QUICK SUMMARY- COST OF LIVING IN RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
The thriving metropolis of Rio de Janeiro attracts over 2 million international visitors every year — and at least a fraction of them decide they never want to leave.
If you're researching the cost of living in Rio de Janeiro, then you've likely discovered that this city is just as sweet a home base as it is a vacation spot.
Rio and Sao Paulo are the two largest Brazilian cities. While Sao Paulo is the country's financial heart, Rio, the more popular city, is Brazil's soul. Rio is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and friendly locals, known as Cariocas.
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I've traveled around the world, yet this city continues to be one of the most beautiful places I've been. It's undoubtedly one of the most exciting places to live in Latin America.
I moved to Rio last year because my boyfriend wanted to move back home. Despite living in the United States for over a decade, he was born in Brazil; returning home was his dream.
As a full-time travel blogger and freelance writer, I felt the move would be an exciting next step for my career.
I grew up in Miami and most recently lived in New York City before moving to Rio. While the cost of living in Rio is significantly less than both, it's not as affordable as I expected. That's because Rio is overall more expensive than other major cities in South America. But with today's exchange rate, it becomes pretty manageable for foreigners with a monthly income in US dollars.
The local currency is the Brazilian Real (BRL). You may see the plural form as reais and can also be written as R$. At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 5 to 5.70 BRL. For reference, 1 Euro = ~6.67 BRL.
What Is The Cost Of Living In Rio De Janeiro, Brazil?
Living in Rio means some of the best beaches in the world are in your backyard.
|Total Monthly Expense||$1068|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- 2-bedroom apartment Ipanema (50% Shared Cost)||453|
|Water/Sewer/Trash/Electricity (50% Shared Cost)||42|
|High-Speed Internet (50% Shared Cost)||14|
|Cell Phone Prepaid Plan- 12.5 GB per Month||5|
|Total Housing Expense||512|
|Home Cooked Meals 10 times per week||152|
|Budget Local Meal- 2-3 times per Week||30|
|Mid-Priced Restaurant 1-2 times per Week||50|
|Total Food Expense||232|
|Sunset Drinks with Friends- 1 Time per Week||16|
|Surf Lessons- 1 time per Week||55|
|Soccer Match 1 time per Month||20|
|Uber/Taxi 5 times Per Week||80|
|Total Transportation Expense||80|
|Brazilian Health Insurance||91|
|Health Care Expense||90|
|Cleaning Service 1 time per Month||32|
|Salon Services 1 time per Month||10|
|Personal Care (Shampoo, etc.) & Household Items (Soap, etc.)||20|
|Total Personal Care and Misc Expense||62|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD to Reals (BRL)||5.53|
I've been living here since October 2020, on a monthly budget of about 5,000 to 6,000 BRL, or $895 to $1,075 USD per month.
EDITOR'S NOTE : The budget of $1,000 is for one-person, but note that Carla shares 50% of housing costs and a portion of their food budget. A Single Person in Rio may need to increase the budget by $200 to $300 dollars per month.
How Does The Brazil Cost of Living Compare To The US?
Living in Rio is a bit more expensive than I initially expected. Things like housing, clothing, and food can be pricey, especially for the middle and lower classes. Fortunately for me, I still make a living in US dollars.
A significant budget saver is Rio's abundance of free outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and surfing. I spend a lot of my free time on the beach, which is entirely free.
With the current exchange rate, though, my living cost becomes quite affordable, especially when compared to living in Miami and New York City.
Look at the cost of living comparison below representing the Top 4 essential expenses in the US: housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average living costs in a major city.
When comparing Rio, one of the most expensive cities in Brazil to a medium-cost city in the US (Portland), the low cost of living in Brazil can save you almost $18,000 a year.
Essential Living Costs
Rio De Janeiro
Total Average Per Month
Save 50% on Major Monthly Expenses
HOW DOES COST OF LIVING IN RIO DE JANEIRO BRAZIL COMPARE TO OTHER CITIES?
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What Kind of Lifestyle Can I Afford On $1500 Per Month?
I'd say a very comfortable one. I rent a spacious two-bedroom apartment just a couple of blocks from the beach. I tend to dine out once or twice a week and casually meet with friends for a drink every weekend.
I also enjoy the occasional staycation or weekend road trip to nearby cities.
It's worth noting that my neighborhood is one of the most expensive in Rio. I live in Ipanema in Zona Sul(South Zone), home to Rio's famous beaches and tourist attractions.
What Is Life Like As An Expat In Rio De Janeiro?
Your days in Rio will often start with some outdoor activity. Whether it's a walk along Ipanema Beach or a run around Lagoa, most people in Rio start their days early and actively.
The truth is that living in Rio can often feel like being on vacation. If you live close to the beach, the beach becomes your everyday backyard. You go there to work out, sunbathe, surf, swim, eat and socialize before and after work — and for some, on lunch breaks, too.
Your weekly routine will also include shopping at your local food fair, fresh markets, and bakeries. Brazilians grocery shop often in Rio because they prefer fresh, homemade meals over frozen foods. It's something you'll likely adapt to your routine.
On the weekends, you'll find yourself having a Brazilian-style breakfast of coffee and cheese bread at our local bakery. You might also grab a meal at your favorite local restaurant or sip on fresh coconuts on the beach.
It's common to meet with friends over a couple of chopps (beers) at your local bar in the evenings. It's a casual affair and generally really affordable.
One of the best things about living in Rio is exploring its surroundings on the weekends. You can drive down the coast searching for virgin beaches or hike in one of the many trails in the region.
What Does An Apartment Cost In Rio De Janeiro?
Living in Ipanema means this gorgeous sunset on a daily basis
Renting an apartment can be your highest expense in Rio, and the type of apartment, number of amenities, and location will drive the price.
I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Ipanema, about two blocks from the beach. The apartment features a separate home office, two bathrooms, and a laundry/maid area. While the apartment is in an older building with no amenities other than a garage, I have a 24-hour doorman, which is a significant benefit due to Rio's safety issues.
I split my housing expenses with my boyfriend. Our total accommodation cost breaks down as follows:
- Monthly rent is $900 (5,000 BRL)
- Electricity bill is about $60 USD (400 BRL)
- Home Internet access is $25 (150 BRL)
- Gas is $10 (55 BRL).
My half of the housing costs equals about $500 dollars per month.
Upfront Moving Costs
Expats moving to Brazil need to watch their cash flow when they first arrive in the country. You might have several unusual up-front costs when it comes to renting an apartment in Rio.
Unlike in the US, you often have to buy your kitchen appliances. Unfurnished apartments come with a bare kitchen, and it's up to you to purchase a stove, fridge, and dishwasher. If you want a washing machine, you'll need to buy that too.
For example, I needed to buy a stove, fridge, and washing machine for 6,000 BRL / $1,087
If you're renting a fully furnished unit, it'll likely come with a fully equipped kitchen.
INSIDER TIP : Apartment Hunting Tips- The best websites for finding rentals are ZapImoveis and Quinto Andar.
Additional Housing Costs- Unlike in the US, when you rent an apartment in Brazil, you also must cover the condominium fees and property tax on behalf of the owner. Your total monthly rent will include these fees. Look at the apartment listing details for additional fees included; amenities like a pool, gym, or 24-hour security increase your condo fees.
What Is the Best Places For Expats To Live?
If $900 in rent sounds like more than you'd expect to pay to live in Rio, it's important to note that I live in one of Rio's priciest neighborhoods. But it's also one the safest.
There are many benefits to living in Ipanema: You're close to the beach, everything you need is within walking distance, and the neighborhood is well policed. It's also not as expensive as neighboring Leblon and feels less touristy than nearby Copacabana.
Because of the stunning beaches, central location, and safety, the area is popular with expats and digital nomads like myself. Ipanema is the number one neighborhood I'd recommend to expats moving to Rio.
There are plenty of other great neighborhoods in Zona Sul like Copacabana (also popular with expats), Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botanico, Gavea, Flamengo, and Botafogo. You'll also find cheaper apartments in those neighborhoods, as they are further away from the beach.
Rental prices for a one-bedroom apartment in Ipanema can range from $537 to $895 (3,000 BRL up to 5,000 BRL), depending on proximity to the beach and the building's quality. You can find one-bedroom apartments for under $537 USD (3,000 BRL) in Copacabana, Lagoa and Gavea, and for even less in Flamengo and Botafogo.
INSIDER TIP : Unlike most cities, the city center is NOT the trendy neighborhood the expat community aspires to live. The downtown city center, locally known as Centro, can be safely visited during the daytime, but I express significant caution at night. Non-violent crime (theft and ATM robbery) is common in Centro at night.
The zones better suited for expats and digital nomads moving to Rio are in Zona Sul (South Zone): Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana, while retirees and expatriate families will enjoy the less touristy beaches and shopping in the upmarket suburb of Barra Da Tijuca.
What Is Your Food Budget In Rio De Janeiro?
Churrascaria is where you go for all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ.
For two-people, our average food costs for the month are ~$300. My partner and I split the food costs in half. Like many places, your food costs in Rio will depend on how often you dine out. I typically go to the grocery store two times a week and spend anywhere from $20 to $50 (100 to 300 BRL) each time. (Remember that I am buying food for two people.)
I also sometimes spend about $25 (150 BRL) on frozen homecooked meals prepared by a local business.
How Much Does Eating Out In Rio De Janeiro Cost?
I dine out once or twice a week. You can find a typical Brazilian-style lunch meal of rice, beans, protein, and salad for $5 to $8 (25 to 40 BRL) in a local neighborhood restaurant. Mid-range restaurant meals might cost you $11 to $13 (60 to 70 BRL). You can expect to pay over $20 (100 BRL) for more upscale dining.
How Much Money Do You Spend For Entertainment?
A late-night cruise with dinner, drinks, and dancing on the Danube for $30.
Entertainment and Sports
I don't spend much on entertainment, as most of my social life in Rio revolves around outdoor activities.
Besides dining in a restaurant or grabbing a drink with friends at a local bar, most of my plans include going to the beach or hiking. It's also somewhat typical to host friends over for dinner or vise versa in Brazil.
INSIDER TIP : Football culture- To say Futbol or Soccer is big a part of Brazilian culture is an understatement. I haven't attended a sporting event with more electricity than a Brazilian National Team game in Rio's Maracana stadium.
INSIDER TIP : Night Out Dancing with Friends- My favorite zone for a night out wasn't the more upscale Copacabana or Leblon; For an authentic taste of Rio's nightlife, head to the Lapa street party on Friday's and Saturdays.
Locals and tourists mix dancing and cheap drinks sold by street vendors into a giant outdoor party spanning several city blocks. Aside from the outdoor party, Lapa is central Rio's nightlife hub full of pubs, bars, and nightclubs. Most places have free entrance fees if you arrive before midnight.
How Much Does Transportation Cost?
The cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain isn't your normal public transport, but the views are stunning.
I don't own a car in Rio, so I mainly get around with Uber. My boyfriend uses his family car for work, which we use to get out of the city on weekends.
If you live in Zona Sul, you'll have everything you need nearby. Neighborhoods like Ipanema, Leblon, and Copacabana are super walkable, with grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping malls all around.
You'll also have easy access to public transportation. While I wouldn't recommend taking the bus for safety reasons, the Metro is a great option. One ticket for the Metro costs $0.90 (5 BRL). If you prefer ride-sharing services, Uber is readily available.
Uber rides in Zona Sul cost an average of $4 (20 BRL).
If you want to visit beaches outside of the city or go on a weekend road trip, renting a car can cost you $10 to $15 (55 to 84 BRL) per day. But there are also safe, tourist-friendly buses that connect people to other towns in Rio.
Public Transportation System
Metro- There are three subway lines in Rio, confusingly numbered 1, 2, and 4. Line 3 is still unbuilt. A one-way metro ticket costs $0.80 cents / 4.6 BRL. You have three ways to pay:
- Unitário (single journey) card- A Prepaid card with a minimum purchase value of 5 BRL.
- Giro card- A physical card or phone app you can recharge online or at the subway station.
- Bilhete Único- A card you use to pay for both the metro and the BRT light rail.
BRT- A bus system I found unique to Rio. The Bus Rapid Transit acts more like a light rail system than a bus. There are dedicated lanes, elevated stations to enter and exit, and the system integrates with the metro lines. BRT is an efficient way to get to the Rio international airport.
Subway + BRT = $1.25 or R$ 7.10
Two airports serve Rio; Rio de Janeiro–Galeao Airport(GIG) for international flights and Santos Dumont Airport(SDU) for domestic airlines.
Other Costs When Moving To Brazil
Christ the Redeemer Statue is a Rio icon. It's a tiring hike to the top, but the views are worth it.
How Much Does Health Care cost In Brazil?
You can expect to pay about 500 BRL / $90) per month for a local health insurance plan, which will cover all doctor visits and most medical expenses.
EDITOR'S NOTE : Private Healthcare For Expats- Carla's price above is for Brazilian private health insurance.
Brazil actually has a universal healthcare system called "Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS)." All legal residents, both citizens, and foreigners get access. However, as a public healthcare system, wait times, medical staff, and modern equipment have drawbacks.
Most expats take out complementary private health insurance to better access coverage and quality of private doctors and hospitals. The monthly premiums are minor compared to healthcare costs in the US.
As an example, when I lived in Rio, my private insurance included a free complete physical along with medicine, hospitalization in a private room, dentistry, and eye care for roughly $150 per month.
Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?
Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:
- Travel Health Insurance- This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
- Expat Medical Insurance- If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than the US.
Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In Brazil?
- You have permanent visas or temporary work visas under an employment contract with a Brazilian entity or
- You have a temporary visa, but no Brazilian employment contract but are physically in the country for 183 days (consecutive or not) within a 12-month period.
Tax residents are liable for their worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed only on Brazilian-sourced income. The income source is determined by the place where the income payer is located, regardless of where you are performing the work.
Brazil does not have an official double taxation treaty with the US. However, Brazil recognizes offsetting tax paid in the United States against Brazil's tax for the same earnings.
To avoid any complications, penalties, and fines, speak with a tax advisor for details.
What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget?
If you stay longer than 183 days, many countries will consider you a tax resident. Being an expat may help you save money on your taxes. Talk to a tax professional to see how tax residency applies to you. I partnered with a firm specializing in expat taxes to secure a special deal for Nomadic FIRE readers.
Use the promotion code "Nomadic25Consultation" for $25 off a tax consultation to get you started.
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What Are The Visa Requirements For Brazil?
Americans looking to enter Brazil save roughly $50 on a Brazilian visa. Since June 2019, US Citizens are visa-exempt and no longer need to pay for a tourist visa to enter for 90-days. Latin American Countries (Mercosur) are also visa-exempt. -
Visitors will be granted a stay of up to 90 days, which can be extended once for the same period, as long as they do not exceed 180 days within a 12-month period, counted from the date of the first entry.
What About A Brazil Retirement Visa?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers a temporary retirement visa (VITEM XIV) to foreigners who can prove a verifiable income of at least $2000 per month. Temporary retirement visas are renewed annually.
Brazil also offers a permanent residence visa (VIPER) with more qualifying requirements, including a $3,000 minimum pension income.
Permanent Residence Investment Visa (VIPER)- Another retiree visa option is to invest 500,000 BRL (less than $90,000) in government bonds, an approved business, or purchase real estate in Brazil.
Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy.
Expat Tips For Living in Rio
Rio's expat scene is alive and well, especially if you live in the Zona Sul neighborhoods of Ipanema and Copacabana.
It's common to run into other expats at your local bar in these neighborhoods, making it easy to connect in person. Another way to meet the expats is to hang out in expat-run bars and restaurants geared toward an American or European crowd.
You can also find the expat community through Facebook. Girl Gone International is a fantastic all-female Facebook group that connects expats through events and community support. I'm sure you can find other similar groups on Facebook.
Brazilians are very friendly people, and they'll likely strike a conversation with you at your local bar or restaurant. Group workout classes on the beach or places like yoga studios are also a great way to meet new people.
Is Rio de Janeiro safe?
When I first arrived in Rio, I was very concerned about my safety. Theft is a big problem in the city, and with so many poor communities nearby, it's not uncommon to hear about drug wars and shootings between traffickers and police. But I soon realized that my day-to-day life was a lot safer than I had imagined.
I live in a very safe area of Rio, where thousands of tourists stay when they visit. Because of the nature of my job, I often need to carry expensive camera equipment around to capture content for my blog and the brands I work with. I'm always extra cautious when I do so, and I always bring someone with me. I like to keep my iPhone in my bag and avoid using it too much when walking on the street. I also avoid walking alone at night when crime rates peak. As long as you're aware of your surroundings, you should be fine!
Final Thoughts: Expat Life in Rio
Living in Rio is one of my life's most exciting adventures. Everything from the striking natural landscape to the vibrant carioca culture reminds me that I'm living in a place that's one-of-a-kind.
While it's more expensive to live in Rio than other Latin American cities, it's still more affordable than most North American and European cities.
The most important thing to remember when living in Rio is that you have one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world at your doorstep. Remember to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible!
Resources for Working and Living Abroad
Start Speaking A New Language In 30 days
Pimsleur is the best method I have found to get to "Survival-Level" quickly when learning a new language. With Pimsleur, I can ease the stress of arriving in a new country and start speaking with people in my neighborhood. Ordering food, getting directions, haggling prices, and making friends is 10X easier when you can communicate in the local language.
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Transfer Money Internationally
For expats and nomads, Wise offers an International Bank account for your money transfers. It's an easier and cheaper alternative for paying your bills while overseas.
Looking to buy property abroad, Wise has a Large Transfer Rate for even bigger savings.
An International Mover You Can Trust
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Get Your US Expat Tax Questions Answered
US Expat taxes are the most complex in the world. However, living abroad comes with potential tax advantages, but mistakes are very easy to make. It is no wonder many expats are frustrated.
Avoid complications, penalties, and fines, Taxes For Expats is here to help.
Protect Your Health While Abroad
Your home health insurance is unlikely to provide coverage for you while overseas. Get premium health insurance designed for expats and digital nomads that protects you anywhere you are in the world, even during a pandemic.
Use A Virtual Mailbox To Keep A Permanent US Address And Receive Important Documents and Packages
Get a US street address you can use while you are overseas. Use a digital mailbox with a REAL physical location to receive mail from USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
A virtual mailbox can receive and forward all your important documents and packages, replace credit cards, maintain state residency, get checks deposited, or file business and tax applications. Prices start at $6.
Travel Tools and Resources
Skyscanner- My favorite airline search tool to find all the cheapest flights in one place.
Airport Pick-Up Service- Arrive at your destination stress-free with a private car cheaper than most taxis.
Loctote- My favorite day pack. Secure your belongings while walking around town.
First Time Moving Abroad? Check Out My Advice For New Expats
I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.
You want insider information from people with feet in the street? I only work with expats with real-life experience living in countries you want to know about. Together you get updated info on the best neighborhoods, detailed Cost of Living examples, money-saving advice, and recommendations on the local places to eat, drink, and see.
Are you a travel blogger with information you can share on living in another country? Contact me and let's talk about collaborating on a guest post.
EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna is a travel writer and photographer based in Rio de Janeiro. She founded the Travel by Carla Vianna blog after a yearlong backpacking trip around the world, where she fell deeply in love with the feeling of experiencing diverse cultures in far-off destinations. She aims to inspire others to travel far, often and consciously with her visual storytelling.