Breakdown Of My Monthly Costs In Colombia

Since deciding that the location-independent lifestyle is something I wanted to pursue, I’ve been more conscientious about my costs.

And, since coming back to Colombia, I’ve been enjoying a decent bit of cheaper living.

All told, Colombia isn’t cheap compared to other places in South America, but compared to the major cities of the US, you will find steep discounts in a number of things that make living here very attractive. (If you are coming from California or New York, for example, you can expect to spend a lot less than back home).

There are a few highlights of awesome value around town, too. I found a place that sells bottles of beer for 1300 COP, which is less than $1. You can find private salsa lessons for under $7 an hour. You can get lunch in many places for less than $4-$5.

Strict US Dollar numbers won’t always tell the story, as you need to pay attention to the exchange rates. which right now is a little less than 1800 COP / 1 USD. All in all, though, there is some great value in Colombia.

By The Numbers

Here is the breakdown of my approximate monthly costs while living in Medellin. This would be comparable to any single guy in his 20s or 30s who wants to set up shop down here. (Note: Colombians frequently use a decimal point instead of a comma to designate thousands):

500.000 COP – Rent

You can find a nice private room and bathroom for 500.000-600.000 COP, which is about $300-$350 dollars. This includes utilities and wi-fi (and for me, laundry as well!). Of course, you can find cheaper if you spend some time looking, and especially if you personally know someone who is renting a larger penthouse where you can rent one room.

The places I looked at that were cheaper than this, though, either didn’t have as much space, were more run-down, lacked a desk, or were not in great locations for walking everywhere.

900.000 COP – Food

My spending is higher here than it should be because I never cook, and don’t store more than snacks at the house. I essentially eat out twice a day, for around 12.000-15.000 COP a pop. Occasionally, I swing a free meal or a cheaper one, but I also occasionally eat 3 times in one day or eat somewhere expensive. It turns out to be about $15/day or $450/month.

65.000 COP – Taxi and Transportation

I walk most places I need to go, because I strategically chose the location of my apartment. But I need to take a taxi when I go out on the weekends, and normally its shared. As a point of reference, you can get pretty much anywhere in Medellin, even from the north to the south, for about 12.000-13.000 COP, or less. This is about $7-$8, but is really cheap if you split it among 3 people. (Many taxi rides are in the 5.000-8.000 COP range.)

200.000 COP – Fun & Excursions

One of the things I love about Medellin is that you can go out and have a good time for relatively cheap. I rarely spend more than 50.000 per weekend on night out with drinks and cover anywhere. Note: If you tend to buy the drinks inside the clubs and bars, they cost substantially more than if you buy them at a corner store.

65.000 COP – Cell Phone

I have a prepaid cell phone and it EATS UP cash like a pig. In Colombia, you charge a phone with peso amounts rather than minutes, and each call deducts a certain peso amount based on the number you call.

I could save money if I were on a plan, and theoretically I could just do everything through Skype and Google Voice… But it’s tough calling Colombians because they all have a Colombian number. I am also hesitant to carry around a smart phone because it might get stolen like what happened to Dave, or it might get broken, like what freakin’ happened to me.

Thus I have an el cheapo phone I bought in Bogotá and charge it with pesos about once a week. I am on the network Movistar, which is the most expensive, but I hear better and cheaper things about the network Tigo. Might make the switch in the future.

80.000 COP – Miscellaneous

I have to buy my own toilet paper in my apartment, as well as shower stuff, and a few other miscellaneous things. It doesn’t amount to more than 20.000 a week, hence the 80.000 per month number.

Total: 1810.000 COP

At a conversion rate of just under 1800 COP / 1 USD, this amounts to about $1020 per month, even with a relatively high food budget. This number could be a lot lower if I cooked my food at home, but it’s either the case that I’m too lazy, or I’m paying money not to have the hassle. Honestly it’s probably not going to change… 🙂


As a side note, I honestly don’t see how Colombia is going to be cheaper any time soon, especially as word continues to get out about it’s stunning beauty, great people, and vast resources.

If you are an American who is curious about this place, now is the time to come because this country is on its way up.

  • Glad I’m not the only one too lazy to cook for myself in Colombia!  

    • I try to get the ladies to cook for me as well, but so far they’ve been reluctant… 😉

  • I was in Colombia last year.  I was in Bogota with a friend.  I hope to return soon and visit Medellin.

    • Cool, Mark! Medellin is a great city.

  • Great article and absolutely true! I am a Colombian and the breakdown is very precise. Though I must say that you went to the high end with your meals, if you know where to go, you can dine way cheaper… If you’re going to do more traveling in Colombia, I wouldn’t recommend using Tigo as your cell phone carrier. They don’t have good coverage. I use Comcel and it’s pretty good. Have a good one! -Carolina.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Carolina… I love your country, but I’m totally spending too much money on food… Do you want to cook for me? 😉

  • yeah man, having Movistar will do you no good in Colombia unless you are south say in Cali.  In Medellin it’s all about Tigo and using Tigo will save you money bc a call from Movistar to Tigo costs 2x as much then Tigo to Tigo.

    Nice break down… now only if I could get my costs down as low as you man! 🙂

    • Good call man… In Bogotá, it seemed there were more people on Movistar and Comcel. In Medellin, looks like Tigo. Didn’t know about that 2x Movi to Tigo, but I was thinking as much. In fact, I recently had a girl send me a text which said, “No le escribo mas, pues los mensajes as su operador me salen muy caros.” This is not what you want to hear! jaja.

  • Hey Ryan!  I always dig these posts on cost of living in different countries.  It’s interesting to see the variation in prices.  I’m hoping to update the one I did for Indonesia as soon as I get on the ground there.  It’s nice that Internet is included in your rent.

    • Yea, Matt. I am all in favor of bundled services. The fewer payments the better… Excited for your trip, man!

  • Hi Ryan,
    Nice breakdown!  Wifi is a massive bonus.  I pay $70+ a month in AU for good Wifi – my Colombian wife is often annoyed because in Colombia she had internet+phone+cable TV for a fraction of the cost.  Live it up mate 😉 

    Y que los operadores se mejoren pronto – perdiendote amigas, asi no se puede!


    • Thanks for the comment, Tristan. The wifi here is generally reliable, too… at least in the places I’ve stayed. Y tienes razon, no debo perder amigas por los operadores! No se permitirá. 🙂

  • Your absolutely right about Columbia being noted by the backpacking community.  Since we started traveling in Central America, we’ve never met anyone who’d been there that hadn’t raved about it, and there are scores more that are headed there still, including us.

    • I’m sure you’ll have a great time, Mike. Part of me does want to keep Medellin all to myself, but I’m realizing you can’t keep a lid on such a good thing…

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  • aiyah fakkas

    Hi Ryan,
    This is great! My boyfriend and I are thinking about moving to Colombia and specifically Medellin. Was the apartment you found furnished? Or are most of the options unfurnished? Thanks!

    • You can find both. Airbnb has the best options for the initial arrival.

  • Jerrys Kidds

    Hi Ryan are you still down there. I see the last post was 3 yr’s ago. I am on a search to find someone as a wife I hope. I have done a lot of reading and research. using a web site to contact but seems rather, well not really a good approach . I cannot live there I have a full time job any ideas???

  • Bull Winkle

    I spent 3 days looking for Tigo. Most of their outlets have been taken over by Claro. Many Claro stores only sell phones & data cards, and allow you to pay bills. So I wasted a lot of time on these two. I finally got Tigo. With data to spare, internet service would disappear, as well as calling. Then I went to Movistar in Poblado. Incredible. So helpful. Best service, spacious, courteous, professional. It may cost more but it’s worth it for continual service & ease.

  • artistica101

    Thanks for the info! I’m just getting started looking at Medellin ….