Average Cost of Living in Medellin (3 Months)

Poblado neighborhood in Medellin
Poblado neighborhood in Medellin
Poblado neighborhood in Medellin
Poblado neighborhood in Medellin

As promised, this is the follow-up to my original cost of living article in February.

This one includes data for the first three months of 2013.

For details behind each of the categories, as well as my overall standard of living, visit the original post.

Monthly Cost of Living

* Note, my rent refers to the cost of a room rental in a 3-bedroom apartment in Poblado, including my share of the utilities.

Cost of Living in Medellin

PS – Due to minor changes in the currency, there was a little fluctuation month to month (as seen in the Rent category).

PPS – I didn’t take any trips, aside from an overnight trip to San Antonio de Pereira. My weekend in Santa Elena was a press trip, so I didn’t pay out of pocket.

PPPS – I did not include a charge for cosmetic dental work, or prescription drugs, as I thought the monthly figures would be more useful if I left those out.

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  1. This is very helpful Dave! Those who plan to spend a good amount of time should aim for this price range in my opinion.

    Sure, it is actually quite easy to live below your budget below but it is still a good idea to have money aside for spontaneous activities, dental/medical care and especially when one’s own currency takes a hit!

    Next time Tomasa and I move back to that part of the world we are going to make sure we have enough for a motorcycle and a downpayment on a house.

    • Kevin, if you want to save a downpayment on a house in Medellin, keep in mind that mortgages in Colombia are almost impossible for foreigners to qualify for and mortgages require a 30-40% downpayment with current interest rates of 9-12%.

        • My understanding is that banks in Colombia are typically looking for a lot of things including a cedula, a salary history that is hitting a bank account in Colombia to service the mortgage, some banking history and also some credit history in Colombia.

          • First of all we don’t have any desire to live in Medellín, we are more of the pueblerino types. Second, my wife and I have already done the research (she is Colombian after all) and we won’t have any problems obtaining a mortgage; besides, the down payment would cover a large percentage for the house. We have a good credit history in Colombia so I’m not too worried 🙂

          • Keep making your money in US Dollars, and I’m sure you can set yourself up nicely. I look forward to visiting one day 🙂

  2. You should disclose where you live – such as in a bedroom in a shared place and what Estrato.

    More realistic rent is $500-650+ for unfurnished 2-3 bedroom apartment in Estrato 5-6 and over $1000 per month for furnished. And how about utilities, tv, Internet, which costs me around $115 per month for gas, water, electric, tv with 200+ channels, 10MB Internet and telephone fijo in Estrato 5 area for a couple living in a 3 bedroom apartment.

    And how about insurance: medical, dental, property.

    Your costs look to be for someone single living in a shared place and are not realistic for a couple or family living in Medellin, unless you live in one of the lower Estrato areas that can be riskier for expats to live.

    • Hi Jeff,

      In my original post, I did disclose exactly where I live (Ciudad del Rio in Poblado).

      All my utilities (gas, water, electric, cable TV w/premium + HD channels, 5 MB internet, and local phone) are included in the 600,000-peso per month rent.

      I’m not including my health insurance, property insurance, and storage costs in the US (or my credit card debt while we’re at it) because that stuff can vary. Not everyone will pays for property insurance, for example, nor is everyone paying for storage in another country.

      But if you do want to know my costs for those, it’d be $1400/year medical, $160/year property, and $1200/year storage. If we just take the first two, that’s an extra $130 per month that I pay.

      Yes, I’m absolutely single (though dating), and living in a shared apartment. I’m not trying to present this information any other way.

      PS _ I also think single foreign men are the most common type of expat. I’ve met far more guys like me than single women, couples, or families living here.

      • Hi Dave,

        Health insurance in the US typically will not cover you in another country, so are you going uninsured while you are in Medellin as you indicated that your health insurance is in the US? If so that would seem a bit risky if you spend six months out of the year in Colombia, not to mention your travel to other countries. There’s a number of expat health insurance options out there that can cover you in other countries that aren’t too expensive that I have used.

        I am curious what others are using for health insurance while in Medellin or if folks are deciding to go without coverage with the much lower medical costs in Medellin.

        • No. I’ve had medical insurance through a company called IMG Global since 2008. IMG specializes in international coverage.

          My particular plan covers me through a PPO when in the USA, and at most licensed providers while visiting or living in foreign countries (the benefits, of course, dictate what is and isn’t covered).

          My particular plan (called Global Medical Insurance) requires I be outside the USA for a minimum 6 months per year, but IMG also offers other types of plans, both short and long term.

          I worked for a health care administrator (similar to health insurance) company for 5 years, so I’m the first person to recommend expats get real medical insurance, and not rely on emergency coverage through travel insurance alone.

          • Hi Dave,

            Medical insurance and medical costs are an important consideration when living overseas. I think that you should have included your medical insurance cost in your Medellin cost of living table above since it covers you while in Medellin. Several of the cost of living examples I have seen for Colombia on the Internet exclude this important area.

            One benefit of living overseas is that medical and dental costs are substantially lower than in the United States and as a result medical insurance is less expensive. In Medellin, medical and dental costs can be as low as 25% to 50% of the cost for similar care in the US. For example, I have gone to the doctor in Medellin where the cost of the office visit was less than my copay in the US.

            There are many medical insurance options for expats. I utilize travel medical/dental insurance with a high deductible that costs about $66 per month that is really just in case something major happens and I can’t make it back to the US where I have very good PPO coverage through my company. Miscellaneous medical and dental expenses I pay out of pocket in Medellin as the costs are low.

            For single folks living in Medellin or overseas for a short while covered by a medical plan in the US that does not cover you overseas, travel medical insurance is probably the lowest cost option and there are many options for this. I live overseas over six months out of the year and this is what I use. Other options include combo plans like you have that include insurance outside the US as well as in the US. And for folks living in Medellin full-time the local medical insurance from companies like Sura, Comfenalco and Coomeva should be considered as I have heard the costs can be very low (one expat told me around $100 per month for full-coverage). I am curious if any of your readers are using these local medical insurance options and what is the cost and experiences encountered.

          • European’s are fortunate in that we get free (well free at the point of use anyway – we pay for it through general taxation) medical treatment.

            Therefore emergency travel medical insurance is more than adequate in my opinion as if the worst happens all we want is someone to pay for us to get home for treatment.

            Emergency travel medical insurance is amazingly cheap (about $100 for 6 months). Makes you wonder how easy it is too get money out of them in the event of a claim!

            As a foot note, I was talking to an Australian guy on the plane to Ecuador and he told me that when he needed to get emergency treatment in Medellin the hospital demanded a $2500 deposit by cash or card before providing any treatment despite him having his emergency travel medical insurance docs with him.

          • Do you know which hospital the Australian guy went to? Private hospitals with better care are obviously going to be more expensive than the public ones.

            It doesn’t surprise me about the hospital requiring a deposit up front. Most, if not all, providers are going to require either partial or full payment from foreigners at the time of service. Then the insured has to file a claim(s) with the insurance company.

            Unlike in your home country, these providers have little leverage over you if they treat you, and then let you go without full payment.

            For travelers, there’s no way to bill them. For expats, if the bill is high enough, and they don’t have the money, they could just leave the city or country.

            Thankfully for Americans, as Jeff mentions, the cost of care is typically less than in the USA, even for emergency services.

          • Hello Dave

            What do you do for work? I wanted to go to Colombia to teach English and be a tourist……is this realistic?

          • I’m a full-time travel blogger. I have a few other sites in addition to Medellin Living.

            Teaching English in Colombia is very popular. It’s realistic if you know how to teach. Being a native-English speaker is highly valued here, especially if you’re from the USA or UK.

    • Yep Most Gringos do settle down with a woman eventually, and in almost every case supporting her and needing their own place……….. Traveling out of Medellin to other countries not the cheapest
      and some products you have to ship in or just go back to Usa and purchase…

      As far as Health Medellin and Bogota are some of the worst cities in Latin America for pollution
      they are not long term places to live if you care about Health…

      Leaving the big city for a finca nearby is the only long term option and luckily a little cheaper and less crime and traffic that is what I did and would do again ( Medeliln is a 6 month to 2 year living option for most) although I have friends there over 10 years and will die there.

  3. A $ 102.– per month for the gym ?!? Wow even in Europe I don’t pay that much for fitness! Where do you train Dave?

      • So how did you get Bodytech for $102 cause when I asked them how much per month they said $150 USD about

        • The first thing you need to know is that the Bodytech rates vary depending on the location. My cost was specifically associated with Premium Plaza. The one in Rio Sur mall costs almost double Premium Plaza.

          Second, I had a 6-month membership in 2013, which brings the average price down per month. At the end of 2013, I took advantage of a special sale and got a 12-month membership for around $500, which meant an average of about $42/month.

  4. I thought it maybe be helpful to post my main living expenses as they are way less than Dave’s and I think I live a really good life here in Medellin. I don’t try hard to live cheaply.

    Rent $95 (including decent internet and all services – not that cheap for Colombia honestly!)
    Gym $50 (Forma – a bit pricey in my opinion!)
    Food $180 (don’t eat out that much but eat very well)
    Transport $55
    Night Life $40
    Personal care $30

    I live a 25 minute bus ride from centro. I live and socialise only with Colombians (better for learning Spanish). I don’t actually know any other Gringos.

    I would say if you want to live an economical live and have an authentic Colombian experience, don’t set foot in Pablado!

    Hope this helps!

    • I agree Stewart but to each their own. Both my wife and I lived off of $450 a month in Campo Valdéz (near Jardín Botánico and Moravia) and although I enjoyed it we missed out on a lot of events and travels with friends because we simply couldn’t afford anything. Thank god we don’t drink and never had an emergency because we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. This kind of lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

      I would recommend everyone that plans to live in Medellín at least save this amount for their duration. If we had to move back to Medellín and we had $1500 a month to spend we would live in estrato 2 or 3 and use the rest of the money for traveling and as a safety net.

    • Hi Stewart,

      Thanks for sharing your expenses. I certainly want this to be an inclusive exercise.

      Would you be comfortable telling us which neighborhood you live in? It might be of interest to others who are reading. Is it north of Centro? East in Barrio Buenos Aires?

      Also, are you renting your own apartment, or a room in a shared place?

      • Hi Dave, I live in Pedregal which is in the north part of the city. It’s a great place to live in my opinion. People are always friendly and I feel really safe , we leave the front door open nearly all day and well into the night. I live with 8 Colombians in a shared house.

        Hi Kevin, I agree $450 is a little tight particularly for a couple but $1500 a month is a lot of money in Colombia – about 3 million pesos if my calculations are correct (I’m from the UK so think in £’s). I know many professionals in Colombia (teachers etc) that certainly don’t earn that. To give a feeling of what people earn, my friend works in Exito on the cosmetics counter and earns 27,000 pesos per day (about $13). Many Colombian’s earn considerably less. My friend considers it a decent job.

        I know this will make you laugh but when I tell Colombian’s (for example my barber yesterday) how much my rent is their normal reaction is something along the lines of ‘wow that’s expensive’

  5. Hi Dave, We are moving to Medellin with my family. We are four including two children who go to school. I am from India but we all speak Spanish.
    Can you give any feedback Columbus school? Are there any other international schools in Medellin apart from Columbus?
    Any other suggestions for a family living in Medellin?
    I will appreciate your answer.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Somnath, I have talked to a couple of American expat families in the past with children at Columbus School that were very happy with it and said it is a very good school with children from all over the world. Columbus is perhaps the best school in the city with a good reputation but it is also expensive. A few other bilingual schools in Medellin include Vermont School and The New School. Two others local schools in Medellin to also look at with good reputations are Colegio Cumbres and Colegio Montessori.

      • Thanks Jeff so much. I will contact the schools and lets see which one works out better for my budget. Regards, Somnath.

  6. Thanks for the info., great stuff. Hopefully this’ll inspire me to do a similar charting of my expenses. I’ve lived in bogota for two years and have previously, briefly lived in Medellin. I recently moved to a cheaper neighborhood which saves a fortune. Your rent to me seems a bit high but it also sounds as if your in a real prime spot. But im lucky, Mine’s only 250k and I probably pay much more on ‘entertainment’ and food, single I like to cook.

    Love details like this since so many expats pay ‘gringo prices,’ (myself included, for a time) often even after being here for an extended period of time because it still seems cheap by comparison to US, etc.

    • I could move to a cheaper neighborhood, I suppose, but my attitude is to work harder so I can make more money to move into a nicer apartment (maybe my own at some point). But, I’ve been quite content where I am in Ciudad del Rio, despite the ongoing construction.

      It all comes back to priorities, and I don’t expect everyone’s are similar to mine, though I do feel that I represent the single male entrepreneur type guy pretty well.

  7. The single male entrepreneur type guy as you put it is exactly what I am (I own a cell phone shop). It is just that I choose to live a simple, relatively economical life. I am the same in London. When I was younger I was into flash cars, fancy apartments and all that stuff but now I realise what a total load of bs that kind of life is. I love to travel and live as a local would live. In my very humble opinion it is not possible to have a Colombian experience in Pablado.

    • Back in 2002 I reassessed my values after losing a job, and that’s what lead me to plan for my life-changing trip around the world (that ultimately lead me to Medellin).

      I came to a similar conclusion, and decided to value experience over material possessions, but that said, I do enjoy a certain level of comfort. And for that matter, feeling of safety.

      As far as whether you can have an authentic “Colombian experience” living in Poblado, I think you can. It’s certainly not the way the majority of Colombians live on a day to day basis, but I don’t believe that makes it any less Colombian than if I chose to live in Laureles.

      I think the biggest difference is the isolation that high-rise apartments offer inhabitants. I’m sure you chat with neighbors on the street or whatever, whereas I say “hi” to mine once or twice a month when we end up waiting for the elevator together.

      That suits me fine, as I’m introverted by nature, but I can appreciate how others would prefer to be more engaged.

      • I agree with you regarding ‘Colombian experience’

        I think my comments may have been a little harsh. I probably should have said something like ‘typical working class Colombian experience’ (very working class in the case of where I live).

        The way you describe your high-rise accommodation really reminds me of how I live in London so I know exactly where you are coming from.

  8. I think this is really misleading because the chart says rent for $300, most people will assume thats $300 for a place all to yourself, not $300 for just a ROOM with housemates… in the chart perhaps its worth saying Rent (for 1br with housemates) cause you made me believe I could live there for $300 which is far from truth.

      • hi buddy im goingto bogota in 2 weeks and im thinking on staying 2 or 3 months, but havent any ideas of hows life there and how much money i really need to be able to live there for those months cheers

        • Hey Fernando, well that’s the point of this article, to give some insights, but that said, it ALL depends on your personal tastes and habits. Cook for yourself and you’ll save a lot. Don’t party much? You’ll save even more. Don’t mind living in a less popular part of the city, and open to taking the metro bus system instead of taxis? Even cheaper.

          So it’s a really hard question for me to answer. I think most would agree $1000 USD a month is required, though there will always be people who do it cheaper. I tend to spend $1500/month and live pretty comfortably.

  9. Dave,
    I enjoy your blog. When I was about your age, I lived in Medellin for two years–that was 1975-76. It seems I had a lifestyle similar to yours–single, living with a roommate (near Parque Boston). Your blog piece on the cost of living these days sent me back to my files. My share of the rent in 1976, on a spacious three-bedroom apartment in the hills overlooking the city, was $47.50. I spent about $43 on food and no more than $100 on the rest (I seem not to have had as many dates as you!). That’s a total monthly expense of less than $200, or about $6.50/day. The job I gave up in Wisconsin in 1975 was paying me $548/month, of which I spent $540. Times and prices change, though the ratio is perhaps not too much different.

  10. Hi Guys

    I love how people say living overseas is so cheap and you live like a King…
    First off living with roomates, not having a car, not traveling, not having girlfriends ( they cost money)
    You can live for 1500 a month in allot of cities in the Usa too!!

    To live in a safe area of Poblado, Envigado, have a car, travel, eat out, support a wife or girlfriend who does not really work or have money this is more of an ADULT type of life and you will easily double or triple the 1500 a month!!

    I am simply saying duplicating your life in the Usa in a nice place to live in Bogota or Medellin is not that much cheaper… Your car costs double, gas is double, anything exported has 65% tax on it!!

    So yes you can live cheap but that is exactly how you are living cheaply,

    I spent between 3500 and 4000 a month in 7 years in Medellin and Rio Negro… I traveled at least twice a year out of Colombia, picked up supplies in Usa you could not get in Colombia, supported a Girlfriend now my wife, had fun!! Had a little car that was paid for and at least a 2 or 3br unfurnished apt no roomates..

    Disclaimer that the exchange was terrible when I lived there 1700 to 1900 so………. same lifestyle now… 3000 a month minimum ( going out to eat all the time Like I do now) We spend about 5000 a month for similar lifestyle now in Florida….. So live like a College Kid by yourself in Medellin sure 1500 to 2000 a month you can do that in most any latin or asian city….