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Best Places To Live In South America

in Living Overseas

The Best Places to Live in South America range from promising emerging markets to countries that are going through presidential coups.  Every year publications from around the world list their top places to live and retire for the upcoming year.

Most of these expert reports are written by authors that have never visited most of the locations listed.

By calculating numbers and looking at other reports it is automatically decided where the best places to live in the world are.  Taking surveys of locals of how happy they are is faulty as well.  How many of those locals have actually step foot outside of their own homes?

Living in South America for a span of 10 years periodically throughout my life I have had the pleasure of living in every viable country on the continent.

At times living in countries that aren’t as stable which is one of the reasons this post is being written.

South America is now emerging as a unique place to visit, an incredible place to invest, and an exceptional place to live.  Many entrepreneurs have started looking for the best countries to invest in South America as well (investment tracking software comes in handy for this).  From the world renowned beaches of Brazil to the newly emerged city of eternal spring, South America holds splendors that are left to be explored.

Here are the best places to live in South America:

hindu temple, hindu temple in paramaribo, temples in paramaribo

Hindu Temple in Paramaribo, Suriname

#5 Suriname:

The small country nestled in northeastern South America will impress you as much as any other country.  The diversity of religions and people is so vast one would have though it impossible in a place like Suriname. The most pleasant surprise is how well everyone respects the beliefs and feelings of the many different segments of the population.

Skip what the experts are saying and think about Suriname. The best infrastructure in the region (in the northeast not South America) and a government that hasn’t had any major difficulties since the Dutch left in 1975.

Suriname impressed me thoroughly and was my favorite of all three countries in the Guiana’s.

Being such a small country there are limited opportunities.  For those that are looking for excitement Suriname may be not be the best option.  More than 80% of the country is Amazon rainforest and the heat and humidity is enough to make a beach sweat.  There is also limited connectivity to its neighbors and it possesses a currency that is not readily convertible.

Colonial Architecture Lima

Colonial Architecture in Lima

#4 Peru:

Living in Peru is the best bet for those that are budget conscious.  Even the capital city, Lima, is extremely affordable compared to other countries such as Chile and Brazil.

With the right mix of progress and conservation, Peru is now turning over a new leaf in its effort to join some its more prosperous neighbors.  The country has become more politically stable and it has rebuilt its reputation that was once marred by civil war and terrorism.

The country has an abundance of culture and the people are some of the nicest that one will find on the continent.

Great transportation networks are being built and Lima is a global airline hub thanks to LAN Airlines and the much visited iconic Machu Picchu.

While continuing my search for viable locations for day trading centers in South America, Peru is very high on my list of possibilities.

Easter Island Ahu Tahai

Moai Statues At Easter Island

#3 Chile:

Living in Chile for over 3 months allowed me to get acquainted to the model of prosperity in South America.  The only First World nation on the continent, Chile is an incredibly interesting country that has nothing  but open arms for foreigners.

It is one of the most expensive places to live in South America but one would be surprised at the low cost of housing.

A brand new 3 bedroom condo commanded only $800 a month for rent. An apartment that was centrally located overlooking the beautiful growing capital city of Santiago.

I did forget to mention the snow capped Andes mountains didn’t I.

The country boasts a myriad of options of where to live; from the growing city skyline of Santiago, the adventure rich mountains, the unique coastline, all the way to the majestic south that gives Chile the moniker “The Switzerland of the South.”

Foreigners are flocking to live in Chile for not only opportunity but stability in a world which is becoming increasingly unstable.

Copacabana Beach Rio De Janeiro

Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro

#2 Brazil:

I couldn’t say enough about living in Brazil. Day trading in Brazil from penthouses to lofts in the center of the city, there is something quite distinctive about Rio De Janeiro.

It is the only city that has it all; beaches, mountains, lakes, diversity, and opportunity. The World Cup and the Olympics have launched a massive flow of investment into the country which will only improve the viability and attractiveness for foreigners.

Brazil also is large enough to offer anyone exactly what they are looking for. Much like Rio De Janeiro, everyone from a family to a single man could find a place to call home in Brazil.

With investment rising and the country’s profile increasing around the world, prices unfortunately have increased substantially throughout the country.

The only challenges to Brazil is the language barrier and the cost.  Portuguese, while difficult, can be learned and there are ways to economize in the country. There are no cheaper options than Peru however.

Contrary to popular belief, living in Brazil will not be a safety concern. The government has focused on cleaning up bad neighborhoods and increasing security throughout the country. In the past police in Rio De Janeiro wouldn’t enter many favelas (ghettos) but now are heavily armed to ensure trouble does not persist.

Bear in mind that Sao Paolo still bears safety concerns, use caution when visiting & living in the massive metropolis.


A Panoramic View of Medellin

#1 Colombia:

Now that Colombia has minimized terrorism and persistent drug problems, the positive aspects of the country far outweigh the disadvantages.  The new government has a strong focus on growth and progress has welcomed foreigners.

One of the best cities to live in South America, Medellin, has an incredible amount of civic pride and will leave you astounded by clean streets and nothing but gracious people.

Medellin is still haunted by its dangerous past but as a person that has lived in Medellin in for well over 6 months and plans to return, it is a very unique place to live.  Cost of living is still relatively low and there is perfect weather year round.

Tentative plans have been placed to open a day trading center in Medellin, Colombia as part of The Day Trading Academy.

There is a reason Medellin is called the City of Eternal Spring.

The city also is known as the city of flowers which attests to its beauty.  If an investor buys real estate worth over $200,000 they are granted automatic residency.  Also, if any investment is made over $100,000 the same rule applies.

Colombia’s economy is rapidly expanding with a focus on exports similar to Chile.  This alone can provide the country with an endless amount of opportunities for retirees and young person’s as well.

There aren’t overlying dangers in Colombia but as with any Latin American country it is always best to remain cautious.  Don’t enter into any suspicious behavior and there will be no issues in the country.  This rule applies to any city around the world.

Stay away from the coast as the culture is significantly different than that of interior cities.  The Pacific coast including the region outside of Cali should also be taken with caution.

Bogota is the only large cosmopolitan city in the country approaching 10 million residents (estimated).  If one plans to live in Bogota take cautionary measures that would be taken in any large city.


{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

mark January 23, 2013 at 2:51 am

heading down to sth america, so this is handy


JC January 24, 2013 at 1:29 am

Nice post Marcello!

I was in Colombia last year and really liked Medellin as well. Seriously considering going back there later this year and spend a few months.


Travel with Pedro January 25, 2013 at 7:52 am

Nice post! As a Brazilian living overseas for the last 12 years and contemplating on returning to the country, reading your post is very encouraging.


Antoinette | love.antoinette January 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I’m glad you named Colombia #1 as I’ve had my eye on that country for quite some time now. I originally picked Argentina to learn Spanish, but everyone’s said that Colombian Spanish is by far the “most proper” for those learning the language. I have narrowed it down to Cartagena or Medellin, and I see you’re really leaning more towards the latter. Any other advice is very well appreciated.


Norbert December 26, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I have been to Colombia several times and lived for 3 months in Cartagena last year. Great city, I love it. It is so much different than Medellin though, which is a great city as well. Actually, I plan to move to Colombia within the next 2 years from Southern California. By the way, Spanish schools in Colombia are kinda expensive. You would be much better off learning Spanish in either Ecuador or Nicaragua (good Spanish is spoken in these two countries as well). While the Spanish spoken in Colombia is probably the best in South America, the Spanish spoken in Cartagena is horrible.

Have a great time in Colombia.


Marcello January 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Norbert… You can find free classes at the local Universities many times. The best Spanish is actually spoken in Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina but that is relative. Medellin is an exceptional place to learn you can see my little course on speaking Colombian Spanish here: http://wanderingtrader.com/travel-blog/colombia-travel-blog/learning-how-to-speak-colombian-spanish-basic-expressions/


Raul June 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

I would think that the best place to learn Spanish would be Spain :) I know it’s not in South America, but if you’re planning on learning Spanish, go to Spain!!!


Marcello June 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Technically that is the birth of the language Raul but I found people in Latin America to be much more kind and gracious. There are now better economic opportunities in Latin America and frankly, more people speak with a Latin American accent than they do with a Spanish accent. Thanks for the comment my man.

Leslie Horning February 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I’d put Brazil #1 on my list, but Columbia would be a close second. South America definitely has some cool places to live.


Dominic February 28, 2013 at 2:11 am

Could you elaborate on what is wrong with coastal Colombia? I heard only good things about Cartagena. Also, would like to know thoughts on Vina del Mar, Chile if any.


Marcello February 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

Cartagena is a beautiful city with lots of history and extremely romantic. The culture in the city however would not be conducive to long term living. Its okay for a visit but there is a high level of corruption, crime, and drug activity in the city. The climate can also be unbearable for much of the year. Its a great city to visit but not a great city to live in.


Josh May 10, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I was in Brazil last year – Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Fortaleza, Jericoacoara. There are no issues there. I stopped multiple times to ask Policia for directions and they were nice and welcoming. I cannot complain. I and my fiancé are planning to move down there in the next year or two.


Daniel Binder July 5, 2013 at 12:29 am

You made a point mentioning Colombia as a great country to live nowadays. Bogota is also a great place to live. But I have to disagree that it’s tha best country to live in South America. Probably this means that you have never been to Uruguay. Uruguay is also a “first world country” in the continent having better rate of crime, health and education. The cities are safe, well organized, have a good structure without chaos in traffic like in Rio, Sao Paulo and Bogota, it’s definitely the best country to live in South America. Once you have the opportunity to visit there let us know you opinion. (I’m not from Uruguay ! :) )


Marcello July 5, 2013 at 1:49 am

Daniel I have family in Uruguay an have also visited Uruguay. I base the best countries to live not only on just standard of living and future prospects. In terms of economy I find that Colombia has much further upside potential than Rio de Janeiro. A city like Medellin Colombia provides beautiful weather year round which is very hard to beat. I would still choose Colombia over Uruguay. Thanks for the comments you made some good points. I also would put Medellin way higher as a better place to live than Bogota.


Larry July 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Planning to go to Columbia in Oct. to see if I want to retire there. Not liking my retirement in the us.


Marcello July 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Great move for you Larry.. would recommend that you look into my post on living in Colombia as well


Pablo August 3, 2013 at 1:25 am

I Live here in Medellin and the only thing that I have to say to all of you is that Medellin is a very dangerous city if you want to come here you should stay at El Poblado, don’t go out for a walk, don’t take a bus, trust to no one, don’t trust to the police, and please do NOT leave El Poblado.

I’m just a citizen of Medellin and I know how things are here


Marcello August 5, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I lived there for over 6 months and didn’t have the same experience Pablo. It may be because I look more Colombian but I do not think its that serious. Compared to a western nation yes I would say one has to be much more mindful of their surroundings but I don’t think Medellin is that dangerous to be honest. I have been to the barrios and didn’t feel that at all


Nick August 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

It’s really hard to comment on any country that a person hasn’t lived in for at least a few years. I lived in England for seven and a place is very different when u have been then over a year.


Marcello August 10, 2013 at 10:29 am

That is why I normally stay in a location for 3-6 months and sometimes longer Nick. Most of the places I have lived in S. America has been more than 6 months but I do agree with you


Peggy McPartland August 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I spent a week in Medellin last winter and had planned to stay longer, but ended up having to return to the US due to a family emergency. I loved the city and the people and will definitely be going back for a longer stay. I’d hate for people to be discouraged based on Pablo’s comments. I stayed in the Estadio area and loved it. I walked all over the city, took the metro, buses and taxis. I met lots of great people, ate fabulous food and had a wonderful time. I had nothing but positive experiences while I was there. All of this traveling solo as an obvious gringa (I’m a pale-skinned blonde). The one area I didn’t particularly care for was Poblado because it was expensive and too many English-speaking gringos. Yes, you have to be cautious and aware of your surroundings – it is a city of two million people. But it’s clean, friendly and people are proud of their city and want you to like it and be safe there.


Mark W August 26, 2013 at 1:23 am

If it weren’t for the prices, would you put Brazil #1? It seems to me a waaaaaaaay better place than Colombia.


Marcello August 28, 2013 at 2:41 am

Depends in what respect Mark. Are you just going to live there or actually try to start a life? Rio is only better for some people because it has a beach. With better economic prospects in Colombia I would make my bet on Colombia. Its safer, the women are just as beautiful, and the people I would say are actually nicer as well.


j August 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I worked in Orito in 1999 with a Sikorskey Flying Crane on contract with Eco Petrol. The compound we were on was protected by the Colombian Army, because we had a bounty on our heads to kidnap us by the communist FARC. In Bogota we didn’t leave the hotel except to fly out of country or to Orito. 4 years ago, I flew from Panama to Cartajena for a week on a recomondation from the Colombian doctor at Orito. Never felt any qualms of danger, though watched my back on evening walks. Met a Colombian in Buenos Aries two years ago, and when he found I had worked there during the FARC b/s, he invited me back. He told me now Colombia is one of the safest countries in S. America. I am going back this winter for a month or so. As I also backpacked thru Colombia in 1980 before the FARC made it unsafe, and while working there I flew in the Crane on working missions from Puerto Assis (sp) to the oil rig in the Andes foothills. The country is knock down beautiful. Raging white water rivers, lush jungles, lots of wildlife, and super nice people.


Marcello August 28, 2013 at 2:36 am

I wouldn’t say that Colombia is the safest country in S. America. I would actually say that Chile is the safest country, followed by French Guyana, and then Colombia & Peru tied in 3rd place. Things are happening in Colombia and I planned on being based here for a while because the country is definitely moving.


Jimmy September 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Hey Marcello,

Have you ever traveled to Uruguay? I saw the one person’s comment stating how it was better than some of your suggestions (to each his own). I plan on moving out of the U.S. in the next 2-3 years and am glad I found your website. I would even be interested in working for your website as my background is in sales and marketing. Nonetheless, I will keep in touch on your website.
Awesome picture with the Cheetahs.


Marcello September 14, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Yes Jimmy I have been there and also have family that lives in the country. I still would say that Rio and Medellin are best in my opinion. If you are interested opening a business I would say that Chile would be first and then Colombia. It is still a bit easier to do business in Chile than Colombia but with the new Pacific Alliance soon those markets will be integrated


marcelo March 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Hi Jimmy

I`m from Uruguay and i live here, i love my country and i am proud of it.
But let me tell you , i would NOT recomend you live here.
I lived in USA, Spain and I was in Argentina,Brazil and Chile, the only first world country of the continent.
And i can assure you that Uruguay its NOT a first world country. Its expensive, not secure, dirty, ineficcient and you dont want to deal with the burocracy.
The country is plummeting in the areas of Education , Health and Security.
I hope my comments will help you.
(sorry for my english)


Everton October 11, 2013 at 12:31 am

I’m Brazilian and I’m surprised about Suriname on the list. To consider it better than Argentina or Uruguay it’s hard to believe. Perhaps you got amazed with the “Asian style” of Paramaribo, but living there is another story. In fact there’s nothing there, from leisure to medical treatment, shopping to jobs. Since you said your ranking is about countries to live in, and not just tourism, I would say that moving to Suriname would be very frustrating.
Despite that, any ranking is, obviously, just a matter of personal opinion and you made good points. I would just reccomend not focusing only on big cities but also medium size cities where sometimes (or most times) your life would is much better. And about Brazil, you suggested that only Sao Paulo has safety problemas and Rio does not, which sounds as a joke for anyone who knows the country.


Marcello October 11, 2013 at 1:03 am

You do make a good point Everton but when I was there in the capital I did see hospitals, etc. It is definitely a more laid back lifestyle but if I had to choose between Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay it would definitely be on the bottom of that list. Would agree with you that Brazil is a very big country but since it was a post on living in South America I only highlighted some of the major cities that people are accustomed to


Michella November 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Hello, i’m Michella i have a question. What country in latin america would you like to live in and explain why?


Marcello December 5, 2013 at 12:11 am
German November 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Your list is a lie. Everyone who has ever travelled to South America knows that Argentina is much more developed than its neighbors. Please, take a look at the Human Development Index. Buenos Aires, Argentina, boast the highest HDI for any Latinamerican city.


Marcello November 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Argentina is longer that advanced than other countries German and Argentina also now has become an extremely dangerous place to live and the quality of living has been degrading rapidly. Currently there are currency controls in place and things are getting worse by the day. At the turn of the 20th century Buenos Aires was the place to be and the most sought after city to visit and live. That is no longer the case. I don’t pay attention to government reports or lists because most people have never actually been to those countries. I have lived in almost every major metropolitan center in the last 4/5 years and base my opinions on personally being in those countries. I would not live in Buenos Aires at all unless things change. Much better places to be in South America.


Ryan December 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Marcello im no expert but im a guy from usa that just moved to Buenos Aires. If you are in the good barrios, it is soooo safe. I walk down dark streets at 2am all the time. There are women walking alone and couples and even parents with kids at all hours. Also im able to get almost 40% more for my dollars than official exchange rate so its very cheap here. I have not traveled like you, but the taxis are very safe too and i feel very confident going out in Belgrano, palermo, recoleta etc.


Marcello December 23, 2013 at 12:26 am

Would not agree Ryan. I know locals that live in the best areas of town and they have attempted kidnappings all the time. I know of first hand accounts of thefts and attempting kidnappings in each of the three neighborhoods you mentioned. Great city but in a horrible situation right now.


Javaris December 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Hey, I was wondering what is your profession? I’m quite jealous or your travels, I’m trying to get your travel experience too!


Marcello December 23, 2013 at 12:20 am

I travel around the world for a living Javaris. I also day trade in the stock market.


Diego April 26, 2014 at 12:49 am

I’m from Colombia and I would say that nowadays our country is way safer than ten years ago. I have never been robbed here. Last year I went to Paris and get robbed at metro by pin-pockets, so I think that one should be cautious any big city.
Some nice places to go at here:
- Bogota: Andres Chia, Monserrate, Mina de sal, Alpina sopo, zona G, zona T, Usaquen, Candelaria,
- Villa de Leyva, it’s a 450 years old town amazing in any possible way. It’s 4 hours in car from Bogota.
- Cali, nice people and party.
- Medellin, nice weather, women and party. Arvi park it’s amazing place high in the mountains, it’s one hour away in metro cable. Definitely it’s worthy to take the night tour of drinking cocktail shoots in parque lleras and night life places (kind of golden mile).
- Cartagena, there is an 470 years old city inside Cartagena. That’s truly amazing.
- Bucaramanga, there is a place there named chicamocha. Just google it.
- Manizales and eje cafetero, nice weather, good looking mountains, nice people.

Colombia is full of mountains so I recommend to flight (except for Villa de Leyva).
Additional tips: drink as much fruit juices as you can, take an umbrella, purchase coffee bags as souvenirs.


Brown ID May 30, 2014 at 5:56 am

I would cease this opportunity to correct you all. There is nothing like complete security in any country of the world. The issue is very clear, it is only higher in some countries than others. comparing a country over others is a matter of personal experience and opinion. After all, the Great USA had recorder a lot of Public shootings since since 2012. There is no safer place in the world and there is no country without poverty, but i must agree that the level of poverty is another point to consider, South America as a whole is a 2nd world continent…dont get me wrong,in terms of economics, Brasil is the best. but when you compare economics to the standard of living which to be is the best thing to consider when rating a country, Chile, Costa Rica should come in. For those of you, who are planning on moving to any of the South American countries, never mind, follow your heart, it is where your heart is, there is where your treasure is. Do not follow any post 100%, read and pick out points that are relevant to you, but make your decisions yourself, based on your scale of preference. Thanks to you all.


Marcello June 2, 2014 at 12:17 pm

In terms of economics Brazil is not the best… they are just the biggest market which is changing with the new Pacific Alliance. The best in terms of economics is Chile by far. Brazil is easily 10 times or more larger than Chile and has more than ten times the population yet they receive almost 10 times less the amount of foreign direct investment. Brazil is not a good place to do business while Chile has now become of the best places to do business in the world. Costa Rica has been overrun by gringos and prices have risen to almost western standards would not recommend Costa Rica.


Maria June 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

I am an American missionary and lived in Medellin, Colombia for 3 years. It is dangerous in Medellin. I was never hurt but many people I know were. Medellin is not as dangerous as it use to be but I never went out at night. I love the people I worked with and the food was not expensive at all. The worst part for me was the pollution. It is very bad in Medellin. The weather is great.


Lana July 9, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Hi Marcello,

I am planning to live in South America next for a year. I would love to relocate to Medellin. Do you know if there are many english speaking jobs in Medellin as my spanish is very limited. Part of the reason I would like to live in South America is to learn Spanish and I hear Colombia is one of the best places to learn. I currently work in Finance and have had enough of a desk job planning to workand travel the world for the Indefinite future, so your blog is very inspiring to me! Hopefully I will visit your Day Trading Academy next year :)

All the best,



Marcello July 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

Most people that have jobs that are higher in the corporate world do speak English. The overall population however does not. Colombia is definitely one of the best places to learn how to speak Spanish. I would recommend Medellin because to me they have the best accent. Awesome on the Day Trading Academy note Lana. You will be happy to hear that we have another female trader named Lana and she already quit her job to trade full time :)


hermes July 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Thanks for your website and videos. I have lived and worked in 24 countries for 25 years – mostly in Asia but also the Latin Caribbean. In fact, in pre-internet days I published my own successful travelkers’ newsletter and videos. I am a fussy mid-aged vegetarian guy on a tight budget w/ affinities for Buddhism, who looks for good value medical care, quinoa and tiny hairless women 18-21 w/o dating games. I am considering alternatives to my familiar countries in southeast Asia. To semi-retire and buy property.

Your info convinced me to skip South America!

Or did I miss some place suitable and preferable to Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka?


Marcello July 13, 2014 at 5:59 pm

There are tons of places to live in South America. Medellin is one of the best places to live in the world in my opinion.


Edward Cross July 28, 2014 at 6:33 am

I would like to know about the best places to stay as a tourist in the cities mentioned in the post. Thanks.


Marcello July 31, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Look for the best neighborhoods Edward.
-Suriname is small and safe stay in the capital.
-Peru the most popular area is Miraflores.
-Chile is safe stay in the center in Santiago.
-Brazil is quite large you could start your search in Rio.
-For Colombia I would recommend Medellin.


Etienne August 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Chile has the higher way of living. Argentina is poor…default for second time in 10 years with huge levels of corruption so Chile is well know for efficiency and better PNUD.
The list above is correct, Uruguay is nice with a tiny economy and Argentina hardly can keep a fictitious image trying to hide poverty.


Jorge August 22, 2014 at 9:45 pm

I am a recent graduate with a Business degree and I would like to move to a city in South America, I see that Medellin, Col and Chile are good choices, I am 100% bilingual in English and Spanish. The question is if I can get a better quality of life than in the U.S I know it can be a tricky question depending on how you look at it but an overall answer would work?
What work/job did you do while you were living in Medellin??


Marcello August 22, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I have my own business that I run online Jorge. So I am able to work anywhere in the world. Medellin or Chile are great choices.


omar August 27, 2014 at 2:44 am

did you find out anything interested…. ?

I am also a u s citizen looking forward to move to south americaI (colombia) also have a bachelor’s degree and I interested in knowing if I can use it over there ?


Marcello August 27, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Yes you can use your degree in S. America Omar.


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