Living in Belo Horizonte – The Complete Guide 2019

Living in Belo Horizonte – Moving to Brazil

Living in Belo Horizonte

There’s fairly good chance that you’ve never heard of Belo Horizonte or even know which country it is in. BH is widely considered as Brazil’s third biggest city after Rio and São Paulo and is located in Minas Gerais, located further inland from Rio and above the state of São Paulo. Belo Horizonte is one of Brazil’s best kept secrets, precisely due to the fact that it’s off the radar for most people thinking about living in Brazil.

Thoughts of Living in Belo Horizonte

Whilst I was having a great time travelling around Latin America for months and living in Rio de Janeiro, I couldn’t help but feeling that something was missing. Living and staying in hostels and going to popular backpacking destinations was good fun, but i found myself having the same experiences over and over again and spending much less time with locals than i’d initially hoped for. In many ways it felt that i was observing and watching the culture and life in brazil as it were a part of some TV show, rather than actually being a part of it.

After coming to realise this, I decided that it was time for a new challenge – moving to a relatively unheard-of city and throwing myself in the deep-end. Belo Horizonte sounded like a good choice, but the prospect of moving there was daunting and felt deeply outside of my comfort zone. Looking back, living in Belo Horizonte was a true adventure. I was thrown into a place where i had no choice but to reach a level of fluency in the portuguese language and start my social and professional life from scratch.

The Medellin of Brazil

If there’s one place that i would compare Belo Horizonte to, it would be Medellin. With friendly people, great night life, a pleasant climate and more of a small town vibe, Belo Horizonte is in many ways Brazil’s Medellin, but with one key difference – far less foreigners.

Whilst Medellin has become one of the key destinations in Latin America for backpackers i can’t help but feeling that the city has lost much of its original charm and authenticity, whilst Belo Horizonte, on the other hand, is still right off the beaten track, allowing for a stimulating and original experience for those choosing Belo Horizonte as their city when moving to Brazil.

Where to Live

Savassi, Funcionarios/Lourdes

The best places to live are located within the confines of the Avenida de Contorno, a ring road that circles around the central area of the city. Within this area or very close by you’ll have access to the best nightlife spots and commercial areas.

Inside of Av de Contorno, Savassi and Lourdes were my favourite spots, due to their location and atmosphere. The caveat is that these areas can be more on the pricey side..

Santo Antônio/São Pedro/Cruzeiro

Located on the outside southern edge of the Avenida de Contorno, these three neighbourhoods are perfect if you’re looking for a more residential and tranquil area whilst still being right next to the central areas of Savassi and Lourdes. The tree lined and hilly streets make it a very pleasant area to live in (if you don’t mind walking uphill) and rental prices can be significantly cheaper than in Savassi.

Pampulha

Due to its distance from the rest of the city (around 30 minutes driving) i only ended up going to Pampulha only once during my stay in the city, but regret doing so. The area’s natural beauty makes up for its distance and is home to the “Lagoa da Pampulha” a giant lake surrounded by colonial houses and forest, which makes it a nice change from the dense areas of high rises in the central area. Pampulha also has its own nightlife scene on Avenida Fleming and is right next to the UFMG, one of the main universities in the city.

Life in Brazil - Pampulha, Belo Horizonte
Life in Brazil – Pampulha, Belo Horizonte

Safety & Security

Compared to Rio de janeiro, Belo Horizonte is relatively safe and is comparable to São Paulo in the sense that violence tends to be focused in the favelas and the periphery of the city. Whilst it’s wise to be streetwise and to exercise caution (as in any Latin American city), the safety and security should definitely not put you off from coming here. As in most Brazilian cities, “Centro” can also be sketchy, and is worth avoiding after commercial hours.

Weather

Compared to Northern Europe, the weather is fantastic in Belo Horizonte, with around 2500 sunshine hours per year. Cloudy days are a fairly regular occurrence, but you’ll never have to wait too long to see the sun. As in the rest of south-eastern Brazil, rainfall is also abundant, particularly between October and March. The temperature never really gets above 33 degrees or below 10, making Belo Horizonte very pleasant in terms of climate when living in Brazil.

Cost of Living

Living in Belo Horizonte is a fair amount cheaper than living in São Paulo or Rio, and therefore makes a good spot to have a decent life in brazil at a low price. To get an idea of everyday costs, check out this article.  

Praça do Papa - Living in Brazil

The 4 Key Ways to Thriving in Belo Horizonte

Economically

As in the rest of Brazil, finding a job in Brazil is no easy task, primarily due to Visa Restrictions,  whilst longer hours and lower wages than Europe can be disheartening. That being said, finding work is possible (if you speak Portuguese), and outside of São Paulo, Belo Horizonte is one of your best bets for getting a job. The city also has a thriving Start-Up scene called São Pedro valley, and as foreigner who speaks both Portuguese and English, you should have a competitive advantage due to the fact that there are few expats living in Belo Horizonte. As in the rest of Latin America, Networking is vital, meaning that your best bet is inserting yourself into the community and building contacts.

As a Brit, Australian or american living in Belo Horizonte, working in a hostel and teaching english are always options, but in my opinion aren’t really long term solutions to thriving when living in Belo Horizonte. In you’re interesting in hearing about other ways to thrive economically in Brazil, feel free to drop me an email.

Bureaucratically

To cut to the point, dealing with Visas or opening a bank account in Brazil is a nightmare, and Belo Horizonte is no exception.

Socially

If you’ve wondered where the city in the world is with the friendliest people is, then look no further, as Belo Horizonte is a serious contender. People will break their backs here to help you out and make you feel at home, and a lot of the time all it takes is striking up a basic small-talk conversation to become friends with someone. As a bonus, you’ll likely spark curiosity amongst the locals due to the lack of foreigners in the city. Despite its size of 5 million people, living in Belo Horizonte has more of small-town feel, meaning that most people tend to have well-established and close knitted social circles. Despite this, you’ll find that a lot of people will happily let you join in.

As a European or American living in Belo Horizonte, It goes without saying that one of the keys of establishing a strong social circle is through the Portuguese Language, which brings us up to our next point.

Moving to Brazil - Belo Horizonte at Night

Linguistically

If you are think about living in Belo Horizonte and don’t have any plans to learn Portuguese, then exit this page right now and don’t even bother thinking about living in Brazil. Whilst you’ll find some people who speak english well (although you’ll have to look hard) I would compare coming to Belo Horizonte and learning Portuguese to seeing someone else having a trip of their lifetime via their instagram story as oppose to experiencing this for yourself.

However, learning Portuguese is easier said than done, and it’s no secret that some people struggle with language learning more than others. Whilst most people will be afraid to admit it to others, learning a language is often an extremely daunting process and getting over mental blockages is a large part of the process (something they don’t teach you at most language schools.) However, with the right mindset, you’ll not only be able to speak Portuguese fluently in a relatively short amount of time but will massively stand out from most expats living in Belo Horizonte or elsewhere in Latin America. For more guides on Tips for Learning Portuguese, check out these posts.

Nightlife

The nightlife in Belo Horizonte is one of the best in Brazil, and there are several different Spots

Savassi/Lourdes

A great spot to go for a bottle of Original and to have an espetinho after work, Savassi is home to hundreds of botecos where people will sit outside until the wee hours of the morning. Lourdes takes it a step further, with its more upscale vibe. Top picks – Cipriano and Laicos.

Cruzeiro

Centered around the Street Rua Pium-í, Cruzeiro is a great spot on a Friday or Saturday if you’re living in Belo Horizonte, with Bars lining the hilly street right until the bottom. Top pick – Muu Bar

Buritis

Located around 15 mins drive to the south of Avenida Contorno, Buritis is a middle class neighbourhood located on nearer to the outskirts of the city. It’s also home to some of the best bars and clubs. Top picks – Like bar, Bebs Raja and Chalezinho.

The Verdict

Living in Belo Horizonte is a true adventure and could be a great spot for you if you’re looking for something different from the status quo or wanting to completely immerse yourself in Brazilian Culture. However, making a big move to such a far-flung destination isn’t exactly easy, so feel free to get in touch with me with any tips or further questions if you’re thinking of moving to Brazil.


Living in Chile – The Ultimate Guide to Santiago – 2019

Living in Chile – Santiago

Living in Chile – Santiago is an intriguing destination for many of us from Europe or North America and Europe for several reasons. Firstly, its isolation from the rest of the world and position between the towering Andes and the pacific coast make it for a spectacular setting. Moreover, when compared to its neighbours, Chile stands out due its economic stability, job opportunities, high level of development and security. When taking these factors into account, it comes as no surprise that moving to Chile may seem like a sensible choice if you’re thinking of the best places to live in south america.

Santiago – Thoughts of Living in Chile

If there was one thing that shocked me about moving to Chile, it was how different the country is compared to the rest of Latin America. It’s hard to describe in words, but Chile seems to lack that “Latin Feel” in countries such as Colombia, Brazil and Mexico and even feels surprisingly different to Argentina, a country with which it shares a border of 3,000 miles.

Living in Chile could be a great option if you’re looking for more of a Western European lifestyle in Latin America. Public services are better, job opportunities are more plentiful, and problems such as crime and corruption are much less of an issue than on the rest of the continent. Add to this Santiago’s proximity to spectacular nature (some of the best in the world), beaches and ski-resorts then you’re looking at a solid destination.

I, on the other hand, decided that life in chile wasn’t for me. Whilst there were things that i liked, i found the city slightly soulless and lacking that spontaneous, care-free latin feel that i fell in love with when I first moved to Mexico. Whilst Mexico and countries such as Brazil and Colombia clearly aren’t perfect, they exude exoticness, colour, a casual vibe and a sense of freedom that can’t be found in many places in the West. Whilst Chile isn’t devoid of these characteristic by any means, i found to be more organized, orderly and its people to be more reserved, meaning that i personally felt out of place. That being said, each man to their own, and moving to chile might just be the right place for you to move to.

Moving to Chile – Where to Live in Santiago

Bellavista

Bellavista is wedged between the centre of Santiago and the more upscale neighbourhoods of Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura to the East. Its central location means that it has become the main tourist hub and is home to one of the city’s main nightlife areas (similar to Lapa in Rio de Janeiro or Rua Augusta in São Paulo.) Bella Vista is a fun spot where things are happening at night, and is surprisingly tranquil during the daytime.

Providencia/Barrio Italia

To the the east of Bellavista on the other side of the Mapocho River, Providencia is a great area to base yourself. It’s a pleasant residential are with tree lined streets and a calmer vibe whilst still being close to the action, making it a great spot for first timers and for those who want a balance of everything.

Vitacura/Las Condes

Las Condes is a clean, safe spot in the financial district of the city with more of an americanized feel and home to several upscale restaurants and nightlife options. Vitacura is similar but with more of a residential vibe. Downsides are further distances from the centre of Santiago.

Living in Chile – Safety & Security

How Safe is Chile? This is a question that many of you are probably wondering due to the notorious reputation Latin America has for Crime and Corruption. Compared to cities such as Rio de Janeiro, La Paz or Lima, Santiago is very safe, and i even felt more at ease here than in European cities such as Paris or Berlin. That being said, it’s worth having some common sense and avoiding certain areas of the city. Plaza de Armas is worth avoiding after commercial hours, and Bellavista can be a bit sketchy during the early hours of the morning, especially towards the Recoleta Area.

Weather

I wasn’t impressed in the slightest with the weather in Santiago when first moving to Chile. It was 5 degrees celsius (at night) and the skies were overcast during the daytime, not exactly being what i was hoping for after just having left northern England. Luckily, the clouds gave away to abundant sunshine and it probably only rained around 5 times during the whole 4 months that i was there. Besides this colder, greyer spell in the winter months of June-August, you’ll find that sunshine is plentiful. On the downside, smog levels can get pretty bad, often limiting visibility and may sometimes get to levels where they have an impact on breathing.

Nnightlife in Bellavista

Cost of Living in Santiago

Compared to the rest of Latin America, living in Chile is very expensive, with prices nearly being on a par with many areas of Europe, and is slightly more expensive than living in Buenos Aires. To get a clearer idea of day to day costs – take a look at this article. That being said, salaries are much higher than in other Latin American countries

Meeting People/Nightlife – Life in Chile

One of the 4 keys to thriving in Latin America is being able to succeed socially and although this is undoubtedly possible in Santiago, I found that people weren’t as open when compared to other Latin America cities that i’ve lived in, such as São Paulo and Buenos Aires. From my experience, Chileans were shyer and harder to engage in conversation than Argentines or Brazilians and on they surface, they may not seem as open to foreigners on surfn the surface they might not seem as curious about foreigners However, this was from my personally experience, and would be interested to see in the comments section if anyone else has a different opinion.

Another barrier when it comes to meeting people is the language, as Chilean Spanish is surprisingly difficult to understand compared to other South American Dialects. To put this into context, one night i was out with an Argentine friend who was nearly as confused as i was when it came to understanding a group of locals from Santiago. This may sound disheartening, but it shouldn’t deter you from moving to Chile if you think that it could be the right fit for you, as learning Chilean Spanish is 100% possible.

In terms of the Nightlife, Santiago is a pretty good spot with the main areas being Bellavista, Las Condes and Vitacura. This article should point you in the right direction if you’re new to the scene.

Finding Work

When it comes to finding work in Latin America, Chile is one of your best options. Pay is much better than in rest of the continent and you’ll find that Visa requirements don’t tend to be as stringent. If you’re interested in finding out more about finding work in chile, then take a look at this article.

Along with building your social circle, forging a fulfilling professional life is one of the keys to making the most out of living in Chile, and it’s important to dig deep into potential options for your situation. If you’re looking for some guidance on this, feel free to shoot me an email at linguistlifestyle@gmail.com

The Verdict

Whilst i enjoyed my stay in Santiago, i decided that it wasn’t one of the best places to live in South America in my case, primarily due to the lack of that “Latin Feel” that i fell in love with when i first arrived in this part of the world. That being said, it’s a city that i would definitely like to go back and visit, and I found Chile to be spectacular in terms of adventure travel and nature.

But you never know, Chile could be the perfect place for you and the only way to really find this out is by getting yourself out there. Most likely, you’re not in a position where you can just drop everything and do this, so if you’re to know more about living in Santiago and have any further questions or doubts, then please send me an email at linguistlifestyle@gmail.com