This article was updated in July, 2019.
Lima was listed as the 4th most expensive city in Latin America to live in by UBS Bank Switzerland in a recent report, but the report does not tell the whole story. Lima is a polarized society in many ways, and depending on how you choose to live, and which circles you will be frequenting, you will find a wide array of prices and options. So, what can you expect your cost of living here to be?
Cost of Housing
Housing is usually the largest expenditure for expats, and in most cases, that will be rent. If you want to live in the more upscale areas of Miraflores or San Isidro, a 2 furnished bedroom apartment can easily cost $1000 per month (or much more) and houses in more residential areas of Miraflores, Surco and San Borja can have similar price tags. But it is possible to find bargains. Of course, the further you go from upscale areas, the lower the prices. If you are comfortable living in a location like Surquillo or Magdalena it’s possible to find homes for $300 to $600 a month. Be aware that these homes may or may not have hot water, cable or internet, and that you may also be responsible for building maintenance fees. By the way, interior painting and electrical or plumbing repairs are usually paid for by the tenant. You may also be responsible for certain municipal taxes if you are a long term tenant. Be certain you get clarity (and an official receipt for rent payment) from your landlord.
Cost of Food
Food is a typically large expenditure where many expats are pleasantly surprised to find they can a save a lot of money. In a typical Lima ‘menu’ restaurant, a full lunch with appetizer, main dish and drink costs about $4. A whole chicken costs about $6 at the supermarket, and less at the city markets. Fresh vegetables and fruits can be found on nearly every street corner, and the price is very affordable. With $400-600 a month, a family of four can be well fed, and if you’re on a tight budget, it can be done for less.
Cost of Health Care
Many expats are surprised at the high quality of health care they find in Lima’s private clinics for a relatively low price. A trip to the emergency room for stitches cost less than $50 (or more at some private clinics). A minor cosmetic surgery, which included aftercare at home from the doctor, cost about $600. Dental care is reasonably priced also – a root canal can cost less than $200, and fillings cost from $20-$50, depending on the location and the dentist. There is medical insurance available – individual plans generally run between $35 to $100 a month (depending on your age, and the extent of the coverage). Plans that cover only cancer treatment are also available. Our forums have quite a few threads of advice on doctors, dentists and insurance plans. You can buy insurance from one of the national companies that gives you coverage at an array of clinics, or can buy insurance directly from a specific clinic if that is more convenient for you (usually, this option is cheaper).
Cost of Schools
If you have school aged children, private school will most likely be the best option for you. Schools can be found to fit every budget, from parochial schools to international schools in Lima and elsewhere, but it is the experience of most that this is one place where you definitely get what you pay for. Schools can run anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to more than one thousand dollars a month in tuition. Most private schools also require you to pay an entrance quota for each child (sometimes, this entrance fee is negotiable, particularly if you have more than one kid). The best advice is to do your research, and find the best school that you can afford to send your children to.
Cost of Utilities
Utilities are another place where most are happily surprised. A package of high speed internet, cable and telephone service usually costs less than $70 a month. Consumers can also save money by using external long distance telephone companies which provide cheap international callings services , so it’s best to shop around. A family of four can expect about $160 a month for the rest of their utilities – electricity, water and gas for cooking.
Cost of Sundry Items
Clothing is very reasonably priced, but remember that large sized are difficult to find, and may be more expensive. Cars are expensive – even used cars – and gas is around $3-5/ gallon. However, there is plenty of public transport and taxis are every where. Electronics can be very expensive, especially new products, but prices seem to have been coming down recently. A full time housekeeper in Peru will cost around $450 to $600 per month.
Want to save money? Check out the article Lima on a budget.
We’d like to hear from you. Is there anything else about living costs in Lima that you think others should know about? Let us know in our forum topic: Living Expenses in Lima, Peru