Travel numbers: costs

As a traveller, costs matter – one might or might not be able to afford a longer stay in a less/more expensive place. But of course it also matters for the locals, especially in relation to their income. Traversing different countries, I have wondered quite a bit about the cost of living, income, and income distribution in the places we have visited (so far: New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand). I’ll just start with something we experienced first hand driving around in a camper: the price of petrol. In New Zealand, it varied approximately from 1.80 to 2.20 NZ $ per litre. In Australia, it was about 1.30 to 1.40 Aussie $ on the West Coast, and about 10 cents cheaper on the East side. Looking at Thai gas stations today, it seems around 30 baht per litre, and looking up current prices for Singapore and Malaysia are around 2.20 S$ and 2.20 – 2.30 MYR, respectively. Converting all of these prices to CHF using today’s exchange rates, and plotting them, gives us the following picture:petrolPrices


Malaysia’s petrol seems quite cheap! But then let’s try and relate that to how much people actually earn, by plotting these petrol prices against the GDP (nominal, taken from Wikipedia):petrolVsGDP.png

Hard to make something out, maybe we need to incorporate more countries, and this is where the fantastic gapminder tools come in: they did all the hard work of sourcing data and let you plot all sorts of things, including petrol prices against income, with one bubble for each country:


Source: Free material from; and here’s a live version you can play around with yourself.

First, note that the income axis is logarithmic! And there’s a lot of additional information packed in: the data come from 2014, the size of the bubble indicates the population of that country, and its colour indicates the continent.

But it’s still hard to take something away, other than that the yellow European countries have both high incomes and high petrol prices, there are lots of middle-income middle-petrol-price countries, and there are quite a number of African (blue) countries that are poor but have petrol prices all over.

Taking petrol prices seems kind of random, so I did not really expext any major insight, but it was still fun to play around with the data. Plotting something like the cost of living instead of petrol prices (or, more specifically, a consumer price index) would be cool, but I couldn’t find it on gapminder (let me know if I’m wrong!). Still, please go and play around with this amazing tool – you can even download it to use it offline, and use it in presentations and publications!

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