I moved to Medellín, Colombia in April of 2017. Moving to Medellín, Colombia was one of the best decisions I have ever made. This city is full of life, love and nature. However, one of the most common questions I receive from friends and family is how much is the cost of living to maintain a comfortable lifestyle here in Medellin.
So, I’d like to break down what my cost of living has been through my first 90 days. But before I dissect my cost of living expenses, I’d like to share a bit about myself.
My name is Stephanie and I am originally from Chicago, Illinois. As a 32-year old single traveler, I am enjoying the lower cost of living in Medellín, as compared to life in Chicago. Although my income is also lower, I still live a very comfortable, healthy and manageable lifestyle here in Medellín.
Before moving to Medellín, I was in the medical sales field in Chicago. I spent seven years in this career and had lived in Chicago my entire life. The job was wonderful and it afforded me many opportunities to travel. And I traveled to such places as South Africa, Bali, Europe and Argentina. However, I was never able to stay longer than two weeks at a time. Deep in my heart, I always had a deep-rooted desire to travel and live abroad.
After keeping track of expenses closely over the last 90 days, I have determined that I can live comfortably (while still affording a few extras) for $1,063 USD a month. It is possible to have a lower cost of living and I have many friends that do so.
My average exchange rate was 3,000 pesos to the U.S. dollar during this time. I used that in my cost of living analysis below.
In April of 2017, I officially moved to Medellín, Colombia. I moved here for many of the common reasons you read about; the weather, the people and the nature (read more about the 27 reasons the Medellin Guru founder, Jeff, moved to Medellín here). Now, I’ll deep dive a bit further into what my cost of living has been over the last 3 months.
Rent (1,010,533 Pesos or $345.57 Per Month)
Undoubtedly my biggest expense every month is rent. During my first three months in Medellín, I choose to take advantage of my flexibility and live in a different neighborhood each month. I wanted to experience each neighborhood to determine where I would live long term. In addition, there are very few times in life where I would ONLY have two suitcases to move, so I wanted to take advantage of the flexibility.
Throughout my three months, I lived in the neighborhoods of Envigado, El Poblado and Laureles.
(a) Envigado (FREE)
When I first moved to Colombia, I decided to volunteer for eight weeks at Colombia Immersion Spanish school. I worked approximately 20 hours per week in exchange for free accommodation. The work involved various marketing and event planning projects.
During my time, I lived in dorm style accommodations with two to four other people. I really loved it because it not only cut down on my accommodation costs, but I was able to easily foster friendships and a sense of community.
In addition, living in a Spanish school allowed for easy access to Spanish classes while becoming immersed in the language. Envigado is not technically Medellín, but a suburb just south of the city. If you’re looking to find your own free accommodation in exchange for 15 – 20 hours per week of work, I recommend using Workaway to find such opportunities.
(b) El Poblado (2.3 million pesos or $770)
After living for free, I splurged a bit on rent for the month of July. I used Airbnb to rent a studio apartment in El Poblado. El Poblado is the most touristy and expensive part of Medellín. However, it also has the most access to cafes, restaurants and is centrally located.
The studio I rented was a 10-minute walk from Parque Lleras in the Provenza area of El Poblado. The nice part about Airbnb, is that I did not have to worry about additional costs for utilities, as everything was included in the rent.
(c) Laureles (800,000 pesos or $267)
For my third month, I lived in the neighborhood of Laureles. I lived with another couple (who was also coincidently from Chicago) that were kind enough to rent me their second bedroom. The apartment was located right off of Circular 2 near Unicentro mall. So, I had access to clothing stores, an Exito grocery store and a Cochetas (my favorite fresh pressed juice place). Laureles was a perfect blend of local living, while still offering easy access to restaurants and coffee shops.
For the purpose of this article, I took the total rent I paid throughout my three-month duration and divided it by three. This averaged out to $345 per month.
I found one of my apartments through Airbnb, however they tend to charge a bit more. I also recommend using compartoapartamento.com that provides local apartments and options in Spanish. This site usually has better deals.
Transportation (112,000 Pesos or $37.51 Per Month)
One of the best parts about Medellín is the access to easy public transportation. The Medellín metro is extremely clean and accessible. In addition, the weather in Medellín makes it easy to walk 15 – 20 minutes to the train when necessary.
Sign up to get a metro card (also called a Cívica card) to reduce the price from 2,300 pesos to 2,000 pesos per rider. The card also works on the metrocable and the white connector buses that take you to the metro.
The bus is also a very easy. When living in Envigado, I often took the bus down Avenida 43 to El Poblado, which dropped me off in front of Parque Poblado.
Taxis were also very easy to grab when in a rush.
Salsa Classes (400,000 Pesos or $133.59 Per Month)
Learning salsa was a bucket list item for me. Compared to the prices of salsa classes back home ($50 – $75 US Dollars per hour), classes in Medellín are very reasonably priced. However, they still took up a significant amount of my budget.
While living in Envigado, I took classes at Son De Timba close to Buena Mesa street. For 10 hours, I was charged 250,000 pesos (approximately $84). Son De Timba offered personalized one on one classes where I received individualized attention and structured courses.
When I moved to El Poblado, I began to take classes at DanceFree. These classes are a bit pricier than the classes in Envigado. However, everything in El Poblado tends to be a bit more money. Overall, classes are a bargain compared to where I was living in Chicago.
Dancefree charges $13 – $20 per hour based on the quantity of classes you purchase. All new customers receive 20 percent off their first purchase when purchasing three or more hours.
I enjoyed DanceFree because it fostered a dance community, where I met many instructors and friends. I also enjoyed nightly group classes and socials. For 15,000 pesos ($5) you can get a group lesson (Thursday and Saturday nights are free) and easy to socialize with others.
Groceries (250,000 Pesos or $84 Per Month)
Medellín has major grocery chains like Carulla or Exito, but there is also an abundance of local fruit stands and markets. In more local neighborhoods, like Envigado, there are often men rolling carts through the streets shouting and selling “aguacate” or “pinas”. You can purchase a large avocado for 2000 pesos.
Every Sunday, there is a Farmer’s Market in Parque Presidente in the El Poblado neighborhood. This is another way to cut down on the costs of groceries.
Entertainment (600,000 Pesos or $201 Per Month)
(Note: this includes going out to restaurants, museums, alcohol and social activities)
I was impressed by the number of restaurants in Medellín. Specifically, within the El Poblado area. I enjoyed a variety of Indian, Sushi and Peruvian restaurants.
It is possible to find very inexpensive daily meals as well. During lunchtime, “Menú Del Día” is very popular. A menu del dia typically costs 8,000 – 12,000 pesos per meal. I work remotely, so I also went to coffee shops daily – and my entertainment budget reflects that amount.
In addition, there are many free events in Medellín. Many language schools have “intercambios” or language exchanges that are free of charge and are also an amazing way to meet new people.
Some of my favorite language exchanges are Fridays at Colombia Immersion, Wednesdays at Bruno Pizza or Thursdays at Hostel Ondas. In addition, the entrepreneurial community in Medellín is small enough that there’s always unique events such as Pitch Night or Blogging In Medellin meetups. I find many activities and events through Facebook, on such groups as Medellin Expats or Digital Nomads Medellin.
In addition, I enjoyed reading a book or exploring parks such as Parque Envigado, Parque Lleras, Parque El Salado and Parque Presidente. I walk and explore the Ciclovia every Sunday morning. Ciclovia is the name for certain major roads closures so residents have a space for running, skating, cycling, and aerobics. Dogs are also welcome.
I take advantage of the Ciclovia every Sunday along Avenida Poblado between the hours of 7am and 1pm. The road is closed all the way from the south in Envigado until El Centro in the north.
Hiking is another wonderful and economical way to see the true Medellín. Read about my two favorite hikes – Cerro Pan De Azucar and Cerro De Volador.
Cell Phone (85,000 Pesos or $28.33 Per Month)
I put my cell phone on hold in the states in order to keep my number. Sprint let me do so for $15 a month with taxes.
In addition, I changed out my SIM card and bought a plan through Claro from a local Papalaria for 40,000 pesos ($14 per month).
Insurance (250,000 Pesos or $83 Per Month)
I chose to get travelers insurance through World Nomads. And I purchased three months at time. Based on my age and country of birth – I paid $250 for 3 months.
Extras (450,000 Pesos or $150 Per Month)
I’ve done a few extras in my time here. For example, I took a day trip to Guatapé, received a massage, a few manicure/pedicures and a weekend in Santa Fe de Antioquia for Feria de las Flores.
I did want to mention clothing. Having only been in Medellín for a few months, I brought everything I needed and have only purchased razors and toothpaste since being here. I have chosen not to purchase any clothing items (I brought way too much anyway).
If you are in need of something, never fear, as there are many shopping malls which have many of the stores I was accustomed to back home. Santafé Mall is a personal favorite, check out our article about this gorgeous mall.
The Bottom Line – Cost of Living for a Single Woman
All in all, I feel like I live a very comfortable lifestyle with a cost of living in Medellín of approximately $1,063 U.S. dollars a month. It can be done for less, but regardless of your exact budget, there’s no doubt Medellín is beautiful place that has a reasonable cost of living with a high quality of life.
Jeff, the founder of Medellín Guru and an expat from the U.S. married to a Colombian, also shared their cost of living as a couple living in Medellín.
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HI Stephanie, thanks for sharing!
This is a great article and I hope to see some more cost of living examples from other expats living in Medellin.
Thanks for sharing! We’re headed to Medellin soon for 6 weeks to feel it out, then plan to spend a month each in Ecuador and Peru. I already know we’re going to love it in Medellin so it’s high up on our list of places to move once we get the travel bug out with this big trip. I joined the blogging group and look forward to meeting you and other bloggers there soon!
Thanks so much Stephanie, wonderful report. I keep learning more every day about Medellin and surrounding cities. Hope to be there in January.
Thanks for the advice..I probably will be moving soon to Guatape with my wife. We own a house with land there..good luck..
Very informative.Am happy that you are happy.As a long time traveler to Colombia it has come a long way.It has always been a beautiful country with friendly people
Great job..thank you. Hard to believe you can live on $1,000 a month. How many expats live in Medellin and what is the average age? Are many your age? Are you fluent in Spanish? Have you made lots of friends? How’s the dating scene for a 63 year old man?
Very informative. Thanks for sharing!
Hi.thanks for sharing …what about opening a small business….in your area are there any african americans?…
We plan to cover opening a business in the future. There are some African Americans in Medellín from not many.