Despite many ongoing issues affecting daily life there, Brazil has emerged as the wealthiest nation in South America and it’s among the most popular with anyone looking to experience life on the continent for a longer period of time. In this post we’re going to look at some of the best and cheapest cities to live in Brazil. We’ve five of the best options for anyone looking to find a relatively high standard of living in the country and a living cost comparison of twelve major Brazilian cities.
5 of the Best Cities to Live in Brazil
In the 21st Century, Fortaleza has emerged as a frontrunner when it comes to the best places to live in Brazil and it is amongst the most popular with Brazilians and foreigners alike. Its population has soared to nearly 3 million, making it the fifth most populated city in the country and by far the largest in the northeastern state of Ceará.
So what makes it popular? Well Fortaleza is a major beach destination and one of the most visited parts of Brazil for tourists. Its location close to the equator ensures it enjoys a warm year-round climate with average highs of around 30°C in all twelve months of the year. That’s in real contrast to cities in the south of the country such as Porto Alegre which have much more distinct seasons and can get relatively cool during the winter months.
The wider Fortaleza area is made up of lagoons, sand dunes and more great beaches with loads of great options for getting out of town. Fortaleza itself perhaps lacks the overall character of some other Brazilian cities with more history but it does have a mix of old and new with a colourful central district, as well as plenty of large shopping malls catering to its growing population. There are some particularly dangerous parts of the city though where crime is rife, so you will really need to do your research before settling on a neighbourhood to live in.
Estimated Living Costs* – 4400 Brazilian Real per month ($850)
*The cost of living estimates for the five Brazilian cities in this post (and those in the table at the bottom) are geared towards an individual person and cover the cost of rented accommodation plus most living expenses such as groceries, transport with a bit left over for evenings out and short trips in the area.
However the figures are only designed to be a very rough guide. They should be used as a means of comparison rather than an accurate estimate of what YOU would spend. Your real cost of living in Brazil will depend on many factors.
For example, should you want to find a good flat in one of the very safest and best neighbourhoods, you will almost certainly end up spending a lot more than this each month. However if you’re sharing accommodation with friends or flatmates and are happier to be in a slightly cheaper district, you could most likely get by on less than the figures quoted.
Almost 4000 kilometres to the south of Fortaleza, lies the city of Porto Alegre. It’s the southernmost major city in Brazil, situated only around 400 km north of the Uruguayan border and within relatively easy reach of Montevideo, one of South America’s most livable cities.
As you might imagine, it’s a very different kind of place to Fortaleza, with the vast majority of its population being of European descent. It is one of the richest cities in South America but like so many in Brazil, there is still a great deal of inequality and crime rates are still relatively high.
Porto Alegre’s appeal comes from its cultural quirks and large areas of green space – a bit of a rarity on the South American continent. It’s a city that has produced writers, intellectuals and artists who have shaped Brazil’s journey and it’s a fascinating place to get to know.
Its slightly cooler climate and European feel may appeal to those moving from Europe or North America and looking for a bit of familiarity which will be harder to find in other parts of Brazil.
Estimated Living Costs – 4400 Brazilian Real per month ($850)
Rio de Janeiro
For many people from abroad thinking of living in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is invariably the first place they consider. That’s understandable given its global reputation and iconic destinations and landmarks such as Copacabana Beach and Christ the Redeemer.
It’s often the first port of call for anyone travelling in Brazil and the setting is certainly spectacular but what is living in Rio de Janeiro really like? Well the good news is that the city’s transport network has been vastly improved since the city staged the Olympics in 2016 so it’s much easier to get from some of the safer, more liveable neighbourhoods to the city’s best areas for daytime and evening entertainment. That was a major issue previously which made it difficult to find a happy balance between living in a good area but also truly experiencing the best Rio has to offer.
Rio de Janeiro really does highlight the extreme gap between rich and poor in Brazil though. To live in one of the best neighbourhoods, you’ll need more than our estimated $900 per month for your total living costs but the relative absence of safe mid-range accommodation, can make finding an affordable happy medium tough going.
Overall, Rio is certainly one of the most expensive cities in Brazil to live in, but you may come to the conclusion that paying a bit more to live in one of the world’s most exciting cities, one that is still very affordable by global standards, is worth it. You can also take advantage of having a base for some of the huge events on the city’s cultural calendar such as Carnival, one of the best world festivals.
Estimated Living Costs – 4700 Brazilian Real per month ($900)
Curitiba is another city in the south of Brazil which is well worth considering. It has similarities to Porto Alegre in that it’s a relatively affluent place with a European flavour but overall it is viewed as a safer city with a one of the highest standards of living in Brazil.
Indeed, Curitiba regularly ranks amongst the safest cities in Brazil to live and unquestionably safety is a big factor you will need to consider before deciding to move to the country. Safe doesn’t necessarily mean boring though. Curitiba is still a large city with a population of close to two million and there’s plenty going on by day or by night, and it also ranks as one of the cheapest cities to live in Brazil, at least amongst the biggest ones.
Negatives may include a relatively small true “expat” or recent immigrant population and that may mean that making friends and finding like-minded people in your situation is a bit harder. Curitiba is also 100 km from the coast which will be a major drawback for some.
Estimated Living Costs – 4100 Brazilian Real per month ($800)
If you’re looking for an affordable coastal city in Brazil, then Florianopolis might just be for you. It’s located roughly halfway between Curitiba and Porto Alegre in the south of Brazil and is by far the smallest of these five cities.
Smaller doesn’t necessarily mean safer in this country but overall it ranks very well in terms of quality of life and is one of the best cities in Brazil for anyone looking for that dreamy beach lifestyle. The city has no fewer than 60 beaches and is also a hotbed for water sports, particularly surfing, and is one of the best places in the country for anyone looking to lead an outdoors lifestyle.
It’s largely made up of the 50km-long Santa Catarina Island which is connected to the Brazilian mainland by the impressive Ponte Hercílio Luz.
Estimated Living Costs – 4400 Brazilian Real per month ($850)
Is Brazil cheap to live? – Cost of Living in 12 Cities Compared
Again remember these are purely estimates and most likely will not replicate your actual living costs should you decide to move to the country. Brazil is very difficult to produce a realistic budget for as expenses will vary wildly depending on where you choose to live and what you expect from your accommodation/neighbourhood. It will also depend a lot on your personal circumstances, with the living expenses of a young person likely to be very different to those of anyone looking for places to retire in Brazil.
This table should at least be able to give you an impression of how cities size up against one another in terms of the overall cost of living.
|City||Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in US Dollars)|
|Rio de Janeiro||900|
Brazil’s largest two cities Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro come out at the top but they are so big, that there are significant variations in living costs even within those cities with big differences between the wealthiest communities and poorer neighbourhoods.
Generally speaking, the cost of living in Brazil goes down as you move inland or further north, although there are a few exceptions. In a city like Goiania, in the state of Goiás, your money will go further and there is more potential to save money if you’re working remotely or as a digital nomad.
As of July 2021, $1 = 5.20 Brazilian Real, €0.84 and £0.72.
This post on the best and cheapest cities to live in Brazil was published in May 2021.