Cost of Living in Colombia in 2024: Full Breakdown

Colombia is an incredible country that offers expats a wonderful quality of life at a fraction of the cost faced by others in Europe or the US.

Originally from the UK, I have lived in Medellin for 15 years and loved my time here. In this article I will outline some of the key monthly expenses and give advice on how you can maximize your budget to make the most of your time here in my favorite place on earth.

In Brief

Low budget Medium Budget
Accommodation US$210 – 260 US$350 – 510
Utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet) US$45 – 55 US$70 – 95
Food US$200 – 350 US$500
Groceries US$90 – 130 US$140 – 200
Transportation US$80 – 90 US$250
Entertainment US$45 – 55 US$55 – 100
Cell Phone US$13 US$24
Healthcare US$20 – 55 US$55 – 100
Miscellaneous US$45 – 55 US$55 – 100
TOTAL US$759 – 1,063 US$1,499 – 1,879


This will be by far your biggest expense in Colombia and it is definitely worth broadening your horizons if you are looking to manage your budget.

For example, rental costs in Poblado (Medellin) have doubled in many areas over the past 5 years.

The influx of foreign visitors and migrants to the most expensive areas of the city has pushed up rent while salaries have struggled to keep up with inflation.

The Colombian peso is currently particularly weak against foreign currencies such as the dollar, the pound or the euro.

This may mean you are willing to overpay to have maximum comfort plus easy access to the most exclusive bars, restaurants, gym, coffee shops and amenities.

Chances are you will still feel prices are reasonable compared to what you paid at home.

That said, I would always recommend looking beyond the most expensive neighborhoods which have pockets that are filled with tourists, hotels and workers.

Alternatives to Poblado in Medellin:

  • Laureles is a far more affordable option which also has excellent restaurants in the heart of Medellin.
  • You could also look south to Envigado, a very short drive or metro journey to Poblado but cheaper and with a stronger community feel
  • The same goes for somewhere such as Belen which runs just alongside Laureles and has close access to all of the same amenities

Every neighborhood will have its charms with pros and cons. I would initially recommend sticking to popular options such as Poblado, Laureles, Envigado, Belén or Floresta in Medellin for example.

Unfurnished apartment rental Furnished apartment rental Airbnb
1 bedroom apartment in Medellin (Poblado or Laureles) US$300-$1,000 US$500-$1,500 US$280-$1,200
2 bedroom apartment in Medellin (Poblado or Laureles) US$350-$1,200 US$600-$1,800 US$300-$1,500
1 bedroom apartment in Bogota (Chapinero) US$300-$1,000 US$550-$1,800 US$400-$1,200
2 bedroom apartment in Bogota (Chapinero) US$350-$1,500 US$600-$2,000 US$4500-$1,500
1 bedroom apartment in Cartagena (Centro) US$400-$1,300 US$500-$2,000 US$500-$2,000
2 bedroom apartment in Cartagena (Centro) US$500-$2,000 US$550-$2,500 US$550-$2,500

Unfurnished Apartment Rental

As a foreigner renting an unfurnished apartment from an estate agent in Colombia is very difficult.

The agency will have a third party investigate your ability to pay the rent which focuses on income and expenses from a Colombian bank account in your name.

You will have to show you earn double the total monthly amount of the lease as well as arranging for a resident to act as a guarantor. Your guarantor will also need to earn double the monthly rent and agree to take legal responsibility if you don’t pay.

This protection means that usually rental deposits for unfurnished apartments are very small. If you fail to meet the requirements then it may be possible to pay a more substantial deposit but this will usually be decided by the third party and can be 4 or 5 times the monthly rent.

It is still possible to rent directly from the apartment owner although in the more expensive areas of the country this is now less common.

If you have a good level of Spanish or a friend who can help you can speak to doormen about available options in their building or check apartment windows for orange signs with phone numbers.

If the owner trusts you then this is the cheapest and most painless way to rent an unfurnished apartment for a good price.

Furnished Apartment Rental

Furnished apartments can be rented for per month and often don’t require a long-term commitment. 

You also have the benefit of not having to buy furniture and if you shop around you may find it is a cheaper option.

Facebook marketplace and various groups on Facebook have individuals offering rental apartments.

💡 My tip: Always visit in person, check references and never pay a deposit in advance. This can be an excellent option but if it seems too good to be true it probably is.


Airbnbs are now all over Colombia’s major cities with swanky high-end offerings to very affordable options in less affluent areas.

Some buildings prohibit Airbnbs and often you will find in the nicer areas many of the apartments available are in the same building.

While this is not a recommended long-term option, unless you can negotiate something with the owner, this can be a good choice for the first few weeks while you find your feet.


All of Colombia’s major cities such as Medellin, Bogota, Cali and Barranquilla have an ‘estrato’ system.

This was introduced in the mid-1990s to provide subsidies on utilities, education, cultural activities and public services for those living in poorer neighborhoods with those in more expensive areas of the town paying extra.

Estratos 5 and 6 receive a discount, estrato 4 pays the standard rate while estratos 1, 2 and 3 pay extra on a sliding scale.

In theory, apartments in the top tier estratos are in the most modern areas of the city with best access to public services. That said, the amount you pay for utilities can be up to 40% higher depending on where you live.

Groceries and shopping

1 apple US$0.52
1L of milk US$0.87
Bread US$0.65
12 eggs US$2.03
500g of rice US$0.39
1kg of spaghetti US$1.35
6 pack of beer US$3.53

The minimum wage in Colombia in 2024 is around US$285 per month which has to cover food, accommodation and utilities.

This should give an indication of how far your budget could potentially stretch if you bought popular locally-produced staples from markets and cheap supermarkets.

There are markets which can be an excellent option for buying affordable and high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.

The country has a range of supermarkets which vary quite significantly in price.

For example, Exito is generally far cheaper for most products than Carulla.

You can also buy in bulk from large cash and carry stores such as Makro and PriceSmart. These can require customers to pay for a membership and while there are significant savings to be made on some products, I often find I leave buying lots of things I don’t actually want.

You can order shopping from any of the supermarkets using apps such as Rappi. Rappi also offers a Turbo service where they will deliver a more limited range of goods from small warehouses they have around the city in 10-12 minutes. Delivery fees are generally very low and often not more than US$2.


Menu of the day at a local restaurant US$2
Menu at McDonald’s US$4.50
Mexican restaurant in Laureles (Medellin) US$3 – $7
Vegan restaurant US$3 – $7
Breakfast at Starbucks US$4.50
Beer in a bar US$1.50 – $3
Cocktail in a bar US$4 – $8

Most restaurants will offer a “menu of the day” which offers excellent value and usually good quality local ingredients.

This typically includes a soup starter, a local fresh juice and a typical main that could include rice, vegetables, kidney beans and protein (meat, chicken or fish).

Depending on the neighborhood you can usually get a filling local dish for just a couple of dollars or less.


The quality, speed, comfort and scale of public transportation varies significantly in each of Colombia’s major cities.

Medellin has two very clean elevated metro lines which are supplemented by 6 cable car lines that connect poorer neighborhoods in the hills, a tram line and a bus rapid transit system.

Medellin also has conventional buses which stop wherever they are flagged down along their route. All public transport journeys can be paid for with a Civica which can be topped up online, in select stores or at metro stations.

A journey on public transportation in Medellin costs US$0.70 and you only pay once as you enter the network. This means you could get the metro from Poblado to Popular station and then change to the Line K cable car up to Santo Domingo and only pay once.

Bogota, on the other hand, has a BRT system called the Transmilenio, conventional buses and still unfulfilled dreams of the first Metro de Bogota line.

Traffic at rush hour can be a real challenge and dedicated bus lines of the cramped Transmilenio are the only ways to speed up your journey. The Transmilenio costs around US$0.70 per journey while conventional buses are US$0.60.

Every city in Colombia has ample yellow taxis which can be flagged down or booked through apps such as Cabify. I

t is now also possible to book a conventional taxi on the Uber app in some cities. All of the Apps are available in English and Spanish. It can be reassuring to be sure where you are going, the route and a fixed price.

Most cities now have taxi meters which show the final amount which you will pay. There is a minimum fare for very short journeys which is around US$1.50 and most journeys in the city will be less than US$5.

Some airports outside of the city have a fixed rate, such as Medellin’s international airport which costs around US$20.

Uber is available in most cities and is generally a very good option. Prices are very similar to those of taxi companies but can fluctuate depending on demand. An Uber will usually be with you within 5 minutes in major cities.

Considering Uber? Read my article Uber in Colombia: Important Info + Safety Tips

Cell Phone Options

There are a range of cell phone companies in Colombia and all offer monthly contracts or pay-as-you-go options. To get a contract you will need a national ID card and a bank account which means most visitors will pay for data and messages in advance.

A SIM card can be purchased at most supermarkets or phone shops. You can pay an amount which will be deducted upon usage of calls, messages or data or pay for unlimited calls, messages and data for a set period of time.

Monthly costs can range from around US$9 per month up to around US$24 for unlimited calls, data and messaging.

You can get calls, unlimited messages and 60GB of data for US$13.

Public Services and Utilities

Low budget Medium budget
Electricity US$15 US$35
Water US$8 US$13
Gas US$3 US$12
Internet US$19 US$35

Utilities are delivered by regional state-owned providers such as EPM in Medellin or FENOSA in Bogota.

Prices are based upon consumption with a fixed rate for usage.

Depending on the estrato of the property this rate can be subsidized or an additional surcharge can be added.

Some furnished rental agreements will include all expenses while others will expect tenants to manage and pay their consumption. Usually, this will be added to the set monthly rent.

Healthcare and hospitals

Healthcare in Colombia’s major cities is generally of a very good standard. In a 2022 study, Colombia’s system was ranked in 37th place, only two spots behind the US.

The country also has 26 of the top-ranked hospitals in Latin America.

Every resident of Colombia is expected to contribute to EPS, the country’s national universal healthcare system. The cost of coverage equates to 12% of an individual’s monthly wage, with a third of this cost paid for by their employer.

In addition to obligatory state EPS coverage, 5.9% of the Colombian population pays extra for a “prepaid” medical service.

This costs between US$50 and US$200 per month depending on the level of coverage as well as medical history and age of the individual.

This offers benefits such as shorter waiting times, access to specialists and private rooms.

Medellin is also a world leader in many forms of cosmetic surgery and thousands of foreigners travel to the country each year for elective procedures.

Cost of living in different cities in Colombia

According to a survey by international consultancy Living Cost, Cartagena is the most expensive city in Colombia followed by Bogota and Medellin.

The study found that for a single person living alone and covering all expenses, US$461 would be needed for accommodation and services, US$177 for food, US$84.4 for transport.

A family of four would need US$1,637 per month.

The reason Cartagena is particularly expensive is due to the high cost of rent, the study for accommodation in Bogota was US$306 with bills while Medellin was US$290.

Sogamoso in Cauca, on the other hand, was the cheapest with US$325 enough for a month while Popayán was US$330 and Maicao in La Guajira was US$342.

The study gives a good comparison of which regions are cheapest but the prices stated are well above what is typical for a family in one of the poorer areas of the city.

The minimum wage in the country is around US$262 per month and there are people living in major cities who are able to just about get by on this amount.

Sogamoso US$325
Cali US$336
Barranquilla US$391
Bucaramanga US$396
Medellín US$400
Bogotá US$432
Cartagena US$461

Final Thoughts

The current exchange rate means that visiting and living in Colombia will be a very affordable option for many in Europe and North America.

There are many ways to make savings and it really comes down to how you see your life here.

If you are open to living outside of the three or four most popular cities then there are alternatives where your money will go further.

For example:

  • If you like the idea of Medellin then maybe consider Pereira which has a similar culture and climate but is a smaller, more affordable alternative.
  • If you want a city on the pitch, maybe consider swapping Cartagena for Santa Marta where rent is far cheaper.

Even within your chosen city, there are big opportunities to make savings if you look beyond the neighborhoods with the highest number of tourists.

You can cut your rent by 30%+ immediately if you switch from Poblado to Envigado which is just further down the road to the south.

If you like to eat out then finding a restaurant with great “meal of the day” options will save you hundreds of dollars a year.

There is always a nice rotation of good, healthy dishes with fresh ingredients. There are fancy restaurants with international options that you should enjoy but learning to enjoy well-made, simple Colombian food with top-quality ingredients regularly will massively cut your spending.

Being safe and careful is important, particularly as you get settled, but I would strongly recommend venturing beyond the tourist-filled centers of Colombia’s major cities.

This will mean you can really connect with Colombia’s amazing culture and the great warmth of the country’s people.

You will also find bars, restaurants, clubs and museums that are far more affordable and rich in the culture of the barrios.

It is very likely that your basic monthly expenses will shrink as you settle in and then you will have more to splurge on amazing new experiences in this incredible country.

infographic Cost of living in Colombia
Infographic “Cost of living in Colombia”


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