One important thing to research before moving to a new place is how much it’s going to cost you to live there. But with varying exchange rates and numerous sources of information, it can be overwhelming to do so. Here I’m going to help you determine the cost of living in Cali, Colombia.
Before I moved to Bogotá I spent hours researching the cost of living and trying to compare it with the salary I would be getting from a certain English institute. While I was in the United States, I worked out a budget and decided how to spend my money (Although it was more from excitement about the move than the need to plan). When I arrived to Colombia, I was still thinking in U.S. dollars and I was spending like it was 1999 and I had just hit the Powerball.
I soon learned that the measly salary of an English teacher couldn’t support the lavish lifestyle I had gotten used to living during my first month and that what I had calculated as the cost of living from my research wasn’t really the cost of living.
I thought I finally had it figured out. And then I moved to Cali and the cost of living was completely different (and luckily cheaper!).
Cost of living is different for everyone, but here I’ll break down about how much I spend every month and other options for those on a tighter budget. Keep in mind that, as of October 2017, the exchange rate is about $3,000 COP to $1 USD)
My Current Cost of Living in Cali, Colombia (Per Month)
Rent: $470,000 COP
I live alone in a studio apartment, which are really common in Colombia and often pretty affordable! I live in a good neighborhood, in between two police stations, and close to malls, restaurants, bars, public transportation, and more. The rent includes all services except wifi.
Wifi: $30,000 COP
I share wifi with the other people in my building, so it’s a lot cheaper than having my own! For your own plan, it will cost about $90,000- $120,000 COP depending on the speed you need. Luckily, it’s really easy to find places that include wifi in the monthly rent.
Food (Grocery Store): $300,000 COP
I spend a good chunk of money on food because I like to eat more natural products, but it’s definitely possible to spend way less, even as little as $100,000 COP per month. I usually shop in La14 or Jumbo for basic items or alcohol. I go to Vita Fitness, which is located inside some La14 supermarkets, for things like almond milk, goat cheese, and hummus and I shop at Galería Alameda for fruits, vegetables, and delicious coffee from The Trinitario Coffee!
Food (Restaurants): $200,000 COP
I don’t eat out much during the week, but it’s pretty affordable to do so. And honestly, who wants to cook on the weekends? A huge lunch will cost you around $7,000 COP. If you want to go to a fancier restaurant, it will cost you more like $20,000 to $30,000.
Going out: $100,000 COP
I don’t go out as much as I used to, and I probably don’t even spend $100,000 going out in a month. A bottle of rum or aguardiente costs less than $30,000 COP from a liquor store and around $80,000 in a bar or club. Beer at a bar costs about $5,000 COP or $2,000 COP at a store. If a place charges a cover, it’s usually $10,000 to $20,000. Then, of course, you should add in around $5,000 COP for those delicious empanadas you see as you’re leaving the club around 4 A.M.
Transportation: $20,000 COP
My preferred mode of transportation is my motorcycle. Although a little dangerous, it’s by far the easiest way to get around in Cali. It’s fast and I can easily avoid traffic. I spend less than $5,000 COP per week on gas, which also makes it super affordable! The public bus system, El Mio, costs $2,000 COP with free transfers (although it’s really inefficient). Uber is a great option and really affordable! I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $15,000 COP for a trip (but it’s illegal so make sure someone sits in the front seat with the driver).
Phone: $40,000 COP
I got a sim card when I moved here and I still have a prepaid plan (because I’m too lazy to switch to a monthly plan). Once a month, I pay $40,000 COP and I get some minutes, some data (which lasts me around 3 weeks), and unlimited WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook for 30 days.
Parking: $30,000 COP
Unfortunately, my apartment doesn’t have a parking space for my motorcycle, but it’s super cheap to leave it in a nearby parking lot with 24-hour security.
Nails: $75,000 COP
Colombians are weirdly judgmental about your nail care. Or maybe everyone just has such nice nails that I feel self-conscious. I never really cared much before but since I’ve moved here it’s become a ritual to get my nails done…and it’s also an excuse to treat myself. I go to an upscale salon in El Peñon and I get a regular pedicure and a gel manicure. I go about every three weeks.
Gym: $140,000 COP
I’ll admit that I splurged for one of the more expensive gyms, Body Tech, more for convenience than anything. There are definitely cheaper gyms around Cali but since it’s close to my house and it’s within my budget I figured why not?
Yoga: $120,000 COP
As I mentioned above, the cost of living is different for everyone. I spend a decent amount of money between the gym and yoga but they’re both things I love doing! I go to a local yoga class once or twice a week that costs $30,000 COP per class. But who wouldn’t splurge for yoga with a view of Cali during sunset?
Spanish Classes: $120,000 COP
I speak Spanish pretty well, but once a week I like to speak with a teacher just so that she can correct my small mistakes during conversation. There’s always room for improvement!
Total: $1,645,000 COP
As you can see, I’m able to pay for hobbies and extras and the cost is still pretty low! Of course, I spend a little more money on travel and things like that but it varies month to month.
Here’s an alternative spending plan to lower the cost of living in Cali, Colombia if you’re on an even tighter budget:
Alternative Spending Plan
Rent: $400,000 COP.
I pay $470,000 COP for a studio apartment, but it’s possible to find cheaper ones…and renting a room offers an even cheaper option (just make sure the neighborhood is safe). You can rent a room for as cheap as $400,000 COP per month with utilities (and usually wifi!) included. It’s also possible to find cheaper rooms, but they likely don’t include utilities or wifi.
Look for a place with wifi included to save!
Food (Grocery Store): $200,000 COP.
I buy high-end products, but buying cheaper food is definitely possible. If you cook every meal and stick to cheaper foods, around $200,000 COP per month should be a sufficient budget.
Food (Restaurants): $0
Cook all of your meals at home to save!
Going out: $40,000 COP
Let’s be realistic and say you’ll go out sometimes. Stick to beer and don’t overdo it. From a store, beer will cost you about $2,500 COP and double that at a bar. Avoid places that charge a cover to enter.
Not a saving, but traveling in public transportation is more expensive in the long-term but cheaper in the short-term. Try to live in a convenient location and walk most places. This estimate is based on 10 trips on the Mio per week.
If you really want to save, only use your phone when you have wifi. If you still want some kind of plan, there are cheaper ones available.
If you don’t have a vehicle, there’s no need to worry about parking!
I’m hopeless with painting my own nails, as in a five-year-old child could outdo me, but if you have some talent, do your own manicure. Or go natural!
Go for a run in the park or work out at home instead of paying for the gym. Some parks in Cali have outdoor gym equipment for a free workout.
Spanish Classes: $0
Study on your own or find someone who wants to learn English and do an exchange! Both benefit and it’s free.
Total monthly expenses: $720,000 COP.
Please note that the spending plan above is an example to show you how cheap the cost of living in Cali, Colombia could be. However, while it is possible, it’s a little hard to stick to a budget like that and it’s going to be a little stressful. I would recommend budgeting more money to really enjoy the experience.
What’s your experience with living in or visiting Cali? What did you find to be the most expensive or cheapest part?