Updated Cost of Living in Medellín for a Couple (2016)

Cost of Living
Cost of Living

Editors note: this article was updated in 2017 with an updated cost of living for a couple in Medellín.

Early last year I covered my cost of living for a couple living in Medellín, Colombia. The exchange rate has changed recently making it now even cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of US dollars.

This post provides an update with my cost of living for a couple living in Medellín, Colombia over the past three months.

The relatively low cost of living in Medellín is one of the reasons I started living in the city after I discovered it several years ago. The nearly perfect weather and the quality of life, for the cost, are very challenging to beat.

I am often asked how much money it costs to live in Medellín, so over the past three months I tracked my expenses.

Dave also previously shared his costs of living in 2013 as a single guy living in a shared apartment in Medellín.

Five-year Colombian peso exchange rate graph (Source xe.com)
Five-year Colombian peso exchange rate graph (Source xe.com)

Improved Exchange Rate

The recently improved exchange rate for the Colombian peso makes it much cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of US dollars.

The Colombian peso exchange rate has been in a range from 2,880 to 3,356 pesos to the US dollar over the past three months, which is the highest range it has been during a three-month period over the past 10 years.

A Word About My Standard of Living

First I would like to share some insight into my standard of living, because more than anything, this is what will affect a person’s cost of living in Medellín.

I have a job in the US with location flexibility, which means I can do my job from anywhere in the world with a fast Internet connection and telephone. I have now been living in Medellín for over five years.

I live with my Colombian wife in Sabaneta (a southern suburb of Medellín) in a three-bedroom apartment. This cost of living post details our costs for a couple living together in Medellín.

While living in Colombia, I also typically travel six to ten times each year for my job with my company paying all my travel expenses.

Our cost of living in Medellín, past 3-months
Our cost of living in Medellín, past 3-months

* The exchange rate fluctuates each day; my average exchange rate over the past three months was 3,274 pesos to the USD, which is the exchange rate used in this post – except for apartment rental which was prepaid for a year in July last year at an exchange rate of 2,685 pesos to the USD.

Our Monthly Cost of Living

Apartment rent = 1,350,000 pesos ($503)

Apartment rent is our biggest monthly expense. I have been renting unfurnished apartments while living Medellín for over five years.   My initial experience in renting apartments in Medellín was documented in a four part series: first part is here, second part is here, third part is here and fourth part is here.

We currently live in a three-bedroom apartment in Sabaneta, which we moved into in July last year.  It is located within walking distance to Parque Sabaneta. Our current apartment specifications include:

  • Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, about 110 square meters (1,184 square feet)
  • Kitchen with granite countertops, oven, and gas cooktop
  • Gas water heater (tankless)
  • Upper floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
  • Pool, sauna and small gym in building
  • 24×7 security
  • Estrato 4 neighborhood

I prepaid for a year of rent last year that is good until the end of June this year. The exchange rate for the funds I used to prepay last year was 2,685 pesos to the USD, which makes our monthly cost $503 per month.

I exchanged sufficient funds when the exchange rate was over 3,300 pesos to the USD to pay our next year of rent at about $400 per month.

Groceries = 695,424 pesos ($212)

Groceries are our second biggest expense in Medellín as a couple living together. We cook at home frequently and normally shop at an Exito grocery store, which is conveniently located a 10-minute walk from our apartment.

About every six weeks we also shop at PriceSmart, which has good prices for several items purchased in bulk.

Our monthly costs for groceries in terms of pesos have dropped recently as we have also started shopping at a nearby D1 Tienda for some staples and also a local butcher shop, with both having lower prices than Exito.

This category also includes our expenses for drugstore items like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner.

Restaurante El Viejo John – one of our favorites in Sabaneta
Restaurante El Viejo John – one of our favorites in Sabaneta

Dining = 474,600 pesos ($145)

We eat out at nice restaurants in Medellín typically a few times each month. Several times each month when we are too tired to go out or cook, we also order takeout (domicillio) from nearby restaurants or fast food places.

We have found that the restaurants in Sabaneta in general are less expensive than in some other areas in Medellín like El Poblado or Laureles.

Each month we also sometimes eat lunch at small restaurants near our apartment, which typically have inexpensive Colombian food. Set lunches (menu del dia) in these small restaurants typically costs just $2 – $4 per person.

Medical = 473,950 pesos ($145)

Our medical costs during the year include medical insurance for my wife and me, glasses and contacts I purchased during the year plus a few trips to the dentist over the year as well as drugs purchased at drugstores.

My medical insurance covers me while I am in Colombia and my company offers medical insurance in the US and also when I travel for business.

Gifts = 381,382 pesos ($116)

This category includes gifts purchased for Christmas. Spending in this category is typically heavier for us in November and December than other months of the year.

Miscellaneous = 332,767 pesos ($102)

This general category is miscellaneous stuff, which includes some small things we purchased for our new apartment in Sabaneta, laundry expenses plus an Amazon Prime membership.

Several times each year I buy some things on Amazon that are much cheaper or difficult to find in Colombia. Many items purchased on Amazon will ship for free to Miami where I have a mailing service that forwards to Medellín for a relatively low cost.

Education = 242,000 pesos ($74)

This includes costs for an English class that my Colombian wife is currently enrolled in.

Aves Maria mall, a 10-minute walk from our apartment
Aves Maria mall, a 10-minute walk from our apartment

Ground transportation = 183,267 pesos ($56)

This includes costs for using the metro, buses and taxies.

We live within easy walking distance to Parque Sabaneta and Aves Maria mall with an Exito and Cinamas Procinal movie theater. There are many small shops, restaurants and bars within walking distance from our apartment.

In front of our apartment we can catch a bus that costs 1,800 pesos to go to the Sabaneta metro station in about 10 minutes.

We can also catch a bus in front of Exito that costs 2,000 pesos to go to the Santafé mall in El Poblado, taking about 30 minutes during non-rush hour; or a bus that costs 1,800 pesos to go Mayorca mall with a recently opened major expansion and takes 15 minutes.

Parque Sabaneta, a 10-minute walk from our apartment
Parque Sabaneta, a 10-minute walk from our apartment

Triple-play Internet/TV/phone services = 137,203 pesos ($42)

We have triple-play services provided by Claro with 10-MB Internet, several hundred TV channels including some in English and free local landline telephone calls.

We pay a lower rate for triple-play services in an estrato 4 neighborhood than would be found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.

Clothing = 125,200 pesos ($38)

I rarely buy clothes as I have quite a few from the US when I moved to Colombia. This category over the past three months has been for a few clothing items my wife purchased.

Entertainment = 109,367 pesos ($33)

This includes expenses for going to movie theaters, bars, discotecas and concerts. We typically incur entertainment expenses a couple times each month.

Utilities (electric, gas and water) = 109,211 pesos ($33)

Utility services are provided by EPM, the local utility in Medellín. There is really no need for heating or cooling with the climate in Medellín, which results in relatively low utility bills. We also live in an estrato 4 neighborhood, which has lower utility rates than are found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.

In general our utility services have been cheaper in Sabaneta than when we lived in a smaller apartment in Belén.

Mail services = 88,322 ($27)

I use the Mail Boxes Etc. Ebox service in Medellín. This Ebox service provides a mailbox in Medellin linked to a mailing service in Miami. This is the solution I use to reliably receive US mail (letters and packages) in Medellín.

With this service, I get a mailing address in Miami and any mail received at this address in Miami is forwarded to Medellín. This service costs $14 per month and includes a 1-kilogram package for free each month.

In the United States I use a US Global Mail mailbox as my primary mailing address, which costs $12.50 per month and permits me to view items I have received online.

Every six weeks or so I typically send the mail received in my mailbox in the US to my address in Miami that is forwarded and shows up in Medellin about a week later.

Cell phone services = 37,667 pesos ($12)

This is the cost for cellular services from Claro for two cell phones. My wife used to have a post-paid plan that cost 42,000 pesos per month but she switched to a pre-paid plan. So we both now have pay-as-you-go phones that we recharge each month with 10,000 or 20,000 pesos.

Pet = 31,167 pesos ($10)

In December 2013, we bought a Pomeranian puppy so we have ongoing pet expenses of dog food and vet services.

In general we find that vet services and prices in pet stores in Sabaneta are cheaper than in Belén where we used to live.

Hair care = 9,667 pesos ($3)

It only costs me 9,000 pesos (<$3) including tip to get my haircut at a barbershop near our apartment. My wife hasn’t had her hair done recently.

Other categories

When I looked at our costs of living in 2014, I included three categories, which were not incurred by us in the last three months. From October to December we didn’t take any vacation trips so we didn’t have this category.

I previously included the computer and electronics category but we didn’t buy any computer or electronics items in October through December.

I also previously had visa and cedula expenses that were once a year expenses. I now have a visa and cedula good for three years so I won’t incur this expense again until 2018.

The Bottom Line

With the greatly improved exchange rate and our lower spending in some categories, over the past three months we averaged spending less than $1,600 per month for our cost of living in Medellín for a couple.

This is down from around $3,000 per month when I looked at our spending in 2014 and down from nearly $1,900 per month early last year. But our standard of living hasn’t changed other than not traveling as frequently on vacation.

Our cost of living has dropped by 17% in terms of Colombian pesos since 2014 even though we now live in a much larger apartment. So even if the exchange rate hadn’t changed at all our cost of living would still be lower than two years ago.

We are not really seeing much impact from the increased inflation in Colombia, with inflation in Colombia of 6.77% in 2015 and inflation of 3.66% in 2014. We have found is possible to change your behaviors and shopping locations to avoid most impacts of inflation.

I don’t know how much longer the exchange rate will stay at its current high rate. However, I believe our spending will likely average between $1,600 to $1,700 per month for most of the year if the exchange rate stays above 3,000 pesos to the USD. Later this year we plan to go on a couple vacation trips.

Keep in mind it is certainly possible to live in Medellín for cheaper than we do.  Apartments are available in Medellín for much lower costs but these aren’t necessarily located as conveniently as our apartment nor have all the features.

The bottom line is that Medellín has a wide range of options for apartments available in a big range of prices (from less than $200 to well over $2,000 per month) that can meet the needs of a wide range of renters.

For a couple living on a shoestring budget, I believe this can easily be done in Medellín with the improved exchange rate for less than $1,300 per month.

Or for a couple living in a top of the line luxury penthouse apartment in El Poblado, the most expensive neighborhood, this would likely result in a cost of living exceeding $4,000 per month.

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    • It’s claimed Medellin has a “low cost-of-living”…. This is actually NOT true. This is a misconception most new expats have… but I lived in Medellin for 7 years, and it’s definitely not the case, it was MORE expensive than USA.

      First, many things are outright more expensive… computers, phones, cars, clothes, internet (in US I pay $24/mo for 300MB. In Medellin it costs almost twice that much for only 20MB, and isn’t reliable), accounting, appliances, faulty infrastructure, etc. etc.

      Second is high inflation, high interest rates, poor financing, and failed/scam business deals, etc. e.g. I paid for furniture to be built, then they disappeared with all the money, paid for home repairs, then they disappeared with all the money… etc. this type of thing happens every week. Cable company put other peoples accounts under my gov ID number, and so I had to pay over $2,000 to clear their bills off my account in order to get my utilities turned back on. They said they can only correct errors from the time it is brought to their attention forward, but can not go back to correct any past billing errors.

      Third is lack of accountability or legal system. e.g. my SUV was totaled 3 times (2 by drunk driver) and in every case I had to pay the full repair or replacement of my vehicle because the other drivers didn’t have insurance (and in the one case when they did have insurance, the claim never got paid anyway). e.g. I paid in advance to lease an expensive furnished apartment for a year, and then got a death threat to vacate the property within 3 days or I would be assassinated.

      Fourth, you loose a lot of time and get driven mad with frustration because the processes, appointments, paperwork, etc. down there are never done efficiently, or on time, or correctly, … everything takes forever, and a lot of work, and often has to be re-done multiple times. I’m still waiting for a court case to get processed that started 12 YEARS AGO!!! (I had the same type of court case in US, and it was finished in only 3 weeks)

      This is just a tiny sample of the many high-cost headaches that most people don’t realize until they try to live there for a while.

      • I respectfully disagree. I have been living in Medellín for well over five years and my cost of living that has been documented on this site over the past three years has been lower than my cost of living was in the U.S. before I moved to Medellín.

        In addition, each year my cost of living in Medellín has dropped in terms of USD, so I haven’t experienced any inflation due to the improved exchange rate.

        As the above article points out “standard of living” more than anything is what will affect a person’s cost of living in Medellín. Some of the choices alluded to in your comment are not typical for someone looking for a low cost of living, such as having a SUV and renting a furnished apartment. Many expats I have met in Medellín do not have a car and those living here long-term tend to rent unfurnished apartments or buy.

        Over the past 5+ years I fortunately haven’t experienced any of the high-cost headaches that you have experienced. I don’t have a car but I do understand that many drivers don’t have insurance in Colombia that’s why all expats I know with cars all have comprehensive vehicle insurance, which is voluntary and covers the owner and the vehicle in the event of an accident, theft of parts and vandalism, theft of the vehicle and causing damage to third party property. This comprehensive insurance is beyond the required and basic SOAT liability insurance that is primarily intended for third party victims of traffic accidents. I plan to cover car insurance in a future post on this site.

        Some of the issues you raised have been covered on this site, such as inflation – http://www.medellinliving.com/inflation-2015/ and expensive things such as cars and smartphones – http://www.medellinliving.com/expensive-things/.

        I disagree about all computers being expensive, see: http://www.medellinliving.com/buying-computer-tablet-colombia/. I bought two Apple computers in Medellín, one for lower cost than listed on Apple’s website and one for only $50 more. I also disagree about appliances being expensive, if you buy local brands. Also clothes are not expensive in my experience if you shop outside of El Poblado in places like the shops in Mayorca mall.

        The bottom line is the cost of living in Medellín depends mostly on your “standard of living”.

        • You are correct about comprehensive car insurance. My uncle was in a car accident in Bogotá and his car was totaled and his comprehensive car insurance covered replacement of his vehicle. It would be good to cover car insurance in Colombia on this site so expats know about how it works in Colombia – it is different than in the U.S.. Basic SOAT is completely insufficient.

          Also agree that no way that clothing in Medellín is expensive if you shop outside of ritzy El Poblado. Also having an SUV in Colombia is not a good way to have a low cost of living.

      • I agree with Jeff and disagree,

        Expats from the US really need to realize that when they go to another country, there will be lifestyle differences and they have to learn to work with the city they are living in, not making the city work for them.As an American I realize many things are going to be completely different, and you have to break for the norm.

        When it comes to personal electronics, you have to realize that the brands you are used to will be marked up, but not to a point that will break the bank. We recently bought a Bose SoudLink 2 speaker back home in New England (Go Pats), and to tell you the truth, it was priced here for 200,000 COP over; yes its a high mark up, but when you take into account that the import cost for things into Colombia will be much higher, I was surprised Ktronix did not have it higher priced. There are electronics, appliances, and even cars that are from brands that people have never heard from in the US, but they are known in places like Europe and Asia that have lower import costs because of trade agreements. A GE washer will be more expensive than a Haceb, but Haceb will have better performance and service here; a Renault would be better priced than a Ford or Chevy, and you will find same or even better performance all around.

        When it comes to legalities and business dealings in Medellin (And be thankful you don’t live in Bogota, or else you would be running back to the Mid-West to where I assume you are from – Go Badgers, Huskers, KC!!). You have to be aware that people will try to take advantage at all times, specially since the Gringo that sits at a meeting with arrogance will make the other parties feel like they are not playing on equal ground (And I have learned this the hard way, I am from New England and we are very arrogant, I blame our World Series and Super Bowl wins); this is what they call in Colombia as “Dar Papaya”, and good sir, I think you have given your fare share of Papaya that has left a bad taste in your mouth.

        As for the car insurance issue, that is your own fault for not having comprehensive policy. Many states do not require you to have insurance, so this is not just a Colombian thing. Driving in the beautiful state of New Hampshire a couple years ago I got T-Bones by a Geo Tracker, the person got out of the car and ran away… THIS is not a rare thing in New Hampshire by the way.

        My point is that you have to become clever and work with your environment, or you will become the pessimist gringo that will get eaten alive. I am not trying to be disrespectful, I just want to drill in some harsh truths (Like coach Bill Belichick would) so you can learn to live in prosper in this amazingly beautiful, cheap (And I live in El Poblado, so much cheaper everywhere else), and cordial city I now call my own.


      • I have no idea where you were living or what you were doing in Colombia but I have had a residence there in Medellin in the Poblado since 1984 when it really was difficult but never in that time has a single bad thing been done to me or on any of the 4 members of my family. Nothing is perfect but when comparing costs and quality of life to here in the US- Colombia wins hands down.

    • Hello
      I was thinking of purchasing a apartment in Sabaneta. I have heard there seems to be a water problem in thier new appartments. Can anyone confirm this? Any info would be appreciated.

      • I am aware that there was a water problem earlier this year with some of the apartment buildings up the hill from Aves Maria mall in Sabaneta. Some apartment buildings didn’t have water for some hours of the days due to them having to do some rationing due to inadequate capacity/pressure. This was even an issue in the last mayor’s race in Sabaneta.

        But I live up the hill and haven’t experienced any water problems and I know a neighbor in a nearby building up the hill that also hasn’t experienced water problems. I also haven’t heard of any recent problems from other buildings so the problem might be solved.

        • Thank you Jeff for your fast response. I am from Canada with a Colombian Wife and heard this from her family in Medellin. We have been approved for a Mortgage for 200 million COP and do want to make the wrong decision as we want to retire there this year. I personally like the idea of moving to Sabaneta. Would you know of any agents in the area?
          Again thank you for your reply

          • Hi John,

            Unfortunately the local agent I knew in Sabaneta moved recently to Bogotá as most of his family lives there. But it should be relatively easy to find several by looking for Sabaneta property listings on https://www.espaciourbano.com/. All of the listings on that site have real estate agent contact info. Or you can try Casacol, which has English speaking agents and much experience working with expats.

            Keep in mind there are few exclusive listings in Colombia so a real estate agent can sell most properties. For 200 million COP you should be able to find a nice property in Sabaneta as properties are much cheaper than in El Poblado. Sabaneta has become the third most popular neighborhood in Medellín for expats living here based on our recent survey with results published today – http://medellinliving.com/2016-reader-survey-results/.

            I really enjoy living in Sabaneta.

        • How is the water to drink from tap? I am visiting soon and wondering if I should bring a good water filtration system with me (I already have one and its non electric and cheap but very good)

  1. Very good information. What would you estimate your expenses if you were living in Poblado, assuming the same standard or living, same size apartment, etc? Also, do you use Schwab to exchange currency?

    • I would estimate my expenses would be about 20-25% higher in El Poblado. I am aware that a similar unfurnished apartment in El Pobaldo would rent for about 1,800,000 pesos per month. Costs for utilities and triple play TV/Internet/phone services would likely be higher since most of El Poblado is estrato 6. Many of the other categories like groceries, dining, entertainment, pet, hair care, etc would be higher in El Poblado as the prices in shops, restaurants and bars in El Poblado in general are higher than in Sabaneta. I also suspect we would be using taxis more in El Pobaldo so ground transportation would be higher.

      El Poblado is definitely the most expensive area of Medellín to live so you can save substantially by living elsewhere in the city as we are doing. I lived in El Poblado for about a month during an initial trial of living in the city. I quickly determined that it would be cheaper living elsewhere and I have lived in Estadio, Belén and now Sabaneta.

      I use a TD Bank ATM card, that has no foreign transaction fees and reimburses ATM fees if you maintain a certain balance.

  2. Good post, wife and I moving in couple of years- Envigado- waiting for the building to be finished. This post is a good reference point. Thanks.

  3. We live in San Joaquin in Laureles-Estadio, also Estrato 4. We have a 200 sq m house pay 1.500.000 and about 150.000 in utilities, no dog, but pay about the same or probably closer to $1200 due to lower education, gift, entertainment, misc, and medical costs,have Colombian insurance which falls under $100 a month for 2 people. In Poblado, it will likely be 2000-3000 depending on how you live and where.

      • To each his own. For some it is cheaper to rent than buy even for long time periods. When you can find properties in Medellín that rent for a year for 5% of the property value it can be hard to justify buying. With renting you also have a lot more flexibility to pick up and move, for example if someone builds an eyesore next door or the security situation in the neighborhood changes.

        However, now may be a good time to buy with the current exchange rate if you have USD but only if you plan to be here for sure for a long time.

        From what I have seen it looks to be much easier to buy a property in Colombia than to sell. I have heard estimates that upwards of 50% or more of the foreigners that move to Medellín end up leaving within 3-4 years. Keep in mind that if you buy and wind up moving back to your native country that it could take a long time to sell any property that you may buy. It can take a year or even much longer to sell. I have also met several expats that bought 2-4 years ago that wish they didn’t with the change in the exchange rate recently.

    • Hi Vic! I really like that area in San Joaquin in Laureles-Estadio, how did you find that place? can you give us the contact of the “Inmobiliaria”? . it is a furnished apartment or not? thanks in advance!

    • My expenses in El Poblado are 1750 including rent, services, 20mbps internet (the highest because of 4k streaming), health & pension, food, and entertainment.

      The tip is to find 15 years or older to rent and negotiate with the inmobiliaria. Everything below the 10 year mark is going to be expensive; there is a huge spike in price when the building is relative newer. I love un a 3 bedrooms (one of them is a full office, the other is completely empty and I just lay on the floor to reflect Charlie Brown style), 2 main bathroom, and a service quarters with a bathroom (I don’t even have a maid, I use it to keep my boxing stuff and dry laundry) for a good price. It is not old at all, but people in el poblado consider it old, I love the place anf I am considering making an offer when my léase ends. The key is looking for older building in la Visitación and patio bonito.

      Also don’t buy your furniture at home center if you can help it. Take a trip to El Retiro and look for furniture on the way there and in the town. You can find amazing hand made furniture for cheaper, it just take some stuff negotiating skills and patience because it can take up to 3 weeks for the delivery. Got my whole living room, dining room, and bedroom sets for 4 mill and guaranteed for 5 years. And it’s big stuff, not tiny beds or tiny dining table; my girlfriend calls our bed foxboro because I custom made it to be huge.

  4. Sign me up for one of those jobs with “location flexibility”! Try having a job in Colombia but having to pay bills in the US and travel back occasionally. Now that exchange rate becomes a nightmare. I hope it swings the other way soon.

  5. Fantastic writing and excellent research. My wife and I presently live in Cuenca, Ec. We will be visiting Medellin in March. Where would I obtain a pass to use the elevator for the Metro. Tnx again for the great article

      • Mike, Cuenca has been home for 5 years. I really like it. Large expat population. My guess is there are currently 4500 -5000 North Americans. Our budget is about $500 more than Jeff’s expenses I go into detail at https://cuencatechlife.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/what-it-really-costs-to-live-in-cuenca-ecuador-2015/

        Ecuador is presently having some economic problems and some vital services have been cut. I have two concerns about Cuenca.

        1. The constant diesel pollution of the buses
        2. The cutting of medical services at the Social Security Hospital.

        • Hi Lenny , I life in Cuenca 2 + your reasons r exactly my problems as well. Thats why i visited Medellin last September . Im happy i did . I will move To Medellin next month… Cant wait . Cuenca is also the most expensive place in EC. i think + the nights got to cold for me with Diabetes . Im from Switzerland + its closer,faster+cheaper from Medellin to visit my Family . Medellinliving is really a great help but i wish there would be some info for Income taxes . Maybe we can meet ?

    • Hi Lenny,

      Thanks. I’m not sure if a pass is needed to use the elevators for the Metro as I don’t use the elevators.

      But I would recommend getting a Civica card for using the metro. You can recharge the Civica card and it permits for lower metro fares and also permits you to bypass the long lines to get a metro fare ticket. You can get a Civica card at the Punto de Atención al Cliente – PAC offices located at the Niquía, San Antonio, Itagüí and San Javier metro stations. The PAC offices are open Mon-Fri 6:30am to 8:30pm and Saturdays 9:30am to 4:30pm. You just need an ID to get a Civica card, a passport will work.

        • I pay no income taxes in Colombia. But I do pay income taxes in the U.S. If you are a tax resident of Colombia (over 183 days) Colombia taxes worldwide income just like the U.S.

          But depending on your situation you won’t necessarily need to pay any taxes in Colombia as you can exclude part of your income, there are a number of deductions and you can subtract taxes paid in the U.S. or another country.

  6. Fantastic post, Jeff, thanks for all the great, detailed information.

    Question . . . have you done a post (or would you consider doing one) that details the mailbox and 3rd-party shipping service you use in Miami (and the mailbox/main address in the US), how to get it, what the taxes and service fees are, etc.? I know you touched on the service costs (not taxes) briefly above but a dedicated post on this topic would be very helpful for expats considering living there.

    Like Lenny Charnoff, my girlfriend and I live in Cuenca, Ecuador (we plan to relocate to Medellin in 4-6 months), where a similar service costs $42 tax + $23 service fee = $65 total, as long the box’s value is under $400 and weight is under 4.4kgs, and isn’t on the prohibited items like like cell phones, fine jewelry, etc.

    • Hi Jason,

      The mailbox services I use was covered in this post on the site – http://www.medellinliving.com/mail-boxes-etc-receive-mail-packages/. Note that the Miami address in that post has changed with a new zip code – it’s now 33192-4177. Taxes really depend on the product – many things are duty free into Colombia as Colombia has several free trade agreements, including one with the U.S. (unlike Ecuador which doesn’t have many free trade agreements). Taxes on shipping are complex and changing so I haven’t covered the details…

      At the time of that post I hadn’t switched to US Global Mail in Houston, which I now use and like better as it’s cheaper and I can go online to see what has arrived and chose items to discard or which items to consolidate and send to me.

      I have met several expats in Medellín that used to live in Cuenca. I went to Cuenca last year and wasn’t very impressed after living in Medellín, so I understand why some are leaving.

      • Thanks again Jeff. Also for the link to the detailed account of how you receive packages and mail. I left two question comments, but otherwise, when I move there, that’s probably exactly what I’ll do, and will look into US Global in Houston as well.

        True, Ecuador doesn’t have many free trade agreements. One of the main frustrations of living here is many expensive things, including some food items (chicken breast for one), clothing (surprisingly) and hyper-expensive electronics like computers and especially phones, e.g., a $650 smartphone will cost you $1300 here. I’m not kidding. So I’m waiting ’til I get to Colombia to buy.

        Yes, Cuenca lacks the impressive factor, compared other cities of equal size in South America, but especially compared to a large metropolis like Medellin. Cuenca has its charms, to be sure, but this town has no pulse! I guess that’s why the expat crowd it attracts is mostly retirees. But I want more pulse, and that, along with lower cost-of-living (especially food) is why I plan to move to Medellin. I just need to research the viability of staying year-round re visas.

        I’ve read all your apartment articles with great interest and will be re-reading to make sure I understand the market better. They are all terrific and very helpful—what a great resource. So thank you again.

  7. ‘According to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations. Looking forward, we estimate it to trade at 3418.00 in 12 months time’

    Happy Days!

  8. Hi Jeff,

    I have been enjoying reading your posts. Thank you for sharing your information.

    My wife and I visited Bogota and Medellin last year. We both like Medellin and plan to live there within a year or two. Knowing your budget also helps me plan our move to Medellin. My employer in US also allows me to work remotely and overseas.

    I have a question for you. For the tax and residency purposes (IRS), do you use your Medellin address or someone’s US address? I don’t even know if my employer can issue a W-2 form with a foreign address. I also need to maintain US bank and credit card accounts with a US address…


    • Hi Jack,

      Thanks. While I am a resident of Colombia I have a US Global Mail mailbox that gives me a Houston, Texas mailing address in the U.S.. I use the Houston address from this mail service for taxes, company benefits, my bank, credit cards and family. I can go online to see what mail I have received and decide if I want to trash it or consolidate items and send to me in Medellín. For a fee, US Global Mail can also open mail and scan the contents for you so you can see the contents online – I have used this for something urgent sent to me.

  9. Hi Jeff,

    I’m not really in the same expat group as yourself but I’m wondering if you could give some advice for a young working professional? I’m in my 20s, work online and maintained myself comfortably living in a town in Santander on about half hours (that will change with increased living costs in Medellin- I payed 300,000 for a 3 bedroom apartment where I was living before…).

    Reading over your posts I think Laureles or El estadio seem a good fit for me. I’m not particularly interested in a strong expat influence, I’d like relatively affordable rent and places to go out to eat and party on weekends.

    Do you think you could help me with an informed opinion of what it would cost for someone in my bracket (~20s, no dependents), whether the suburbs I mentioned are suited and/or any other information?

    Other things of interest/other variations:
    -shared apartment, studio (furnished/unfurnished)
    -different budgeting (poor backpacker, semi-professional, luxury)
    -different lifestyle focuses (partying, relaxed weekends, gastronomy, culture)

    • Hi Ed,

      I did a cost of living in 2013 based on my experience as a single mid-30s guy who works online. I averaged $1,500/month over 3 months though it’d be 30% less now due to the weaker peso today.

      There are so many variables, I think it’s hard to pin down exact amounts for every combination you’re requesting, especially the lifestyle ones. And there’s the likelihood that the peso will gain strength against the dollar at some point (or not, who knows these days).

      • Thanks for the info Dave!

        I live a little more basically but it’s good to get an idea.

        Just one more question, how did you find your roommates- compartoapto?

        • In 2009 I found a room to rent through a German friend I met in Couchsurfing. He was already renting a room from a Colombian student, and there was an extra so I lived with them for four months.

          When I returned in 2010 I got lucky in that a friend of mine had found a room to rent with two awesome Colombian guys back in 2010 (through http://compartoapto.com). He was leaving as I was arriving, so he gave up his room and I moved in.

  10. Hi, i got a job offer to bogota for 1000$ monthly i will get paid in USD. Im gonna move with my wife and she doesnt have a job yet. i was doing the math and it looks like wth the current exchange rate i will have no problem covering all our expenses… I think we will be able to rent a nice 1bedroom apartment, buy our groceries and even go oiut on weekends and we will be able to save almost all my wife salary when she gets a job. i Dont know is my math is right and im lil bit scared…. is 1000$ really that much there? hope you can help me…. we both speak spanish.

    • The average monthly wage in Colombia is $692(2012) so you will be a little higher than the norm. Next,exchange rate, what ever goes up will enventually go down. When I started traveling to Colombia 4 years ago the rate was 1750 to $1. You never know what the dollar will do,unpredictable. Another 9/11 or a war and their goes the $. Now,about the wife with no job, Colombia has a high unemployment rate,do not know the age of your wife, but from what I have been told by my Colombian wife and other Colombian women,a lot of businesses/companies do not hire women over the age of 25. From what I seen with my own eyes,99.9 % of the businesses the women working in them have been young. I apologize if this this sound rude,just trying to be honest with you. Me personally -married-as you are will not go to Colombia for $1000 month(single yes,will go) Good luck,hope do not cause no trouble in the marriage. 🙂

      • Hi mike and thanks for the reply. My wife is 29 years old and im 31. Yeah she might have a bad time trying to find a job but i believe (taking this OP post as an example) that we will do just fine. We both speak spanish very good and 1000$ a month is more than enough just to rent a 1 bedroom apartment in a nice zone in bogota, pay our utiities and buy groceries… maybe going out once in a while to have dinner or go to the movies… we know we wont be living like kings but i still believe that we will have a decent place to live at least. Hope im not wrong…. and when she finally gets a job we will be able to save all her salary and use mine to cover all our expensees

        Any more info is very much welcome

        Thank you all

  11. Hi Jeff – I am currently 26 years old working in Corporate Finance from Atlanta, GA. I am curious what your remote job is like and how you got into a situation where you can work anywhere remotely.

    I had the privilege of visiting Medellin in June and am working my hardest to make a move down there for at least 6 months. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Sean,

      I work as a research analyst and to do my job I just need Internet and a phone and to make some business trips each year. I have had this job for over 8 years. I worked remotely from my home when I lived in the US. The company I work for is an international company that has some customers in Latin America.

  12. Some of these prices are way high. I have have lived in Medellín for over three years. I pay 1,080,000 COL per month for a three bedroom 78 sq meter apartment in a high rise in a nice neighborhood. In El Poblado (expensive area) you can find many 85 sq meter apartments for around 1,400,000 COP per month listed on the espaciourbano website. I can buy a Microwave on sale at Homecenter or Exito for around 200,000 COP. You can buy Coca-Cola that is frequently on sale for less 3,514 COP for 2L. I can buy a 42″ TV on sale for 999,900 COP at Exito.


    • While you can find some ~85 sq meter apartments in El Poblado renting for 1,400,000 COP, that is on the low end of the price range in El Poblado and the average rental price is quite a bit higher. When I surveyed 120 apartments late last year in El Poblado, I only found 12 two-bedroom apartments sized at 70 to 85 square meters that rented for 1,400,000 pesos or less. 75% of the two-bedroom apartments I surveyed were higher priced. I found the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in El Poblado was 1,808,444 COP in November, see: http://medellinliving.com/2015-apartment-rental-costs/.

      The bottom line is that in each neighborhood there is a range of rental prices so you can find cheaper than the average. If you look outside of El Poblado in Envigado, Laureles, Belén or Sabaneta the rental price for similar apartments will be about 13-30% cheaper.

      I am currently doing a similar survey to what I did last year and I am finding the average rental prices in El Poblado have increased since November last year.

  13. You say it’s cheap only because you’re comparing it to the US, but actually it’s really expensive for a third world country. Like you’re spending 56 usd for ground transport and 42 usd for 10 Gbps internet? Do you think that’s cheap. No way dude, I come from Europe and even there it costs much less. In my European country unlimited public transport is about 30 usd (but I actually pay about 3-4 usd per month) and I pay 12 usd for 80 Gbps internet (i.e. 8x as fast as yours for 12 dollars a month). So are you kidding? I would say Colombia is really expensive based on what you write here.

    • You are not comparing apples to apples. That $42 USD per month we pay is not just for Internet. That also includes TV services with 100’s of channels including over 20 HD channels for two TVs plus plus phone services with unlimited phone calls throughout Colombia. And that $56 for ground transportation is for two people, which is only $28 per person.

      How about your cost of renting in Europe? Renting is a much bigger expense – I’m not aware of anywhere in Europe you can rent for as cheap as in Medellín. I renewed my rent for this year for under $400 per month. And how about utilities – we pay only $33 per month for electric, water and gas.

      Also is is possible to live in Medellín for much cheaper than we do. I know some expats paying less than $300 per month for rent, for example.

  14. Thank you so much for the info. We will be moving soon to Medellin…and looking forward to new adventures for our family.
    Any idea how much the preschool tuition is on a bilingual school? Is the school year same as the USA? Is there any website to look for rentals? If relocating from USA, what would you bring?
    And..the most important, Dave where do you work? I need a job like yours…;) I’m a sahm at the moment bc daycare is so expensive..
    Thank you

  15. Loved your article I have to smile when you mentioned you live a estrata 4 existence on 1,600 a month. My retirement check is $2650. I guess I won’t have any problem. Thanks for the smile. Joe Mancini