Latin America is a beautiful and diverse place full of beaches, mountains, and even deserts. Although there are plenty of places that won’t take a toll on your pocketbook, these ten richest cities in Latin America based on median household income are must-see places that will cost you a little extra.
1. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador, is a spectacular city that’s famous for its late sixteenth-century Spanish-style architecture. Step into Cuenca, and you will undoubtedly feel like you are walking around in a cosmopolitan European city. Cuenca’s urban population is 427,309, and it’s considered the beating economic heart of Ecuador.
Most people work in logging, automobile manufacturing, textiles, eco-energy, or mining. In a cute twist, Cuenca is also famous for its flowers. Cuenca is also a university town full of stunning cathedrals and national parks. This picturesque gem also happens to be one of the most expensive places to live in South America, thanks to the high median income.
Although Cuenca is far less expensive than other cities in the United States and Europe, families can still expect to pay upwards of $2,000 USD per month. Single people should expect to pay more along the lines of $1,000 USD, depending on where they live. As Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site, tourism is a massive part of the economy.
The other reason why tourists flock to Cuenca, Ecuador, is the weather. Although the location is in the tropics, Cuenca tends to be relatively cool and comfortable all year round. Temperatures rarely break the 70s or dip below 50 degrees.
2. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the country’s largest city and has the largest economy in the Southern Hemisphere at 433 billion dollars. As you can imagine, the residents of Sao Paulo tend to make a reasonably good household income, and the cost of living in this city is higher than average.
The Brazilian economy rests on the shoulders of this city, and it’s considered a vital industrial and financial hub for both Brazil and the rest of South America. Sao Paulo’s residents, Paulistanos, have a ton of pride in their city and will gladly show tourists all that Sao Paulo has to offer.
In addition to its towering financial institutions, San Paulo has a thriving art scene with plenty of art-house theaters and installations. There’s also Sao Paulo’s foodie culture. The streets of this city are teeming with world-class cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients. Those who love the nightlife will fall hard for Sao Paulo, as its nightclub scene is second to none.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, is an edgy, fun, urban playground that also happens to be one of the ten richest cities in Latin America.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brazil hits our list twice with another one of its amazing cities; Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro has an impressive GDP of 190 billion US dollars and is only second to Sao Paulo in being one of Brazil’s most influential cities. It’s also the third-largest city in South America.
Millions of people flock to Rio de Janeiro every year. It’s one of the most popular Latin American cities to visit and an important port city for the continent. Rio de Janeiro definitely has it all. You can take your pick between gorgeous mountains, bustling urban streets, and long stretches of golden beaches.
Rio de Janeiro’s nightlife is the stuff of legends. This city never sleeps, and the streets are full of bars where you can party all night or swanky clubs where you can grab a designer cocktail and people-watch to your heart’s content. Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro’s globally-renowned celebration, is a popular bucket-list item for many people.
If you’re athletic, check out Rio de Janeiro’s spectacular jungle and mountains. There are plenty of waterfalls, rock climbing, and exploring to be had. Rio de Janeiro also has an old Hollywood connection. Rising stars of the silver screen flocked to Rio de Janeiro’s fabulous beaches during the heyday of the movie business.
4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
When most people think about Argentina, the first thing that pops into their minds is Buenos Aires. This city has the second-largest economy in the Southern Hemisphere, just behind Sao Paulo, Brazil. It’s sometimes referred to as Latin America’s answer to Paris, and it’s hard to argue with the romance and style you feel the second you step off the plane.
Buenos Aires has some of the most phenomenal architecture in the world and is globally renowned for both its customer service and delicious foodie culture. In addition, Buenos Aires tends to have a very high median household income, which means that tourists and ex-pats can undoubtedly expect to pay quite a bit if they want to visit.
Average rent starts right around $900 a month, which is pretty steep for Latin America. Additionally, you can expect to pay about $600 for food and necessities. On the other hand, Buenos Aires is well worth spending a bit of time in if you can swing the costs.
Their opera house, theaters, botanical gardens, and nightlife are exceptional, and Buenos Aires is famous for its artistic, fashionable vibe.
5. Santiago de Chile, Chile
Santiago de Chile has a GDP of 150 billion dollars and is undoubtedly the nerve center of that country. It’s a sleek, modern city with an impressive skyline surrounded by lovely mountains. Santiago de Chile is located right in the heart of the Santiago Basin, so the surrounding land is lush and green, perfect for farming.
Although Santiago de Chile has always been important, they had a considerable population swell at the beginning of the twentieth century. This jump-started industry and economic growth, and alongside all of that, Santiago de Chile developed a unique artistic culture.
Today, visitors can find incredible theaters, galleries, parks, and a whole host of different dining options in Santiago. There’s also a thriving university and plenty of sports arenas. Living in this well-rounded city comes with a price tag, though. Apartments go for around $800 per month, and most people will spend at least that on food and entertainment as well.
6. Bogota, Colombia
The sky-high capital of Colombia, Bogota, has a high median income and is a relatively expensive place to both visit and live. However, it also happens to be the most critical culture hub of Colombia and an economic engine that powers the country.
Tourists come to Bogota for its food, culture, architecture, and history. Bogota was a flashpoint during the 1990s drug violence in the country. You can find all sorts of historical information about that troubling time. If history isn’t for you, there are also 50 museums and 60 art galleries all around Bogota’s downtown area and outskirts.
Bogota has sporting areas, theaters, excellent dining, and plenty of shopping. Pick up unique souvenirs from Bogota’s street vendors, or visit any number of high-fashion malls. Compared to the other cities on our list, Bogota isn’t as expensive. Plan to pay roughly $600 for a lovely apartment in the city center. Food and other necessities are also cheaper.
7. Guayaquil, Ecuador
If you want to go to the famous Galapagos Islands, you definitely need to make a stop in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Most of the flights that head out to the island chain originate, or at least pass through Guayaquil. As such, this city is a huge tourist destination, and the median household income tends to be higher than average.
Guayaquil is a costly city both because of its location and history. Plenty of famous local authors and artists have called Guayaquil their home. Additionally, Guayaquil’s cuisine is legendary, particularly its seafood.
If you venture out of downtown Guayaquil, you’ll find tons of brightly-colored favelas and a taste of local Ecuadorian culture. Stay in the city center, and you can surround yourself with high-rise buildings, theaters, and art galleries.
Guayaquil tends to be a bit more on the pricey side, with apartments going for roughly $900 per month, but if you love culture, food, and proximity to the sea, this city could be totally worth it.
8. Lima, Peru
Peru’s capital city, Lima, has a GDP of 177 billion US dollars and is one of the most important economic engines in the Southern Hemisphere. It also has the biggest economy on South America’s Pacific coast, and what happens in Lima has repercussions in the rest of Peru.
Since it’s so financially and economically significant, the median household income of Lima tends to be pretty high. As a result, it’s one of the most expensive cities to visit or live in on the continent. Although Lima doesn’t draw the number of tourists the Cusco does, it still gets a fair amount of visitors.
Lima has a considerable population of ten million people, and it’s an incredibly multicultural city thanks to its booming economy and job market. One of the most underrated aspects of Lima is its brilliant street art. Wander through any of the most popular districts in this city, and you’ll see stunning, creative murals.
Living in Lima will cost a single person about $1,500 a month in both rent and food. You can certainly expect to double that number if you’re a family.
9. Montevideo, Uruguay
Uruguay isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when we think about expensive places to live in Latin America, but we should. Montevideo is a cosmopolitan, influential city that rivals much of what you’d find in Argentina or Brazil, and it is the most expensive place to live in South America.
If you can stomach the cost of paying at least $1,000 for an apartment, Montevideo is certainly the palace to be. It borders the beautiful Rio de la Plato and boasts a population of 1.4 million. When you consider the fact that Uruguay has a population of roughly 2.8 million, you can appreciate the size and scope of this city.
You’ll find both business and culture in Montevideo, and its five primary neighborhoods, Punta Carretas, Centro, Ciudad Vieja, Carrasco, and Pocitos, all have their own flavor and flair. Montevideo is a city full of parks, art galleries, theaters, restaurants, clubs, and shops. In addition, there’s a robust and beautiful waterfront, and it’s pedestrian-friendly.
The feeling in Montevideo is relatively laid back and artistic. Most visitors feel very welcome and at home in the heart of Montevideo, and it’s safe as well. Expect to pay at least $1,000 per month for an apartment in this city and close to $900 on food and at least a few hundred dollars on entertainment.
Although Montevideo will undoubtedly put a dent in your bank account, most visitors agree that it’s well worth it. This uniquely beautiful city draws tourists from all over the world.
10. Brasilia, Brazil
Brazil’s government is located in Brasilia, and it’s one of the country’s financial centers. Additionally, Brasilia is a technological hub and a great place to work as a developer or coder. As such, its standard of living and median household income is relatively high.
Brasilia has a substantial ex-pat community, as well as a thriving local one. There are plenty of universities and quite a few sports teams in Brasilia itself. Sports aren’t the only reason why people visit or move to Brasilia. There are plenty of galleries, cafes, and other artistic venues in this Brazilian city.
Expect to pay about $800 a month for your average apartment in Brasilia, as well as spend $500 per month on food. While Brasilia doesn’t top our list for the most expensive cities to live in Latin America, it’s certainly a lot richer than many other locations in Latin American countries.
Latin America is a beautiful tapestry of different cultures and vibes, and there’s a tremendous amount of discrepancy between the cost of living depending on where you are. The wealthier cities with a higher median household income tend to have a lot more to offer in terms of art and culture.
What’s your favorite Latin American city? Tell us in the comments.