Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is really the better place to live? In our Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison, we comprehensively compare the two cities in 21 categories to see which is the better place to live in for expats.

We previously published an article about 11 reasons why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location. The foreign retirement publications have for several years been touting Colombia as a top foreign retirement location.

Also, the International Living retirement publication ranked the country of Colombia as its sixth best foreign retirement location in 2019. And Brazil is not even ranked by International Living.

Several Medellin Guru readers asked for a comparison of Medellín with Rio de Janeiro, as we have published several comparisons in the past.

Rio de Janeiro is a Brazilian city on the coast with famous beaches. And it has a metro population of over 12 million.

Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia with a metro population of about 4 million located in a valley in the Colombian Andes Mountains in Colombia. And mountains surround Medellín with a river running though the city.

Many expats I have met living in Medellín prefer Medellín. And expats living in the Rio de Janeiro tend to prefer Rio de Janeiro. However, many of these expats living in one of these two places have never traveled to the other. It’s not really fair to compare two places if you have not been to both of them.

I have lived in Medellín for over eight years. But I have traveled several times on business and vacation to Brazil and I’ve been to Rio de Janeiro four times. In my opinion, both places have their pluses and minuses. No place is perfect.

Note, the following 21 categories in this Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison are in no particular order. And where possible in our Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison, we provide some statistics to back up how we chose the winner of each category in our comparison.

View of Leblon and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Jeff Belmonte

View of Leblon and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Jeff Belmonte

1. Climate – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín arguably wins here. The temperature during the year in Medellín averages 72.5 °F (22.5 °C). The Medellín weather and climate is a benefit of living in the city.

Also, Medellín is also known as “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera”, or the city of eternal spring. The average temperature in Medellín typically only varies by about 1 °F during the year.

In Medellín, the high daily average temperature ranges from 81.0 to 82.8 ° F (27.0 to 28.2 °C). And the low daily average ranges from 61.7 to 63.3 ° F (16.5 to 17.4 °C).

In comparison in Rio de Janeiro, the temperature during the entire year averages a somewhat warmer 74.8 ° F (23.8 °C).

During the year, the average high temperature in Rio de Janeiro ranges from 77.0 to 86.4 ° F (25.0 to 30.2 °C). And the average low temperature typically ranges from 65.1 to 73.9 ° F (17.4 to 23.0 °C).

During the year on some days in Rio de Janeiro it sometimes can get above 100.0 ° F (38.8 °C). With the warmer temperatures in Rio de Janeiro, air-conditioning is needed by most people.

Also, because of its geographic situation, Rio de Janeiro is sometimes reached by cold fronts advancing from the Antarctica, which can cause frequent weather changes.

In terms of rainfall, in Medellín there is one month out of the year with heavy rain (October), which is normally over 220 mm (nearly 9 inches) of rain. The average rainfall in Medellín for the entire year is about 69 inches (1,752 mm) per year.

In comparison, it rains less in Rio de Janeiro.  The average rainfall in Rio de Janeiro for the entire year is about 42.1 inches (1,069.4 mm) per year.

But there is a rainy season with four rainy months in Rio de Janeiro where it rains one-third of the days in the month. In December, January, February and March there is more rain with typically over 120 mm (over 5 inches) of rain each month.  And there can be strong rains, which have on some occasions have caused floods and landslides.

In terms of humidity, Rio de Janeiro has higher humidity on average. The humidity in Medellín averages 67 percent during the year. And in Rio de Janeiro the humidity average 79 percent during the year.

Medellín arguably wins this category due to the warmer climate in Rio de Janeiro which requires air-conditioning, which isn’t really needed in Medellín.

View of Medellín from Pueblito Paisa, photo by Jenny Bojinova

View of Medellín from Pueblito Paisa, photo by Jenny Bojinova

2. Cost of Living – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín easily wins here. Apartment properties I have seen in Rio de Janeiro tend to rent for or sell for at least 40-50 percent higher prices than similar properties in Medellín. And sometimes even higher.

In addition, I have seen some properties for sale in Rio de Janeiro with over 130 percent higher prices compared to similar properties in Medellín.

The Expatistan cost of living website reports that the cost of living in Rio de Janeiro is 36 percent higher than in Medellín.

In addition, the cost of living site  Numbeo reports that the cost of living is more expensive in Rio de Janeiro in almost every category compared to the prices in Medellín.

Some expats living in Brazil try to avoid the higher cost of living near the coast in Brazil by living in a small town in Brazil away from the coast.

An expat from the U.S. I met two years ago in Rio de Janeiro told me he is paying about $1,200 per month for his small two-bedroom apartment. And his apartment was much smaller than the three-bedroom apartment I rent in Sabaneta near Medellín for less than half that price.

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, the best hospital in Medellín, photo by SajoR

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, the best hospital in Medellín, photo by SajoR

3. Healthcare – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín wins here.  Good healthcare is a very important category for retirees.

Medellín has nine of the top 58 ranked hospitals in Latin America. And Colombia has 23 of the best hospitals in Latin America.

In comparison, Rio de Janeiro only has three of the top ranked hospitals in Latin America. Most of the top ranked hospitals in Brazil are located in São Paulo.

Here is a list of all the top ranked hospitals in Medellín and Rio de Janeiro, with the rankings in the top 58 hospitals in Latin America:

  • Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe – Medellín (#9)
  • Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación – Medellín (#16)
  • Hospital São Vicente de Paulo – Rio de Janeiro (#18)
  • Clínica las Américas – Medellín (#23)
  • Hospital General de Medellín – Medellín (#28)
  • Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana – Medellín (#34)
  • Hospital Pró Cardíaco – Rio de Janeiro (#40)
  • Clínica El Rosario – Medellín (#43)
  • Clínica Cardio Vid – Medellín (#44)
  • Hospital Samaritano Botafogo – Rio de Janeiro (#52)
  • Clínica Medellín – Medellín (#53)
  • Clínica Las Vegas – Medellín (#58)
Hospital São Vicente de Paulo, the best hospital in Rio de Janeiro, photo courtesy of Hospital São Vicente de Paulo

Hospital São Vicente de Paulo, the best hospital in Rio de Janeiro, photo courtesy of Hospital São Vicente de Paulo

WHO ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked, which is ranked higher than many wealthier countries like the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Canada (#30) and Australia (#32).

Brazil’s healthcare system is ranked much lower than Colombia’s healthcare system by WHO, as they rank Brazil at #125 out of 191 countries.

The bottom line is that Medellín has nine of the top hospitals in Latin America compared to Rio de Janeiro with only three of the top hospitals in Latin America. Also, WHO ranks Colombia’s healthcare system much higher than the healthcare system in Brazil. So, Medellín wins this category.

Traffic, one of the downsides of living in Medellín

Traffic, one of the downsides of living in Medellín

4. Traffic – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

The two cities arguably tie here. In a survey by Waze in 2016, Medellín was ranked #176 in the world in terms of drivers’ satisfaction out of 186 metros surveyed and Rio de Janeiro was ranked #149.

But Waze’s survey ranked the traffic in Rio de Janeiro a bit worse than in Medellín. Both cities have problems with traffic.

Rio de Janeiro has a metro population of about 12 million, which is about three times larger than Medellín. I experienced bad traffic jams many times when I was in Rio de Janeiro.

In addition, traffic can get bad in Medellín during rush hours. It can sometimes take an hour or more during rush hour to get to some places in Medellín. The worst traffic in the Medellín metro in my experience tends to be in El Poblado, El Centro and Envigado.

However, there is worse traffic in Latin America than is found in Rio de Janeiro or Medellín. In my experience, the traffic is much worse in the bigger cities of Bogotá, São Paulo and Mexico City.

The Medellín metro in El Centro

The Medellín metro in El Centro

5. Public Transportation – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

The two cities tie here.  Both Rio de Janeiro and Medellín have comprehensive metro systems and extensive networks of buses.

The Medellín Metro is a comprehensive and inexpensive system. Furthermore, it integrates two rail lines, five Metrocable cable-car lines, two Metroplús elongated bus lines, a Tranvía tramcar line and even feeder Metro buses. Medellín’s metro system has over 60 stations throughout the city.

The Rio de Janeiro metro at São_Cristóvão station, photo by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira

The Rio de Janeiro metro at São_Cristóvão station, photo by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira

In comparison, the Rio de Janeiro Metro has three rail lines and 41 stations. In addition, both Medellín and Rio de Janeiro have extensive networks of public buses. And the buses in both cities are inexpensive.

6. Safety – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín arguably wins here. Medellín generally has lower crime rates than are found in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil even broke its own homicide record in 2017. Brazil recorded 63,880 homicides in 2017, representing a homicide rate of 30.8 per 100,000. And in Rio de Janeiro the homicide rate is even higher. The most recent data I could find for Rio de Janeiro showed over 35 homicides per 100,000 in 2016, according to IPEA.

In comparison, the homicide rate in Medellín of 23 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017 was up from a homicide rate of 20 in 2015 in Medellín. But over the past few years Medellín has experienced a homicide rate that is lower than is found in St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit or New Orleans in the U.S.

Furthermore, Medellín dropped off of the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world a few years ago based on homicide rates.

The high homicide rate in Brazil isn’t the only security issue. In addition, in 2017, Brazil registered more than 60,000 cases of rape, but experts say the true figure could be higher.

Gang violence in Brazil has affected major cities like Rio de Janeiro. And in February 2018, Brazil’s military even had to take control of public security in Rio de Janeiro. Also, local citizens and visitors alike are often targeted by criminals in Rio de Janeiro, especially during public festivals such as carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

We previously looked at security in Medellín and expat safety tips. And in a survey of 12,548 Colombians, Medellín ranked higher than all other cities in Colombia in terms of citizens feeling safe in their barrio (neighborhood) – slide 41.

Generally, most tourist areas in Rio de Janeiro are safe for tourists during the day. But these areas can become quite risky after dark. So, travel in groups and take taxis at night. In addition, our Medellín safety tips also apply in Rio de Janeiro.

7. Pollution – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro wins here Medellín has pollution problems. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) 2018 Ambient Air Quality Database, Medellín is ranked #9 out of the most polluted cities and towns in Latin America based on PM2.5 pollutants.

Medellín’s biggest issue is that it’s located in a canyon. Mountains surround the city of Medellín. So, pollution tends to stay in the Medellín metropolitan area. This is similar to the problem in Denver in the U.S. But fairly regular rain in the city can help clean the atmosphere.

Rio de Janeiro is located on the coast in Brazil. So, air pollution problems are not as bad as in Medellín. In general, Rio de Janeiro has less air pollution than is found in Medellín. So, Rio de Janeiro wins this category.

But many neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro lack proper sanitation, causing squalid water conditions, including raw sewage and extreme levels of disease-causing microorganisms in Guanabara Bay. So, Rio de Janeiro has a major water pollution problem. Medellín also has a pollution problem with the river that runs through the city.

In addition, according to WHO, in Latin America several cities and towns have worse air pollution than in Medellín. Lima, Peru; Monterrey, Mexico; five towns in Chile; and Guatemala all have worse air pollutant problems.

Terminal 1 at Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Governo Federal Brasileiro

Terminal 1 at Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Governo Federal Brasileiro

8. Travel Access to North America, Europe and Latin America – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro wins hereThe Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro (popularly known with its original name as Galeão International Airport – GIG) has non-stop flights year-round to over 20 international locations in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America

From Rio de Janeiro you can fly non-stop to Atlanta, Houston, Miami and New York JFK in the U.S.  And to Europe you can fly non-stop to Amsterdam, Casablanca, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Porto, Rome and Zurich.

Also, from Rio de Janeiro you can fly non-stop to many cities in Brazil and many in Latin America.

Inside José María Córdova - the Medellín airport

Inside José María Córdova – the Medellín airport

Medellín’s José María Córdova international airport (MDE) is the second largest airport in Colombia. This airport has non-stop flights to 12 international locations in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

From the MDE airport there are non-stop flights available to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Miami and New York (JFK) in the U.S. In addition, from MDE you can fly non-stop to Madrid in Europe. Also, you can fly non-stop to Cancún, Lima, Maracaibo, Mexico City, Panama City, San Salvador and Valencia.

In addition, there are more domestic Colombia flights available from Medellín as the city has two airports: the international José María Córdova airport and the domestic Olaya Herrera airport (EOH). From Medellín’s two airports you can fly non-stop to over 30 cities in Colombia.

The bottom line you can fly non-stop to over 20 international locations in the U.S., Europe and Latin America from Rio de Janeiro. So, Rio de Janeiro wins this category.

9. Cost and Time to Travel from the U.S. – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín wins here. It is cheaper and quicker to travel from the U.S. to Medellín than traveling from the U.S. to Rio de Janeiro.

It’s important to not only look at flight availability but also look at the cost and length of flights. Proximity to the U.S. is important for some expats from the U.S. that travel home for family or work.

We previously looked at finding cheap flights to Medellín. For example, it’s possible to find roundtrip from New York to Medellín for under $400 and roundtrip from Los Angeles to Medellín for under $500.

From New York to Rio de Janeiro, the cheapest roundtrip I found in April was $664 with a connection in São Paulo – which is more expensive than the cost of flying to Medellín. And from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro, the cheapest roundtrip I found in April was $1,079 with a connection in Miami.

Also, Medellín is much closer to the U.S. than Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. For example, it’s only about a three-hour non-stop flight from Miami to Medellín and a six-hour non-stop flight from New York to Medellín.

In comparison, it’s an eight-hour and 30-minute non-stop flight from Miami to Rio de Janeiro and about a nine-hour and 45-minute non-stop flight from New York to Rio de Janeiro.

Since the flights to Rio de Janeiro from the U.S. are more expensive and much longer flights, Medellín wins this category.

The Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Klaus with K

The Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Klaus with K

10. Things to Do – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro wins here. Rio de Janeiro has many more things to do than in Medellín and is famous for many of it’s tourist spots.

TripAdvisor has less than 230 things to do listed for Medellín. And it has over 790 things to do listed for Rio de Janeiro. While this is unscientific it demonstrates there are more things to do in the city of Rio de Janeiro compared to the city of Medellín.

If we include Medellín plus the other municipalities in the Aburrá Valley and nearby pueblos, TripAdvisor has over 400 things listed to do. But TripAdvisor is missing many of the things to do in each pueblo near Medellín.

For example, for some pueblos, TripAdvisor has only one thing listed to do, which is inaccurate, as every pueblo has many things to do. This is due to many pueblos near Medellín not being in the tourist guides like Lonely Planet, which only lists three pueblos near Medellín. So, many pueblos aren’t accurately covered on TripAdvisor.

The bottom line is that there are over 400 things to do in the Medellín metro area and nearby pueblos.  But Rio de Janeiro nearly 800 things to do. So, Rio de Janeiro wins this category.

Sand castle on the beach in Rio de Janeiro

Sand castle on the beach in Rio de Janeiro

11. Restaurants and Nightlife – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro wins here. Both Medellín and Rio de Janeiro have many good restaurant options. But you will have a much bigger choice of restaurants in Rio de Janeiro due to it being a much bigger city.

If you look on TripAdvisor, it lists over 13,000 restaurants in Rio de Janeiro but less than 1,500 restaurants in Medellín. Both Rio de Janeiro and Medellín have many good restaurant options. But you will have a much larger choice of restaurants in the much larger city of Rio de Janeiro.

In terms of nightlife, Rio de Janeiro has many more nightlife options than in Medellín due to having a metro population of over 12 million.

Since Rio de Janeiro is a much bigger city, it has more restaurant and nightlife options. So, Rio de Janeiro wins this category.

12. Taxes – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

The two places arguably tie here. We highly recommend talked to a tax professional to understand the tax implications before moving to another county.

Tax residents in both Brazil and Colombia are taxed on worldwide income. In both Brazil and Colombia, you become a tax resident after spending 183 days in a year in the country.

Brazil tax residents are liable to a progressive tax on their worldwide income ranging between 0 – 27.5 percent. And Colombia tax residents are liable to a progressive tax on their worldwide income ranging between 0 – 33 percent.

We looked at filing income taxes in Colombia in 2017. Colombia has many income deductions including deductions for expenses related to receiving your income, mortgage interest, health insurance, retirement savings and economic support of dependents. Also, foreign pensions (up to a limit) are reported exempt from taxes in Colombia.

In addition, in Colombia, you can exclude 25 percent of your salary (up to a limit) from income taxes. Also, some income taxes paid in another country are subtracted from income taxes due in Colombia.

Property taxes in Colombia typically range from 0.3 to 3.3 percent. In Brazil, there is an annual property tax (IPTU) for properties that varies depending on the size of the home and typically ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 percent.

The standard VAT (IVA tax) tax is the same in Rio de Janeiro and Colombia, which is currently at 19 percent for many items.

13. Job Opportunities – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro wins here. Rio de Janeiro is a much larger city with a metro population that has about three times the population of Medellín. So, clearly there are many more job opportunities in Rio de Janeiro.

Both Rio de Janeiro and Medellín haver several very large employers and several multinational companies have offices in both cities that are headquartered in the U.S.

But there aren’t that many work opportunities in either place for foreigners. This is particularly the case in Rio de Janeiro if you don’t speak Portuguese fluently and Medellín if you don’t speak Spanish fluently. Fluency in the local language is typically required for the best jobs in both Brazil and Colombia.

Also, to work in either Brazil or Colombia will require a visa.

14. Expat Community and Expat Friendly – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín arguably wins here. The expat community in Rio de Janeiro varies depending on the time of the year. During the winter in North America, some snow birds come to Rio de Janeiro.

The expat community in Medellín is possibly smaller but unfortunately there aren’t reliable statistics for Medellín or Rio de Janeiro. However, I would estimate there may be less than 5,000 expats from North America and Europe living in Medellín.

But the expat community in Medellín is much better organized than in Rio de Janeiro. For example, Medellín has large expat groups on Facebook like Medellin Expats with over 16,000 members and hundreds of posts and comments each day.  Also, Medellín has the Digital Nomads Medellin Facebook group with over 5,600 members.

Rio de Janeiro has the Foreigners in Rio de Janeiro Facebook group with about 6,200 members but it has less than 10 posts per day. Also, there is the American Expats/Friends Living in Rio de Janeiro Facebook group with only about 1,000 members. But it’s not very active averaging less than a post per day. In addition, I couldn’t find a Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad group on Facebook.

Furthermore, in Medellín there are many regularly organized meetups for expats each week. Three expats I met in the past year in Medellín that used to live in Rio de Janeiro both told me there aren’t nearly as many regularly organized meetups in the Rio de Janeiro for expats as there are in Medellín.

Finally, Colombia is rated as an expat friendly country by InterNations. In 2018 when looking at the best and worst places for expats, InterNations ranked Brazil as one of the least expat friendly countries – #65 out of 68 countries. And Colombia is ranked #9.

Rio de Janeiro may have a larger expat community at some times of the year due to being a popular vacation place. But the expat community in Medellín looks to be much better organized. And Colombia is ranked as a much friendlier country for expats. So, Medellín arguably wins this category.

15. Education Options – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro arguably wins here. Rio de Janeiro has over 60 universities while Medellín has about 40 universities. And Rio de Janeiro has many Portuguese language programs available for foreigners.

In addition, Medellín has many Spanish language programs available for foreigners.  Also, Medellín has Universidad EAFIT, which reportedly has the largest university Spanish language program in Colombia for foreigners.

Furthermore, Rio de Janeiro has over 20 bilingual schools for children, which is more bilingual schools than are found in Medellín.

Both cities have many university choices, many language programs for foreigner and several bilingual schools. But Rio de Janeiro edges out Medellín in this category due to being a larger city with more university and bilingual school options available.

16. Internet Availability and Infrastructure Reliability – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

The two cities tie here.  In Medellín and Rio de Janeiro, it is possible to get similar high-speed Internet.

In Medellín, it is possible to get up to 300 Mbps Internet speed from Claro. In addition, up to 150 Mbps speed is available from Tigo-UNE and up to 40 Mbps from Movistar.

Most buildings in Medellín will have service from at least one of these three providers. And all three providers in Medellín provide triple-play Internet/TV/phone services. Also, we have a guide to Internet and cable TV providers in Medellín.

In Rio de Janeiro, it is possible to get up to 300 Mbps Internet speed from Vivo, 240 Mbps from NET and up to 90 Mbps speed is available from TIM. And these providers all offer triple-play Internet/TV/phone services.

Furthermore, the highest speed Internet in both cities will normally be available only in the newest apartment buildings. In older buildings, you may be limited to lower speeds.

In terms of other infrastructure like electricity and water, the two places are similar. In both places and electricity and water services are generally reliable.

17. Economic Freedom, Ease of Starting a Business and Corruption – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín wins here. Since both places are in different countries it is good to compare the countries in terms economic freedom and ease of starting a business as well as corruption when considering them as places to live.

The Heritage Foundation ranks countries in terms of economic freedom. It ranks Colombia as a “moderately free country”. It ranks Colombia #42 out of the 180 countries it ranks in terms of economic freedom in the world.

Heritage Foundation ranks Brazil much lower than Colombia with a “mostly unfree country. It currently ranks Brazil #150 out of 180 countries in terms of economic freedom.

Brazil has a bloated and overly centralized federal government, which has been crushing economic freedom for decades in Brazil.

In terms of ease of doing business, Colombia is ranked #65. And Brazil is ranked #109 in terms of ease of doing business. So, it’s generally easier to do business in Colombia.

Corruption is found in both countries. Brazil is ranked #105 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption perception by Transparency International. And Colombia is ranked #96. So, corruption is perceived to be somewhat worse in Brazil.

Since Colombia ranks better than Brazil in terms of economic freedom, ease of doing business and corruption perception, Medellín wins this category.

The Viva Envigado Mall in Envigado

The Viva Envigado Mall in Envigado

18. Shopping – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

The two cities arguably tie here.  Both Medellín and Rio de Janeiro have many shopping options.

We have looked at 22 malls in Medellín including the 13 best malls in Medellín. There are five malls in Medellín with at least 400 shops each.

For example, Santafé mall is one of the largest malls in Medellín with over 400 shops. And in October 2018, Viva Envigado, the largest mall in Colombia opened in Envigado, directly south of Medellín, which also has about 400 shops.

Rio de Janeiro also has many malls. But on a per capita basis, Medellín appears to have more malls.

Inside Barra Shopping in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Eduardo P

Inside Barra Shopping in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Eduardo P

The largest mall in Rio de Janeiro is Barra Shopping, which is a huge shopping center in the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood with over 600 shops.  Other malls in Rio de Janeiro include Shopping Nova America, Shopping Tijuca, shopping Rio Sul, Shopping Leblon, Shopping Village Mall and Shopping Recreio.

The bottom line is that both cities have many malls and many shopping options.

19. English Proficiency Levels – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro wins here. Rio de Janeiro tends to have more locals that speak English than locals that speak English in Medellín.

Rio de Janeiro is a major tourist location that caters to tourists from around the world. So, English is more frequently used.

In Medellín you will find some English speakers in hotels and nicer restaurants. And some of the taxi drivers and shopkeepers in Medellín speak some English. Also, executives at larger companies typically are bilingual.

But in everyday life in Medellín you will be more challenged to find English speakers than in Rio de Janeiro.

Education First ranks Brazil as #53 in its English Proficiency Index with a score of 50.93, which means a low level of English proficiency. And Colombia is ranked #60 with a score of 48.90, which is also a low level of proficiency (a higher number signifies that more people speak English).

But not everyone in Rio de Janeiro speaks English. If you want to be able to speak to all the locals in Rio de Janeiro you will need some Portuguese. But Spanish is needed more in Medellín.

20. Learning the Language – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín arguably wins here. For those wanting to integrate, learning Portuguese is reportedly considered to be somewhat more difficult to learn than learning Spanish. Some expats that move to a foreign country want to learn the local language to better integrate and be fully self-sufficient.

In addition, Spanish has more native speakers than Portuguese. And Spanish is spoken in many more countries than Portuguese. Spanish is the most spoken language in the world after English in terms of the number of countries.

Since Spanish is considered somewhat easier to learn and is more widely used in the world, Medellín arguably wins this category.

21. Ease of Getting a Visa – Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro

Medellín arguably wins this category. Colombia and Brazil both have a number of visa options. And the visa processes for both countries are fairly straightforward.

However, Brazil’s visas generally have higher income and investment requirements and take longer to get.

For example, a retirement visa in Brazil requires a pension income of at least 6,000 Brazilian reals, which is about $1,610 USD at the current exchange rate.

In comparison the Colombia retirement visa in 2019 only requires a monthly pension income of 2,484,348 Colombian pesos (COP) per month ($809 USD at the exchange rate of 3,070 COP to USD).

The Brazil investment visas also have higher investment requirements than the Colombia investment visas. For example, a business investment visa in Brazil requires an investment of over $134,000 USD compared to about $27,000 USD in Colombia.

Colombia streamlined its visa process a couple years ago and you can apply online, fewer documents are required and approvals are now relatively fast, typically in about a week or two. And visas in Brazil reportedly can take at least a month to receive.

Also, Brazil requires visas for citizens from the U.S., Canada, Australia and other countries to enter Brazil as a tourist. There is a new e-Visa for tourists to Brazil from the U.S., Australia, Canada or Japan, which streamlines this but it’s still a hassle a visa isn’t isn’t needed for most tourists going to Colombia.

Medellín wins this category due to Colombia having lower income requirements and lower investment requirement needed for visas than in Brazil. Also due to no visa being needed for tourists to enter Colombia from the U.S., Canada and Australia.

The Medellin Guru City and Place Comparisons 

We have compared on the Medellin Guru website:

Rio de Janeiro at night, photo by Peteris

Rio de Janeiro at night, photo by Peteris

The Bottom Line: Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro 

In our Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison:

  • Medellín wins in 9 of our 21 categories.
  • Rio de Janeiro wins in 7 of our 21 categories.
  • The two cities tie in 5 categories.

So, in this unscientific and somewhat subjective Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison of 21 categories, Medellín beats Rio de Janeiro if you equally weigh the categories. But it really comes down to which categories are more important for you.

For example, if having a lower cost of living, “eternal spring” climate, better healthcare and proximity to the U.S. are your most important categories, then Medellín would win for you.

And if having beaches, less pollution, more things to do, a bigger restaurant selection and more English spoken are your most important categories, then Rio de Janeiro would win for you.

Both of these places in our Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison have their pluses and minuses. I prefer living in Medellín due to it having an eternal spring climate year-round, low cost of living, good healthcare and proximity to the U.S.

The bottom line in our Medellín vs Rio de Janeiro comparison is that the best place to live is the best place to live for you. Everyone has different priorities. The only way to know which place is the best for you is to spend time there.

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