Cost of Living for Digital Nomads – Medellin
In this series, I’m gonna attempt to show you what kind of quality of life you can have for minimal expenditure living an average, necessity-based existence, as a digital nomad/expat.
This is not to say that you should live on this amount per week, but it’s just to illustrate the lifestyle you could have for the base minimum cost. Here is exactly what I spend on an average week.
Medellin, Colombia –
A beautiful city. A city steeped in history – both good and bad. A city where birds circle dizzily overhead, surfing the valley updrafts. Where the streets teem with life; music, smells, chaos. One where you can be deep in the city and still see nature blinking on the horizon, and the twinkling of lights on the hillside as twilight descends.
Yes, I love you, Medellin. You have stolen my heart, and subsequently, my purse.
Rent – £46/$60/€55 a week
I have a large bedroom in a 3rd floor shared 4-bed apartment in Estadio/Laureles area of Medellin, which is the second most popular area amongst tourists/expats – behind Poblado.
Laureles is less touristy and is an ideal base with plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and good transport links – not to mention it’s a bit cheaper than the high spec apartments of Poblado.
It’s actually a pretty huge room, fully furnished with double bed, work desk, fan, built in wardrobes and even a full-length mirror. There are two shared bathrooms, I share with one other person.
It’s located a 5 min walk from the metro, 2 min walk from a large supermarket and a few mins from bars, restaurants etc of Laureles.
Groceries – £15/$20/€18 a week
This can vary largely based on what you would like to cook. If you’re a person of simple pleasures and can forego such luxuries as cheese, exotic spices/sauces and Western junk then you can get by on half of this. But let’s face it, you’re a child of capitalism and you want those damned expensive German biscuits, so you have to factor this in.
Fresh fruit and veggies can be cheap, depending on your choice. Anything imported will cost ya. That also goes for Western delicacies such as peanut butter, chips, cookies and the ultimate budget killer – decent cheese.
I usually buy mostly fresh fruit and veg, canned tomatoes, legumes and the odd hunk of “investment” cheese, as I like to call it. Although that generally gets accidentally eaten in two days because – let’s face it – I have no self-control.
Eating Out – £15/$20/€18 a week
Assuming I either eat “Menu Del Dia” (lunch special) every day for lunch or have a couple of nicer meals out just once or twice a week. This is excluding booze, because I love wine and, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure that’s where large amounts of my money go.
Menu Del Dia – in case you don’t know – is the best value meal you can get food-wise eating out here in Colombia, and in many parts of the Americas. It is generally served between 12.00pm – 3.00pm and consists of a set meal which usually consists of a soup starter, followed by the staple – rice, beans and some form of protein, accompanied by a juice and small dessert. And all for the extremely reasonable price of £2/$3/€2.20 if you eat at a Colombian place.
Many Western-style restaurants also offer this lunch deal, and so you can find much more varied and healthy options, if Colombian food isn’t to your taste, this will accordingly be more pricey though – think £3/$4/€3 a meal which will include also soup, main, juice, and dessert.
Socialising – £15/$20/€18 a week
One of the areas in which Medellin excels in value is in it’s low priced drinks – beer specifically, but also Aguardiente (the local fire water), and dark rum. You can get pretty reasonably priced cocktails, but depending on the venue they vary in quality – £4/$5/€4.50 each in Poblado is about right.
Wine tends to vary in quality and price. Being so close to some of the world’s largest wine regions you’d be forgiven for expressing surprise at some of the downright disgusting wine they have here, but decent glasses can be had for as little as £1.30/$1.70/€1.50, up to £4.50/$6/€5.50 in some of the fancier places.
Local beers can be bought from stores for as little as £0.80/$1/€0.90 and expect to pay around £1.30/$2/€1.50 for bottled Colombian beers in bars. Aguardiente and dark rum can be bought by the carton (pocket sized and liter packs) for very cheap, less than £3.80/$5/€4.50 for a liter.
On top of drinking your life away – there’s cover for clubs. This is often free, but otherwise, tends to be around $3-5 and ladies are often offered free entrance. There’s even “all you can drink” nights for free, or very cheap – but you can imagine how that generally pans out.
If I’m honest 99.9% of the socializing I do is party-based. Medellin is a party city. You can bowl when you’re dead, okay.
Transport – £8/$10/€9 a week
The main transport I use is either the public metro system or Uber cab service. There are also yellow cabs which are very affordable, I just tend not to use them as much as they are slightly more expensive than Uber, but still from time to time.
The public metro system in Medellin is very clean and modern and, depending on your start/exit point, can be very convenient. As I live right by the metro it’s pretty handy for me.
One of the least convenient stations is Poblado, the other main expat area. This is because the metro station sits at the bottom of a large hill, whilst Poblado sits at the top – meaning you have to haul ass 20 mins either way, which can be less than desirable, depending on how lazy you are.
Being that I’m a lazy piece of shit, I have a tendency to take Uber when going in and out of Poblado. There are areas of Poblado which are pretty much inaccessible on foot also; some of the malls up on the hill and residential buildings – so taxis are necessary.
The metro is extremely well priced at just £0.50/$0.70/€0.60 a ride, whilst Uber’s pricing starts at around £1.50/$2/€1.80 minimum fare and should cost about £3/$4/€3 for a 15-minute ride. Uber drivers vary vastly in quality.
One cool feature is that you can pay extra and hire an English speaking driver, admittedly I never do this as I feel it is not necessary, but could be helpful if you’re concerned about not speaking the language.
So there you have it – a fun-filled week of Medellin fun for the extremely reasonable cost of…
I’m certain it’s possible to live for much cheaper than this if you so wish, but I think this is a good mix for the average Westerner to live by – living cheaply, but still indulging in what the city has to offer.
You could round this up and assume for 1 month you could happily get by on around £460/$600/€545, or up to £775/$1000/€910+ if you add in a few treats like an expensive meal, fancy cocktails, paragliding, or a trip out of the city for the weekend.
Extra luxuries you might like to factor in..
Co-working – £18/$25/€22 a week (or £8/$10/€9 in coffee)
I don’t co-work in Medellin as I have decent wifi and a nice desk in my apartment. And, well, I’m lazy! Too lazy to leave the house every day, anyway.
I trial-and-errored working from cafes when I first arrived and decided that often the wifi could be spotty and it didn’t seem worth the hassle of putting on underwear. However, there are some great co-working places and decent coffee shops throughout the city.
You can expect to pay around £77/$100/€90 a month for co-working, depending on which office/plan you choose and around £1.50/$2/€1.80 for a coffee, depending on the neighborhood.
There are plenty of coffee shops that are well set up for digital nomads, mostly in Poblado (Velvet, Pergamino, Zeppelin etc) but also in Laureles (Cafe Cliche, Naturlia, Saludpan, Cafe Revolution – to name a few.)
Gym – £8/$10/€9 a week
There are plenty of gyms in Medellin. They range in quality from high-tech fancy affairs, full of spandex-clad Colombian lovelies, with bottoms to die for, to considerably less fancy – but equally as cultural – free park gyms, and just about everything in between.
I used a nice modern gym in Laureles for two months for the extremely reasonable price of about £23/$30/€27 a month. No joining fee and this gave me access to all equipment, classes etc as well as a rooftop sauna and jacuzzi. So you can find a good deal for a very reasonable price if you want to attend a paid gym.
The other end of the spectrum (and if you’re planning to live in Laureles, especially) is the free sports complex located right by Estadio metro station. This consists of an outdoor free-weights gym, running track, several swimming pools, and probably more.
Personally, I haven’t really used it (not speaking Spanish makes this kind of thing difficult and I just can’t figure out how to use the pool system!) But don’t let my failings in life stop you, if you can figure it out, you can go for free!
There is also a host of small outdoor gym set-ups around Laureles, as well as basketball courts in Poblado and soccer teams you can join.
I’m sure there’s plenty of other crap you can spend your money on but that’s not an essential! All in all, I would say you could live a very good life in Medellin for £465/$600/€545 – £773/$1000/€910 a month.
Add on another couple of hundred to that and you could have a flash apartment, take Ubers everywhere, pay for dates, dinners, and generally have a grand old time.