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In comparison to most major European or North American destinations, the cost of living in Brazil is decidedly low. Out of 227 destinations worldwide, São Paulo ranked 152nd and Rio de Janeiro 171st in the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. In actuality, many expats are surprised to learn that, relative to salaries, the cost of living in these cities is actually pretty high.
The dream of lying on a Brazilian beach sipping drinks from a coconut without a care in the world is quickly replaced by the reality of high prices – especially for expats not earning in a foreign currency. Of course, living in rural areas is significantly cheaper than living in large cities.
Expenses vary widely across categories. In general, accommodation, transportation and manufactured goods are pricey. Food costs depend largely on whether expats decide to eat out or cook at home. Services are relatively inexpensive because labour costs are low throughout the country.
Brazil has made significant strides in moving people out of extreme poverty over the past decade and in increasing income inequality. However, there are still vast disparities in wealth between the richest and the poorest. Expats earning an international salary will be among the wealthy, and even expats getting a local salary will still likely find that they are firmly upper-middle class.
Cost of accommodation in Brazil
Renting accommodation in Brazil is pricey and will likely be an expat’s biggest expense. Expats on an assignment from international companies may have a housing allowance to help offset the steep costs of housing.
One way to save on accommodation is to live in a less central location, although transportation costs generally increase as a result. In addition to the monthly rental fee, expats must also pay utilities such as electricity, water and internet.
Cost of groceries in Brazil
Food costs in Brazil vary. Restaurant meals are fairly expensive, while basic groceries are moderately priced. Expats who choose to eat at home can manage food costs more easily. Major cities have upscale grocery stores that carry a wide range of imported items.
Shopping at local markets for basics, such as bread, grains, produce and meat, yields the lowest grocery prices. Locally produced food is almost always more affordable. So, in cities on the coast, seafood will be more economical, while beef and pork will cost less in inland farming regions.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Brazil
Entertainment in Brazil can be relatively expensive for expats compared to some countries in South America, but it's still generally less expensive than in the US or Western Europe. As for entertainment, Brazil offers a variety of options, ranging from cultural events such as music and dance performances to outdoor activities and sports.
Nightlife is also an important aspect of Brazilian culture, with many bars and clubs offering live music, drinks and dancing. Outdoor festivals and events are also common and offer a lively and vibrant atmosphere for expats to experience.
Brazilians are lovers of beer and cachaça, the national liquor made from sugar cane. Both are readily available, as are a wide selection of wines and liquors. Prices for beer and wine are very reasonable, but imported liquors are costly. Expats can save money by purchasing some duty-free on their way into Brazil.
Cost of transport in Brazil
Transport expenses in Brazil are high. Cars cost much more in Brazil than in many other countries. Parking and insurance are also rather expensive. Expats can save on transport costs by making use of the extensive bus and metro systems in Brazil's major cities.
Cost of education in Brazil
Expats with children will find that education costs in Brazil will rival, if not exceed, their rental expenses. Public schools in Brazil generally have a bad reputation, so expats and Brazilians with the resources to do so almost always send their children to private schools.
International schools, most often found in large cities such as Rio de Janeiro, typically charge high fees. Most expat parents feel that the cost is well justified by excellent facilities, high teaching standards and a familiar, globally recognised curriculum.
Cost of healthcare in Brazil
Brazil offers free healthcare for all permanent residents and legal citizens. Still, most expats elect to use private healthcare in Brazil, as the country's public health system is underfunded and crowded. To do so, private medical insurance is highly recommended, although it can be fairly costly in Brazil. Those moving to the country on a work assignment are encouraged to negotiate a health insurance allowance as part of their contract.
Cost of living in Brazil chart
Prices may vary depending on location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices for São Paulo in February 2024.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
What do expats say about living costs in Brazil?
"The cost of living in Brazil is quite high. Manufactured goods are extremely expensive, and wealthy Brazilians in Belo Horizonte take shopping trips to Florida to save money. However, services (e.g. housekeeping, hairstyling) are much less costly here than in the US." Read more about Jennifer's expat experience in Brazil.
"As I live in São Paulo, everything is expensive. Especially if you compare the prices to salaries. I would say living in São Paulo is definitely more costly than living in Estonia when you want to maintain the same or a similar life standard. Moreover, wage gaps are extreme here." Dona shares her expat experiences in Brazil.
►For more about managing your finances while living in Brazil, see Banking, Money and Taxes in Brazil
Are you an expat living in Brazil?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Brazil. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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