Let me get you an idea of what I am talking about. Here is an example of some of the prices (prices are in dollars and I am assuming 1 dollar = 1.5 reales):
- Private double room at a hostel = 60 dollars (and I am talking about a bare bones, small room). You can find private double rooms for 20 or less in other countries in the area.
- Big Mac combo – 10 dollars.
- Subway Footlong (without chips or drink) – 10 dollars.
- Typical lunch of rice, beans and chicken fillet – 8 dollars (more expensive if you order meat, drink is not included).
- There is a 10% service tax and most restaurants charge you for the entertainment offered while dining. Their charge you for something as simple as a guy playing a guitar and singing.
After experiencing this kind of prices (and more expensive ones), I wanted to understand if more people were feeling the pain when paying for food and services (because maybe Rio is expensive and the rest of the country is not that bad). Let me clarify that I wanted to investigate the topic because it was my desire to understand better the country. I wasn’t questioning this as the horrible witch that comes from the United States and was expecting to find an uniform, cheap and poor South America. As a traveler, I wanted to take that opportunity to learn about the economics and ways of live in Brazil.
I found out that I wasn’t the only person noticing the high cost of life in Brazil.
- I asked some locals about the prices. A guide told me the minimum salary was 340 dollars a month and that it was difficult for some to keep up with the prices. Another guy told me that the country’s economic expansion is not necessarily benefiting the lower classes.
- I compared notes with other travelers I met on the road (some have been all over Brazil). They told me how some services are less expensive in other areas of the country. However, food and transportation are also costly in other areas.
- I decided Rio de Janeiro was the second most expensive city I have visited after London. Then I met two couples from London and they told me Rio is as expensive as London.
- The research firm Employment Conditions Abroad (the firm studies living costs of international assignees) ranks Rio de Janeiro as 23th most expensive city in the world in its Cost of Living Survey. The most expensive city in the United States in New York which was ranked 44th.
- Michael Sommers, author of the Moon Handbooks’ Brazil guide (this is the guide I used to navigate thru the country), recently posted in his blog how he had to adjust the third edition of the guide to focus on budget or good value opportunities. He couldn’t release a guide of the country by just updating the content. He felt like he needed to help travelers to deal with the rising costs.
- And let not forget about the concrete reasons. In recent years, the Brazilian economy has boomed. As a result, increased wealth and inflation have augmented the prices. Also, the real has valorized like never before and the dollar has taken a plunge lower than the Grand Canyon.
So, why you should care about all this?
Brazil is an interesting, diverse, cosmopolitan and beautiful country (and this is my impression after the few places I experienced). I think every hard core traveler considers the possibility of visiting this superlative nation. So if you are planning to visit soon or somewhere in the future (when things are probably going to be more expensive), you should prepare accordingly. The cost of living of a particular country should not kill your dreams of visiting.
What about you? Have you been to Brazil? What are your impressions? Do you have some money saving tips?
Read more about the costs of traveling in Brazil in this post -> Cost of Traveling in Rio de Janeiro.