International Living’s new issue has a great rundown on typical costs in a variety of Latin American locations popular with expatriates and it’s a sometimes eye-opening look at the realities on the ground. We tend to think everything is going to be cheaper in a developing country, but that’s usually not the case. Items that have a labor connection are cheaper: a maid, a construction crew, and a driver for the day, for instance. And this translates to lower rates for maids, waiters, and cooks. And hey, you’ll pay less for rum, tequila, beer, tortillas, chicken, beans, mangos, bananas, and oranges.
But what about high-speed Internet access, cable TV, or a phone? Well, you might be pining for home on those items. And if you go out shopping for a toaster oven, a coffee maker, or a stereo, you might experience some serious sticker shock, especially if you’re from the U.S.
Here are a few examples from the International Living article, showing how much things can vary:
A regular maid is $60 per month in Granada, $125 in Quito, $200 in Buenos Aires, $250 in Roatan.
Monthly utilities are $50 in San Miguel de Allende, $100 in Quito, $148 in Roatan, and $182 in Panama City.
Three restaurant dinners a month run a total of $50 in Granada, $65 in Quito, $120 in Buenos Aires, $125 in Roatan.
High-speed Internet access is only $25 in Panama City, but $80 in Granada, $95 in Roatan, and $100 in Quito.
These are just sample costs and of course your mileage will vary, but the point is to do your homework before packing up and moving somewhere or you could get a nasty surprise. If you’re doing more than just touching down for a couple of months, go hang somewhere for a while–preferably six months or a year–before deciding to make it your permanent home.