Cost of Living in Medellin, Colombia

Colombian pesos
Colombian pesos
Colombian pesos
Colombian pesos

The cost of living in Medellin, Colombia has always been a big draw for me. The quality of life, for the cost, is hard to beat, in my humble opinion.

I’m often asked how much money one needs to live comfortably here, but it wasn’t until last month, my 19th in the country, that I finally tracked all my expenses (thank you CashTrails app). I could’ve provided estimates, but I believe actual data is more legitimate.

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A Word About My Standard of Living

Before we get into the details, I want to share some insight into my standard of living, because more than anything, this is the variable that will affect a person’s cost of living in Medellin.

I’m a self-employed travel blogger, and for the most part, work from home. I don’t live on a set budget every month. I pay for 99% of what I write about on this blog, from meals at restaurants, to bottles of rum in discotecas, and domestic travel.

I average two dates per week, and pay for everything. Sometimes it’s a nice dinner out, or dancing, and other times there’s no cost at all.

My Monthly Cost of Living

Rent = 600,000 pesos ($340)

Rent is my single biggest monthly expense. I rent a room in a 3-bedroom apartment with two Colombians. The 20th floor apartment is located in Ciudad del Rio, a new development in Poblado, along Avenida Las Vegas.

We all get along really well, so even if I wanted to spring for my own place, I’m not sure I would. I’ve grown to appreciate the company, and my roommate’s home cooking.

The first year I lived in the apartment, I was getting an amazing deal, just 450,000 pesos/month ($253). All utilities included. Even at 600,000 pesos/month, it’s on par with the normal cost of a room rental in Poblado.

Food = 1,022,000 pesos ($575)

Overall, food is my biggest expense per month. I contribute 100,000 pesos ($56) toward communal groceries for the apartment, and the rest is spent buying food on my own, whether at the store, or in restaurants.

One of the things I enjoy most about living in Medellin is that I can feel comfortable going to any restaurant in the city, alone, with friends, or on a date, and know I won’t break the bank.

My most expensive meal so far was my first visit to El Cielo with a friend, which cost me $100 (including shared bottle of wine, tax, and tip). It turned out to be one of the best meals of my life.

On the flip side, you can easily find set lunches (menu del dia) in typical restaurants for just $3 – $4, and even less depending on the neighborhood.

Ground Transportation = 212,000 pesos ($119)

This includes the metro, buses and taxis. In reality, it’s almost all accounted for by taxis, my preferred transport within the city.

When it makes sense, I do take the metro, but if a taxi takes 10 minutes, and using the metro (combined with walking to/from it) will take me 50 minutes, I’ll pay for the taxi.

General = 416,000 pesos ($234)

The general category is miscellaneous stuff, which was mostly for the apartment in January. I bought new sheets and pillows for my bed ($126), a yoga mat ($50), and a scale ($45).

I could’ve bought cheaper versions of everything, but this apartment is essentially my home, so I don’t mind spending more on certain things (like I would do if I were living in the USA).

Many of the things I bought in 2010, including the bed, floor lamp, and fan, were all still here when I returned. In other words, they were all investments that continue to serve me well.

Clothes = 338,000 pesos ($190)

Again, when I’m not traveling, I tend to buy a few extra items of clothes so I’m not wearing the same three shirts every week. In January, I spent more than usual on clothes as it was my first month back in Medellin.

The most expensive item I picked up was an Adidas running shirt for the gym. I tried on two similar ones in the store, and took the one I liked to the register, only to find after the girl rang me up that it was twice the cost of the other one (about $80).

I also bought a pair of Rifle jeans, and some extra socks and boxers to reduce the frequency I’m doing laundry.

Gym = 181,000 pesos ($102)

When I’m living in Medellin, I’m not traveling, and therefore I try and focus on improving my health and fitness. I have friends who’ve used the free outdoor gyms, but I prefer one with cardio equipment and a full array of machines and weights.

Since 2010, I’ve been using Bodytech Gym, which is the most expensive one in the city. They require a minimum 3-month membership, unless you want to pay for 10 credits (with each credit valid for one day). In January, I paid the full 3 months, or $306, but for the purpose of this exercise I divided that by three.

I continue to use Bodytech because it’s convenient to where I live, and I know that increases the odds I’ll go often. Other gyms, such as Forma, and Dinamo in Envigado, are less costly.

Update: In December 2013, I bought a 12-month membership on sale for 30% off. The cost was 800,000 pesos, or about $414. Even if I’d paid full price, that’d have been around 1.1 million pesos, or about $600, which is more in line with a US membership ($50/month). Also, I’ve recently learned membership costs vary depending on where the Bodytech is located (expect Poblado to be more expensive than Belen, for example).

Nightlife & Alcohol = 144,000 pesos ($81)

Includes cover charges at any bars or discotecas, ($31) and alcohol ($50).

Halfway through January, I challenged myself to drink less alcohol, so that portion is unusually low. And as a result of the challenge, I’m not going out and partying as much as I’ve done in the past.

Private Dance Classes = 125,000 pesos ($75)

I began taking private, one-hour salsa lessons again, and while you can probably find a cheaper rate than $18.75, I think I have the best teacher in the city.

Personal Care = 84,000 pesos ($47)

This category is where I put all my toiletry and pharmacy purchases.


Rent = 600,000 pesos ($340)

Food = 1,022,000 pesos ($575)

Ground Transport = 212,000 pesos ($119)

General = 416,000 pesos ($234)

Clothes = 338,000 pesos ($190)

Gym = 181,000 pesos ($102)

Nightlife = 144,000 pesos ($81)

Dance Classes = 125,000 pesos ($75)

Pharmacy = 84,000 pesos ($47)

January Total = 3,122,000 pesos, or $1,755 USD

Over the years, I’ve found there’s no ideal month to capture. Some months I travel to new parts of Colombia, some months I don’t. Some months I shop a lot, or go on a lot of dates, and others, I don’t.

I’ve always estimated my cost of living in Medellin, Colombia to be about $1,500 per month, and had I not spent money on new clothes, and bedding, that’s about what I would’ve spent in January 2013.

I’m going to continue tracking my expenses, and do a follow-up post in April, which will include three months worth of data.

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  1. Hi. Thanks for the info. That is why I like your blog, everyday life in Medellin. I´m not going back for another year but it gives me a good idea of the costs. Thanks.

    • Dave, this is a very informative article. I plan on coming down for a month in April and would love to have shared living arrangement like you shared. I would love to connect with you to share ideas and advice. Please contact me via my email so we can discuss my upcoming stay. I spent 3 weeks in Barranquilla last year and fell in love with the country. Medellin here I come…

        • Hey buddy, I just got back from Medellin for the first time. It is truelly paradise. Everything you speak is 100 % valid.

          Would like to get a lil more advice. Please email me if possible.

          • I had arrived to Medellin on April 30, and will be here until June 4. The city is extremely beautiful. I’m renting a 2 bedroom in apartment in Poblado, in the near the Santa Fe Mall. I’ve made good progress to get around a little, but not as much as I wish too – by, being here alone. Any suggestion on how I can find me a good maid to take care of some things around here for me while getting some work done online. Email me at your convenience. Thank you……

    • Looking through my records, I forgot to record that info. I use a cheap, $20 phone, mostly for text messages.

      I spent no more than 30,000 pesos ($17) toward buying minutes for Tigo in January. A negligible amount. I only use my smartphone in the apartment, with the WiFi.

  2. As Diego said, thanks for the info Dave. I appreciate seeing what it would take to live comfortably in Medellín.

    My two thoughts are that rent and food are the easiest things to save on in Medellín. For some, like yourself, their home is their office and spend a lot of time entertaining guests. For others they only go home to sleep and therefore it doesn’t make too much sense to spend a lot on rent. As for food, your readers greatly appreciate you restaurant reviews. Tomasa and I have used your restaurant guides to select restaurants for special occasions. However, if you ever find a Colombia girl to settle down with that goes to the Minorista for groceries and is a mean cook that will cut anyone’s food budget significantly 🙂

    • Totally agree on food Kevin. If I stuck to my Colombian roommate’s cooking for lunch and dinner during the week, I’d be paying A LOT less for food every month.

      • Yes, of course a grown man should be able to shop and cook for himself. I have for many years.

        But my current living situation is such that my (male) roommate likes to cook, and so as long as he offers to do so, I’m more than willing to chip in my share for groceries and help with the dishes.

        If I were living alone in Medellín, I’d hire a maid to assist with cooking and cleaning. I see it as an affordable luxury, and a time saver. Time spent grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning can be spent writing and growing my businesses.

        To do so also provides employment, a source of income for the person hired (and chances are a Westerner is going to pay a higher wage than a local, or at least tip better).

  3. Thank you so much for that! It really is appreciated!

    I am heading down to stay stay in medellin for 6 months, and have a ball park figure in term s of living at ~ $1500 to 2000.

    I don’t drink or eat out but tend to splurge more on going out, so hopefully in line with your spending.

    Quick question, do you have any insurance at all? Be it health cover or insurance go valuables?

    Again, many thanks, it really is appreciated.

    • Glad you found the info useful, Tomas. Even splurging on nightlife by going out a few nights a week won’t cost much. Especially if you stick to bottles of aguardiente or rum, and are splitting the cost with friends (as most do here).

      The exception is if you want to hang out in the VIP areas, with minimum spends required. Even then, with a group of guys it’s not nearly as expensive as the US or Europe.

      It’s not easy to find international property insurance that covers an American in Colombia, as many companies don’t cover countries on the US State Dept warning list.

      That’s why I was so excited to find Clements ( based in NYC. I get $5000 in coverage for about $160 per year, and they don’t have the warning list exclusion.

  4. timely post and thanks for the info. just to follow up on tomas’ question – do you carry any type of health insurance abroad?

    • Yes Mike, since I’ve been spending more than 6 months per year outside the USA, I have IMG’s Global medical health coverage ( Premiums are about $300 per quarter (you get a discount if you pay annually).

      This is more than just emergency/medical evac coverage. This is a full health insurance plan, and when I’m in the USA, I get access to a PPO network of providers.

  5. I’m amazed that your booze category was only 144,000, I don’t go clubbing much but I like to drink and have fun, that said at a nightclub 1 bottle of pretty much anything other than vodka/guaro is gonna set you back like 140,000 or so.

    I’m really trying to find a similar article though for buying not renting if you know anyone. I’m gonna buy an apartment, likely in Bello where all the new developments seem to be but I’m trying to accurately assess what expenses will be monthly during say the 11 months a year I’m not there, without a renter to make sure I don’t actually NEED one.

    • Hey Brett, like I said, I began making a conscious effort to cut back on alcohol in mid-January. I’ve only had 5 drinks in the last 3 weeks, and 3 of them were at a friend’s house.

      I’m also dating someone right now who rarely drinks, so that makes it even less expensive. Not only am I not buying for myself, I’m not buying for her either. Trust me, I spent a lot more on alcohol between 2009 and today 🙂

      I don’t know anyone off the top of my head who’s bought real estate here, but if I find someone willing to write a similar article, I’ll make it happen.

    • Brett, I can recommend you this company to invest in Real Estate: . They will asist you in buying a property wether you want to get a new or second hand and it is also a letting agency, the will be in charge of renting it out for you and put the money in your bank account, so you don´t need to worry about anything.

  6. Great article Dave. Ive spent time in Medellin & in Cartagena & its amazing the difference in price between the 2 cities. This breakdown is great. Im sure you could live a little leaner & meaner but with $1500-$2000 p/mth you can have a great standard of living in city like Medellin.

  7. Thanks for writing this up Dave. You spend roughly what I spend too. I’m going to be referring people who write me asking about a budget to check this post out.

  8. Please contact me via email. My daughter is going to be visiting there for an extended period of time. I am a frantic Mom with a few questions.

  9. Very informative breakdown. Wonder if you could provide a ball-park estimate on a 1 or 2 bedroom apt in a nice area. Don’t really want roommates at this point in my life.

  10. Hey guys, great site Dave. Just to say, depending on what you are used to, I think you can live a lot cheaper than that here. I am not at all conscious of cutting back in my life here, and I live on about 700USD per month. I make no sacrifices and go out whenever I want – I have a nice room in an absolutely beautiful apartment with two shared pools, steam room, sauna, cleaners who wash and iron my clothes! It’s not in the best area – La Mota – but it’s not bad either. I try not to take taxis – just buses really – but at night you sort of have to!

    Alcohol is less than a dollar per beer, so it’d take a lot of drinking to spend too much in that department! But if you like your spirits, that’s a different matter. I still feel I live a pretty luxurious life here, better than what I had on a $70.000 salary in London – so if I had to make cutbacks, I could easily knock a couple hundred dollars off my monthly spend, by going to the markets to do my shopping, never eating out etc. Many Colombians live off of much less than that with entire families to feed.

    What I’m saying is, I really believe you can live here and do OK (though not great) on 400 dollars a month. It just depends on what you are used to and what you find comfortable! I see what Dave is saying though, if you are into buying clothes (I don’t think I’ve had a new clothing item for like 5 years!), going to the gym, taking classes etc, your monthly spend will start to rise… I think I spend about half what Dave spends on food – weekly shop comes to about 75.000 ($38), and I’ll have a 20.000 ($11) dinner maybe 2-3 times a week.

    Hope this helps people!

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing your monthly budget.

      One of the reasons why my food costs are so high is I eat out a lot to familiarize myself with the restaurant scene in Medellin. If I like a place, I know I’ll write about it, so some of my food costs are actually treated like business expenses.

    • Hi Andrew
      Wow, thanks for the info, I was looking at different cost of living stats and when I read Daves, I thought he must live the high life, glad to see what you had to write, as I am coming down Ap 27 or so

    • Great to hear. I hope this is still accurate as I am considering settling here for a while in the future. With a max budget of $800 for everything (visas, accommodation, food, drinks, etc..) I am a bit worried but hope it can work out.