The relatively low cost of living in Colombia is a major attraction for expats. Low taxes and the availability of first-world amenities make this South American gem a great pick for those looking for a high quality of life without many major expenses.

The cost of living in one of Colombia's smaller cities or rural areas is lower than in major cities such as Bogotá and Medellín. Services and locally produced goods tend to be affordable, while imported goods are more expensive. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranked Bogotá, Colombia's capital, 214th out of 227 cities. This ranking is much lower than many other major South American cities, including Buenos Aires (45th), Montevideo (54th) and São Paulo (152nd).

Colombia's significant wealth disparity means expats earning in a higher bracket can enjoy a lavish Western lifestyle, but pinching pennies when necessary is also possible. Foreign currencies afford expats great purchasing power compared to the Colombian Peso (COP).


Cost of accommodation in Colombia

Although rent is likely to be an expat's most significant monthly expense, the cost of accommodation in Colombia remains affordable. Expats should note that, while the cost of accommodation in Colombia is steadily rising as its economy develops, they're still likely to find a range of options to suit their budget, particularly if they earn in a foreign currency.

Most expats settle in houses or apartments in a small number of middle- to upper-class neighbourhoods in Bogotá and Medellín, but single expats and those on a budget may opt for a houseshare or flatshare to save on rent.


Cost of public transport in Colombia

The cost of travel in Colombia is on par with other South American countries. Within the cities and smaller towns, taxis, motorcycle taxis and buses are ubiquitous and cheap. Regional buses and domestic flights are also reasonable.


Cost of education in Colombia

The cost of education in Colombia can be high, especially at private and international schools. Public schooling is free, but tuition will be in Spanish and may not meet expat standards. Most private educational institutions are either bilingual, with teaching in both English and Spanish, or international, with a foreign curriculum. Fees for the top international schools are high, as tends to be the case all over the globe, in return for a world-class education.


Cost of healthcare in Colombia

Although the public healthcare system in Colombia is generally of a high standard, most expats in Colombia will opt for private healthcare. Private healthcare is reasonably priced and the standard of care is primarily excellent. This level of affordability and quality has led to Colombia becoming a medical tourism destination.

All residents of Colombia are required to take out insurance with one of two national health schemes, depending on income. Most expats will take out additional private medical insurance to increase their coverage for specialist care or long-term illnesses.


Cost of groceries and eating out in Colombia

Groceries are likely to be one of the more considerable expenses each month. Several everyday products need to be imported into Colombia and are thus relatively expensive. Shopping at one of the large grocery store chains, such as Éxito or Jumbo, allows for a better selection but at a significantly higher cost. On the other hand, buying local products and shopping at local markets, butchers and street stalls will substantially reduce the cost of food.

The cost of eating out will vary greatly depending on the neighbourhood and type of cuisine. Most cities and towns offer a variety of restaurants to suit any budget. The cost of eating out and drinking out in Western-style bars and restaurants can be moderate to high in price.

In Colombia, lunch is the primary meal of the day. Local neighbourhood restaurants typically serve a set menu (menú del día) for as little as COP 8,000, which includes a bowl of soup, a chicken or meat dish served with rice and salad or plantains, and a fresh juice.


Cost of living in Colombia chart

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Bogotá in April 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

COP 3,000,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

COP 2,200,000

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

COP 1,550,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

COP 1,150,000

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

COP 9,000

Milk (1 litre)

COP 4,400

Rice (1kg)

COP 4,400

Loaf of white bread

COP 5,100

Chicken breasts (1kg)

COP 22,000

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

COP 8,200

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

COP 90,000

Big Mac meal

COP 25,000

Coca-Cola (330ml)

COP 2,900

Cappuccino

COP 5,500

Bottle of beer (local)

COP 3,600

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

COP 250

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

COP 72,000

Essential utilities (average per month for a standard household)

COP 300,000

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

COP 6,500

City-centre public transport fare

COP 2,800

Gasoline (per litre)

COP 3,300

Expat Health Insurance

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