Times have changed. Latin America has changed. I've changed.
I probably make a list like this once or twice a year. My conclusions are always different.
Cities in Central and South America have a tendency to go through ebbs and flows. A great city to live in today might not be a great one tomorrow.
Take Medellin for instance. In the early 2000s, this was the place to live in Latin America. If you were brave enough to venture down to recently drug-war torn Colombia, as one of the few foreigners, beautiful women would be throwing themselves at you as you enjoyed an incredibly low cost of living and year-round spring temperatures.
And then the word got out.
Foreigners flooded in, the cost of living increased and Medellin became the South American hub for digital nomads.
It has since fallen out of favor for many looking to live longterm in Latin America.
Or, take Mexico City.
In the 90s, Mexico City was not a place you wanted to be. The economy was in the dumps and crime was rampant. Express kidnappings were widespread, pollution was intolerable and it wasn't wise to leave your house after dark.
Now, in 2017, Mexico City is one of the safest major cities in Latin America. It's improved on its pollution problem, and boasts world-class restaurants, cafes and bars. Many are saying it's going through a sort of renaissance, some even saying it could become the next Paris (whatever that means...). Point is, today it's a hotspot - but it wasn't always like that. And it won't be like that forever.
Here's my list of the best cities in Latin America to live in in 2017. You might be surprised at some of the cities that make the cut and others that don't. But as someone who studies the region and has traveled extensively in Central and South America, these are the cities I'd want to hang my hat in this year:
5) Bogota, Colombia
Coming in at #5 is Bogota, Colombia. In my opinion, Bogota offers the best value out of any capital city in South America. You can find top-notch restaurants, bars and museums and live a good life at a third of the cost of any major American city. The people are friendly, the women are beautiful and booze is cheap. Unfortunately, criminality is more of a problem here than it is in, say, Lima or Guadalajara, but as long as you're somewhat careful, it is unlikely that anything bad will happen to you.
2017 is a good time to go to Bogota because the economy is faltering. Sounds bad, but if you're living off Euros or USD, this means it will be cheaper for you. The Colombian economy has contracted for the second consecutive year, and is expected to "bottom out" in the first half of 2017 before recovering. Growth is expected toward the end of 2017 and into 2018 so you could very well see prices increase next year. This is exactly what happened in Peru (where I am now) in 2016. Now I'm paying more for everything than I would have 2 years ago.
Get to Bogota before it gets more expensive.
4) Buenos Aires, Argentina
Next we have Buenos Aires. I wasn't a huge fan of Buenos Aires when I went. I didn't vibe well with the people and the culture didn't really interest me. To each his own, I suppose. But I was still able to recognize that the Argentine capital is a world-class city. It's one of the safest and most developed cities in all of Latin America with great food and better wine. The architecture and infrastructure will make you feel like you're living in a European city for South American prices. That being said, it's not the cheapest place to be if you're concerned about budget. Expect to pay 15% more here than you would in Mexico City or Bogota. Although the peso is weak at the moment and unemployment is high, don't expect jaw-dropping value. I really don't know how people manage to live here on the wages they make, if they're lucky enough to be employed at all, that is.
Now is a good time to go because the economy is still contracting. Again, sounds bad, but as a foreigner with currency from abroad, it's a good thing for you. Things are expecting to start improving as consumer confidence and industrial production rises. If this trend continues, a stronger peso and higher cost of living is likely to arrive in 2018.
Fortunately, the rather dire economic situation of Argentina doesn't seem to have increased rates of criminality. I guess they're used to it. Get here in 2017 for lower prices and some of the best quality of life in South America.
3) Florianopolis, Brazil
A wildcard choice. Not a lot of people have even heard of this city, but it's one of Brazil's finest. As much as I'd like to put Rio de Janeiro on this list, the safety situation is concerning and getting worse each day. Sao Paulo is another world-class city, but it's too expensive to recommend in 2017, and its concrete jungle aesthetic isn't appealing to most expats.
Even though Brazil is by no means the cheapest country in Latin America to travel to these days, you can still live a decent quality of life for under $2000 in Florianopolis. Basically, you can enjoy the quality beaches of Rio and the same quality (if not better) of stunning women for 20% cheaper than you would in "The Marvelous City." The only issue I have with Florianopolis is that logistically it is difficult to get around. The city is one main island, a continental part and is also connected to several surrounding islands.
As one of the safer cities in Brazil, this is where I'd go in 2017 to get a taste of the culture and nightlife without having to constantly be worried about getting robbed.
2) Cali, Colombia
Medellin is played out. The bad weather and size of Bogota isn't for everyone. Cartagena is too expensive for what it offers. Cali is the place to be in Colombia at the moment. Although it has a reputation for criminality, it doesn't seem to be any worse than Bogota. San Fernando is a safe area to stay in, and you can rent an apartment for much cheaper than you would in Bogota or Medellin. Taxi safety was once an issue, but this problem has been remedied by the arrival of UBER. Nightlife is incredible, the girls are some of the friendliest in the country and the weather is nice and warm, although it does tend to rain a bit.
Despite being one of the largest cities in Colombia, Cali isn't completely overrun with foreigners...yet. But it will be. I'd say that 2017 and 2018 are the last two years before expats wake-up and effectively turn Cali into Medellin. Expect rental property prices to rise after this.
1) Mexico City, Mexico
Anyone that knows me (through the blog or otherwise) knows that I have a massive hard-on for Mexico City. But putting personal bias aside, 2017 is the best year to live in Mexico City.
President elect Donald Trump has been vowing to move jobs back from Mexico to the United States and has talked of taxing Mexican imports. These policy proposals have had a devastating impact on the Mexican economy - the peso fell something like 7 percent on election night. And things aren't looking to improve anytime soon. Right now, 1 USD buys 20 Mexican Pesos. In human terms, this means beers are 80 cents and a meal of tacos will run you no more than $2.00. You can rent a one-bedroom apartment in the best areas of town for well under $1000 USD.
But it won't last forever. Inflation has already begun to creep up as a result of the weak peso, and is likely to pick up the pace in the latter half of 2017 and into 2018. While it will still be cheap for Americans next year, it is not likely to be the incredible value that it is at the moment.
Another fear is that, if the peso continues to slide, criminality could increase. Although unlikely, we could see another situation like we did in the 90s in the nation's capital, where crime skyrocketed due to a weak economy. It only started improving after NAFTA was introduced in 1994. If Trump renegotiates this deal like he says he will, it will not be good for Mexico.
Get there while prices are cheap and while it is still safe.
There you have it!
These are my objective choices for where to live in Latin America in the year 2017.
Although I'm currently in Lima, Peru - a city that doesn't make my list. You may very likely see me in one of the above destinations in the latter half of 2017 and into 2018.
Hit me up if you're planning to travel to one of these cities this year.
Also, leave a comment and let me know what you think of the article.
Until next time,