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Cost of living in Brazil

While the cost of living is lower in Brazil than in many western countries, it can be quite varied. From shopping to banking, our guide explores the basics.

In some instances, such as manufactured goods, Brazil can be relatively expensive in comparison to the US or UK. But due to low labour costs, many services are much less expensive. Unsurprisingly, some of Brazil’s largest cites (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasilia) rank among the most expensive in the country.

The Brazilian currency is the Real, and $1 USD is valued at R$ 3.73 (May 2018).


Accommodation, especially rentals, are likely to be the largest expense unless your employer offers a housing allowance to subsidise the cost. The average monthly rental on a furnished 274 sq m (900 sqe ft) accommodation will cost around R$1,973 (USD $528) rising to R$3,182 ($852) in certain areas.

The cost of accommodation is typically higher in major cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but would need to be considered against the additional expense of a daily commute from rural areas.

Based on the cost of rent index, more affordable locations to rent include Fortaleza in the north, Belo Horizonte in the east and Porto Alegre in the south.


Clothing, electronics and manufactured items can be very expensive, with jeans, shoes and sports clothing likely to cost more than in the US. Cars are also expensive, but public transport is significantly cheaper than in both the US and UK.

Compared with London, goods and services generally cost less in Rio de Janeiro, with grocery and consumer prices being more than 60% cheaper. Purchasing essentials such as meat and bread from local markets is a great way to save money and enjoy locally produced goods. Depending on the region this could mean inexpensive seafood or meats.

Restaurants are likely to include a 10% service charge with the bill, although tipping is optional for many other service industries including bars, hairdressers and taxis.


An essential of the modern world, the number of internet connections in Brazil continues to grow. Towards the end of 2017, there were an estimated 39 million active household subscriptions, a huge increase on the 14 million just six years before. This has been, in part, the result of Programa Nacional de Banda Larga (PNBL), the government’s plan for improving the country’s data infrastructure, which began in 2010.

The internet is available to nearly 60% of the population, or 123 million people (2017 figures). In terms of the number of people connected, this places Brazil fourth in the world behind only China, India and the United States.

Rural areas are still significantly behind urban centres, with only a quarter of rural households having an active home broadband connection — it is more common for people to use mobile data.

While superfast broadband is not common, a simple broadband package in Brazil is likely to typically cost 18% less than it would in the UK.


Brazil has a minimum wage set by the government, which is adjusted annually. This can be adjusted by the federal government in each state, but it must adhere to the national minimum. The current national minimum wage was set in 2017 at R$937 ($245) per month. São Paulo state offers one of the highest minimum wages in Brazil with a rate of R$1,000 (£263) per month.


There are two types of banks in Brazil: international banks and national banks. International banks are more likely to operate in English and have more experience with expats. However, their branches are much less common. National banks operate in Portuguese and are dominated by the four largest banks:

  • Caixa is a government-owned bank that specialises in savings. As one of the largest banks in the country, its branches and ATMs can be found nationwide.
  • Banco do Brasil is one of the oldest banks in the world. Also government-owned, it is one of the largest in the country.
  • Banco Bradesco has grown in recent years after acquiring HSBC’s business in 2016. As well as a range of options, accounts can also be opened with foreign currency.
  • Itaú Unibanco is one of the largest banks in the world by market value and specialises in investment banking.

Bank opening hours are typically Monday to Friday, 10am to 4.30pm. Online banking is also popular, although it is predominantly in Portuguese.

Banks can be expensive in Brazil as they may charge a percentage for each transaction, which means expats should compare services carefully before choosing which bank to use. To open a bank account in Brazil, expats are required to hold a residence permit valid for a minimum of 12 months. In addition, banks will need to see the following documents:

  • Your Cédula de Identidade para Estrangeiros (CIE) identification card (learn more here)
  • A tax ID number
  • Proof of address
  • Rental agreement
  • Evidence of employment.

Learn more about life in Brazil in our overview of the country’s culture and lifestyle.

(Prices correct May 2018.)

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