We’ve been travelling and working remotely for more than three years now – first on our own, and then with our community of remote workers. We ADORE South America; it’ll always have a special place in our hearts as it’s a huge part of the early stages of the Wifi Tribe story. In light of this, we’ve picked 3 of the best cities to live in South America!
So lets get straight into it!
Who is it perfect for?
Medellin is for those who want to experience the essence of Latin America with a lot of the comforts you know from home. From the delicious Caribbean-inspired local dishes, to the vibrant salsa bars, to the friendly, fiery latinos, you will see what Latin America is all about in a nutshell.
Mission Critical Info
- Internet: If you just rely on the internet from your apartment, it can be a bit unstable, especially if you’re not the only user on the connection. In urban areas of Medellin, you should be able to get speeds of around 20Mb at home and between 5Mb and 10Mb in most cafés. If you want higher speeds, or more stability, your best bet is a coworking space.
- Safety: Medellin used to be notorious for its drug-related violence (the setting of the TV show Narcos), but it’s now one of the most spectacular turnaround stories in history. The Colombian government has flushed out the largest drug trafficking organisations, most of which have now grown roots in other Latin American countries, and achieved to elevate Medellin to the fastest growing tech-hub in South America.
- Accessibility: Uber reigns in Medellin, which makes getting around very easy, safe and comfortable. If you’re in the right part of the city, you’ll be at walking distance from cafés, restaurants, nightclubs, supermarkets, and coworking spaces. We recommend El Poblado for anyone coming to Medellin for the first time.
- Local SIM Cards: The main providers are: Claro, Tigo and Movistar. Claro has the largest network with the best LTE/4G coverage, but again, check which SIM gets the best coverage where you’ll be staying. You can top up credit in most convenience stores, any Oxxo, and all supermarkets. 1GB of data should cost you less than $7. Note: You may need to take your passport along to register the SIM card.
- Coworking: Last we counted, there are 16 coworking spaces in Medellin, so you’ll have plenty to choose from!
- WiFi Cafés: You’ll find a lot of very good cafés to work from. Whether you like cozy, hipster, classic, or the Colombian equivalent of Starbucks, you’ll find plenty of great places to sip on a coffee and get things done!
- Community: The digital nomad scene in Medellin is probably the most developed in all of Latin America. Meaning, you’re bound to meet a fellow remote worker at the cafe you frequent, opening a door for not only networking, but also further tips and tricks to the city..
- Quality of life: We would rank the quality of life very high in Medellin, especially, if you’re not on a tight budget. While you can have an amazing experience even if you’re trying to cut costs, there are so many incredible restaurants and wonderful places to stay that are absolutely worth it!
- Nightlife: Medellin’s nightlife is vibrant, to say the least. It’s ideal for anyone looking to dive into the latin music scene, especially for those wanting to learn salsa, but you’ll also find clubs that play songs you can sing along to. The streets of Poblado are crawling with bars and clubs to satisfy your need for a cocktail or to burn some calories after munching on authentic Colombian cuisine.
- Things to do: Learn salsa, eat at great restaurants, taste Colombian coffee, dive into the latin nightlife, or take a long weekend trip to some of the other beautiful parts of Colombia (we recommend visiting Guatape, a small town two hours outside of the city you don’t want to miss)..
- Best area: El Poblado
- Cost of living: between $1000 and $2000 a month, depending on how many trips you do and what kind of restaurants you choose to eat at
- English speaking: Not so much. The younger generation usually do.
- Visa: In general, Colombia makes it pretty easy for tourists to enter the country. Here’s a good page for visa requirements.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Who is it perfect for?
Buenos Aires is perfect for nomads who love stepping out of their apartment and exploring a new quirky cafe to work from or a new restaurant every day. It’s for steak-lovers, wine connoisseurs, culture enthusiasts, and for those who come alive when the sun goes down.
Mission Critical Info
- Internet: We’ve found the internet to be pretty stable in Buenos Aires, compared to other Latin American cities. While we did experience a few power cuts, it wasn’t too disruptive. We always recommend having either a global hotspot device (e.g. GlocalMe) or a local SIM card installed and ready to use in case the connection ever drops. In terms of speeds, you’re likely to get between 3 and 10 Mbps in cafés, 10 to 20 Mbps in an apartment/Airbnb, and higher speeds with more stability in many coworking spaces.
- Safety: Recently, Buenos Aires seems to have taken a bit of a hit in terms of safety. According to locals, the crime rate has gone up and the crimes are more violent than they used to be. Our advice is to keep to the areas that are considered safe at night. The popular tourist areas of Recoleta and Palermo both have regular police patrols. If you’re travelling between areas at night, we would highly recommend taking a trusted cab or Uber. There are certain areas that the locals will advise you to avoid in general, so make sure to ask about these if you plan to explore a little more.
- Accessibility: Buenos Aires is a large city, so it’s not exactly ‘walkable’, however, you will probably find cafés, restaurants, grocery stores, and other amenities at a walkable distance from your stay. To get around, most locals use the metro system. It’s not only the most inexpensive means of transport but in many cases, also the fastest and most reliable, as the roads can get pretty clogged up in peak times (it’s also very easy to manoeuver, we recommend downloading the Moovit app to help map your metro routes in real time).. You can buy a SUBE card in all post offices or Kioscos (convenience stores) that have the blue SUBE logo. Uber is also a good option for getting around, especially at night when you’re more concerned about safety.
- Local SIM: Getting a local SIM in Argentina with a good amount of data is a lot more difficult than in most South American countries. While you can easily get a prepaid SIM card, the data packages from most providers are very small and not cost-effective for working remotely. You can buy a prepaid SIM card from any of the main providers: Movistar, Personal, Claro, or Tuenti. We recommend Tuenti (www.tuenti.com.ar) as it offers the best data packages for a week or month and the online order is very comfortable. You may need a Spanish friend or Google translate to make sure you get that part right! If you choose any of the other providers, your best bet is to go straight to one of their official stores because they’ll answer all your questions, help you set it up, cut the SIM card for you, and change any settings on your phone if necessary, but you can also find SIM cards at most of the Kioscos. Once you have your card in your phone, you can top it up with call/data credit at most Kioscos by simply giving them the phone number of your new SIM and the amount you’d like to top it up by. Then, you’ll need to go through a series of messages to order the data pack you would like (ask the provider how to do this, as each one does it a little differently).
- Coworking: Buenos Aires has some of the most highly rated coworking spaces in South America. There are plenty of spaces to choose from, so when you do your research, you may want to consider factors such as distance from where you’re staying, air conditioning, internet speeds, and community activities or networking opportunities. We do know that WeWork is in the process of opening a new coworking space in a prime area of Recoleta to be on the lookout for.
- WiFi Cafés: Buenos Aires has countless great cafés to work from and even open WiFi connections in most public parks. You will find a wonderful variety of cafés in Palermo. The hipster trend is strong in this area of Buenos Aires, which makes for a great variety of healthy, cozy, and iconic cafés, restaurants and bars. And better yet, the reliable WiFi connection at the cafe’s totally compliment their delicious coffee, so it’s a win-win :).
- Community: Buenos Aires is another one of the main hotspots for digital nomads in Latin America. It also has a strong startup-scene, so you’ll be able to find a welcoming community. We recommend checking the local nomad FB page for weekly community events that may peak your interest.
- Quality of life: It is more upmarket than most other Latin American cities, so you may enjoy it a little more if you’re less concerned about budgeting.
- Nightlife: You’ll find all kinds of nights out here, from tango and salsa, to reggaeton or electronic music. We’ve seen one of our most creatively spectacular show in small, nondescript club. If you’re really into the party scene, make sure to find a few local friends who are plugged into the pulse of the city’s nightlife.
- Things to do: We love Buenos Aires for its iconic cafés, fantastic wines, rich culture, and vibrant nightlife. While we preferred a good Italian pizza over the Argentinian pizza that most of your local friends will rave about, we do highly recommend exploring what Buenos Aires has to offer on the menu. Of course, their steak is world-class, but there are also plenty of other exciting restaurants to explore. For a quick day trip, you’ll definitely want to go to the river Tigre and do some kayaking, or canoeing there. If you plan for longer weekend trips, try to make it to the Iguazu waterfall, Mendoza’s mountainous wine region, Patagonia, or even hop over to Uruguay.
- Best area: To be in the middle of the action, we recommend staying in Palermo. Most of the clubs, bars, restaurants and cafés with good wifi will be found in this area. Recoleta is also a one of the areas recommended highly for tourists to stay in. Both areas are considered safe.
- English speaking: Most of the younger people speak at least a bit of English, but you may want to freshen up on some important Spanish phrases.
- Cost of living: You’ll reasonably spend between $1300 and $2000 per month. Buenos Aires is definitely one of the more ‘upmarket’ and trendy cities of South America
- Visa: Here’s a good resource for visa requirements to enter Argentina. Make sure to check about your nationality, as visa requirements are different for everyone. US citizens can now enter Argentina without a visa.
Who is it perfect for?
Lima is for foodies. Prepare to discover mouth-watering fusion cuisine, with the some of the best from around the world, often combined with Peruvian ingredients or simply cooked to perfection. We also loved Lima for it accessibility to explore other parts of Peru. From Lima, you’ll get good flights to Cusco or a bus to the sand dunes of Huacachina.
Mission Critical Info
- Internet: We’ve found the internet to be a bit unstable and slower than we would have expected from such a large city, even in areas such as Miraflores. You’ll likely find cafés with connections of 2 to 8 Mbps download and apartments/AirBNBs may range from 3 to 15 Mbps. Consider getting a local SIM for better stability/speeds or join a coworking space.
- Safety: Like all large cities in Latin America, there are areas that are very safe, and areas that you should probably avoid. In general, we felt safe in Lima, staying in the Miraflores area and mostly taking Ubers around the city when we needed to get somewhere. The area around the airport is notoriously unsafe, so try to avoid walking around there at night.
- Accessibility: Lima is a huge city that expands along the coastline. It can take several hours to get from one end of the city to the other. However, the areas where tourists usually stay are definitely walkable, with all necessary amenities, cafés, and restaurants at easily accessible.
- Local SIM: It’s very easy to get a SIM card in Peru with good data deals (less than $10 per GB with some providers). For anyone staying longer than a week or two, we highly recommend it, as it will give you faster speeds for work, and most importantly, more stability. BITEL offers good data deals, but Movistar and Claro usually have the better network coverage. We don’t recommend getting your SIM in the airport, as those deals will usually be much worse than when you go into a shop in the city.
- Coworking: A quick search showed us that there are more than 40 coworking spaces. You’ll find them near the more affluent or tourist areas, and you have plenty of choice, so you might want to do a bit more research and compare criteria such as internet speed, community, and proximity to your apartment/AirBNB.
- WiFi Cafés: You’ll find less wifi cafés suitable for working in Lima than in Medellin or Buenos Aires, but there are enough for you to explore a bit and then stick with the ones you like. And yes, there are Starbucks cafés, for those who need a dose of ‘westernness.’
- Community: While Lima is picking up as a destination for digital nomads, we haven’t seen same kind of buzz around remote work or startups that you find in Medellin or Buenos Aires. Your best bet, is to visit a coworking space that seems to be the top choice of nomads living in Lima.
- Quality of life: You’ll find a good infrastructure, amazing food and all amenities. Quality of life is definitely high in Lima, but also less expensive than Buenos Aires.
- Nightlife: While the nightlife in Medellin or Buenos Aires is more lively and spectacular, you’ll also find good places in Lima to dance the night away. Barranco is a cool area to check out for some live music and a nice Pisco Sour.
- Things to do: Food. Lima is a foodie heaven. Peru is famous for its ceviche (raw fish ‘cooked’ in lemon) and its Pisco Sours (a delicious cocktail made with the local liquor, lemon and egg whites), but it also boast some of the most amazing international fusion cuisine we’ve come across in our travels. Of course, there are lots of other great things to do there too, such as surfing, exploring the old town, or paragliding Lima’s impressive coastline.
- Best area: We recommend Miraflores for its safety, walkability, amenities, and proximity to the ocean.
- English speaking: Most of the taxi drivers and many of the people serving in restaurants don’t speak English. As with most Latin American countries, the younger generation tends to speak English very well.
- Cost of living: $1000 – $1800. While base costs aren’t so high, it really depends on how regularly you treat yourself with one of Lima’s fantastic restaurants
- Visa: Peru is very well-versed in all things tourism, so it’s no wonder that they make it easy for you to enter the country. Here’s a good overview, but you may want to check for your specific country.
So there you have it my friends; our top 3 best cities to live in South America! We’ve compiled a pretty comprehensive aid for you to consider, but please continue with your own research on cities/countries you’re interested in taking your remote work to, just to make sure it fits your needs and really speaks to you in terms of atmosphere and stability. Staying up to date with current events is also very important when making a final decision on where to plant your roots for a significant period of time.
That’s it from us for now and we hope that this article has given you some great information to get you started. (Shameless plug alert!) If you’re interested in travelling tribal style and experiencing different cities with a community, please see our website for more information; we would love to have you with us on the journey.
Happy Travels guys!