The 20 Most Expensive Cities in South America

South America is a beautiful coontinent filled with commercial, agricultural, trade and financial opportunities. Its beautiful rivers, valleys, mountains and beaches beckon tourists and expats. Some of the most beautiful cities to live in South America are also some of the most expensive cities to live. If you have the money, there are several cities in South America that make great homes.

Here are the 20 most expensive cities in South America. These are based on the cost of living per month. Values are in US dollars.

20. Cuenca, Ecuador

Because of its sixteenth and seventeenth Spanish architecture, Cuenca is considered the most European city in Ecuador. Located in the Sierra of the Andes, Cuenca has a population of 580,000 and is the economic center of Ecuador. Mining, logging, automobile tire manufacturing, agriculture, eco-friendly energy and textile manufacturing are all part of the economy. The city also exports flowers. La Universidad de Cuenca draws students to the city and tourism is a major contributor to the economy. National parks, cathedrals and festivals draw in visitors. Cuenca is an expensive city to live in. The cost to rent a 900 square foot apartment in Cuenca is about $650 a month. A single person living in the city will spend at least $450 on food, clothing, transportation and entertainment.

19. Medellin, Columbia

Medellin is the second largest city in Columbia and a major economic center in the country. It is also the most second most expensive city to live in Columbia. The city of 3.7 million is located in the Aburra Valley in the central Andes Mountains. Industrialism and trade helped make Medellin important to the region’s economy. It is also a major finance center. Universities helped develop art and literature to the region. Medellin draws in tourists with its museums, architecture and festivals. The cost to rent a small 900 square foot apartment in Medellin costs between $800 a month. The cost for food, clothing, transportation and entertainment for a single person living in Medellin is about $400 a month.

18. La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz is the third most populated city of Bolivia with over 775,000 residents. The city is located in the central-west area of the country in a canyon surrounded by the Altiplano Mountains. La Paz is Bolivia’s center of government and is a cultural center of Latin America. The city has several districts filled with colonial architecture. La Paz’s main industry is manufacturing of food, clothing, tobacco products, agricultural tools and tin. La Paz is home to the major football teams of Bolivia. Tourists are drawn to the city’s beautiful cathedrals, museums and festivals. Monthly rent for a 900 square foot apartment in La Paz runs between $600. The cost for a single person to live in the city runs between $400 and $500 a month aside from rent.

17. Córdoba, Argentina

Located in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas on the Suquia River, Cordoba is northwest of Buenos Aires and is the second most populated city in Argentina with 1.3 million residents. The main industries in Cordoba are automobile and automobile parts manufacturing as well as agriculture. The city is also considered the technological center of Argentina. Universities and sports venues are important parts of Cordoba. Tourists are drawn to the city for its architecture, music festivals and museums as well as its dining, shopping and nightlife venues. Monthly rent in the city is about $450 for a 900 square foot apartment, and expenses for a single person living in Cordoba can run between $500 and $600 per month.

16. Salvador, Brazil

Many cities in Brazil have a high cost of living. Salvador is the third largest city in the country behind Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and the largest city in the northern region of Brazil. There are nearly 3 million people living in the greater metropolitan region of Salvador. The city became important to the Portuguese country’s economy because its located on the country’s northeast coast of the Atlantic Ocean so its port has been closest to Portugal and Portugal’s colonies in Asia and Africa. Salvador is a major port city, so trade has always been important to its economy. Salvador mostly exports oil and agriculture. Other businesses in the city include automobiles. Salvador is home to a Ford Motor Company and a JAC Motor plant. The city has a multicultural population and attracts tourists from all over the world. The city has a 280 foot slope that divides Upper Town and Lower Town. An elevator was created in 1873 to connect the two towns. Tourists come to Salvador for its beautiful beaches, shopping, dining, nightlife, historic monuments and colonial architecture. A 900 square foot apartment rents for about $600 a month. The cost of living for a single person is about $500 to $600 a month in addition to rent.

15. Rosario, Argentina

Rosario is located in the province of Santa Fe in central Argentina on the western shores of the Parana River northwest of Buenos Aires. It is the third most populated city in the country and one of the most expensive to live in. The city is known for its neoclassical architecture and famous residents including revolutionary leader Che Guervara and several sports stars. Industry in Rosario includes agriculture and chemicals. It is also a major banking center. The city is cultural and home to museums, cinema, music, theater and a racecourse. Rosario is also home to fine dining, shopping and several universities. The cost for a 900 square foot apartment is around $700 per month. It costs about $500 a month for a single person to live in the city excluding rent.

14. Asunción, Paraguay

Asunción is Paraguay’s capital and largest city. It is also an expensive city to live in. The city is the home of Paraguay’s government and a major seaport. It is also the country’s industrial and cultural center. The city lies on the banks of the Paraguay River. Asunción is the home of several universities and draws tourists in with its museums, symphony, opera, theater ballet and sports. The city also has luxury shops and quaint cafes and restaurants. Renting a 900 square foot apartment in Asunción can be between $600 and $800 per month. A single person living in the city can expect to spend at least $500 a month on food, clothing, transportation and entertainment.

13. Belo Horizante, Brazil

Belo Horizante is a city in the central southeastern region of Brazil. The city was settled in the eighteenth century. It was built on several hills completely surrounded by mountains and forest land. It’s has become a multicultural city that is home to many businesses and cultural activities. Belo Horizante is best known for its service industry. There are many metallurgical companies due to the natural minerals found in the landscape. Other industries include pharmaceuticals, technology chemicals, textiles, furniture and food production. Belo Horizante is home to the headquarters of Acomihas, a major steel company. The city has several universities. There are venues for music, contemporary dance and theater. There are also art and history museums in Belo Horizante. The city is home to an annual food festival and has been called the “capital of neighborhood bars”. The cost to rent a 900 square foot apartment in the city can be between $450 and $760 a month. A single person will spend about $550 a month aside from rent.

12. Florianópolis, Brazil

Yet another Brazilian city is one of the most expensive South American cities to live in. Florianopolis is located on the lagoons on the eastern coast of Brazil. The city consists of a main island, Santa Catarina and many small islands. The city experienced major economic growth between 1970 and 2004 and continues to develop industry particularly information technology. Agriculture is also a primary part of Florianopolis’ economy. Being an island nation with beautiful beaches, tourism is also a major contributor to the city’s economy. Resorts host tourists and provide restaurants, cafes, shops, bars and nightclubs. Music and street food are a part of life in Florianopolis. Residents and visitors to the city enjoy surfing and other water sports as well as biking and hiking. The cost to rent a 900 square foot apartment s between $500 and $700 a month. The cost for a single person living in Florianopolis for food, clothing, transportation and entertainment is an average of $560 a month.

11. Campinas, Brazil

Campinas, Brazil is the “silicone valley” of the country. The city is located in the southeastern region of Brazil. It has a steady economy and high GDP. The city was founded in the 1700’s and is a major, industrial and cultural hub in Brazil. Campinas is home to over 17,600 industries including high technology, pharmaceutical and telecommunication companies as well as manufacturing industries including textiles, motorcycles, automobiles, agricultural equipment. The city of 1 million draws in tourists to its zoo and gardens, cathedrals, theater, central market and sport venues. The cost to rent a 900 square foot apartment in Campinas is about $500 to $700 per month and the cost of living aside from rent for a single person is about $500 to $600 per month.

10. Porto Alegre, Brazil

Porto Alegre is a major port in Brazil. The city of 1.4 million people is located at the delta of 5 rivers where they converge to form a lagoon called the Lagoa dos Patos. Porto Alegre a major agricultural exporter of items including soybeans, rice and beef as well as leather. The city is also home to industries including General Motors and several technological companies. Porto Alegre has hosted the FIFA World Cup, the World Social Forum and the International Free Software Forum. The city is located in a subtropical forest and has green spaces throughout. Tourists are drawn to the fine dining, shopping and fashionable clubs as well as the annual carnival. The cost to live in Porto Alegre is between $600 and $800 to rent a 900 square foot apartment and can cost up to $600 a month for a single person’s expenses for food, clothing, transportation and entertainment.

9. Bogotá, Columbia

The capital and largest city in Columbia is also the most expensive to live in. Aside from government, Bogota is also the economic and cultural center of Columbia. The city is a draw to tourists. There are over 50 museums, 60 art galleries, 40 theaters and 70 entertainment parks including sports stadiums in Bogota. The city also has 150 monuments. The large city boasts music festivals, luxury shopping, fine dining and nightlife. The monthly rent for a 900 square foot apartment runs between $500 and $900. The cost for a single person living in Bogota for food, clothing, transportation and entertainment is at least $450 a month.

8. Lima, Peru

Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru and one of the most expensive cities to live in South America. Located in the valleys of the Chillon, Rimac and Lurin Rivers, Lima is located in the central coastal region of Peru on the Pacific Ocean. The population of Lima’s metropolitan area which includes the seaport of Callao is 10 million. The city flourished as trading developed from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Today, Lima is one of the most important financial centers of Latin America. Its industry is vital to its economy and includes textiles, clothing, food, fish, leather, oil derivatives and chemicals. The city’s economy and culture draws people from all of the world. Colonialization and immigration has created a multicultural city. Tourists are drawn to the city’s culture and sports. A 900 foot apartment costs about $875 per month to rent. A single person living in Lima, Peru can expect to spend over $500 a month on food, entertainment, transportation and other costs.

7. Guayaquil, Ecuador

Guayaquil is an important international port in the Gulf of Guayaquil leading to the Pacific Ocean. The city is the most populated in Ecuador and an important part of the country’s economy. Guayaquil is also one of the most expensive cities in South America. Famous for its seafood cuisine and notable artists, authors and musicians residing in the city over the past century, is a cultural and historic center of western South America, universities and sports also attract residents to the city. A 900 square foot apartment rents for about $985 a month. The cost of living including food, transportation, clothing and entertainment for a single person living in the city is about $530 per month.

6. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina’s capital and largest city is also the country’s most expensive to live. Located on the western shores of the Rio de la Plata, the city is beautiful, productive and high in quality of life. The city is the government, financial, industrial and commercial hub of Argentina. Its port is vital to the city’s economy. Buenos Aires is called the “Paris of South America” due to its European cultural influence. It is home to opera, symphony, theater, cinema, fashion, art, literature, a zoo, botanical gardens, parks, shopping, dining and nightlife. Buenos Aires attracts tourists and expatriates. The cost to rent a 900 square foot apartment in Buenos Aires is about $980 a month. A single person can plan to spend at least $650 in food, transportation, clothing and entertainment each month.

5. Brasília, Brazil

Brasília is the center of government in Brazil and one of the country’s most expensive cities. Because of its central location, the government was moved there from Rio de Janeiro in 1956 and is a very planned and modern city. Along with government, finance, commerce, food production, publishing and computer software development are all vital to the city’s economy. Many expatriate employees have moved to Brasília for their work. The city also has several universities and major sports teams. Monthly rent for a 900 square foot apartment is $1,000. A single person living in the city can expect to pay $570 for food, clothing and entertainment.

4. São Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil and the countries second most expensive city to live. The city is an international hub for commerce, finance and culture. As home to the first Jesuit missionaries, the city has strong historical significance and beautiful architecture. As an international and national financial hub, the city is home to some of South America’s most iconic skyscrapers. Its subway system is one of the best in the Americas. Music from opera to samba to rock is a vital part of the city’s culture. Theater, museums, sports and telecommunications are important to the city’s vibrancy. Monthly rent for a 900 square foot apartment is about $1,100. The cost for food, clothing, transportation and entertainment in Sâo Paulo for a single person is at least $600.

3. Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital and largest city in Chile. The city is located in the Santiago Basin, a central valley of fertile land surrounded by beautiful mountains. The city had became an industrial and agricultural center during the nineteenth century and experienced a population boom in the early twentieth century. The city has continued to have steady economic growth. Santiago is a cultural center of the country and offers world class theater and music, universities, art galleries, parks, a zoo and sports venues as well as dining and shopping. A 900 foot square apartment costs about $1,100 a month to rent, and a single person living in the city can expect to pay at least $650 for food, clothing, transportation and entertainment.

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is the second most expensive city to live in South America and the most expensive city in Brazil. Rio is the second most populous city in Brazil and the sixth most populated in the Americas. The city is the home of the headquarters of Brazil’s oil, mining and telecommunication industries. There are several universities with research facilities in Rio. Rio is a major tourist destination and receives the most visitors of any South American country. From cultural attractions, to fine dining and luxury shopping, to the beautiful beaches of Ipanema, Rio is a beautiful city to visit and to live although expensive. Monthly rent for a 900 square foot apartment is more than $1,000 a month. The cost of food, transportation and entertainment will cost a single person about $650 a month.

1. Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay has the highest cost of living of South American cities. It is also one of the most beautiful places in the world to live. The largest city in Uruguay is also the southernmost capital in the Americas. The coastal city lies on the borders of the Rio de la Plato. Montevideo has a population of 1.4 million, half of Uruguay’s population. The city is a commercial and cultural hub. There are five main neighborhoods, Carrasco, Punta Carretas, Ciudad Vieja, Centro and Pocitos. Each is filled with parks and tree lined sidewalks. The Ciudad Vieja area is filled with historic architecture and museums, art galleries, theater, shops, restaurants and nightclubs. The rambla is the waterfront. It has a wide pedestrian walkway with shops, cafes, restaurants, plazas and markets leading to sandy beaches. Although Montevideo is the center of Uruguay’s government and industry sectors, the coastal city has a laid back atmosphere. A couple renting an apartment in Montevideo can expect to spend at least $2,000 USD per month. Renting a 900 square foot apartment in the city costs at least $1,000 per month. In addition to rent, a couple can expect to spend $100 a month on transportation, $800 a month on food and $400 a month on entertainment.


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