
  9. Basel ($442.99)
  10. Geneva ($432.48)
  11. San Jose, CA ($418.39)
  12. Hong Kong ($416.88)
  13. Seattle ($411.57)
  14. Honolulu ($410.82)
  15. Tel Aviv ($409.03)
  16. Kuwait City ($408.28)
  17. Riyadh ($399.64)
  18. Osaka-Kobe ($398.14)
  19. Santa Barbara ($395.66)
  20. Paris ($394.59)

The rental-car portion of the per diems varied the least. The average for U.S. cities was around $45, and most cities hovered pretty close to that—with the notable exception of Newark, N.J., where the cost was $80.25.

What had the largest effect on cities’ overall travel costs was, predictably, the local hotel rates. In New York, the rate was $385.08, versus $121.48 in Bakersfield, California, which had the lowest per diem of the 100 listed U.S. cities, at $241.65. Other U.S. cities on the lowest end of the per diem spectrum: Biloxi ($250.00), Shreveport ($251.18), Albuquerque ($252.92), and Tucson ($256.32).

Reader Reality Check

How do these per diems compare to your costs when traveling on business?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.