Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cost of living in Montevideo

Is it really economical for a retired expat to live in Montevideo?  I have discovered a fascinating website that makes it easy to compare basic costs of everyday living in a number of places around the globe. It's called Expatistan and once you've tried it you'll be hooked on international comparative studies.

I learned the following facts in one afternoon of research.

The cost of living in Oslo is 113% higher than in Montevideo.
 London is 82% higher than Montevideo.
Singapore is 77% higher than Montevideo.
Paris is 65% higher than Montevideo.
Amsterdam is 62% higher than Montevideo.
Hong Kong is 49% higher than Montevideo.
 Rome is 37% higher than Montevideo.

The cost of living in Toronto is 49% higher than in Montevideo.
Vancouver is 41% higher than Montevideo.
Halifax is 34% higher than Montevideo.
Edmonton is 30% higher than Montevideo.
Saskatoon is 20% higher than Montevideo.
Montreal is 19% higher than Montevideo.

The cost of living in Charlotte, N.C. and Johannesburg, South Africa are about the same as the cost of living in Montevideo.

The cost of living in St. Petersburg, Russia is 6% less than in Montevideo.
Prague is 10% less than Montevideo.
Budapest is 13% less than Montevideo.
Warsaw is 22% less than Montevideo.
Mendoza is 26% less than Montevideo.
Buenos Aire is 27% less than Montevideo.
Lima is 29% less than Montevideo.
Mexico City is 30% less than Montevideo.
Quito is 44% less than Montevideo.

 The website compares average prices for food, housing, clothes, transportation, personal care, and entertainment.  Visitors to Expatistan can participate and improve the accuracy of statistics by entering current local prices for items such as a tube of toothpaste, a Big Mac, 2 lbs.of potatoes, a litre of gas, movie tickets, a public transit pass, a pair of dress shoes, or four rolls of toilet paper.

From my own experience, I would say that living in Montevideo has become more costly for expats in the past year due to the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar coupled with high inflation (8.5%).  When we do our regular grocery shopping at Disco supermarket, we note that prices are sneaking upward from week to week on basic items such as coffee, jam, cereal, rice, bread and butter.  Our life in Uruguay is definitely simpler and more spartan than in North America - we do not own a car, a dishwasher, a television, a washer or dryer. Our house does not have the luxury of central heating, which makes the winter months uncomfortable.  Utilities are expensive in Montevideo, so I avoid using the electric oven.  Baking and roasting  have become vague memories from my Canadian culinary past, as it is much less costly to buy pastries from the panaderia and a ready-to-serve slice of beef from the deli counter. Slow food is out of the question.

On the positive side, public transit in Montevideo is reliable and inexpensive. Tickets to concerts, ballet, opera and theatre are affordable and offer a full range of world-class performers.   This city may not be a cheap place to live, but it is never boring.

When former left-wing militant Jose (Pepe) Mujica was elected President in 2009, his acceptance speech included the following passage.

"There is no fixed list of things that make us happy.  Some think the ideal world is full of shopping centres.  I've nothing against that vision, but I simply say that it isn't the only one.  I say we can imagine a country where people repair things instead of throwing them away, where they choose a small car instead of a large one, where they put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat."

Clearly, we are living in Mujica's imagined republic.


  1. Expatistan has a couple of deficiencies it seems. For housing it only seems to cover renting and not owning. It's very limited in that it only seems to cover big cities. Finally, except for over-the-counter sundries it completely leaves out health care! Insurance and out of pocket medical costs, for instance, are huge in the States, very low in Costa Rica (well, most of the rest of the world).

    All cost-of-living measures fail in a more subtle way as well. Just as you pointed out, you have adjusted your lifestyle to match your budget to your economic environment. People do this all the time in a dynamic fashion so that any measure of prices over a fixed basket of goods gets stale very quickly.

  2. Hi-I live in the US (florida) am originally from the UK and am seriously looking to move to another country....I do not have oodles of $$ but I can liquidate and relocate whenever...I keep seeing uruguay as one of the better places to live in the world...My one wish is to live by the water...I can live in a wooden shack with no running water if necessary (but I am sure that is not going to be case) Please please contact me....I am ready to come for a short visit and see what my options might be...

  3. there is a site with all the information about forms and paperwork in Uruguay. Is very useful (in spanish)


    there is also an official site with a catalog of all the english content:

  4. Hi Elizabeth! how are you?

    My name is Gilda, and I work with several hostels in Argentina, Chile, Brasil, Perú, Uruguay y Bolivia. We are looking to exchange links with interesting regional blogs, and we find yours, and we really liked it. Would you like to exchange links with us?

    We could put your link in the following blogs:

    In exchange, I would ask you to put the following links in your blog:

    Title: Hostel Buenos Aires
    URL: http://www.chelagarto.com/index.php/en/hostel-in-buenos-aires.html
    Description: Che Lagarto Hostel in Buenos Aires is located in Venezuela 857, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    Title: Hostel Montevideo
    URL: http://www.chelagarto.com/index.php/en/hostel-in-montevideo.html
    Description: Che Lagarto Hostel in Montevideo is located in Plaza Independencia 713, Montevideo, Uruguay.

    Title: Hostel Cusco
    URL: http://www.chelagarto.com/index.php/en/hostel-in-cusco.html
    Description: Che Lagarto Hostel in Cusco is located in Siete Cuartones 284, Cusco, Peru.

    Title: Hostel Mar del Plata
    URL: http://www.chelagarto.com/index.php/en/hostels-in-mar-del-plata.html
    Description: Che Lagarto Hostel in Mar del Plata is located in Alberti 1565, Mar del Plata, Argentina.

    Title: Hostel Iguazu
    URL: http://www.chelagarto.com/index.php/en/hostel-in-iguazu-falls.html
    Description: Che Lagarto Hostel in Iguazu is located in Av. Brasil 24, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

    Title: Hostel Rio de Janeiro
    URL: http://www.chelagarto.com/index.php/pt/hostels-em-rio-de-janeiro.html
    Description: Che Lagarto Hostel em Rio de Janeiro está localizado no Rua Barata Ribeiro 111, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Title: Hostel Santiago
    URL: http://www.hostalprovidencia.com
    Description: Hostal Providencia in Santiago de Chile is located in Av. Vicuña Mackenna 92, Santiago de Chile.

    If it’s ok for you, please send me an email telling me how you’d like your link, and I’ll add it. Thanks!

    Best wishes,

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