Every now and then, I come across drunk-out-of-their-mind posts from expats on the cost of living in Colombia. Yes, they say about $1800 USD is what a backpacker would need per month in Colombia, and a backpacker with a girlfriend some $4000 USD.
And then people who are living nicely and people who are just slaying it.
Take some time to process that.
And then there are those who have seen Narcos or some other crime series about Colombia and that’s the Colombia they know. But that’s another conversation. Another article.
The truth is that you would love Colombia today, things have improved, the cost of living is extremely affordable, renting or owning property is within reach.
Questions to Ask Yourself before Calculating Cost of Living in Colombia
Like any country, the cost of living Colombia depends on what you consider appropriate living.
Are you planning on living Gringo zones? Like Parque de la 93 in Bogota?
Is it barebones living or a decent lifestyle or luxury living?
Are you earning in USDs or Euros or in Colombian Pesos?
Do you speak Spanish?
Are you single?
And finally, do you need imported steak every month? Or do you like arepas or empanadas.
If you want to live like a Colombian with basic necessities, you will be totally fine with 2 million COPs (USD 600.) If you want to live in high-end areas (estrato 5-6), eat out every day etc you will need much more than that.
How Much Does Accommodation Cost in Colombia?
I once had some expats asking me about the average rent in Colombia. They also thought that Colombians spoke Portuguese. Can’t really blame them.
The rent in Colombia can vary from one city to another, and then across different neighborhoods in the same city, like in any other country.
Don’t rent from an ad from one of those expat groups on Facebook and complain about paying gringo price.
Go to a Facebook group like Bogota Short Term Rentals or other groups popular with Colombians, post your query in Spanish using Google Translate and you would get a lot of good offers.One factor you take into consideration is the estrato number which does have an effect on the cost of accommodation in Colombia.
For example, the utility bills for an estrato 6 area will be higher than an estrato 3 area. A higher estrato neighborhood means a better lifestyle, better safety, and a higher cost of living.
The above room with attached bathroom, a study area and a shared kitchen in an apartment very close to a Transmilenio station in Chapinero, cost me 850,000 COP per month. I had to share the kitchen and living room with 4 more people, but my room was pretty big.
I was able to rent apartments on sharing basis in Chapinero Alto, El Parkway, and Calle 45 neighborhoods in Bogota for 600,000-900,000 COPs ($200-300 USD), with a shared kitchen and attached bath.
I found all of these through the Bogotá rentals Facebook group and Airbnb.
Colombia Food Prices: Is Colombia Cheap for Food?
The food prices in Colombia are on the lower side. Cooking at home definitely beats eating out, but if you eat out, you will be fine as long as you are not going to those high-end places.
Eating out in Colombia
Breakfast in Colombia
You can have breakfast with arepas, empanadas and tons of other things in a panaderia in your neighborhood for 3000-6000 COPs.
Menu del dia in Colombia
Menú del día is a set lunchtime menu that usually includes soup, a main meal and juice, and a dessert most of the time. Take advantage of menú del día in Colombia and you are gold.
In Bogota, I could easily a menú del día options for around 9-12k COP (3-4 USDs), but I’ve seen some as low as 6000 COPs in Bogota. Same goes for coastal regions like Santa Marta and other rural areas, maybe even lower.
Buying Grocery in Colombia
You really would save a lot of money and get better quality of food if you buy from a farmers market. There are farmers’ markets on Saturdays in lots of areas. Find one near you. For staple food, El Exito and La Carulla are more expensive than D1 or Justo Y Bueno.
Transport Costs in Colombia
The cost of transport in Colombia is decent, if not cheaper than its neighbors like Ecuador, especially when you are taking buses. But yes, sometimes a bus to a certain destination can cost the same price as an internal flight.
Taking Buses in Colombia
When it comes to taking buses, I do believe sometimes it is way more expensive than it should be. For example, a 2-hour bus ride from Bogota to Paipa, a pueblo famous for its hot springs, would cost 24,000 COPS.
Buts still taking buses is often the only way to travel from one city to another. The quality of the coaches is definitely not luxury, but pretty decent. Local buses between small towns would be a bit cheaper.
What are the Low-Cost Airlines in Colombia?
The thing is that flights between popular cities are still very low. I once bought a flight from Cartagena to Bogota for New Year’s eve, barely 4 days before and I paid 90,000 COP( Less than $30 USD).
I know people who have flown from Bogota to Medellin for $15 USD over weekends.
Economy airlines like Viva Colombia and Avianca both offer low-cost flying options like Spirit Airlines in the United States. Do check out LATAM as well,