Mar 7, 6 years ago

Cost of Living in Colombia

Cost of Living in Colombia

Colombia is a mid-range Latin American country in terms of prices. It is costlier than Peru and Central America but less expensive than Chile and Argentina.

However, don’t fret. The land of coffee, flowers and emeralds does offer some great bargains and, by forgoing a few luxuries, you can live comfortable for around $500 a month.


The cheapest food is available from market stalls, be they on the street or in a purpose built complex such as Bogota’s Paloquemao or Medellin’s Minorista. It is also common to find nutritious bargains being sold from wheelbarrows, and pushcarts. At places like these one person can do their weekly fruit and veg shopping for around COP10,000 ($5.50). When in season fruit such as bananas and guavas can be had for as little as 100 pesos-200 pesos (5c-10c). At the supermarkets expect to pay more.

Granero is the Colombian name for a corner store and here you can get your eggs at 300 pesos each (16 cents) and a one liter bag (yes, bag) of milk for 2,000 pesos ($1.10). They also sell the essential Colombian ingredients of rice, beans, and oil.

For your frozen food, pasta, cereal and the like, mini-marts and supermarkets abound. The big players are Exito, Carrefour, Carulla, and Olimpica where a weekly grocery shop will probably come to around COP40,000.

Restaurant prices

Lunch is the big meal of the day in Colombia. The good value menu del día will usually include a soup as a starter, rice, beans, salad, and meat of your choice, plus a glass of juice and cost COP7,000 ($4). A meal in the tasty, mid-market chain Crepes and Waffles will cost at least COP20,000 ($11) while a meal at swankier places like La Fragata revolving restaurant in Bogotá could leave a COP100,000 ($56) hole in your pocket.


Make friends at work, university, or couchsurfing then use these contacts to help you find a place to live. In the areas near universities, single rooms can be snapped up for as little as COP300,000 ($166) a month. More comfortable living arrangements where security is improved by a doorman and the area is a little more fancy will cost around COP500,000 ($277). For a room in a really plush apartment, you’ll be looking at COP900,000 ($500) and upward.

Air travel

Air travel is generally expensive with flights from Bogotá to other major Colombian cities often going reaching the COP270,000 ($150 mark). However the new kid on the aeronautical block, VivaColombia, is a low-cost carrier with flights starting at COP45,000 ($25) for a one-way tocket when booked online. From time to time other airlines offer promotional fares to compete with Viva.

Bus travel

Buses between the three big cities of Bogotá, Medellín and Cali cost approximately COP60,000 each way. The cost of long distance bus journeys in Colombia works out to be roughly COP6,000 ($3.32) per hour, but often some gentle haggling at the ticket window can bring the price down a bit.

Local travel

The only train-based Metro system in Colombia is in Medellín. A one-way ticket costs COP1,800 (99c) with reductions if you get a metro card. A ride on Bogotá’s Transmilenio articulated bus network will set you back COP1,700 (94c) at rush hour. Urban buses cost COP1,600 (88c) or less. The base rate for taxis is around COP5,000 and without traffic a ten minute taxi ride will come up to around 10,000 ($5.55).

Cell phones

A functioning, second-hand cell phone can be had for as little as COP30,000 ($17). They are not flashy and you’ll be lucky if you get a colour screen but it’ll do the job. There are high-end phones, such as the iPhone 5 but you’ll have to sign up to contract costing at least COP30,000 ($17) month not including the cost of the handset at COP1,363,000 ($755). If you bring your own handset, and get a pay-as-you-go SIM, realistically, you’ll spend about COP20,000 on calls.


A lot of foreigners are surprised to find that good quality clothes are expensive in Colombia. For international brands like Zara expect to pay around 40% more than you would at home. Clothes here are made locally or in Peru where production costs are not as cheap as in China. There are the market stall clothes for those with small budget.

All in all, you can get by on budget of COP700,000 ($390) if you only cook at home and nights out involve a bottle of beer on the pavement with friends.

To eat out and take taxis now and then and maybe even leave the city for a night or two and you’re looking at COP1,000,000 ($550).

At the time of writing $1 was equivalent to 1,803 Colombian pesos.


An inquisitive traveller who teaches, writes, and takes photos, based in Colombia.

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