Cost of Living in Brazil
Expats might be surprised to learn that the cost of living in Brazil is relatively high. The dream of lying on a beach sipping water from a coconut without a care in the world is quickly replaced by the reality of high prices. Expats will find it less expensive to live in rural areas than in the cities, but some costs will still be high and access to goods and services will be limited.
Expenses vary widely across categories. In general, accommodation, transportation and manufactured goods are expensive; food costs are variable based on whether one eats out or cooks at home, and services are relatively inexpensive because labour costs are low.
Brazil has made significant strides in moving people out of extreme poverty over the past decade and in decreasing income inequality. However, there are still vast disparities in wealth between the richest and the poorest. Expats making an international salary will be among the wealthy, and even those making a local salary will likely find that they are firmly upper middle class. While Brazil remains well behind the US and Western Europe in terms of overall development, living in a city and earning a good salary, expats have access to most of the conveniences they can expect to find anywhere in the world.
Cost of accommodation in Brazil
Rental accommodation is expensive and will likely be an expat’s biggest expense. Expats on assignment from international companies may have a housing allowance to help offset the high cost.
Expats can spend less by living in a less central location, although they may find that transportation costs increase as a result.
Cost of food and drink in Brazil
Food costs vary in Brazil. Restaurant meals are fairly expensive, but basic groceries are more moderately priced, so expats who choose to eat at home can manage food costs more easily. Major cities have upscale grocery stores that carry a wide range of imported items.
Shopping at local markets for basics, like bread, grains, produce and meat, yields the lowest grocery prices. Another thing to keep in mind is that locally produced food is almost always less expensive – in cities on the coast, seafood will be less expensive, while beef and pork will cost less in inland farming regions.
Brazilians are well-known lovers of beer and cachaça, the national liquor made from sugar cane. Both are readily available, as are a wide selection of wines and liquors. Prices on beer and wine are very reasonable, but imported liquors are expensive. Expats can save money by purchasing some at duty-free on their way into the country.
Cost of clothing and goods in Brazil
Manufactured items of all kinds are very expensive, particularly clothing, appliances, household goods, and especially electronics. Expats may want to purchase goods in their home countries to avoid paying the high prices in Brazil.
Cost of transportation in Brazil
Transportation expenses in Brazil are high. Cars cost much more in Brazil than in many other countries. Parking and insurance are also rather expensive.
Cost of schooling in Brazil
Expats with children will find that education costs in Brazil will rival, if not exceed, their rental expenses. Public schools in Brazil have a bad reputation, and Brazilians with the resources to do so almost always send their children to private schools. Expats seeking to enrol their children in the highly regarded international schools, however, will find them very expensive.
Cost of healthcare in Brazil
Healthcare is also expensive in Brazil. However, many drugs that are prescription elsewhere are more easily available in Brazil, and pharmacists are well-informed and easily available to answer questions and provide advice for simple health concerns.
Cost of services in Brazil
The one area that expats will likely find inexpensive in Brazil is services. Prices for beauty, housecleaning, repairs and other services are all quite low. Many comparable services like these cost less in Brazil than in the US or Western Europe.
Cost of living in Brazil chart
Prices may vary depending on location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices for Rio De Janeiro in November 2016.
|Furnished two-bedroom house||BRL 4,500|
|Unfurnished two-bedroom house||BRL 3,000|
|Furnished two-bedroom apartment||BRL 3,200|
|Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment||BRL 2,000|
|Milk (1 litre)||BRL 3.90|
|Loaf of white bread||BRL 5.70|
|Rice (1kg)||BRL 3.70|
|Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)||BRL 11.50|
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)||BRL 8|
Big Mac meal
|Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant||BRL 65|
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month)||BRL 80|
|Utilities (average per month for standard household)||BRL 380|
|Hourly rate for a domestic cleaner||BRL 17|
|City centre bus fare||BRL 3.80|
|Taxi (rate per km)||BRL 2.30|
|Petrol (per litre)||BRL 4|