One week, $200 – that’s all she wrote :)

Further on my series of posts on cost of living in Peru, time to fess up that out of $200 I started with exactly 1 week ago, there’s nothing left in my wallet.

Nada, nichts, zilch, nothing.

The final straw came yesterday morning as I started to boil water (we boil our drinking water) and the gas in the kitchen ran out. I called the gas company to bring a new cylinder of gas and, as always, they asked me with how much I would pay. This is so they can make sure the driver has correct change. I mustered up the confidence to open my wallet and saw I had S/.60 (~$21.80) left. A cylinder of gas is S/.35 and change. I don’t think most people tip the driver, but I do. After all, the guy’s delivering cylinders of explosive natural gas on a motorcycle in Peruvian city traffic for 12 hours a day, I think he’s earned a tip.

Since my previous post on day 4 of my “cost of living in Peru” experiment, this is how we’ve spent the last of my $200:

Food: I loose track of how many times I go to Mega – our local grocery store. Since the store is about a half a mile from our house I walk to Mega and back, consequently I only buy as much as I can carry (and still chase the baby if I need to). I think I go to Mega 4-5 times per week. I spent S/.20 at Mega yesterday and S/.36 the day before if I remember well. Some time earlier during this experiment I spent S/.170 or so at Mega because we bought expensive items like laundry detergents, etc.

Bread, snacks, etc: I spend S/.2.00 for fresh bread every morning and occasionally S/.6.00 – S/.10.00 to buy yummie treats at the bakery in the afternoon. I often take Pitufiloquita to the park in the morning and we both get our S/.1.00 ice cream when the sun is out.

Restaurants: Saturday we ate at “Sr. Panda”, a nice little restaurant right by our house. We like it because the food is good and reasonably priced, it’s only a block away, and “Sr. Panda” is about the only place in Cuzco (maybe all of Peru) where you can get good, hot and greasy chicken wings.

We also like “Sr. Panda” because right nextdoor is an arcade where I can take Pitufiloquita while we’re waiting on the food – just so she doesn’t raise too much cane in the restaurant 😉

I believe I spent S/.28 (~$10) at Sr. Panda and maybe S/.5 – S/.8 at the arcade.


Mamacita and Pitufiloquita playing at the arcade


Brianna getting ready to race at the arcade

Long story short, I managed to make it through a week on $200. That’s about right as far as our cost of living here in Peru goes. Our rent is $220 per month, our bills are around $200 (some are discretionary such as cellphones and satelite TV) and with food, restaurants, day trips and the like we usually spend between $1,000 – $1,400 per month for a family of three (5 if you include the mutts).

When I lived by myself in the US my bills were around $2,400 per month just for mortgage, car payment, gas, utilities, etc. That was before buying food and any discretionary things like going out to eat.

How about you, how much is your cost of living and in what area?

Cost of living in Peru – day 4

Ouch this is getting ugly real fast. Only 4 days since I started my cost of living in Peru experiment and I’m already scared to look in my wallet to see what’s left of the $200 I started with on Tuesday.

Day 1 was easy enough. After paying some regular bills (see previous post) the only money we spent was S/.23.94 (~$8.86) at “Mega”, our local grocery store. Mamacita got a few things at “Mega” and we had our famous homemade salchipapas for dinner:

homemade salchipapas

Homemade salchipapas

Salchipapas are a favorite Peruvian snack: a mix of french fries and deep fried slices of hot dog. Yumm!! Most Peruvians eat their salchipapas with lots of sauces (ketchup, mayo, aji, etc) but I prefer mine just with plenty of salt.

Day 2 of my “cost of living” experiment wasn’t bad either. The only things we bought were bread in the morning and some paltas (avocados) to make fajitas for dinner at night. In the US many people assume that all Latin American food is like Mexican food, but that’s not true at all. Peruvian food is nothing like Mexican food. Having said that, my homemade fajitas didn’t turn out bad at all 🙂

Day 3: now it gets bad

It’s my own fault, we had to spend some money. A few days ago I lost my cellphone, been looking for it ever since but it didn’t turn up. In Peru cellphones get robbed all the time, but in my case I’m certain I just misplaced it (or pitufiloquita may have taken it out of my coat pocket and disappeared it somehow). I can live without a cellphone, but the trouble is that I just sent out a few resumes to my potential dreamjob, and the resumes of course have my phone nr on them. Mamacita has threatened if I don’t get a real job by the time I’m 40, that we’re all moving back up North – so I can’t afford to miss any phone calls 🙂

Our plan to replace my phone was very Peruvian: mamacita has various cellphones and doesn’t use all of them. Since her phones are with a different company, we decided to take one of her unused cellphones to “Centro Commercial Paraiso” to have it unlocked. “Paraiso” is one of the less reputable markets in the Santiago district of Cuzco. A lot of stolen cellphones end up there to be unlocked and resold.

Mamacita thought we would be able to unlock her phone for S/.10 and buy a new chip at Movistar for another S/.10 but we had no such luck. Mamacita’s cellphone is a nicer new model, and nobody at “Paraiso” was able to unlock it for us. I gave up and we went back to Movistar to buy a new phone (S/.109 or about $40) and new chip so I could retain my phone number.

On the way back from the cellphone store we spent S/.39.40 (~14.59) at “Mega” again. Just some supplies, drinks, juices, etc. I drink a lot of juice in Cuzco, not sure if it’s the altitude or why?

KFC in Cuzco, Peru:

Later in the afternoon on day 3 mamacita spent some time with Maria, one of her best friends, to work on their univeristy thesis (presentation next Wednesday!!!). Exhausted and hungry from all their hard work, mamacita and Maria wanted to go eat at KFC at the Plaza de Armas late in the evening.

The KFC restaurant in Cuzco recently opened up in the spot where Cafe Ayllu used to be at the Plaza de Armas. I don’t care too much anymore for American style fast food, but since this is only the third American style fast food restaurant in Cuzco (the others are McDonalds and Bembos) I understand that mamacita and Maria wanted to try it out. In my opinion the food at KFC in Peru is better than KFC in the US. I haven’t eaten at KFC in the US in a long time, but I remember some years ago eating at KFC and thinking that the Colonel would have been ashamed if he was around to see what the food had become. Here in Peru the KFC chicken is pretty good, although in Cuzco I prefer “Brosso” for fried chicken and if you want really yummie fried chicken I think La Paz (Bolivia) has the best.

kfc cuzco

KFC restaurant at the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, Peru

inside kfc cuzco

Inside the KFC restaurant in Cuzco

We spent something like S/.51 (~$18.75) for the big combo at KFC. Pitufiloquita was her wild usual self inside KFC. She managed to stay out of major trouble until she jumped and fell of one of the bench seats, but no harm done. At least no food ended up on the floor…

Yesterday was day 4 of my “cost of living in Peru” experiment. I didn’t really spend any money other than fresh bread in the morning (S/.2.00), S/.36 in groceries at Mega and S/.3.00 for more fresh bread, the Peruvian national bread pan ciabatta in the evening.


I started out with $200 (S/.544) in my wallet on Tuesday. Right now I’m scared to look in my wallet, I’m hoping to at least make it through the weekend without having to hit the bank again 🙂

Cost of living in Peru

I get a lot of emails and questions about the cost of living in Peru. There really is no such thing as “the cost of living” in Peru. What one person spends in Miraflores in a month will be entirely different from what another person spends in Accha, and averages tend to skew the big picture.

Here’s a comment about cost of living in Lima from an expat airline pilot:

“How much you save depends on your own personal circumstances…..working wife/single, kids/no kids (school or university age), social habits/stay at home guy, etc….so hard to say. I made 140K last year as a year 2 Captain….BUT you pay about 30% tax, and 10% goes to your pension so every month they take a whopping 40% out of your pay check. Lima is not as cheap as it used to be, housing has increased significantly, aprox 100% in last 6 years……this is fact, I just sold my apartment! Schools range from 500-1000 USD/month and if renting don’t expect to pay less than 1K per month for a decent place.

It’s true that some areas of Lima are very expensive, but on the other hand most people in Peru have a far lower cost of living (and income) than what’s quoted above. Per capita GDP in Peru 2010 was $9,200 (CIA factbook).

So I decided to do my own little experiment: I took $200 (about 544 Peruvian Nuevos Soles) out of my local bank account here today. I will try not to use my bank card for anything in the next few days, just cash, and keep track of how much I spend each day and how long it takes for my $200 to run out. Hopefully I will make it through at least a few days 🙂

Sadly, I’ve already spent some of my $200 because bills were due today. Here’s what I’ve spent so far:

  • Garbage pickup, 2 months: S/.13.00 (~ $4.78)
  • Water & sewer, 1 month: S/.14.00 (~ $5.14)
  • Electricity, 1 month: S/.42.20 (~ $15.51)

Maybe today wasn’t the best day to start my experiment, because I’ve just completed 2 of my biggest recurring purchases in the past few days: diapers and dogfood 😉

Check back tomorrow and see how my wallet is holding up!