The Top Cities To Live In Latin America

By Maverick · March 17, 2011

Top Cities To Live in Latin America

Tropical Brazil

Way before I embarked to live in a foreign country, apart from my adopted homeland, The United States, I used to travel profusely.  From weekend trips to Tijuana to random weeklong trips to Southeast Asia, I loved it because traveling provides freedom and freedom is something we all yearn for.

And I loved every minute of being abroad.  Never did I have a feeling of how great it is to be back, and how great being back home is; being comfortable was never my thing.  So it was a natural thing to travel, but traveling gets old quick — living is where it’s at.

Living — and I define it as being in a fixed place at least 3 months (preferably 6) — gives you intangible benefits that you cannot obtain while simply passing through.  You learn the language, the culture, the customs, make new connections, and best of all learn to “get” the place you’re in.  When you’re ready to leave, you will have an unshakable understanding of the city/country that can influence your decision whether to come back, and also be used for comparison with future domiciles.

So without any further ado, here’s my list of top cities to live in Latin America in no particular order.

 

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is referred by many as the Paris of Latin America.  However, I consider it as something as a cross between Madrid and Rome, alias with more aging architecture and cheaper prices.  Overall it’s a great first time destination for someone completely virgin to Latin America.  The biggest reason for that is because it’s not really Latin but more European due to the mostly European descendants, portenos, who call Buenos Aires their home to the European-influenced architecture and everything in between.

It’s a very livable city, and a good way to jumpstart your Latin American living dream.

There are other cities that deserve a look such as Cordoba and Rosario in the north of Buenos Aires.  They’re nice and all but I would make Buenos Aires my home base, and only then venture out to nearby destinations.

 

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

After arriving on a one-way ticket, my initial plan was to spend 3 months living here, but due to many factors, I left 2 years later.  It’s an amazing city in a country that really is in a continent of its own.  The city is nothing like any other city in Latin America, which makes sense, because Brazilians don’t really refer to themselves as Latinos.

One can use Rio as a stepping stone to getting to know the rest of Brazil, so making Rio a homebase makes sense.  Keep in mind that Rio is an island in Brazil in terms of culture, people and even language dialect.  I found that out when just about I was leaving the country, I decided to travel for a month and discovered that other cities are very different and do deserve special considerations as well.

I would recommend at least solid year in Rio.  A year would facilitate learning Portuguese, understanding the culture, and consequently provide a feeling of comfort in this wild but complex city that is so different than its sister-cities in Latin America.  I could even go as far as saying 2+ years would even make more sense, but I realize Rio is not a city for everyone.  On my first visit to Rio in 2003 for 3 days, I felt very out of place, was speaking Spanish to everyone and thought I would never return.  My girlfriend felt the same, preferring Buenos Aires to Rio.  Undeterred, I returned and after 2 solid years, found new respect for Brazil and Rio.

 

3. Medellin, Colombia

This is an odd choice because there’s nothing special in the city.  Nothing touristy apart from some cable cars that to go up into the mountains.  The city is landlocked so you don’t have beautiful coasts and boardwalks to admire.  And you’ll probably never see this city on any tourist brochures.  So what makes it such a cool city?  Precisely the things I just mentioned: it’s a very normal city and very livable city.

This city makes sense to visit after you’ve seen the first two cities and want to settle down to a more regular day-to-day life.  It makes sense for those wishing to strengthen their existing Spanish or learn it from the beginning while having a routine such as an online job that’s so prevalent among digital nomads.  Having routine here is important because the city doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourism and diversion.  What you do get back in return is — unlike the previous two — a true Latin city with salsa, reggaeton, all packaged up in a fairly inexpensive hassle-free living

I recommend 6 months here or one can easily substitute another city like Bogota or Cali, if that’s more to your liking.

 

4. Florianópolis, Brazil

After many years of traveling and living in Latin America, I thought Medellin would be my last living city, but I decided to add another city to the list.  Even though I lived in Brazil a while, 99% of it was in one city, and Rio is not representative of Brazil as a country.  I made a short weekend visit to Florianópolis and found the city vastly different than Rio with people that looked and talked completely different than the cariocas (Rio residents).  Southern Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul, Parana, Santa Catarina) is a region that I eagerly want to explore and understand and Floripa (as the residents call it) makes a perfect homebase.  The downside is that it’s not a tropical city; winters can be a bit chillier than tropical Rio.

I would recommend at least 6 months here (but a year or more in Brazil total).

Some notable mentions go to Mexico City (where I spent 6 months), Belo Horizonte (where I spent 1 month).  Both are great, but Medellin is a bit more digestible than Mexico City, and Belo Horizonte could be an option for someone who finds Rio too shallow.

I believe living in the first three cities would give you a well rounded view of Latin America because each city represents something very different: Buenos Aires is very European, Medellin is very Latin, and Rio is another continent all together.

 

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  • Kris

    When it comes to talk about the term “Latin” people are very ignorant. You cannot separate Latin from European because Latin comes from Europe, and the main Latin languages are Portuguese (spoken by Portugueses and Brazilians), Spanish (spoken by Spain, South America, and Central America), and French. All of the above means that people often forget that Latin america mainly descends from Europe, and also moderately from African slaves but just in some countries. So, I suggest that the writer should redefine terminology in the article because it only increases misconceptions about Latin America. Therefore, Brazilians are also Latin. What do you mean Rio is another continent? Let me remind you that the continent is called AMERICA and such city is located in that continent and so is Miami or Bogota, for example.
    What a crap article!

    • Anonymous

      What a spectacular misrepresentation of everything writen in the post! I suggest you read it again Kris. The writter never says rio is an actual island, instead, that rio is LIKE an island! jeez.

      Oh and (we) Latin Americans are proudly mainly of (first) Indian, European and african descent, in most countries mainly a combination of European and Indian (-as indigenous) with a bit of African added to the mix.

      • http://www.mavericktraveler.com Maverick Traveler

        Thanks for clarification.  I was going to respond but you did a better job than I could’ve ever done.

    • Mirelle

      well ,   its so ovbious is a ignorant USA  writer ,

      • Shelle

        Easy there, Mirelle. I’m not sure there is anything in Kris’ post that alludes to his being a US writer. One wouldn’t want to show one’s ignorance, correct?

    • Carlos

      If there’s something even more annoying than an arrogant gringo, it’s an arrogant (probably upper class) mentaly colonized latin American pretending everybody in Latin-America is white or almost. This is just so fucking pathetic, even in Chile which is often presented as a “white” latin-American country, most people are mixed. Only in the cono sur regions (souther brazil, argentina, Uruguay) could you say that “latin america mainly descends from Europe”….

      By the way, you forgot something when you gave a list of latin languages, most french speakers live in Africa. Latin languages do not belong just to Europe anymore.

  • Hernan Restrepo

    you live in medellin becouse you have sex with prepago girl, i cant believe other thing, be honest man

  • JJUSA

    6 months is a drop in the bucket. 10 years later and I am still learning in Mexico (non tourist area). You really need a good 1-2 years to learn a place. I am happy the author pointed out Colombia, it is a misunderstood country.

  • Jfenix

    Rio de Janeiro it’s the most beautiful city in the world. Known !!
    And the rest of Latin America is so Jeaulous of Brazil. Too bad. Deal with it. And yes, we DON’T considered ourselves “Latinos” cause we are unique in the middle of the others.

    • jj

      Your absolutely ignorant, jealous of your stupid city your nuts. Brazil is an embarrassment to Latin America! Your city is full of crime, prostitution, drugs. Your government is always going to Medellin to study it’s success stories. Your people are temperamental cause your all mostly black in Rio. I’ve been there and seen people peeing outside of my hotel. People die in the barrios and the government don’t report it. Your freaking stupid to think other beautiful cities in Latin American are jealous. I’m American and live in Medellin!

      • k

        Oh yeah, right, I’m brazilian, and yeah, this country sucks in too many levels, but Medellín? You gotta be kidding.

        Also, I don’t agree with this article, there are better cities over here.

        • http://www.mavericktraveler.com Maverick Traveler

          Better cities? For example?

          • Juliana

            “Your people are temperamental cause your all mostly black in Rio.” – so, is no one going to address this horrifically racist comment?

          • Ignacio Ruiz

            I’d say as an all around that santiago,chile is the best city to LIVE in south america. Obviously there are cities that are nicer or more beautiful. But santiago as a whole, security wise and for a whole bunch of other factors , is probably the best city to live in in all of south america

    • Brito

      I’m half Brazilian, I fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish. My dad left Brazil when he finished college and never moved back. I’ve been in Brazil several times and lived in Rio for 8 months and Sao Paul for a year. JFenix, you are an example of how ignorant Brazilian are, how the well Brazilian are not “Latinos”, last time I check “Latinos” are anyone that comes from Latin America, including Brazil. Unless you think Brazilians come from an Aryan, Swedish race of some sort. I fact most Brazilian are of African ancestry mix with Portuguese. BRAZIL IS NOT THE NICEST countries in South America, I fact Brazil is GHETTO, high crime rates in all mayor cities, the highest HIV rate on Latin America…. All South American countries are nice for any foreigner, each country offer their own beauty, the countries to avoid by any American or European looking to retire are Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina due to their form of government and civil unrest, Brazil because high crime rates. I love Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and Peru. I look in a country more because of its people, if you are young and unmarried, go to Medellin and Cali, Medellin is very upscale and beautiful women everywhere… Colombian people are very outgoing and welcoming of foreigners… I love Medellin, …but also check Montevideo, Santiago, Lima… Rio is nice to visit once, and leave…Brazil mayor cities are as Safe a walking in Downtown Detroit/ Atlanta at night….same urban culture…

  • http://twitter.com/maxikbal Max Ikbal

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on Venezuelan cities (i.e.Caracas) and about the folks in Peru and Ecuador

    • http://www.mavericktraveler.com Maverick Traveler

      I haven’t been to Caracas; only transited through it on my way to a smaller city in Venezuela, but from what heard from virtually everyone is that it’s extremely dangerous. I’ve been in Lima and Cuzco and those cities didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Lima is mostly noisy, dirty and shitty weather (was foggy everyday). Cuzco is swarming with ugly girls who love gringos.

    • BillEagle

      If it wasn’t for Chavez, I lived and worked in Maracaibo from 2004 to 2008 and had allot of fun. But otherwise, sad to say its dangerous at night, I wish I could go back, but I wouldn’t even go back because of the Chavistas..

      • http://www.mavericktraveler.com Maverick Traveler

        I think the people can be fun, but thanks to him they’re in constant strife and suspicion of everyone.

  • Jeff

    As a total gringo, let me put a positive note and vote in here, Florianópolis, Brazil gets my vote as a wonderful city to visit or even live in.

  • fuck you

    crap article is your ass , kris

  • james

    Hi buddy,

    am curious to know how you earn money while living the International Playboy scene. Sounds like a dream life. Do u do software or other IT consultancy via the net?

  • striker

    “weather in Medellin is shitty, women arrogant and wait from your part that you will blow money on their every whim, architecture is ugly,locals fucking unfriendly”……. You said locals in Bogota are much friendlier…..Santa-Marta is a pearl of Carrebean-a nice city with sunny weather all the time…..so why Medellin?

    • jay

      I disageee, with your comments about Medellin’s people, women are gorgeous! I have travelled for 15 years to latin America and Colombiain general, have the most friendly people i have met. About the women, it’s kind of true, but it us a Latin America culture thing, you want beautiful women, upscale,nice ladies, you pay for everything . Like we say in america, there is no such a thing as free pussy.!!

  • Daniel

    What about Santa Cruz, Bolivia?

    • Maverick

      Never been, any good?

  • Maverick

    This reminds me — I need to update this list at some point. Medellin needs to go.

    • Dr Gohan

      i leave my vote for my own city, Bogota because it Rocks… is like a little New York, chaotic but with magic cheers! hope u come back soon bro!

    • jay

      Maybe you should go to Cartagena, Santa Marta, those are paradisiac cities, very low cost and a lot if fun!!!

  • http://none Joe Luna

    Hey Mav-
    been reading your articles and jumping from text to text. Hey man this may be frivolous but I read in one of your articles something about character aquired from adversity. How it defines one. Do you recall what article I should read?

    Sifting throught all your articles,

    Joe

    • Maverick

      Maybe the the “Be A Man” series (top bar)? I’m about to drop a post about similar topic soon, though.

  • Dr Gohan

    i just cannot believe the kind of crap i just read, seriously, and im not talking about the article, the article is fine, is just the point of view from a traveler, dont like it then dont read it!!! im surprised about the ammount of hate in the comments people lets be honest, EVERY city has its pros and cons for example im from Bogotá, Colombia and i dont give a fuck when people point what is wrong with my city i just get happy about it bcause in order to grow and get better one just have to admit mistake and correct it the same happens to cities and the people who live in them. believe me there is no perfect city in the world, the closest stuff is in nothern Europe and Canada but they dont have the kind of magic that happens in Latin America, yes our cities may not be perfect, but every single one has nice stuff to see and live… get over the “my city is the best because i randomly born there” that is just crap, take this example go to Detroit and try not to be raped, robbed or get sick on every corner, see? they also have crappy cities in the USA, or go to Moscow and get away from downtown… good luck if you return with all your organs, try dinking non bottled water in Paris I DARE YOU… every city has its pros and its cons, dont be childlish and stop fighting around a random fact. nice article BTW :)