13 Incredible Places to Live in South America: ¡Vamos!

Lima, Peru

Ever fancied packing up all of your stuff and moving to the other side of the world? Us too! If you’re considering starting afresh, there are loads of exciting places to live in South America.

Whether you’re looking to retire, move your job next to the beach or bring up your family in a more wild setting, South America has something for you. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice available, allow us to do the hard work for you. This shortlist of the best places to live in South America will look at affordability, expat community and of course, safety, to help you find your new dream home. 

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Top 13 Places to Live in South America

1. Quito, Ecuador

  • Great for: Digital Nomads, Expats, Work Exchanges
  • Cost: $$
Main Plaza in Quito, Ecuador
Ecuador’s capital attracts a lot of expats.

Ecuador’s capital is a popular base among those looking to relocate to the country. There is a big expat community, mostly made up of younger travellers and digital nomads. Travellers heading to Ecuador and looking to get involved with longer-term work exchanges e.g. via Workaway or Worldpackers will find that Quito has a lot of experiences to offer. 

As Ecuador sits on the equator, daylight hours don’t fluctuate and temperatures stay fairly consistent year-round. Owing to its Andean location, you can expect an average temperature of around 65°F (18°C) during the day and 55°F (12°C) at night. This will suit a lot of people but bear in mind that the altitude can present challenges, especially for those with preexisting breathing conditions. 

As Quito is the capital of Ecuador, it has very good transport links to other cities and the rainforest and beach are only a few hours away by bus. The city isn’t as budget-friendly as others in Latin America but the cost of living is still substantially cheaper than in Uruguay and Chile. 

2. Pisac, Peru

  • Great for: Expats, Remote Workers
  • Cost: $$
Pisac Peru
Lots of travellers head to Pisac and never leave!

Nestled in the famous Sacred Valley, there are very few places in Peru quite as breathtaking as Pisac. The town is easily accessible from nearby Cusco, making it a convenient but generally quieter location by comparison. 

This is a tourist town so there is a bulk of western restaurants and hipster cafes, however, these come with an inflated price tag. If you’re a remote worker, expect to spend a lot of your time in these kinds of places! 

Pisac is home to a huge local market which makes buying food and other essentials cheap. There is also a surprisingly large expat community there. Many people say they came for a couple of months and never left! 

3. Montevideo, Uruguay

  • Great for: Tech Remote Workers, High Paid Professionals
  • Cost: $$$
Uruguay is South America’s most safe country.

Touted as the safest country in South America, Uruguay is a great choice for those looking to relocate to South America. This small country has a growing Human Development Index and has consistently ranked higher than any other country in Latin America. This assesses the average life expectancy, education levels and per capita income of residents. 

Montevideo is the most popular city for foreigners, owing to its laid back vibe, expat community and  great nightlife. The city is home to a number of great entertainment venues and delicious restaurants which make it great for those with a flourishing social life. 

The only downside of living in Montevideo is that you need to bring in big money to set up home here. The average living expenses are some of the highest anywhere in South America! This means that the city would suit well-paid professionals or those who work remotely in industries such as tech. 

4. Medellín, Colombia

  • Great for: Digital Nomads, Students, Spanish Teachers
  • Cost: $

Colombia is often touted as the best country to live in South America, thanks to its cheap cost of living, thriving expat community and colourful culture. The city of Medellín tends to be the favourite with people flocking from there from all over the globe. 

A view across Medellin from high up
Medellín has become an attractive destination for remote workers.

Estimated living costs can be as low as around $600USD per month and there are plenty of reasonably priced coworking spaces for those who work remotely. Foreigners love the burgeoning infrastructure of the city which makes this place really easy to navigate and liveable. It has also overhauled its dangerous reputation to become a much safer choice for international visitors. 

Colombia is one of the party capitals in South America and Medellín is no different. There are always cultural events going on and the nightlife is some of the best in the country. Medellín benefits from ideal spring-like weather year-round, making it suitable for most kinds of visitors. 

5. Santiago, Chile

  • Great for: Remote Workers, English Teachers, Professionals
  • Cost: $$$
A View Across Santiago de Chile
Santiago is home to a growing financial sector.

Although Santiago is one of the most expensive cities in South America, if you can afford it, it is a great place to move to. As a high salary is necessary to get the most out of living in Santiago, it suits those working for innovative startups, in professional industries or the tech space. 

The economy in Chile is one of the most stable across the continent and the country is home to a flourishing financial sector, offering job opportunities to bilingual speakers. For those looking for less niche work, there is also the option of teaching English. However, foreigners will have to apply for a work permit in advance of their arrival. 

Santiago’s location makes it a very attractive city in which to live. It is nestled in the Andes, meaning that you have wonderfully diverse landscapes on your doorstep. Chileans say that living in Santiago gives people the best of both worlds as you can visit the beach and go skiing on the same day! 

6. Buenos Aires, Argentina 

  • Great for: Digital Nomads, Students
  • Cost: $$
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a student friendly city.

Despite its unstable economy, Argentina is a popular country with those moving to South America. If you are a digital nomad or somebody who gets paid in a strong foreign currency such as euros, dollars or pounds, your money will go far in Argentina. 

Buenos Aires is a modern city, which provides everything you could need for cosmopolitan living. There are a wealth of bars, restaurants, coworking spaces and a reliable public transport network. It is also a popular university city too, with a large number of international students. 

Argentina’s capital runs on an optimal time zone for those working with partners in the US and EU, with it sitting in between EST and GMT. The city itself also offers an interesting blend of European and Latin American living. 

7. Florianópolis, Brazil

  • Great for: Digital Nomads, English Teachers
  • Cost: $$
We can certainly see why Florianópolis is a popular place to move to!

If you already know anything about South America (and if you’re hoping to move here, we’re guessing you do), you will probably already know that Brazil is said to be one of the most dangerous countries on the continent. While cities such as Rio have found it difficult to shake off their bad rep, the coastal city of Florianópolis is actually one of the safer places to live in the country. 

Jobs on the ground aren’t easy to come by so this destination is best suited to remote workers or those teaching English in the area. If you can, opt for an American education company that will pay you in dollars. 

The city is one of the wealthiest in Brazil which can be seen in everything from the comparatively low pollution levels to the high quality of healthcare. Florianópolis also benefits from an incredible subtropical climate and there are over 40 beaches in the area to explore. Result!

8. Cuenca, Ecuador

  • Great for: Students, Retirees, Remote Workers
  • Cost: $$
Cuenca Ecuador
Cuenca’s colonial streets.

The colonial city of Cuenca in the south of Ecuador has become one of the most popular expat retiree centres anywhere on the continent. While retirees flock to Cuenca from all over the world, the majority of those that come to live in Cuenca hail from North America. Ecuador is a great choice for many of them because the official currency is the US dollar. 

Cuenca is a picturesque city with cobblestone streets and grand feats of architecture. It is also home to a large university so there is a vibrant mix of people. The internet is reliable and because of the city’s proximity to Cajas National Park, you can even drink the tap water here, something that is not usually advised for foreigners across Ecuador. 

The city is generally very walkable and the cost of living is low when compared to some of the other cities in Ecuador. Although this is a Spanish speaking country, the tight-knit expat community means that English is also widely spoken. If you have safety concerns about relocating to the country, check out our guide to staying safe in Ecuador.

9. Cochabamba, Bolivia

  • Great for: Retirees, Students, English Teachers
  • Cost: $$
Cochabamba main square
Cochabamba benefits from a comfortable climate.

Even though Bolivia is commonly touted to be one of the cheapest countries in South America, Cochabamba is actually uncharacteristically expensive in comparison to other Bolivian cities. However, it is still mid-range when compared to cities in South America more generally.

This attractive location offers a desirable climate with average temperatures of around 61ºF (17ºC) in winter and 78ºF (26ºC) during summer. It is wonderfully scenic and Cochabambinos are normally very welcoming of foreigners. 

The city offers a good mix of western comforts as well as retaining its traditional Latin charm. Don’t miss lunchtimes at Mercado 25 de Mayo to try some of Bolivia’s best dishes and pick them up for a steal of a price! 

10. Lima, Peru

  • Great for: English Teachers, Remote Workers, Artists
  • Cost: $$$
Historic building in Lima, Peru
Lima is home to the majority of Peru’s expat community.

The majority of Peru’s expat community lives in the capital of Lima. Although the city once had a reputation for being a dangerous place to travel, violent crime has largely been relegated to the outskirts of the city. 

The popular Miraflores district offers contemporary coastal charm and attracts retirees and expats from all walks of life. The sense of community in these areas makes adapting to living overseas much easier. There are plenty of events which take place in the city to get involved in, making it easy to meet like-minded people. 

Barranco is Lima’s most up and coming district and also has a growing expat population. It is a favourite among artists and creatives for its colourful streets and laid back atmosphere. As well as an evolving art scene, Lima is also famous for its internationally renowned cuisine. Try it for yourself to see what everybody is raving about!

11. Bogotá, Colombia

  • Great for: Remote Workers, English Teachers, Students
  • Cost: $
A man sits on a ledge of a heavily graffitied wall in Bogotá
A lot of expats in Bogotá teach English.

Although there were once huge concerns over the safety of Colombia, the country has largely shaken off its dangerous reputation. Now a favourite with backpackers and luxury travellers alike, the rapidly modernising cities have become a favourite with expats.

Although Medellín is the prime destination for those moving to Colombia, Bogotá also takes in its fair share of remote workers and expats. The cost of living is low, there are cultural events aplenty and an exciting food and beer scene to boot.

Teaching English is the most popular job for those wanting to live in Bogotá. Many ESL teachers say that you should aim to work in a private school over a state one as these offer a more competitive salary.  However, it is worth noting that private schools will usually require teachers to hold a degree. 

12. Córdoba, Argentina 

  • Great for: Digital Nomads, Students
  • Cost: $$
Wonderful natural vistas are easily within reach from Córdoba.

Argentina’s second-largest city is home to one of the continent’s most prestigious universities: La Universidad de Córdoba. This means that the city is home to plenty of students, both local and international.

Even though the city is a popular choice with people wanting to move to Latin America, it is much less popular than the capital Buenos Aires. If you are looking to improve your language skills and get to know the people of the city, it is a great choice. 

As you would expect from a city with a high student population, the nightlife is first class and there are plenty of entertainment and hospitality venues to eat and drink the night away. Córdoba is also an emerging South American destination for digital nomads, partly because of the abundance of coworking spaces. 

13. São Paulo, Brazil

  • Great for: Professionals, English Teachers
  • Cost: $$$
Sao Paulo
São Paulo is the healthcare capital of South America.

São Paulo is the business capital of Brazil and there are opportunities for foreigners looking to relocate. The city is also considered to be the healthcare hub of South America, making this an attractive destination for those wanting to set up home. 

Booming engineering, finance and IT sectors are always looking to recruit talented bilingual workers. However, it is also worth noting that many foreigners end up in São Paulo after being transferred by their employers from other offices around the world. 

English Teachers can often find work in the city, however, it is important to remember that the wage for this will not go as far as in some other South American cities. The main downside of living in São Paulo is the high level of petty crime. Make sure you choose to base yourself in one of the more secure districts. 

Have you relocated to South America? Let us know your experience in the comments!

3 thoughts on “13 Incredible Places to Live in South America: ¡Vamos!”

  1. Very interesting article.
    Having travelled in central and south America just a little bit, I would add Panama City to this list although a bit pricier.
    I am also looking for a new coastal medium size city to relocate to, Spanish speaking preferably, and pretty safe too. Maybe I’m asking for too much ahah
    Keep up the good work

  2. Hi there, in 25 years old and looking to relocate to South America from South Africa with my boyfriend and son. We love the beach and would like to stay in a safe aream we are both ESL teachers and my boyfriend has background in IT. Which would you say is a great city to go to.

    1. Hi Kristin!

      A number of these cities would be good choices but I guess it would depend on whether you find work there first. Florianópolis in Brazil stands out as a good destination but Lima may also be an option. While the city doesn’t have the best reputation in terms of safety, there are plenty of places which are perfectly safe for expats and tourists!

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