Cost of Living in Medellin Colombia - Plaza of Lights

Cost of Living for a Month in Medellin

I’ve been diligently tracking my spending over the last month as part of my effort to understand how much I am spending per month–a key piece of information in my goal to cover 100% of my expenses in Medellin, Colombia.

I guestimated my expense needs to be about $600 per month for my housing and utilities and about $20 per day (or $600 per month) for my food and other day to day needs, for a total of $1,200 needed per month.

Turns out I was pretty much spot on.

A few notes about my lifestyle because you could certainly live for cheaper here, and you could easily spend lots more.

I eat out fairly regularly–usually twice per day–and almost only cook breakfast. I don’t feel like I splurge excessively here, but I don’t certainly don’t want for anything. If I want to eat out, I do it, if I want to take a cab, I do.

That being said, I’m used to a minimalist, backpacker sort of lifestyle (heck, I lived in my truck last year–everything feels like splurging). I eat at the typical Colombian restaurants and am not going out to fancy places unless there is a reason to do so.

I’m not going out to party, rumbear, and drink all the time. Not all that often lately, in fact.

I go out with my girlfriend to do things. It isn’t a “the gringo pays for everything” type of relationship at all, as costs are readily shared–hey, she makes more than me! She’ll buy dinner sometimes, I’ll buy dinner sometimes.

We also are perfectly happy staying in and watching Breaking Bad (dubbed in Spanish) on Netflix, while trying to travel and get out of town on the weekends.

TOTAL random aside: they are remaking Breaking Bad in Colombia with Walter Blanco, set in Bogota, cooking meth in an old bus instead of RV. I’m so excited to watch that version as well…

All those things are just to say that your cost of living here is probably going to be quite different depending on your lifestyle.

My splurges compared to my lifestyle of last year would obviously be having the big three-bedroom apartment (which I rent out on Airbnb to reduce my costs), having a cleaning lady come in once per week, as well as eating out much more frequently.

On to the results.

Overall in a 31 day period from mid-July to mid-August I spent 2.251.708 pesos, which was about $1,173.31 at the time.

Just under my predicted amount.

Cost of Living Medellin, Colombia

Food – $372.79
$12.03 per day
Dining out, groceries, coffee and drinks, snacks.

House Stuff – $626.64
$20.21 per day
Rent, utilities, cleaner, washing machine rental, misc. supplies.
* Important to note that this cost is drastically less in reality due to my Airbnb rentals. See how I live rent free with Airbnb and my most recent income report here.

Transportation – $61.64
$1.99 per day
Buses, metro, taxi, parking

Travel – $106.51
$53.25 average for two long weekend trips
Includes cost of gas, tolls, camping, activities and all purchases except for the food we brought with us.

Observations

Just living in a hostel you would be paying $12.50 per night for a dorm room bunk-bed. I have a place that I can rent out and subsidize my costs for just $8 more per day. But of course, I had to pay for furnishings up front.

In reality, food is my biggest expense since I am subsidizing my housing. I’m not fully convinced that I would dramatically reduce my food prices by eating out less. An average meal costs around $4 for a soup, salad, entree, drink, and various sides. I couldn’t be bothered to make something equivalent.

For a comparison of eating out at breakfast: I can go out for $3 and get eggs, an arepa with cheese, small piece of meat, and coffee–I can make the same thing at home (minus the meat, which I don’t regularly buy) for about the same price but for four or five days.

Breakfast is easy though, I prefer making breakfast and having coffee at home usually. Lunch and dinner are just more work.

I could (and for health/fitness reasons, should) cut down on the postres (desserts), soda, and things like that though.

I will continue to track my spending and see if this month was an aberration or the norm.

Details of Spending

* Sometimes the dates are messed up, since it is listed as the date I entered it, not when I spend it. I tried to ensure accuracy of dates, but there may be some errors, otherwise there is a full 31 days captured. Also, dates with no activity are travel gaps, most likely, with just a single entry.

DATE ITEM CATEGORY PESOS DOLLARS
7/20 Arepas Food 3600 $1.88
7/20 Dinner At Frisby Food 10200 $5.31
7/20 Brownie Postre Food 2000 $1.04
7/21 Breakfast Food 2200 $1.15
7/21 Coca Cola Food 2600 $1.35
7/21 Sandwich And Drink Food 10400 $5.42
7/21 Dinner With Andrea Family Food 20000 $10.42
7/21 Nuts and bolts to fix bed House 2200 $1.15
7/21 Boric Acid House 3600 $1.88
7/21 Homecenter Parts House 2950 $1.54
7/21 Haircut Personal 11000 $5.73
7/21 Metro Transportation 1900 $0.99
7/22 Lunch Food 7000 $3.65
7/22 Dinner Food 25000 $13.03
7/22 Pepsi Mini Food 1000 $0.52
7/22 Brownie Food 1800 $0.94
7/22 Metro X2 Transportation 3800 $1.98
7/23 Coffee At Pergamino Food 5800 $3.02
7/23 Lunch Food 9000 $4.69
7/23 Beers Food 6000 $3.13
7/23 Dinner Food 7000 $3.65
7/23 Taxi To Parque Lleras for job interview Transportation 11000 $5.73
7/23 Bus Transportation 1700 $0.89
7/24 Breakfast Food 2800 $1.46
7/24 Lunch Food 7500 $3.91
7/24 Dinner At El Corral Food 19100 $9.95
7/24 Cleaning Lady House 30000 $15.63
7/25 Lunch Food 8500 $4.43
7/25 Two Empanadas for dinner Food 1400 $0.73
7/25 Breakfast Stuff Food 6200 $3.23
7/26 Beer And Snacks Food 5000 $2.61
7/26 Snacks And Drinks Food 3400 $1.77
7/26 Ice Cream Food 9500 $4.95
7/26 Taxi to Los Molinos Transportation 5000 $2.61
7/27 Buñuelos Food 1200 $0.63
7/27 Almuerzo Food 24500 $12.77
7/27 Exito Stuff Food 58360 $30.41
7/27 Overnight Parking Transportation 7000 $3.65
7/28 Arepas Food 1100 $0.57
7/28 Lunch Food 7500 $3.91
7/28 Dunkaccino Food 4500 $2.34
7/29 Lunch Food 8500 $4.43
7/29 Dinner Food 8000 $4.17
7/30 Lunch Food 7500 $3.91
7/30 Pizza For Two Food 38569 $20.10
7/30 Brownie Food 1800 $0.94
7/30 Rent House 850000 $442.92
7/30 Metro Transportation 1900 $0.99
7/30 Metro Transportation 1900 $0.99
8/1 Guarapo Food 500 $0.26
8/1 Lunch Food 9000 $4.69
8/1 Dinner Food 19400 $10.11
8/1 Cleaning Lady House 35000 $18.24
8/1 Washing Machine House 12000 $6.25
8/1 Bus Transportation 1700 $0.89
8/1 Bus Transportation 1800 $0.94
8/1 Bus Transportation 1800 $0.94
8/2 Cervezas Food 5000 $2.61
8/2 Lunch Food 7500 $3.91
8/2 Taxi Transportation 14500 $7.56
8/2 Metro Transportation 1900 $0.99
8/3 Bunuelos Y Cafe Food 1900 $0.99
8/3 Pastel De Pollo Food 2000 $1.04
8/3 Bus To Alpujarra Transportation 1700 $0.89
8/3 Metro Transportation 1900 $0.99
8/3 Taxi Transportation 4500 $2.34
8/3 Other Taxi Transportation 10000 $5.21
8/4 Torta At Astor Food 7650 $3.99
8/4 Beers And Snack Food 7500 $3.91
8/4 Frisnack Food 10200 $5.31
8/4 Bus Transportation 1700 $0.89
8/4 Bus Transportation 1700 $0.89
8/5 Lunch Food 7500 $3.91
8/5 Exito Camping Food Supplies for Rio Claro Food 126650 $65.99
8/5 Coke And Brownie Food 4500 $2.34
8/5 Taxi Transportation 4500 $2.34
8/6 Lunch New Restaurant Food 5500 $2.87
8/6 Cleaning Lady And New Curtain House 50000 $26.05
8/6 Bus Transportation 1700 $0.89
8/6 Sabaneta Bus Transportation 1700 $0.89
8/7 Dinner Food 7500 $3.91
8/7 Coke Food 1500 $0.78
8/7 Cafe Food 1800 $0.94
8/7 Split Washing Machine House 5000 $2.61
8/11 Trip To Rio Claro Travel 108400 $56.48
8/11 Gatorade Food 2500 $1.30
8/11 Lunch For 2 Food 25000 $13.03
8/11 Breakfast At Blasu Food 6000 $3.13
8/11 Bunuelo Y Tinto Food 1200 $0.63
8/12 Breakfast Food 3300 $1.72
8/13 Breakfast At Blasu Food 6500 $3.39
8/13 Sandwich and Cafes Food 13000 $6.77
8/13 Dessert Food 3800 $1.98
8/14 Breakfast Food 4000 $2.08
8/14 Lunch Food 5500 $2.87
8/14 Cleaning Lady House 30000 $15.63
8/15 Dinner Pastries For Two Food 5000 $2.61
8/15 Breakfast Food 3800 $1.98
8/15 Dinner For Two Empanadas Y Bebidas Food 4400 $2.29
8/15 Jardin Trip Food Food 48000 $25.01
8/15 Wifi UNE Bill House 71828 $37.43
8/15 EPM Utility Bill House 110001 $57.32
8/15 Taxi Transportation 16000 $8.34
8/16 Coffee And Croissant Food 1600 $0.83
8/19 Lunch Food 7500 $3.91
8/19 Frisby Dinner Food 10200 $5.31
8/19 Taxi To Laureles Transportation 17000 $8.86
8/19 Jardin Trip Travel 96000 $50.02
      2.251.708 $1,173.31

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Colombia Travel Tips

Colombia Travel Tips

Important tips and resources for planning an amazing trip to Colombia, based on my years of traveling and living in Colombia.

Instructions

  1. Book a cheap flight to Colombia with Momondo, or better yet, start travel hacking so you can fly for free.
  2. Plan a rough itinerary and how long you will spend in each destination. Use an itinerary planning service for custom recommendations and/or pick up Lonely Planet Colombia.
  3. Work a little every day to teach yourself Spanish, you'll want to know as much as possible before you arrive.
  4. Book cheap accommodation in advance, at least for the first destinations -- For hostels use: Booking, for cheap hotels use: Hotels.com, for apartments use: Airbnb.
  5. Reserve your on the ground tours and activities through Get Your Guide.
  6. Purchase travel insurance for Colombia with World Nomads to protect yourself from illness, injury, and theft while in Colombia. VERY important. And be sure to read my article: "Is Colombia Safe?" for my honest opinion and safety tips.
  7. Sign up for my free emails about planning a better trip to Colombia, and be sure to check out my comprehensive guide about traveling to Colombia.
  8. Learn more money-saving tricks with my top budget travel tips.
  9. Put together your Colombia packing list.
  10. Enjoy this incredible country!

Notes

I hope this helped you plan your travels in Colombia! I know it can be a struggle to find accurate and on the ground information when traveling to a new place like Colombia, which is why I started writing so extensively about it!

If you have any questions about Colombia, budget travel, or anything else shoot me an email at ryan@desktodirtbag.com.

(I love getting questions! That is how I get ideas for my blog posts and what to write about!)

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Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West. Since then he set out traveling to Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. He just finished driving his old truck across all of South America. Follow the adventures on social media or read more about me.

Comments 9

  1. Avatar

    Thank you so much for this post! Have not been yet to Colombia, I’m planning my trip and stay there and this was, and I’m being deadly honest here, one of the most useful travelling articles that I have ever read! You provided so much information that is so useful for the ones like me!! Thank you so much! Now, I have a much clearer vision of how much money I need to be able to live in Medellin and what the prizes are!
    That is the most useful information I have found on the Internet in a while 🙂

    1. Avatar Post
      Author

      Thanks Ewa, I should put together an updated post… Things are even cheaper here now thanks to the exchange rate savings compared to 2014… Let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Avatar

    Honestly, 1.200 dollars per month is not dirtbag for me. Is a lot of money for a Colombian. I spend less than 500 us dollars living in Salento: out of the city, Close to the mountains style, riding my MTB everyday, paying 100 dollars of rent in the middle of the paradise!

    😉

    1. Avatar Post
      Author

      Yeah, it is certainly quite a bit for a Colombian. But I was actually spending less than that per month by renting out the apartment on Airbnb. Thus the reason for renting a three-bedroom apartment. The difficulty for gringos in Colombia is finding an affordable short term apartment that is available without the fiador requirement… That is really hard. Then you have to deal with furnishing the apartment, getting internet without a cedula… Not easy there, and thus more expensive for gringos than Colombians. Plus, of course, I was eating a lot, traveling, etc.

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