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 near-perfect weather and the quality of life, for the cost, are very challenging to beat anywhere in the world.
I am often asked how much money it costs to live in Medellín, so over the last year I tracked my expenses.
Dave previously shared his costs of living last year as a single guy living in a shared apartment in Medellín. This post provides another perspective with the actual costs of living I have experienced for a couple living in Medellín.
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 three years.
I live with my Colombian girlfriend in Medellín in a three-bedroom apartment. This cost of living post details our costs for a couple living together in Medellín over the past 12 months.
While living in Colombia, I also am taking Spanish classes at Universidad EAFIT, which was covered in a recent post. I also typically travel eight to ten times each year for my job with my company paying all my travel expenses.
* The exchange rate fluctuates each day; my average exchange rate over the past year was 1,924 pesos to the US dollar, which is the exchange rate used in this post
Our Monthly Cost of Living
Groceries = 1,126,425 pesos ($585)
Groceries are our largest 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 two blocks from our apartment in the Los Molinos mall.
We also sometimes shop at a Jumbo for a few things that can’t be found at Exito and also for the sales there. A Metroplús station is located only one block from our apartment so it is an easy and inexpensive ride to the Jumbo at Premium Plaza mall.
Occasionally we shop at Plaza Minorista for inexpensive fruits and vegetables. We also occasionally travel to El Poblado to shop at a Carulla, which can have a few imported items not found at Exito or Jumbo.
This category also includes our expenses for drugstore items.
Apartment rent = 1,090,000 pesos ($567)
Apartment rent is out second biggest monthly expense. I have been renting unfurnished apartments while living Medellín for over three years.
We currently live in a three-bedroom apartment in the Los Alpes barrio in Belén, which is located two blocks from the Los Molinos mall. My current apartment specifications include:
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, about 78 square meters (840 square feet)
- Kitchen with oven and gas cooktop
- Gas water heater (tankless)
- 14th floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
- Pool and small gym in building
- 24×7 security
- Estrato 4 neighborhood (but across the street is Estrato 5)
The past year time frame includes 10 months living in my current apartment in Los Alpes plus two months living in my previous apartment located in Loma de Los Bernal in Belén.
Dining = 600,361 pesos ($312)
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 (domicilio) from nearby restaurants or fast food places.
Each month we also sometimes eat lunch at small restaurants near our apartment, which typically have inexpensive Colombian food. Set lunches (menú del día) in these small restaurants typically costs just $3 – $5 per person.
School = 477,842 pesos ($248)
This category covers my costs for six Spanish classes at University EAFIT plus books over the past year. In addition, my girlfriend just started taking English classes in June that cost 300,000 pesos per month.
Vacation travel = 426,487 ($222)
Over the past year, we traveled on vacation to Brazil (both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), Cartagena and Guatapé.
For our trip to Brazil, I was traveling on business to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for two weeks, which I turned into a combination business/vacation trip. My company covered my complete travel costs so the only expenses we incurred were for airline tickets for my girlfriend for this trip.
During the past year we also spent four days in Cartagena and three days in Guatapé on vacation.
Medical = 330,292 pesos ($172)
Our medical costs include medical insurance for my girlfriend and me, glasses and contacts I purchased during the year plus a few trips to the dentist over the year. I have medical insurance from IMG Global and my girlfriend has medical insurance from Sura.
My IMG Global medical insurance covers me while I am in Colombia and my company offers medical insurance good only in the US and also when I travel internationally for business.
Gifts = 255,400 pesos ($133)
This category is for gifts over the past year for Christmas, birthdays and a few other holidays like Valentine’s Day and Día del Amor y Amistad.
Ground transportation = 231,600 pesos ($120)
This includes costs for using the metro and taxis. We almost never use buses in Medellín.
We also live one block from a Metroplús station providing access to the inexpensive metro to get around the city. I use the metro to go to/from Universidad EAFIT when I am taking Spanish classes.
Clothing = 238,435 pesos ($119)
I rarely buy clothes as I brought quite a lot with me from the US when I moved to Colombia. Over the past year, I only bought some shoes and a couple of shirts in Colombia. This category over the past year has been more for clothes shopping for my girlfriend.
Computers and electronics = 224,608 pesos ($117)
In the past year, I purchased an Apple iMac computer in Medellín as well as a new Wi-Fi router plus I repaired my iPad crystal screen that had cracked.
Note that it is possible to buy computers in Colombia for cheaper than in the US. My understanding is that there is no taxes or duties charged on computers in Colombia. When I purchased an iMac in Medellín last year, the price I paid was about $65 less than the price listed on Apple’s website for the same model.
Entertainment = 117,407 pesos ($61)
This includes expenses for going to movie theaters, bars, discotecas and concerts. We typically incur entertainment expenses a couple of times each month.
Utilities (electric, gas and water) = 114,851 pesos ($60)
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.
Triple-play Internet/TV/phone services = 112,287 pesos ($58)
We have triple-play services provided by Claro with 10-MB Internet, several hundred TV channels including some in English and free local land-line telephone calls.
Similar to utilities, we pay a lower rate for triple-play services in an estrato 4 neighborhood than would be found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.
Miscellaneous = 104,936 pesos ($55)
The general category is miscellaneous stuff, which includes some small things purchased for the apartment, 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.
Mail services = 103,896 ($54)
I use the Mail Boxes Etc. e-box service in Medellín. This e-box 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 one-kilogram package for free each month.
I also have a UPS mailbox in the US that I use as my primary mailing address. Every six weeks or so I typically send the mail received in my UPS mailbox in the US to my address in Miami that is forwarded and shows up in Medellin about two weeks later.
Pet = 101,650 pesos ($53)
In December last year, we bought a Pomeranian puppy so we have pet expenses of dog food and vet services plus the initial cost of our dog.
Cell phone services = 72,238 pesos ($38)
This is the cost cellular services from Claro for two cell phones. I have a pay-as-you-go cell phone that I recharge each month with 10,000 or 20,000 pesos. My girlfriend has a cellular plan with a bill that averages about 57,000 pesos per month.
Hair care = 47,000 pesos ($24)
It only costs me 7,000 pesos (less than $4) to get my haircut near my apartment so most of this category is for my girlfriend getting her hair done about every six weeks.
Visa and cedula = 23,197 pesos ($12)
This is the cost for a student visa and Colombian cedula, which I received in August last year. Note that my trip to Bogotá for the visa last year was also a business trip paid for by my company, so I incurred no travel expenses for my visa.
The Bottom Line
We have averaged around $3,000 per month over the past 12 months for our cost of living in Medellín for a couple. This is less than my living costs were in the US where I was living alone.
I expect our living costs in Medellín will drop a bit next year, as our apartment rent will be less plus I don’t expect to be buying another computer next year.
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 my 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 for less than $2,000 per month. Or for a couple living in a luxury level penthouse apartment in El Poblado, the most expensive neighborhood, this would likely result in a cost of living exceeding $5,000 per month.