Medellín Cost of Living for a Couple
What is the Medellín cost of living for a couple? Jeff an expat from the U.S. married to a Colombian shares their cost of living in Medellín.

Medellín Cost of Living for a Couple with 3-Year History

The relatively low Medellín cost of living is one of the 27 reasons why I started living in the city of Medellín after I discovered it many years ago. I have now been living in Medellín for over seven years.

In my opinion, the nearly perfect weather and the quality of life in Medellín, for the cost, are challenging to beat.

Since I have lived over seven years in Medellín, I am often asked what the Medellín cost of living is. So, with the help of my Colombian wife, we track our expenses every month.

This article provides our actual Medellín cost of living for a couple living in Medellín during the period from January 2015 to July 2017, so you can see how our costs of living have changed over the past few years.

In addition, last month, Stephanie shared her cost of living in Medellín for a single woman.

Our Standard of Living

When looking at the Medellín cost of living, it is important to consider the standard of living, which more than anything will affect a person’s or couple’s or family’s cost of living.

I’m an expat from the United States living with my Colombian wife in Sabaneta, which is a separate municipality in the Medellín metro area. Sabaneta is located directly south of Envigado. And we live in a nice 110-square-meter, three-bedroom apartment located in an estrato four neighborhood.

We don’t have a car and travel using the metro, buses and cheap taxies. We also live within walking distance to a mall, several grocery stores, Parque Sabaneta and many restaurants and small tiendas (shops).

In addition, we live a comfortable life and travel on vacation at least a couple times each year. Also, we go out to eat a few times a week and go to the movies or go out several times each month.

Medellín Cost of Living for a couple (in Colombian pesos - COP)

Medellín Cost of Living for a couple (in Colombian pesos – COP)

Our Medellín Cost of Living for a Couple

The above table shows our actual Medellín cost of living for a couple from January 2015 to July 2017, which is a total of 31 months. The average exchange rate I experienced each year is used in the table to calculate the average monthly total Medellín cost of living in U.S. dollars we experienced as a couple.

Each of the categories in the table above is discussed below with more details along with our 2017 average monthly cost per category:

Kitchen in our apartment

Kitchen in our apartment

1. Apartment Rent = 1,357,143 Pesos ($411) Per Month

Apartment rent is our biggest expense but the cost to rent an apartment in Medellín is surprisingly cheap by Western standards. Apartment rent was included in our list of 14 surprising cheap things in Medellín for expats.

The above rental cost in pesos is a net price, as we rent out our parking space since we don’t have a car. But we don’t rent out the parking space all the time as there is sometimes wait between renters. So, our net rent can vary.

I have been renting unfurnished apartments in Medellín for over seven years.  Furthermore, we currently live in a three-bedroom apartment in Sabaneta, which we moved into over two years ago.

We recently renewed our apartment lease for another year for actually less than $420 per month. This was due to using money previously exchanged at 3,300 pesos per USD. This is for an apartment with:

  • 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 large balconies
  • Pool, sauna and small gym in building
  • 24×7 security
  • Estrato 4 neighborhood in Sabaneta

A similar apartment in Dallas, where I am from would easily rent for over $1,000 per month.

2. Groceries = 678,592 Pesos ($222) Per Month

Groceries are our second biggest expense. We cook at home frequently. Weekly we shop at an Exito that is located about a 10-minute walk from our apartment.

We also shop at PriceSmart, which has good prices for many items as well as some hard to find imported items. In addition, we shop at Tiendas D1, and Makro, which both have good prices for many items. Four Tiendas D1 stores are within walking distance from our apartment.

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

Our average monthly groceries cost has dropped every year for the past four years. In 2014, we were averaging about 1,200,000 pesos per month shopping at Exito and Jumbo.

As we started shopping at PriceSmart in 2015 and Tiendas D1 in 2016 as well as local butcher shops and local fruit and vegetable shops, our average monthly groceries cost has dropped each year. We also occasionally shop at Makro.

3. Dining = 574,467 Pesos ($188) Per Month

Dining is currently our third biggest expense. We typically eat at nice restaurants a few times each month. In addition, we order domicillio (takout) a few times each week when we are too tired to cook or go out to eat.

We also eat at small local restaurants in Sabaneta several times each month for lunch and dinner.

There are several “menú del día” lunch specials at small restaurants in Sabaneta that range in price from 8,000 to 10,000 pesos.  The menú del día normally includes a soup or salad, a main course of meat, chicken or fish plus sides of rice and/or potatoes and a drink.

4. Medical = 546,087 Pesos ($179) Per Month

The medical costs we experience during the year includes medical insurance for my wife. This category also includes contacts and glasses I purchase each year plus a few trips to dentists and doctors, as well as drugs purchased at drugstores.

I am in good health and still have medical insurance in the U.S. as a backup. In Medellín, the costs of medical care are very low in my experience. So, I decided to “go naked” last year without medical insurance in Colombia.

But I am thinking about getting medical insurance in Colombia next year and dropping my coverage in the U.S., as I rarely go there anymore.

5. Miscellaneous = 525,723 Pesos ($172) Per Month

This is a general category of miscellaneous items not included in other categories. This category includes furnishings for our apartment, books, laundry expenses plus an Amazon prime membership

For example, last year we upgraded some furniture. And this year we bought some curtains and sheets before my father visited.

Every few months we buy some things on Amazon that are cheaper or difficult to find in Colombia. With Amazon Prime many items purchased on Amazon will ship for free to Miami where I use a mailing service that forwards to Medellín for a relatively low cost.

6. Computer and Electronics = 480,987 ($157) Per Month

This category includes computers, printers, ink cartridges, TVs, tablets, cell phones and cameras as well as associated software. Each year it seems we are upgrading or replacing some things in this category.

For example, I had an old black and white laser printer that I sold last year and upgraded to a color laser printer.

Medellín's Metro

Medellín’s Metro

7. Ground Transportation = 349,564 ($114) Per Month

This category includes our costs for using the metro, buses as well as taxis. We don’t have a car. And I haven’t found a need to rent a car in over seven years living in the city. Reportedly over 80 percent of the expats living in Medellín don’t have a car.

We can catch a bus in front of our apartment in Sabaneta that takes about 10 minutes to go to the Sabaneta metro station. And this costs only 1,900 pesos. Or the metro station is about a 20-minute walk from our apartment.

In addition, we can catch buses in front of the Exito near our apartment that have a route that goes to the Santafé mall in El Poblado. This trip takes about 30 minutes during normal hours or up to about an hour during rush hour. The cost is only 2,000 or 2,100 pesos.

We also use taxis frequently. The fare from the Sabneta metro station to our apartment is the minimum fare of 5,000 pesos. The fare from El Poblado to our apartment is normally about 16,000 pesos.

8. Clothing = 294,974 Pesos ($97) Per Month

This category is normally about 66 percent for my wife for her clothing, as she typically buys more clothing than I do. She goes shopping for clothes every couple of months for something new. While I may buy some new clothing items only a couple times each year.

9. Colombia Income Taxes = 270,833 Pesos ($89) Per Month

Over the past four years I had to pay income taxes in Colombia only two of these four years. Based on my experience I now budget 270,833 pesos per month to cover Colombian income taxes.

We covered how to file income taxes in Colombia recently. Moving to Colombia has been tax neutral for me in two out of the past four years. You may have to pay some income taxes in Colombia, depending on your personal situation. And this can also change from year to year based on my experience.

Vacation in Curaçao last year

Vacation in Curaçao last year

10. Vacation Travel = 215,873 Pesos ($71) Per Month

Each year we typically take a couple vacation trips. So far, this year we have taken a couple of short vacation trips to pueblos near Medellín.

Last year we traveled to Cartagena, Pereira and Bogotá for about a week each. We also traveled late last year to Curaçao for 10 days, which is an island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

Vacation in Cartagena last year

Vacation in Cartagena last year

11. Triple-Play Internet/TV/Phone = 178,311 pesos ($58) Per Month

Triple Play Internet/TV/Phone services in Medellín are lower in cost than what you will find in the U.S. There are two major Internet and TV providers in Medellín that offer triple play Internet, TV and phone services: Claro and Tigo-UNE.

We currently have Claro’s Triple-Play service with 10 Mbps Internet, HD TV service with several hundred channels (over 30 in English) for two TVs and phone service. And I am very happy with the service as it is very reliable. The average monthly cost is only 178,311 pesos per month in an estrato four neighborhood.

In my experience, the Internet service with Claro has been more reliable than my Verizon FiOS service was in the United States and is much less expensive.

12. Utilities (Electric, Gas, Water) = 141,417 Pesos ($46) Per Month

Utility services in Medellín are provided by EPM, the local utility provider in the city. Fortunately, there is really no need for heating or cooling with the climate in Medellín. So, the result is relatively low utility bills.

We also live in an estrato four neighborhood, which has lower utility rates than are found in estrato five or six neighborhoods like El Poblado or Laureles.

We have found that our utility services have been cheaper in Sabaneta than when we lived in a smaller apartment in Belén a couple years ago.

13. Pets = 130,089 Pesos ($43) Per Month

We have two dogs. In 2013, we bought a Pomeranian dog. And in 2016, we bought a Shih Tzu dog.

So, we have ongoing expenses for our two pets including dog food, vet services and pet hotel costs when we travel.

14. Gifts = 129,345 Pesos ($42) Per Month

This category includes gifts purchased for birthdays and Christmas.

But this category doesn’t include all gifts, as we tend to give some gifts that are bigger items like electronics and furnishings that are included in other categories above.

15. Education = 128,000 Pesos ($42) Per Month

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

16. Cell Phone Services = 99,876 Pesos ($33) Per Month

This is the cost for Claro cellular services for two cellphones. We both have pre-paid plans. We used to have post-paid plans but upgraded to pre-paid plans to have more Internet access.

I no longer have a cell phone in the U.S. as my Colombian cell phone with international roaming works fine in the U.S.

Mail Boxes Etc. in Medellín

Mail Boxes Etc. in Medellín

17. Mail Services = 89,220 Pesos ($29) Per Month

Mail Boxes Etc. has an e-box service that permits you to receive mail and packages reliably and inexpensively in Medellín from the U.S. I have used this e-box service for nearly seven years. And I successfully sent over 140 packages during this time without a single problem.

When I first started living in Medellín over seven years ago, receiving my mail from the U.S. was one of the early challenges I encountered. Fortunately, Mail Boxes Etc. provides a solution with its e-box service.

This service provides a mailbox in Medellín that is linked to a mailing service in Miami. And any mail received at this mailing service in Miami is forwarded to Medellín. I use the Mail Boxes Etc. e-box premium service, which costs $14 per month and includes 1 kilogram free and excess grams at $0.013 per gram.

In the United States, I use the US Global Mail mailbox service in Houston as my primary mailing address. The cost is only $12.50 per month, if paid for a year in advance.

This service permits me to go online and see scans of any mail received. And I can discard any junk mail online. In addition, they can open mail and scan it for a small fee, so you can see the contents online. And they can also deposit checks.

18. Entertainment = 85,631 Pesos ($28) Per Month

This category of expenses includes our expenses for going to bars, concerts, discotecas and movie theaters. We typically have entertainment expenses several times each month. But this varies from month to month. And we also take advantage of some of the free entertainment activities found in the city.

19. Driver’s License = 53,143 Pesos ($17) Per Month

Earlier this year I got a Colombian driver’s license. The cost was 372,000 pesos for me to get a Colombian driver’s license. I averaged this cost over the first seven months of 2017 to equal 53,143 pesos per month, shown above.

This was a one-time cost that won’t be incurred again for a long time, as Colombian driver’s licenses are good for 10 years. I decided to get a Colombian driver’s license as my Texas driver’s license expires next year and I can’t renew it. And a Colombian driver’s license can be used in the U.S.

Small barbershop in Sabaneta where a mens's haircut costs 8,000 pesos

Small barbershop in Sabaneta where a mens’s haircut costs 8,000 pesos

20. Hair Care = 16,000 Pesos ($5) Per Month

It costs me 10,000 pesos including tip to get my haircut at a barbershop in Sabaneta near our apartment. My wife doesn’t get her hair done that often and sometimes prefers getting her hair done by her family for free.

21. Marriage/Visa/Cedula = Zero Pesos Per Month

This is a category for expenses we incurred for getting married in 2015 and also for me getting a TP-10 Colombian marriage visa and a Colombian cedula in 2015. Since my visa and cedula are good until next year, we won’t incur any expenses in this category in 2017.

Inflation and Exchange Rate Impacts

Two of the biggest things impacting the Medellín cost of living over time for expats are inflation and the exchange rate.

Colombia experienced inflation of 5.75 percent in 2016, 6.77 percent in 2015 and 3.66 percent in 2014. The biggest inflation in Colombia during these three years was in food, which increased at an even higher rate.

But as seen in our Medellín cost of living details above, our grocery costs have dropped every year over the past three years. This was because we starting to shop at some lower cost places. So, it’s possible to substitute to avoid some impacts of inflation.

A bigger impact than inflation for expats with an income from another country is the exchange rate. The improved exchange rate in Colombia over the past two years has made the country cheaper to live in for expats compared to a few years ago.

10-year USD to COP exchange rate graph (Source xe.com)

10-year USD to COP exchange rate graph (Source xe.com)

As the above graph from http://www.xe.com/ shows, over the past two years, the Colombian peso has been trading in a range from about 2,850 to 3,460 pesos, which is a much higher range than the prior eight years.

The exchange rate typically has a much greater impact on the cost of living for expats than inflation does. It is very difficult to predict exchange rates, so it’s difficult to know how much longer the Colombia peso will stay in the range experienced over the past two years.

The Bottom Line: Medellín Cost of Living for a Couple

It is possible to have a Medellín cost of living that is lower than ours for a couple. It would be relatively easy for us to reduce several categories in our budget to get to a total of about $1,600 per month at the current exchange rate.

I have met several couples living in Medellín with a budget of less than $2,000 per month and even some couples with budgets of less than $1,500 per month. I also have met some couples with budgets of over $3,000 and others with budgets of over $4,000 per month. It’s possible to live a wide range of lifestyles in the city that will impact your Medellín cost of living.

In addition, Medellín has a wide range of prices for apartment rentals. I have seen prices for apartment rentals ranging from less than $200 per month to well over $2,500 per month for unfurnished places.

If looking at cost of living budgets you see touted for popular foreign retirement locations like Medellín, be careful. In my experience, some budgets tend to leave out several categories such as medical, vacation travel, taxes, gifts and mail services.

Also, “What is the cost of living in Medellín?” is a common question by expats considering moving to Medellín. So, we included this question in our list of Medellín frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.

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24 thoughts on “Medellín Cost of Living for a Couple with 3-Year History”

    1. Richard Scott June 5, 2021

      Yes I’m sure you can live very cheaply but some people don’t like to live that way. I mean my girlfriend in Columbian stands at least a couple hundred dollars a month on clothes, getting her hair and nails done every month is at least $100 we recently went out to eat at El Cielo very interesting restaurant it was well over $100 by the time we got done eating for the two of us I took her her mother and her kids to Santa Martha for a week we stayed at a very nice hotel on the Beach by the time we pay for airplane tickets the hotel tours and food it was easily over $,1,000. Her brother has a nice apartment in Medellin he pays over $2,000 a month rent. Also for travel expenses we take at least one Cruise every year and usually go to Europe also and of course at least one trip to the United States when she comes up here. Currently I live in the US with my mother who I’m taking care of we did have a house it was about four thousand square feet but we’ve downsize to one that’s 2400 square feet it still seems to smile for me

      • Richard Scott June 5, 2021

        Sorry for my misspelling of all these words, yes I know it is colOmbia. Stupid spell check! I was just speaking my response and I didn’t reread it before I send it as I usually never do. Also a stove top only! I’m sorry I would have to have a full oven I mean how am I going to make pizza and bake my own pies? I find most Colombians Lincoln Avenue is just a place to store their pots and pans

    2. Jeff, thank you for sharing this valuable information. I am ready to move!

      I don’t see a line item for US income taxes. Many expats would need to factor that in. Also in healthcare, Do you expect that your Colombian health insurance would cost the same as your wife’s? (As to Insurance while in the US, my sister tells me if you buy airline tickets with some credit cards, emergency medical care insurance is included).

      • Hi Adriana, there is no line item for U.S. income taxes as that is not a cost of living in Medellín, it’s a cost for being a citizen of the U.S. that taxes worldwide income of citizens. Also, U.S. income taxes would vary depending on the income level so it would distort the cost of living dramatically for high incomes.

        Health insurance is a topic that will be covered in a future article on this site.

    3. Raymond F Conlon October 26, 2017

      Thank you. Good stuff. Do you recommend AirBNB for those arriving until they find an apartment. Is rent paid in cash? Is one month used as a deposit? Do most apartments go month to month? Do you sign a lease? Is the difference between a furnished and unfurnished apartments significant?

      • Hi Raymond, here’s answers to your several questions. Yes, Airbnb can be used to find some inexpensive furnished rentals but we recommend only renting apartments on Airbnb with reviews. Yes, rent tends to be paid in cash for unfurnished apartments. Deposits are not common for unfurnished apartments in Colombia. In fact, deposits can’t legally be included in an unfurnished lease agreement but can be a separate agreement. Unfurnished apartment leases are not month to month – they tend to be for 6 month or 1 year terms. I have signed leases for over 7 years – my experience renting was covered in this article – https://medellinguru.com/moving-to-medellin/. And yes. the rent difference is significant between furnished and unfurnished apartments. It can be double the cost for furnished compared to unfurnished, or even much higher.

    4. Hola Jeff muy bueno el artículo, sería bueno tener una idea de gastos más basicos. Es decir para unos jóvenes que están comenzado a vivir juntos desde cero, con un trabajo promedio. (in English): Hi Jeff very good article, would be good to have an idea of more basic expenses. That is to say for some young people who are beginning to live together from scratch, with an average job.

    5. Do you know any US expats that golf? I will be in Medellin from December to April and would like to play a few rounds.

    6. Great report! Are you happy with US Global Mail services?

      • Hi John, thanks! Yes, I am happy with US Global Mail. I like that I can go online and see scans of mail received and trash junk mail online. They are also responsive when I have contacted them.

        The US Global Mail facility in Houston wasn’t impacted by Harvey. Their facility is safe and dry and I just went online to trash some junk mail in my mailbox there. But they have a message that some staff aren’t able to get to work due to road closures, which is understandable. So, currently a possible delay in sending mail this week. But they expect normal operations to resume next week.

    7. Brock Canner September 6, 2017

      Jeff, is long hair on a man frowned on by people in Medellin? How about men in shorts? Thanks Jeff. Was not able to confirm follow?
      Cheers, Brock

      • Hi Brock, long hair isn’t such a problem. But men wearing shorts isn’t that common and can make you stand out as an obvious foreigner. Wearing shorts and flip flops is generally frowned upon, particularly by Colombian women on dates. Most of the Colombian men in Medellín tend to wear pants. If they have shorts on, it is normally to the gym or to do some other type of exercise.

        • Brock Canner September 6, 2017

          Thanks Jeff, your a wealth of information!
          Cheers, Brock

          • It gets a little hot in the afternoons and wearing normal long pants can be uncomfortable. Make sure you buy lightweight pants. I have purchased “travel pants” which are very light weight and easy to wash. They make all the difference.

    8. Great job! Thank you for sharing this info. Even if I am single, and have not yet been to Medellin, it helps me plan and compare, as I am still “shopping” for a [low cost] retirement destination. Keep the good work!

    9. Brock Canner September 5, 2017

      Thanks So much Jeff. I love the break down of prices for just about everything one could want or desire. As of now no further questions, but may be back later with some.
      Cheers, Brock

    10. Great information, thanks for sharing. The detail is very helpful. I would say that my cost of living with my Colombian girlfriend is somewhat higher. We live in Laureles in estrato 5 and our rent, utilities, groceries and dining costs are a little higher. Also I’m paying for some Spanish classes. Our other costs are similar to what you experience.

      • Is rent the biggest reason for higher costs? You live in a higher priced neighborhood. Is Laureles the best area for low rent and also a desirable place to live?

        • Hi Ray, no Laureles is not the best area in Medellín for low apartment rent – see our apartment survey results that Sabaneta and Belén have lower apartment rental costs – https://medellinguru.com/apartment-rental-costs-medellin/. And there are other places in the Medellín metro like Bello with even lower rental costs but where only a few expats live.

          Laureles is popular with some expats – it’s flat, so quite walkable. But it also has fewer high-rise apartment buildings. Many apartment buildings in Laureles don’t a 24×7 porteria (doorman). During our apartment survey we found that 70% of apartments in Laureles-Estadio don’t have a 24×7 porteria. And many also don’t have elevators as many are low-rise buildings of 2-4 floors.

          • Massimo Lanfranchi December 25, 2017

            what do they ask to rent to foreign there? cosigner like they do in Cartagena or can you rent with out?
            Thank you

            • Real estate agencies in Medellín will typically ask for a cosigner (fiador). But it is possible to rent without a cosigner, as I have done this in Medellín for over 7 years. I originally rented from a real estate agent but paid rent in advance and now rent directly from an owner.

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