The Cost of Living in Brazil – The Real Price

One of the absolute first questions a foreigner considering moving to Brazil asks is “what is the cost of living in Brazil?”.

And nothing is more irritating then finding a website with a simple graph only showing you how much bread and rice costs compared to back home – how is that useful?

Today I am going to do my absolute best to answer your question and give you a realistic idea of what you will need to earn to have an ok lifestyle in Brazil.

UPDATE: I have launched a new video series that addresses this in more detail, check it out here!

But before I continue, let’s set a huge misconception straight….


If quality of life for you means having lot’s of toys and gadgets, then you shouldn’t move to Brazil – stay home.

This isn’t to be mean or anything, it’s just to be realistic and let you know that gadgets and toys are very expensive in Brazil due to little demand and huge taxes (especially on imports).

But if you want to know the cost of living in order to live a life surrounded by wonderful people, great food and a great climate – then please read further.

I’m going to be straight with you, the cost of living for each region and area of Brazil can vary quite a bit but at least you will finish reading this post with a decent idea of what it takes.

There are three categories, just choose the one that suites you:

  1. Cost of Living for a Single Person
  2. Cost of Living for a Couple
  3. Cost of Living for a Family

The costs will be based on a medium priced city, which means that major cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, etc will be much more expensive (especially in lodging and transport).

If you are looking for an itemized breakdown of what things like haircuts and what not cost, then I wont reinvent the wheel, you can see those here.

Disclaimer: these are general estimates for a middle class Brazilian standard (very different then a 1st world’s middle class standard) and they can vary a lot as each person’s needs and lifestyle are very different.

Prices are all in the Brazilian Real (about 2 reais per dollar).

Cost of Living for a Single Person per Month in Brazil

When you are single in Brazil, your cost of living can vary a lot in accordance with your needs.

When I started out living in a communal living area, I lived off of about R$400 reais a month, but that was not a very desirable lifestyle….

The average single person would want a little apartment of their own plus a lifestyle that affords them the that the basic essentials and then some would be covered.

So based on a single person who has a pretty normal lifestyle in a medium sized city, I’ve put the following together:

Lodging: studio “kitnet” apartment $R500

  • Food – R$350
  • Utilities – $120
  • Transport (bus + occasional taxi) – R$300
  • Mobile – R$75
  • Clothes – R$150
  • Internet/TV/phone – R$300
  • Go out 2-3x per week – R$400
  • Health Insurance* – R$200
  • Misc – R$150

Total = R$2,545 or about $1,200USD

*Though Brazil has a “free” public hospital system, the quality is quite poor with a few exceptions (some hospitals in the south).

Could you live cheaper then this? Absolutely!  But the above would afford you a decent lifestyle you would probably be fine with living.

I of course haven’t calculated in any trips back home or around Brazil.

Cost of Living for a Couple Per Month in Brazil

When you are two, the prices increase quite a bit but the income does too as well (hopefully).

The below estimation is based on a couple who lives in a middle sized city, with a car and has a comfortable lifestyle by Brazilian standards.

  • Lodging (3br apartment) – R$1100
  • Condo and IPTU tax – R$350
  • Food – R$700
  • Utilities – R$200
  • Mobile – R$150
  • Clothes – R$250
  • Internet/TV/phone – R$300
  • Go out 1-2x per week – R$500
  • Health Insurance – R$400
  • Car Insurance (basic car) – R$150
  • Car parking, toll fees and road tax – R$350
  • Car gasoline – R$250
  • Misc – R$350

Total = R$5,050 or about $2,500USD.

A couple could obviously live cheaper then this by dropping a car and maybe moving to a smaller city.  I know of people who live off of as little as $R1,500 per month in some more rural areas (and are happy with it).

I haven’t calculated any trips back home in the above calculation.

Cost of Living for a Family Per Month in Brazil

The cost of living for a family with 2 adults and 2 children increases your total living costs a lot in Brazil, as you want to make sure that they go to private schools and have good health insurance.

So the below calculation is for a family of 4 living in a medium sized city with a car, private school, health insurance, weekend trips and the like to afford them a comfortable lifestyle.

  • Lodging (3br house) – R$1400
  • Condo and IPTU tax – R$500
  • Food – R$1000
  • Utilities – R$250
  • Mobile – R$200
  • Clothes – R$500
  • Internet/TV/phone – R$300
  • Go out 1x per week – R$600
  • Health Insurance* – R$650
  • Car Insurance (intermediate car) – R$300
  • Car parking, toll fees and road tax – R$450
  • Car gasoline – R$350
  • School – R$800
  • Weekend trip $500
  • Entertainment – R$400
  • Misc – R$400

Total = R$8,600 or about $4,300USD

And yes, you can live much cheaper than this but you definitely would want a car with a family in Brazil.  The areas you could save would be obviously in the food, lodging, going out and entertainment portions of the calculation.

I have known several people who have lived off of as little as R$2,500 per month in the more rural areas and seem to be fine.

Final words

I hope that this little run down of the cost of living in Brazil has been helpful and not discouraging in any way.  There are many people who assume that everything in Brazil is dirt cheap, the truth is that many things are cheaper, but some are more expensive.  So all in all, it depends on what your focus is.

Like I mentioned above, there are plenty of examples of people who live for less then I suggest and are happy with that type of simple lifestyle.  For a person coming from a first world country, it would be hard to imagine how they would be able to “downgrade” their comfort that much though.

I guess in the end, it’s hard to put a price tag on the Brazilian way of life and comfort you feel when living in Brazil – it’s all worth it at whatever price for me!

If you found this post helpful, please share.

Feel free to write a comment below if you have any questions!

Valeu – Cheers,
Kevin

P.S. Due to the large amount of questions regarding cost of living and jobs in Brazil, I’ve launched an all-new video series addressing this.

      • http://www.liveinbrazil.org Kevin

        Wow! sounds a bit crazy but can be true.

        We went to a pousada where they rent out furnished apartments on a day basis and just asked how much for a monthly rate. We then rented on a monthly basis with no deposit or contract for a great price.

        You just have to ask at those hotel/apartment places – maybe I’ll write a post on this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dj4money Anthony Thomas

    i’m gonna ask.What do you consider a medium sized city, Belem? I thought $1,000US which frankly is high compared to the rest of South America and double what you can get by on in Central America/Mexico. It sounds like you need (as an American) no debt and a fair sized kitty before you even consider it, unless you’re a massive risk taker.

    I can see where some cost can be cut to get it down to about $1,000US a month. When you say “comfort” what exactly do you mean? Getting a latte is not one of them…

    I was hoping I wouldn’t have to move to the boonies and buy a car since public transportation in most cases is non-existent too far out from the city center, not counting “chicken buses”

    But you know what, as long as I accomplish my goal(s), its a fairly small investment actually.

    • http://www.liveinbrazil.org/ Kevin Porter

      Hey Anthony!

      Belém is more of a large city but due to the fact that it’s in the north of Brazil, the prices are a bit lower.

      Brazil is more expensive then its south American friends, which is due to high taxes, a stronger economy amongst other things.

      By comfort I mean: going out to eat, taking a taxi and extra “bonus” expenditures. Like in the article, I live off much less when I arrived in Brazil and I live in the outskirts of a medium sized city (300,000) – it wasn’t a fancy lifestyle by any means but I was ok.

      You could still live relatively close to a medium-sized city on a small budget.

      I hope that helps!

      • http://www.facebook.com/dj4money Anthony Thomas

        Thanks and I listen to the first episode of your podcast, sounds good. I am also working on a podcast of this adventure and plan to chronicle my life up to now much like your doing.

        Without breaking out a map, was the town you stayed in far from the two major cities?

        I also fully understand about the economy, the strong Real, the devaluation of the Dollar which has lead to about 25% inflation in Brazil.

        The exchange currently is 2.06:1. I just returned from a trip to Mexico City and its 11.78:1.

        I am just trying to get all the sums right, like you I want to go and stay as long as I can, so some planning ahead is required.

        • http://www.liveinbrazil.org/ Kevin Porter

          Great, hope you enjoyed the podcast!

          The city I was in was Maringá, about 5 hours from the nearest “million” city. But with several cities close by up in the 100,000 range.

          You are a smart man to plan ahead! It’s all about taking a calculated leap of faith: prepare as much as you can and accept that there will be unknown variables.

          Keep me up to date on how things are progressing with you!

  • Doug

    Hey to everyone contributing here! I first visited Brasil 20 years ago. I can’t say I fell in love with Brasil then because I had been having a remote love affair with the place (from Australia) since I was 10 years old. I am now fortunate enough to be married to a gorgeous Paulista who inexplicably matches my gringo eccentricities. We met in my home town of Perth where she had traveled to learn English.

    We first attempted living in Floripa, living at Joaquina. I am a keen surfer but Bia is a city girl who loves dressing up and hitting the town with her friends. So she put up with living there for the 6 months. I loved it – despite the unbelievable bureaucracy… buying, insuring and running a car was the most difficult and time consuming undertaking in my life but it was worth it in the end. I can literally buy the same car twice for the same money here in Australia. BUT you have to have a car in Brasil. I can literally buy, check for encumbrance, and insure a car in “5 minutes” here in Australia. Luckily I am very competent mechanically so this time we will buying a car at a weekend seller’s market. Bia did a great job of selling our first car and, with Kevin’s hints, we intend to convey our next vehicle ourselves – without a despechant.

    Bureaucracy eventually drove me out of the country as I could not get my spouse visa due to a wrong date on our marriage certificate – the date of Bia’s divorce 10 years earlier. Can you believe it? I could not re enter for 6 months.

    Bia could not come to Australia on a tourist visa because we were married!!! This forced us to apply for Bia’s temporary permanent visa for Australia which kept us apart for 6 months… excruciating. Total cost about $5000.00 and much tears, blood and years off our lives. We are currently in Australia where Bia is studying interior design and I teach primary school. Bia’s visa is now permanent. Life is beautiful!!!!!

    I can hear your minds ticking over, wondering why we would move from this wonderful existence to live in Brasil? I ask myself this very question at least twice a week. It is because I married a Brazilian, for better or for worse. My parents are dead, my sons are independent adults, and Bia’s mum is getting on and not long for this world, time to settle in Brasil for the forseeable future. The compromise is that we will live in Guaruja, close enough to Sao Paulo, and where I can surf and enjoy life – that is if we can afford it?

    I am currently undertaking the NEW most excruciating event of my life… getting my Brazilian spouse visa here in Australia. I have not found one immigration agent in Australia or Brasil who will undertake my application! BE WARNED: despite what any advice you get, from anywhere, do not wait to apply for a spouse visa in Brasil!!!!! Before you buy your air ticket or do anything else – get your spouse visa before you leave home!!! You will not believe the EXTRA things they ask for, and everything has to be officially translated %$#&*^^((&%$##%!!!!

    AS kevin knows, I have huge challenges ahead, not least of which is establishing a Brazilian “identity” and establishing a “bank account”. You are lucky, Kevin, as you are American. You can transfer US dollars direct. Everyone else has to convert to US dollars first. So two foreign currency exchanges sees at least 10% of your wealth disappear overnight. Your funds are frozen in US dollars for about 2 weeks. We were caught transferring $20,000 in the middle of a blanket bank workers strike in Brasil AND the biggest downturn of the US dollar since the depression and lost around 30% – the cost of a car!

    Despite these setbacks, amongst countless others (the language barrier for instance), I am not daunted. I share Kevin’s view of Brasil as a caring society – one in which I certainly hope to contribute BUT this not something you will find in Sao Paulo or Rio! I am not even sure yet whether I will find it in Guaruja, we may end up going a little further afield – Sao Sebastian perhaps, or Floripa once again??? I just wish, wish, wish, I had had the luxury of your advice when we were there.

    Just a little aside: in Floripa we bought our fruit and veg from a grower’s market where you just piled everything into a shopping trolley – the trolley had a tare weight on it’s side – you wheeled it onto a floor scale where they subtracted the weight of the trolley and you paid 70 cents a kilo!!! How is that for efficiency and economy?

    Hoping tis is the start of a long friendship,

    Cheers, Doug and Bia. Perth Western Australia

    • http://www.liveinbrazil.org/ Kevin Porter

      Hey Doug and Bia! Wow, what a wild journey you’v e had and glad to hear that you are continuing to push forward despite the difficulties. Many people in your situation would def. give up and retreat.

      Know about the Sacolão direito do campo, one of our personal favorites!

      Keep us in the loop on your developments mate!
      Cheers

  • Del Ray Johnson

    This cost of living and the information on numbero suggests that it is same or not much less than a major city in the USA after the exchange charge $350 on food, like a $1.20 for a gallon of milk is not a reason to flock to Brazil heck you can live in Montona, Nebraska, etc. sorry.

  • Mario King

    Hi, great information! Thanks.
    I am planning a trip to Brazil to learn portugese for 3 months then travel the rest of south america from May 2014 to August 2014 – i want to be as close to rio de janiero as possible but it doesnt bother me too much because i want to keep my cost down – living in hostals/families and all of that is fine with me. where would you recommend i look to stay and how much would you estimate my total cost being per month and a modest lifestyle.. nothing close to the 2 starbucks coffees per day lifestyle here in london I used to live of course haha?
    Mario

  • Terra Magnum Imperium

    You can live in certain places in the USA quite cheap, for example West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Eastern Ohio. all these areas you can find apartments for 400-500 a month also in many cities you can eat and receive food if you run out of money.
    I wonder does Brazil have similar programs? Based on what I have discovered most countries are not much cheaper then the USA ;unless you want to live in a small town away from the ocean. The crime rate is also another are of concern for me.
    So unless you really like a countries culture I don’t see the reason to move abroad because it is as expensive as the USA… But then again I guess the Women might be a good reason.