For people looking to move abroad, who want some familiarity but also to live in a new environment with new challenges, they should look no further than South America, a continent that offers many options for expats.
Is it Cheap in South America?
There was a time when South America was very cheap, with many North Americans moving to Buenos Aires especially, but also buying property in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, where huge value was to be found. This was also the case for Europeans though the higher cost of flights meant they didn’t move abroad with such vigour.
The economy has now improved in South America, with cities like Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro offering equivalent prices to those in New York or London. If you want to live a comfortable life, similar to life in Britain but with more sunshine, better access to beaches and a cultural scene that is equal to that of anywhere else in the world, then these cities are highly recommended. However, if you are on a budget and looking for a good value new home abroad then there are still plenty of options.
Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru are all countries which offer a very low cost of living. If you are willing to eat and live where the locals do you will find that the cost of living is vastly cheaper than in Britain. Good quality 2-course meals can be found for the equivalent of £3 and beer for less than £1 (wine is generally imported and variable in quality and price). You will also be able to find accommodation for as little as £10 per night. Transport in all of these countries is generally by bus or plane; the first of which is incredibly cheap but also hit and miss in regards to comfort. Thankfully more and more people are now flying around South America with national flights particularly cheap; it is rare to pay more than £100 and can be at least half that. International flights are still more expensive than their European equivalents but this has much to do with the sheer size of many of the countries in South America.
In the capital cities of all the countries mentioned above (i.e. Quito, Bogotá, La Paz, Lima) you will also find great neighbourhoods with good facilities, top quality restaurants (Lima has recently been cited as one of the best cities in the world for gastronomy), secure environments and also expat communities.
No Hablo Español
In South America your life will be a lot easier if you can speak Spanish or Portuguese (if you are in Brazil) so if you don’t speak the lingo you will want to factor language classes into your budget. You will also find that it’s a lot cheaper to have Spanish or Portuguese classes once you arrive and that all manner of classes are available, from classes in Universities or Colleges, to one-to-one classes on a flexible schedule, and also that you will find as many expats giving classes as locals.
A Continent For All Budgets
In summary, South America is a continent that offers both ends of the spectrum in terms of cost of living. Brazil is the most expensive country (though Venezuela can be extremely expensive for certain commodities) followed by Buenos Aires and then the capital and major cities in Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador. Away from the best neighbourhoods Bolivia is a country with much poverty and is undoubtedly the cheapest place to live in South America. Living outside of the big cities anywhere you will find a very reasonable cost of living, though good schools, medical facilities and similar will become harder to find.
Aside from the Spanish or Portuguese language you will also find that South America is a very easy place to adapt to, with football the major sport, a good nightlife wherever you are, an abundance of culture (especially music) in the cities and friendly, talkative locals the norm.