I left NYC and moved to Rio where my income extends 5 times further

  • In 2020, Carla Vianna shared a $2,250 studio in New York with her Brazilian partner.
  • She knew it was time to move when she started using her savings to pay the rent.
  • The couple moved to Rio, where their two-bedroom apartment near the beach costs half the rent.

When my partner and I moved to Brazil in October 2020, I was heartbroken to leave New York. But months of confinement in our 300 square foot studio had worn down the charm of the “little life” of the city.

We moved to New York in the summer of 2018 and my partner promised me “two winters”. He grew up in the tropical heat of Rio de Janeiro and wanted to come back.

Moving would not be difficult: my parents immigrated from Brazil to the United States before I was born, which gave me dual citizenship. But I never imagined living there, especially when it meant leaving the relative safety of the United States behind.

At the end of 2019, I left a stable job in journalism to become a travel blogger. Then the pandemic hit – I was newly independent in the face of a decimated travel industry. I lost most of my job and started eating away at my savings. Brazil conquered me when I realized that my income there would be five to six times higher than in the United States.

My quality of life has improved exponentially – here’s what it costs to live and work remotely in Rio de Janeiro

Rio is far from the cheapest city in Latin America. But with the US dollar valued at five times the Brazilian real, living comfortably here is much more accessible than in Manhattan.

Cheap rent plays an important role in reducing costs. My partner and I paid $2,250 a month for a studio in New York. In Rio, we pay 5,000 reals, or about $1,000, for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a home office and a 24-hour doorman. We share this cost, so the rent costs me about 2,500 reals per month.

After moving to Rio in October 2020, I turned to freelance writing. I lived on my savings for a few months until I found enough work to cover my living expenses. It was much more sustainable in Rio than in New York. I continued to create my travel blog.

My writing business now brings in between $4,000 and $7,000 a month from freelance writing and journalism work for corporate America. My blog generates a few hundred dollars in affiliate link revenue and ad revenue every month.

I also create travel content for brands on Instagram and TikTok. This year I have worked with Google, Priceline and Priority Pass, among others.

My monthly budget is 10,365 reals. It includes rent, electricity, internet, groceries, groceries, beauty services, restaurant meals and outings with friends. Most of my travel is for business expenses.

My living expenses each month:

  • Rent (including property taxes and condominium fees): 2,500 reals
  • Electricity bill: 100 to 250 reals
  • Broadband Internet: 75 reals
  • Gas: 25 reals
  • Cleaner: 800 reals
  • Initial moving costs (most apartments do not have stoves or fridges): 6,000 reals for a stove, fridge and washing machine, which my boyfriend and I shared

I achieved a level of financial freedom that I did not have in Manhattan

My neighborhood is among the most expensive in Brazil. Our apartment is on a covered street two blocks from Ipanema Beach, and I sometimes spot monkeys outside my window.

I eat at high-end restaurants, travel at least once a month, and hire someone to help me clean my apartment, all while paying off nearly $9,000 in student loan debt.

I mainly cook at home from Monday to Friday and spend around 400 to 500 reals on groceries each week. My partner and I dine out at least twice a week, usually with friends. We try to spend less than 2,000 reals a month on restaurant trips, but we often go over.

Hiring a housekeeper was a big culture shock for me. I never had one growing up, but it’s the norm in upper-middle-class households in Brazil. This was a real benefit and I developed a close relationship with our housekeeper; we often exchange gossip and recipes, and she gives me local travel tips.

When I arrived in Rio, I was too scared to leave my apartment

I grew up hearing from my family how dangerous Brazil could be. “Leave your phone at home,” they said. “Don’t wear flashy jewelry. Stay alert.” Their advice kept me awake at night. I cocooned myself at home for the first few months. I wouldn’t even go to the beach alone.

As COVID-19 cases dwindled in Rio, I started meeting people. Many were expats or digital nomads who had fallen in love with Rio’s vacation lifestyle. Their confidence exploring the city ignited mine.

It took me almost a year to realize that Rio de Janeiro is divided: it has the protected upper class and the rest of the population.

Living in Ipanema, an affluent neighborhood in the city’s touristy southern area, is very different from living in the nearby favelas. My neighborhood is heavily policed, which reduces violent crime. Although cell phone muggings can happen, especially during peak tourist season, I mostly feel safe on a day-to-day basis.

Because my income is in hard currency, I can experience the best of Brazil. I recognize this privilege. It’s my daily reminder to support my local businesses and fight rental rate hikes – even if I can afford them – because they make local inflation worse than it already is.

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