In comparison to most major European or North American destinations, the cost of living in Brazil is not high. Out of 209 destinations, Sao Paulo ranked 89th and Rio de Janeiro ranked 121st in the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living survey. 

That said, in reality many expats are surprised to learn that in relation to salaries the cost of living in these cities is actually pretty high. The dream of lying on a beach sipping water from a coconut without a care in the world is quickly replaced by the reality of high prices, especially if expats aren't earning in a foreign currency. Of course, expats will find it less expensive to live in rural areas than in the cities. However, some costs will still be fairly high and access to goods and services will be limited. 

Expenses vary widely across categories. In general, accommodation, transportation and manufactured goods are expensive. Food costs are variable based on whether one eats out or cooks at home. Services are relatively inexpensive because labour costs are low throughout the country.

Brazil has made significant strides in moving people out of extreme poverty over the past decade and in decreasing income inequality. However, there are still vast disparities in wealth between the richest and the poorest. Expats making an international salary will be among the wealthy, and even those making a local salary will likely find that they are firmly upper-middle class. While Brazil remains well behind the US and Western Europe in terms of overall development, expats living in a city and earning a good salary have access to most of the conveniences they can expect to find anywhere in the world.

Cost of accommodation in Brazil

Renting accommodation is expensive. This will likely be an expat’s biggest expense. Expats on assignment from international companies may have a housing allowance to help offset the high cost. Expats can save on accommodation by living in a less central location, although they may find that transportation costs increase as a result.

Cost of eating out in Brazil

Food costs in Brazil vary. Restaurant meals are fairly expensive, while basic groceries are more moderately priced. Expats who choose to eat at home can manage food costs more easily. Major cities have upscale grocery stores that carry a wide range of imported items.

Shopping at local markets for basics, like bread, grains, produce and meat, yields the lowest grocery prices. Locally produced food is almost always less expensive. So, in cities on the coast, seafood will be less expensive, while beef and pork will cost less in inland farming regions.

Brazilians are well-known lovers of beer and cachaça, the national liquor made from sugar cane. Both are readily available, as are a wide selection of wines and liquors. Prices for beer and wine are very reasonable, but imported liquors are expensive. Expats can save money by purchasing some at duty-free on their way into the country.

Cost of transportation in Brazil

Transportation expenses in Brazil are high. Cars cost much more in Brazil than in many other countries. Parking and insurance are also rather expensive. 

Expats can save on transportation by making use of the extensive bus and metro systems in Brazil's major cities. 

Cost of education and schools in Brazil

Expats with children will find that education costs in Brazil will rival, if not exceed, their rental expenses. Public schools in Brazil have a bad reputation. Brazilians with the resources to do so almost always send their children to private schools. Expats seeking to enrol their children in the highly regarded international schools, however, will find them very expensive.

Cost of living in Brazil chart 

Prices may vary depending on location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices for São Paulo in March 2020. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

 BRL 2,200

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre


Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

 BRL 4,200

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

 BRL 2,900


Milk (1 litre)

 BRL 3.50 

Dozen eggs

 BRL 7.30

Loaf of white bread

 BRL 5.70 

Rice (1kg)

 BRL 4.30 

Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)

 BRL 12.50 

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

 BRL 10 

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 BRL 26.50 


 BRL 6.80 

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

 BRL 130 


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) 

 BRL 1.60 

Internet (uncapped – average per month) 

 BRL 110 

Utilities (average per month for small household)

 BRL 250 


City centre bus fare

 BRL 4.30 

Taxi (rate per km)

 BRL 2.75 

Petrol (per litre) 

 BRL 4.20

Expat Health Insurance


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