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We asked Matador members and staff to break down some monthly living expenses in their current home city.
San Francisco – USA

Photo by Billy Gast

According to Rudyard Kipling, “San Francisco has only one drawback. ‘Tis hard to leave.” On the verge of buying her own condo, writer and photographer Cheri Lucas might agree.

Two bedroom apartment: $2000-3000 per month depending on area
Local dinner: $15 for a single dish
Public transport: $2 for a bus with unlimited transfers for 2 hours
One liter of gas: $1
Doctor’s visit: $25 for a routine visit (via insurance)
Electricity: $20 per month
Internet: $40 per month

Salta – Argentina

Photo by Paul Campbell

Salta, in northwestern Argentina at the foothills of the Andes, is currently home for Matador Life Editor Leigh Shulman and her family.

Two bedroom apartment: $200-500 per month
Local dinner: $15 for a steak dinner
Public transport: 50 cents
One liter of gas: $1
Doctor’s visit: $15
Electricity: $10 per month but can go up to $100+ in non-gas heated buildings during winter
Internet: $40-50 per month

Vancouver – Canada

Photo by Jenn

Home of Matador’s Network Architect Ian MacKenzie, Vancouver is still ranked as one of the most highly livable cities worldwide, despite some of the most expensive real estate in North America.

Two bedroom apartment: $1800+ per month
Local dinner: $6 for sushi
Public transport: $5, or $10 for a whole day pass
One liter of gas: $1.30
Doctor’s visit: Free, however healthcare costs $60 per month
Electricity: $50 per month
Internet: $60 per month

Cairo – Egypt

Photo by Mike Slagter

Matador Life Editor Nick Rowlands has lived in Cairo for more than four years, and although he keeps trying to leave, he keeps getting drawn back to the delicious chaos of life in the crazy Egyptian capital.

Two bedroom apartment: Expats will normally pay around $250-700 depending on the area
Local dinner: $5 though can go much more expensive, and street food less than $1
Public transport: 16 cents for the Metro
One liter of gas: 30 cents
Doctor’s visit: Starting around $8
Electricity: around $16 per month
Internet: $25 per month

La Linea de la Concepcion – Spain

Photo by Gerry Balding

Located at the southern tip of Spain, neighbouring the Rock of Gibraltar, La Linea is where Matador intern Jason Wire enjoys around 3000 hours of sunlight per year, on some of the cleanest beaches in the country.

Two bedroom apartment: $700
Local dinner: $20
Public transport: $1.50-3
One liter of gas: $1.50
Doctor’s visit: Free healthcare if you are contributing to the Spanish Social Security system
Electricity: $80 per month
Internet: $40 per month

Chiang Mai – Thailand

The laid back vibes and ridiculously cheap lifestyle are what attracted me to Chiang Mai. A very popular city for expats in Thailand, and just an hour away by plane to the islands.

Two bedroom apartment: $300
Local dinner: $1-2
Public transport: 65 cents for a songthaew (pick up truck-bus)
One liter of gas: $1.15
Doctor’s visit: $8
Electricity: $20-30 per month
Internet: $12 per month

Ulsan – South Korea

Photo of Seoul by Ian Muttoo

With insane Internet speeds and amazing food, South Korea is a favorite destination for English teaching expats like Matador Life intern Anne Merritt.

Two bedroom apartment: $600-1000
Local dinner: $7 for Korean barbecued beef
Public transport: 80 cents
One liter of gas: $1.40
Doctor’s visit: $7
Electricity: $45 per month
Internet: $26 per month

Melbourne – Australia

Travel Blogger Dave Dean explains it himself: “Melbourne is simply one of the most ‘livable’ cities I’ve ever been to – incredible places to eat and drink, a wonderful quirky culture and a population as diverse as its weather!”

Two bedroom apartment: $1800 and above depending on the area
Local dinner: $10 in pubs
Public transport: $3.90 for a 2 hour train/tram pass
One liter of gas: $1.20
Doctor’s visit: $30 for permanent residents
Electricity: $60per month
Internet: $40 per month


What is the cost of living in your own city compared to the examples above? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

About The Author

Daniel Nahabedian

Daniel left behind his cubicle in 2009 to start a RTW journey & follow his true passion: photography. He is currently settling down in Thailand to work on his Travel Photo Blog Canvas of Light & become a full time freelance Travel Photographer.

  • Clementine

    I think these numbers are pretty meaningless without comparing the average monthly salaries as well. I live in Buenos Aires where the average 2 bedroom apt goes for around $700 a month and the average monthly income is $1000. That information puts things in perspective.

    • nia

      hmm i dont agree with these numbers at all i live close to san francisco and no way the electricity run only 20 dollars per month we pay close to 200 to 300 dollars a month for a one bedroom apartment. and we are not even leaving the central air conditioning on for that long.. if you live in 4+ house expect electiricity to reach 700 to 800.
      also the doctor visit is 25 dollars per visit if you have amazing insurance one that cost 180 to 250 dolars a month for a 24 year old. if you dont have insurance expect to pay 140 to 200 per visit and is you have crappy insurance at least 70 to 100, per visit and lets not even mention dental work…. a crown will cost you a good 1000 to 1400.

    • Peter

      Not sure why everyone keeps commenting on the price of Seoul, South Korea. Some people saying that this article makes it sound cheaper or not…..the article doesn’t mention Seoul. He writes about Ulsan, South Korea. WAY different place.

      • Kelsey

        It was originally listed as Seoul.

      • Justruss

        I’ve lived in and visited a lot of cities. Seoul was by far the most expensive.

  • Tobias

    Really interesting article. It’s interesting to see what the differences are.
    Seoul actually seems a whole lot more affordable than what i thought it was…

  • HKNunzio

    I go to school in Winston-Salem, NC and I never pay more than $400 a month for rent, cable, energy/utilities, and Internet. I share a 2 bedroom apt and we each have our own room with walk-in closets. I might be in for a rude awakening when I graduate!

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Might be, but then again I hope the salary will be much better! hehe

  • Erin

    THIS IS AWESOME. Can you write more articles like these, featuring different cities? I had no idea San Fran was that expensive, and that Seoul was so cheap…So exciting!

    • Kelsey

      Seoul isn’t actually that cheap. Those figures do not account for “key money”.

  • Rachel

    I guess I’m moving to Thailand!

    Beijing is also pretty cheap–transportation is 30 cents. Kate is living there now and loves it:

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Yes, Chiang Mai is ridiculously cheap and so laid back.

  • Hana

    As someone considering moving to SF, this was an interesting read! The more I think about how much living in the Bay Area is going to cost me, the more I dream about the possibility of not settling down and just being on the road as much as possible. Chiang Mai looks and sounds wonderful, I’ve had lots of friends go to Thailand and stay for several months because it’s so awesomely cheap. And I might be visiting Argentina later this year so perhaps I’ll check out Salta!

  • Tom

    Like Anne, I live in South Korea and the costs are pretty much spot on. I’m in Daegu, the country’s 4th largest city…

    My internet runs to $27 per month, and electricity is $6-10 per month, but shoots up to around $40+ when it gets all hot and muggy and the air-con needs to come on….gas is the reverse. $100 in winter, $10 in summer. However, these are costs for a little studio apartment – no idea about a 2-bedroom place!

    Food is cheap cheap cheap and oh so gooooooood!

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Thanks! Although I really enjoy Chiang Mai, I’d also like to try a year in Korea, even just for the food!

  • Wai Tsui

    Considering the high cost of renting in San Francisco, the gas price is relatively cheap at just $1 per liter. Guess that’s a privilege to live in America…

    Well here in Hong Kong renting a two bedroom apartment in the city center costs around $2,000-$3,000. But outside of the city center (about an hour or two transit time) rent could be around $1,000 and above.

    Typical lunch set at fast food chain $4-5
    Public transit: $1-4
    Gas: $1.9 per liter
    Doctor: $13 in public clinic
    Electricity: $60 depending on usage
    Internet: as low as $13 per month

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Thanks for your input Wai Tsui.
      I can imagine real estate being really expensive in the city center. Especially 2 bedroom apartments. Good thing the rest is cheaper!

  • Kirstin

    Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is also pretty cheap. A 2-bedroom goes for about $200-400, utilities are really heavily subsidized, a good meal can be had for under $5 (less than that if you’re stingy) and public transportation is pennies. Internet, electronics, and some clothing items are ridiculously expensive though, I pay about $30 a month for 128 k/s internet :-/

    (average monthly salary? about $90 a month… I still haven’t figured that one out)

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Wow that’s pretty cheap too. However with the $90/month average salary, that suddenly puts everything into a different perspective. We keep thinking too much with our “Western brain”.

    • Kelsey

      I’ve thought about spending a couple months in Kyrgyzstan a few times, so thanks for that info!

  • LDubya

    I can’t vouch for any of the estimated expenses of the other cities but there is no way that you’re going to find a 2 bedroom apartment in Seoul for $100-600/month. It’s probably gonna set you back more in the neighborhood of $1000-1500/month.

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      It was a typo, thanks for pointing it out. The numbers I gathered were between $600-1000$, definitely not $100-600.

  • Nancie

    Is that price for a Seoul apartment after the thousands of dollars you have to put down in key money? I’d also love to know where you’d get barbecued beef for $7.

    I live in Daejeon, which is cheaper than Seoul. A half-decent “real” apartment here in a decent neighborhood requires minimum key money of $10,000, and your rent on top of that would be around $600.00/month. I’m holding my latest Internet bill in my hand ….32,000Won. I just paid my latest electric bill + water and it was 80,000Won. I have never found barbecued beef for under 25,000Won.

    I’ve been in Korea for almost 11 years, and the prices you’re quoting here simply are not accurate.

    I spend my winters in Chiang Mai, and I agree with the prices listed here.

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      I have never been to Korea myself but these are numbers given to me by people living in these cities so these are prices they pay. Might depend on the areas.

      As for Chiang Mai, I live here, and that’s what I pay per month.

      • Kelsey

        Those prices are more reflective of living in a rural area in Korea. Seoul is most definitely higher. And, as the other poster said, these prices do not include the substantial key money.

        • Daniel Nahabedian

          Yes you are right, I have edited and corrected the original post.
          The numbers were for the city of Ulsan on the Southern coast and not Seoul. My apologies.

  • Candice

    Wow! Did not expect some of those prices. I think I want to live in Salta or Chiang Mai. ;) My three-bedroom apartment here in St. John’s costs about $1100, and I live centre city…

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Ha yes, you should definitely come try Chiang Mai. It’s nice, warm, relaxing, so cheap and good food. What else do you want?

  • Steve

    I live in Bali and prices are all over the place. I live in a villa built by a westerner for about $1000 per month. Electric and water costs over $100 per month. Internet $110 per month. And yet a full time cleaner for 6 days a week and a cook cost about $150 per month combined. I can fill up a tank of gas for $10 and you can eat out for almost nothing (if you eat local). A doctor’s visit is $30 (a westerner’s price). A bottle of wine will cost you $50-80 (and probably won’t be very good) and you have to renew visas every month (between $60-150). I also live in Rome when not here, and prices there are higher than practically everything on the list above – but cheap if you want good wine, oil, olives, and cheese.

    One thing’s for sure, electric and petrol is cheap in the US where it’s subsidized. In Europe these things cost loads.

  • Jules

    I live in Sydney-

    Typical lunch: $8
    Public transit: $148 per month
    Doctor: $75 per visit (although if you have medicare, I think it’s free- through your taxes)
    Electricity: approx $40 per month- depending on usage
    Internet: $29
    One bedroom apartment in Eastern Suburbs (good location) $1900 per month

    It’s slightly more expensive than Melbourne where I lived for a year.

  • Kelsey

    Great post! Though, the rents for Seoul are a little misleading. South Korea uses a “key money” system that requires a substantial (multi-thousand dollar) deposit, something most casual travelers don’t have access to.

  • Pieter

    Quite interesting to see an approximation of living costs elsewhere in the world.

    This is done with the currency conversion as it is today (5-Apr-2011) of R1 = $0.148578. I live in Johannesburg, South Africa (outside of the city because it’s a dump).

    Three bedroom house: $1,782
    Local dinner: $15
    Public transport: Approx $7 (although you can’t call what we have public transport because they strike most of the time)
    One litre of gas: $1.31 (up to $1.48 tomorrow)
    Doctor’s visit: $37
    Electricity: $208 per month (going up by 25.8% very soon!)
    Internet: $118 per month (4 meg line capped at 9GB…includes compulsory voice line rental)

  • shifan

    Male’ – Capital of Republic of Maldives
    Two bedroom apartment: $1000 for locals, for expats will be a bit more
    Local dinner: $25
    Public transport: $1.5 fixed always by taxi to a single destination
    One liter of gas: $1
    Doctor’s visit: $10
    Electricity: $60 per month on average
    Internet: $50 per month

  • Kelsey

    This post has definitely confirmed the fact that I need to give a few months in Argentina a shot.

  • tomosaigon

    Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City
    2 BR house: $200
    Vietnamese beefsteak dinner: $2-3
    Public transport: $0.15
    One liter of gas: $1
    Doctor’s visit: $2-5
    Electricity: $20-30 per month
    Internet: from $5 per month

    More details on Saigon cost-of-living as an expat:

  • Rebecca

    I have no idea about the foreign cities, but I seriously doubt that the electricity costs San Francisco are that low. Maybe left out a zero on the end?

    • Cheri Lucas

      Hey Rebecca–

      Indeed, that’s how much my average PG&E bill was per month. I lived in a small one-bedroom with two wall heaters (one in the bedroom, the other in the living room/kitchen). The price went up to $28-30 in the winter. In that unit, I lived by myself and tried not to use the heat unless I really had to.

      But…the cost may seem off considering the rent listed is for a two-bedroom, while the costs underneath it are based on one person.


  • Gwan

    I agree it’s pretty meaningless without knowing what people earn. I live in a small city (about 130,000 people) in France and for a 2 bedroom apartment (including rent, electricity, water and internet) it costs about US $1300 a month. My salary is slightly under US $2000 a month (this is with social security payments taken out, but before tax – they are considered two different things). Considering this is for a job where a Masters degree is a requirement, it’s not exactly amazing pay, but you can live on it.

  • Mo

    My 72 square-metre apartment in absolutely central Berlin is “warm” ie. heating included €650 or 930 US dollars. We have three-paned windows so it’s very quiet. We have windows in both directions with our bedroom looking right at the German government’s Reichstag. I just had a €2 pizza with my boy. Did I mention the govt. gives one full year parental support (of one of the parents) after the birth? Rent normally represents about one third to one quarter of rent for one working person even though the apartment can handle two.
    Oh, don’t come here and wreck it!!

  • Heather

    Excellent post – I love how the discussion in the comments reveals so much more information about the cost of living in different cities around the world.

  • stephen levine

    Well, thanks for reminding me why I don’t, and probably never will live in San Francisco. Someone pass the Prozac please.

  • Christa

    Jakarta – capital of Indonesia

    Two-bedroom house (cheaper than apartments): around $3000 per year (cheaper than if you rent by the month)

    Local dinner: $1-2 for street food, around $20 for mid range restaurants

    Public transport: less than $1 for public regular or air conditioned buses and minivans, $5-10 for taxi within the city (I once got stuck in traffic for 3 HOURS and the meter was just a few cents above $10)

    One liter of gas: currently around $0.50 (petrol)

    Doctor’s visit: $5-10 (public health centers)

    Electricity: $50 (average household with average use)

    Internet: $35 (1.5 meg line with unlimited use, no caps)

    Other utilities
    Water: $20 (average household with average use)
    Gas: $20 (for cooking, average household with average use)

    The average monthly income is around $300, although I’ve heard lots of people make way less.

  • Alex

    Denton, Texas, USA (45 minutes north of Dallas, almost like a miniature Austin/college town)

    2 Bedroom Apartment – ours is $690 per month
    Electricity – $45
    Internet – $40
    Dinner – $12-18 if you’re going out to a sit down place
    Doctors visit – no idea, probably $50-$70?
    One Gallon of Gas – $3.65 last time I filled up
    City buses – Free with UNT student ID (UNT buses are free for everyone)

  • Maxidroms

     Moscow, Russia

    2 bedroom apartment-1200$-5000$ depending on location
    1 litre of petrol-0,9$(keep in mind,Russia is petrol exporting country!!!)

  • Sokoandlime87

    I live in Ulsan. That is not Ulsan.

  • Wendy Hoechstetter

    The prices in San Francisco might have been accurate a decade or so ago, but they are not even close to the average reality now. The average *one* bedroom apartment now runs $3,000 – $3,500/month, the cheapest doctor’s visit I’ve seen in decades is $125 (was that $25 a typo?), and no way can you heat anything to a livable level for that little. I’ve also paid more than $45/month for internet service since at least the late 90s. In some more distant suburbs, you can get a two-bedroom place for $1,800 – $2,300, but not in any remotely safe and decent part of SF proper.

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