Cost of Living in Colombia 2023 - Breakdown of Monthly Expenses
With its low cost of living, Colombia is one of the best options for anyone who wants to get the most out of life while managing to keep their monthly expenses under control. Colombia has so much to offer as a long-term residence—the economy is growing, and business sectors like internet providers and airlines are giving residents more options for their purchases. Retirees who move to Colombia can travel freely while accessing utility services like Wi-Fi, electricity, and drinkable water at an affordable price.
Compared to cities in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and many parts of Europe, you can expect to find more affordable living in Colombia and see low monthly expenses in 2023, averaging between $1,000 and $2,000.
The cost of living in Colombia varies from one neighborhood to another. Gentrified neighborhoods like Cartagena’s Boca Grande and El Poblito in Medellin will charge you a higher price for things like rent and eating out, while. At the same time, cities known for their tourism industry will tend to have higher costs in general, with the more affordable options further away from the beachfront.
With an estimated 51.8 million inhabitants, Colombia’s renting market sees a 39% share of the housing market. In Bogota, even areas popular with expats offer very affordable rents. In Usaquen, you can pay an average of $256 to $533 ($1.2 to $2.5 Million COP) for a one-bedroom apartment or $533 to $640 for a two-bedroom unit ($2.5 to $3 million COP).
In more modest neighborhoods such as La Soledad, units average between $213 to $256 for a small one-bedroom and $533 to $640 for a two-bedroom. Coastal cities like Cartagena vary greatly, with rental costs landing between $320 to $960 for a studio, depending on your chosen neighborhood. Renting a three-bedroom apartment in Medellin’s El Poblado has a wide range of prices throughout the city, beginning around $500 a month.
A 2022 BBVA report on the Colombian real estate sector noted that growth in home prices slowed in 2021, which reduced the risk of overvaluation. Bogota has the highest number of unsold units, while areas like Manizales, Tunja, and Armenia, which are near Colombia’s famous Coffee Triangle have the least. Vacancies in older homes have decreased in the country’s main cities except in Barranquilla. While you can pay $1 million or more for a large two-story, Medellin’s El Poblado, a comparable home in cities such asManizales or Pereira will cost $250,000 to $300,000.
Medellin is Colombia’s second most popular city, with great weather that doesn’t require heating or air conditioning. It’s also the most popular choice for tourists and retired foreigners. In Medellin, the average housing cost for purchasing a home is 4.5 Million COP ($93 per square foot). Two of the best neighborhoods to do so are Laureles and El Poblado. In Bogota, companies like Remax and LIV offer the same quality and support you would get in your home country, and many (but not all) agents speak English. Cedritos is a popular place to buy (or rent) a larger home at a reasonable price. It offers suburban living at the doorstep of Colombia’s largest urban center.
Colombia boasts a great variety of local cuisine. In particular, the quality and abundance of delicious fruit and local fish are staples in the Colombian diet. Passion fruit, dragon fruit, avocado, plantain, bananas, pineapple, and mango are all very affordable and stay fresh since it doesn’t travel thousands of miles to get to your table (though there are exceptions, like potatoes). Root vegetables like beets, yams, and yucca are also popular, easy to find, and can be purchased at a low cost.
The Colombian diet greatly benefits from the close proximity of the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans, cold water lagoons of the Andes mountains, and extensive Amazon rivers. They’ve allowed for a vibrant fish farming industry that produces fresh trout, red tilapia, catfish, sea bass, and octopus daily.
This easy access to seafood and fruit, as well as eggs, corn, and other native foods, make them exceptionally affordable. A typical Colombian breakfast with eggs, juice, and arepas (crispy corn cakes) costs between $2.55 and $3.20. A fish or seafood lunch at a casual dining restaurant will cost you, at most, between $9.59 and $11.75.
Dining out is so affordable that most Colombians rarely bother with home-cooked meals. In urban areas, you’ll find a variety of choices that offer local and international cuisine, though, in smaller communities, you’re not likely to find a sushi or Indian restaurant. If fine dining is more your style, that will cost $25 to $40.
To save money, try adding local produce to your diet and avoid overpriced imported items. You can get away with spending about $100,000 Colombian Pesos ($21) weekly on groceries as a single person. Here are some prices of everyday goods: 50 cents for a bottle of water, $3.80 for chicken breast, 93 cents for a 2.2 lbs bag of white rice, and 75 cents for 2.2 lbs of onions.
Recently, Colombia has seen some challenges in its aviation industry. The government has been quick to intervene when Viva Air’s financial woes lead to it canceling all of its flights. Avianca airline has stepped in to offer more domestic flights, and other companies like LATAM are gradually taking over their share of international transportation to fill the gap. While prices have risen, flying domestically to and from Colombia is still very affordable. You can fly between major cities for about the same price you would expect to pay for a bus ticket. For example, Avianca flights from Bogota to Medellín are only about 250,000 COP ($53).
Colombia’s bus industry offers many options such as Rapido Ochoa, Berlinas, and Brasilia. Bus fares between cities vary but typically remain low compared to many other countries. For example, a bus ticket from Bucaramanga to Bogotá can cost as little as $16 for an 11-hour journey. Keep in mind that conversion rates between the Colombian Peso and the U.S. dollar vary throughout the year, and you may see these prices rise.
Buying a car in Colombia means paying high gasoline prices—on average the cost per gallon is $2.38. In major cities like Medellín, Bucaramanga, and Bogotá, you can pay just under a dollar for a local bus or use taxis for around $3 per ride. In Manizales, you can take a taxi from one side of town to the other for under $5 and a ride from Cartagena’s international airport to the downtown area typically costs between $3.20 to $4.30. However, you may occasionally have to deal with price gouging. Not all cities have metered taxis and you may need to agree on a price before you get inside the vehicle. This is common in the coastal areas.
Colombia uses the tiered estrato system to determine the cost of utilities, including electricity, natural gas, water, and telephone and internet service. The system assigns an estrato number to neighborhoods based on the average income of its residents. Lower estrato neighborhoods pay lower rates than higher estrato neighborhoods. For example, if you live in an estrato 2 neighborhood, you’ll pay much lower rates than someone living in estrato 6. So, choosing a mid- to low-level estrato can lead to big monthly savings when looking for a home to buy or rent. Most expats feel comfortable living in estrato 3 or higher.
Overall, utilities are much less costly than in North America. When planning monthly expenses, expect to pay $21 to $32 for electricity, $18 to $25 for water, and $3 to $4 for gas. Your internet will probably cost about $16 per month and cell phone service is, on average, $17 per month. Basic cable is cheap, about $10 per month. You have several companies to choose from when it comes to your television, phone, and internet. The most popular are Claro, Tigo, and Movistar.
It might surprise you to learn that in 2021, Colombia’s healthcare ranked higher than Canada’s (#30) and the U.S. (#37), coming in at 22nd in the world according to the World Health Organization. The best part is that it’s incredibly affordable.
Colombia has both private and public healthcare facilities. America Economia magazine named four Colombian hospitals in the top 10 in Latin America. Fundación Cardioinfantil – Instituto de Cardiología, and Hospital Universitario Fundacion Santa Fe are both located in Bogotá. Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe is located in Medellín, and Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia – Instituto del Corazón is located just outside of Bucaramanga.
There are many excellent hospitals and clinics around Colombia offering services from routine office visits and testing to complex procedures such as joint replacements, organ transplants, ICU services, and cancer treatment. As a permanent resident, you can receive coverage from both the public and private plans.
Your premiums will vary depending on which carrier you choose, the level of coverage you need, your age, and your medical history. Private hospitals consistently receive the highest rating and are more expensive than public ones.
The public option, EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud) is run by companies like SURA, Comfenalco, and Coomeva and will cost 12.5% of your declared income for a premium plan. EPS insurance offers a three-tiered system based on your income level. Lab tests, imaging, specialist consultations, and medications are included and you may be asked to make a co-payment. The 2021 rates were $1, $3.75, and $9.80.
Many retired expats fall into the second tier. Over-the-counter medication is inexpensive in Colombia. For example, an antibiotic cream costs about $1, and a 10-day supply of ciprofloxacin costs approximately $3. Colombian pharmacies are used to handing out small amounts of product. If you’re hoping to buy something in bulk, you may need to make a special order.
Sample Monthly Budget for Living in Colombia
Your cost of living will depend most on the city and neighborhood you decide to live in. The sample budget below is an average estimate based on recent rental listings and insurance rates. It covers expenses for a couple and a single person living in a mid-sized city. Amounts may change when the exchange rate goes up or down.
(in U.S. dollars)
|Rent (furnished one or two-bedroom)||$320||$640|
|Household help (cleaning service three times a week)||$100||$128|
|Cellphone (one or two)||$17||$34|
|Cable or Pay TV||$10||$10|
|Healthcare (insurance for two people)||12.5% of your income||12.5% of your income (each)|
|Transportation (car, public transport, and taxis)||$90||$90|
|Entertainment (dining out and other)||$50||$50|
|Miscellaneous and incidentals (dental, repairs, travel, clothes, taxes)||$240||$480|
|Monthly Total:||$1070 + 12.5% of income (EPS)||$1,684 + 12.5% of income (EPS)|
Many people living in Colombia hire a cleaning service at about $10 an hour a few times a week. If you want to save some money you can simply do your own cleaning and laundry. Dental work is much less expensive than in the U.S. For example, an Invisalign treatment will run you about $3,000 vs the $6,000 to $8,000 price tag in, whereas a routine cleaning costs about $30 and teeth whitening procedures are $150, which are much lower prices when compared with the $600 cost in U.S. cities.
You may want to budget for occasional repairs to your home, especially if you live near the ocean. Windows, outside walls, and balconies can get covered in salt water and mud on windy days. This may cause rust or increase your cleaning costs. Another incidental cost you should plan for is your entertainment budget. Regardless of where you’re living, Colombia has tons of fun activities like festivals, music concerts, language exchange, movie theaters, and makes a big deal of holidays like Christmas, New Year, and Semana Santa (Holy Week). These activities are a great way to meet other retirees and Colombians and brush up on your Spanish.
Cost of Living in Colombia: Living as a Single on $1000 a Month or Less
Your location will determine your cost of living in Colombia. Apartment living in the city is common and less expensive than buying a free-standing home. Modest houses in the country are less expensive and oceanfront properties are more expensive. If you decide to rent, your best option is to contact a local property management firm and work with them to find the right apartment for you, and, if possible, negotiate the price.