This post was updated in July 2016. Due to fluctuating exchange rates, I have changed the amounts to reflect the current cost of living in Bogota in Colombian pesos. Please note that these figures are based on living in an estrato 4 building, and will increase significantly for estratos 5 and 6. For more information on estratos, have a look at my post on Where to Live in Bogotá.
Before committing to a big move, most people want to know about the cost of living in Bogota, and how much you would need to earn to at least be able to cover the essentials. So I thought I’d give you a run-down of my monthly costs, so as to give you an idea of what it costs to live in Bogota.
Most people will tell you that Bogota is expensive, but this really depends on where you’re comparing it to. Yes, in comparison to everywhere else in Colombia, it is expensive. The cost of living would likely be lower in Medellín, Cali, Bucaramanga, Santa Marta etc, but so would the salaries. I am from London (UK), so moving here from one of the most expensive cities in the world, Bogota was always going to look cheap in comparison.
My monthly costs
Rent: $1.4 million (including building administration fees but not including bills)
This is for a one-bedroom 50m2 apartment in a decent (i.e. not the most expensive) and well-connected in terms of transport area of town (Chapinero Norte).
Water bills: $40,000 COP
Electricity: $40,000 COP
Gas: $30,000 COP
Groceries: $300,000 COP (from one of the more expensive supermarket chains, Carulla)
Ordering take-out food/Going out for coffee: $300,000 COP (because it’s easier, and I’m too lazy to cook every meal each day!)
Eating out at restaurants once or twice a week: $100,000 COP
Travel (within Bogota): $150,000 COP (approx. four Uber journeys per week and six Transmilenio bus journeys)
Partying: $0 (I don’t party much here, but on average it costs $20,000 or more just to get into somewhere; then beers cost around $12,000+, cocktails and spirits & mixers $20,000-$30,000 outside of Happy Hour – although they are usually very generous with the alcohol!)
Holidays: Flights are expensive in comparison to flights within Europe (if you’re lucky you will manage to get a return flight for $50-$75 dollars, to say Medellin from Bogota, but usually flights cost upwards of $75, and sometimes a lot more if you’re flying to somewhere that one airline has the monopoly over.
MONTHLY TOTAL: $2,360,000 pesos
I live this way because I can afford to at the moment; it’s about half what I was spending in London each month on all of the above, and I’m earning about the same as my last full-time salary in London, so for me, living a comfortable lifestyle which includes eating out, ordering takeaways and taking taxis whenever I want is relatively cheap.
What if you can’t afford to be spending $2.3 million pesos per month on basic living costs?
ALTERNATIVE MONTHLY BUDGET:
Rent a room in a shared apartment (with not too many people, in decent area): $600,000 pesos including building administration.
Food (no restaurants or take-outs): $400,000
Travel in Bogota (buses only): $60,000
ALTERNATIVE MONTHLY TOTAL: $1,160,000
What are the salaries like in Bogota?
The minimum salary is $660,000 pesos per month and 85% of the population in Colombia is earning less than double the minimum wage. Unless you are highly qualified and experienced in your field, it is difficult to earn more than $2 million per month. Many English-teaching institutes pay about $25,000/hour, and this usually involves travelling around the city for hours on end just to get to the classes.
If you’re seriously considering teaching English in Bogota for some time, invest in a CELTA TEFL course at International House or the British Council. If you perform well in the course at the British Council, you can then apply for a job there afterwards, where they pay hourly-paid teachers $60,000/hour including benefits (health and pension) which are not deducted from this hourly wage. I’ve heard that hourly-paid teachers are being offered fewer working hours than before (as of 2017) so you might end up having to work two jobs. Nonetheless, working 10 hours a week at the British Council would still bring in around $2.4 million each month, which is a great start.
If you search for private and corporate clients who want English classes, you can charge (and earn) even more.
Translation pays at between $50 and $200 pesos per word, and is another good option if you have a high level of Spanish and English.
Do you live in Bogota? What are your monthly costs? What do you think of the cost of living in Bogota in relation to what you’re earning?