Most Livable Country: Colombia, Brazil, or Argentina?

My master plan was to live in Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina for six months each, and then evaluate which was best to live in for extended periods of time. Here are the total lengths of time I stayed in each country during my last trip:

Colombia: Six months
Brazil: Five and a half months
Argentina: One and a half months

I left Brazil a little early because of when my monthly lease in Rio ended (I didn’t have the will to mill around in hostels for two weeks).

Argentina was a different story. You know those medical experiments that end early because one condition far outperformed another? If I remember correctly they did this with an HIV study in Africa where they tested if circumcision led to lower infection rates. It proved to be such a strong benefit that they ended the experiment early to tell the uncut guys to immediately get cut. Well that’s why I left Argentina so soon—the little data I had in my hands told me that it wasn’t a place that would have brought me more happiness than Colombia or Brazil.

That said, here is my evaluation of what it’s like to live in all three countries, along with my declaration of the best.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

Colombia: While there is a police presence, you can go all day without seeing a single squad car. Sometimes you only see cops on dinky motorcycles that look like dirt bikes. There is no heavy hand of the law here.

Brazil: Maybe only a decade behind the U.S. in terms of the Big Brother factor. The police are heavily armed, well financed (from an equipment standpoint), and make frequent stops. There are speed cameras and sobriety checkpoints. You don’t go long without seeing a cop car on the street. While the laws are more lax than in the U.S., Brazil is not a good place to openly fuck around. Even though Western media loves to portray favelas as lawless, police are generally on top of their shit outside of them.

Argentina: Police are positioned in street corners within rich areas of big cities. They don’t seem particularly well-trained or competent, probably because the country has been spared from narco-wars. It’s unlikely you’ll be bothered here.

Advantage: Argentina

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Colombia: Local buses are run by private companies. While cheap, the lines are confusing and the buses old and very uncomfortable. The routes are not always logical and transfers are commonly needed. Medellin’s metro line though is clean, safe, and very reliable, but often crowded. The one good thing about the buses is that they come very frequently and you can flag them down anywhere along the route.

Brazil: Buses here are slow, lumbering beasts, the big versions you see in American cities. They come often and are reliable but you generally have to walk to a designated stop instead of being able to stick your hand out wherever you please. They aren’t that cheap, starting at about 2.20 R$ for a single trip.

Argentina: They have big buses like in Brazil but are almost impossible to use without insider knowledge because of nondescript signage. In Argentina you’ll only see something like “H7,” while in the other countries they’ll be a placard detailing a dozen or so stops.

Advantage: Colombia

SUPERMARKET FOOD

Colombia: It’s hard to find lemons or lunch meats in the bird family. Most sell peanut butter at inflated rates. Boneless chicken breast is usually frozen.

Brazil: Doubly hard to find lemons, and even common vegetables like broccoli and zucchini can be MIA. Peanut butter is astronomically priced. Great selection of fruits, cheeses, and lunch meats. Boneless chicken breast is usually frozen.

Argentina: Lemons are everywhere! But limes are incredibly hard to find, as is peanut butter. Poor selection of cheese, lunch meat, and fruits, but excellent choice of wines. Boneless chicken breast is refrigerated and of good quality, though much more expensive than their famed red meat.

Advantage: Brazil

RESTAURANT FOOD

Colombia: Not much selection in local fare except for dirty diners, but you’ll find many decent fusion restaurants in tourist centers, usually run by expats. I still don’t know what typifies Colombian cuisine besides stews, arepas, and fried snacks.

Brazil: Beans, rice, and meat seem to be the Brazilian staple. Local restaurants have fixed plates that will serve bland but filling meals of rice, beans, potatoes, and meat. There is more of a food tradition with dishes like feijoada and moqueca, but convenience foods like pizza and fried bread snacks are beginning to fatten the population. Upmarket restaurants put interesting spins on typical foods.

Argentina: Great value for breakfast and lunch, especially the latter where for $5 or $6 you get a tasty three-course meal with beverage. While restaurant service here is the worst, you’ll find far more creative fare with more European influence than in Brazil and Colombia. Argentina is also a better pick for the foodie who is impressed by plate presentation.

Advantage: Argentina

WOMEN

Colombia: The hardest part of getting laid in Colombia is dealing with the language barrier (you won’t meet too many girls who speak English), but if you’re conversational in Spanish and approach during the day you shouldn’t have too many issues banging cute girls. Flakiness will be your main problem.

Brazil: Brazil has proven to be a country of streaks for me and my gringo friends. You’ll bang three girls in a couple weeks then get nothing for a while. Otherwise the country is very gringo friendly and you’ll find tons of girls who speak English. The okay girls are quite easy to get in bed, but the cuter ones take more work. Towards the end of my time in Brazil I was getting sick of all the mediocre girls throwing themselves on me and having to seemingly rely on luck and the numbers game to get anywhere with the quality ones.

Argentina: These girls have a reputation for being difficult and I find that to be the case. Not only will you work your ass off to get laid, it won’t be with one of the hotties that you went there for in the first place. My second trip to Argentina I gave up on the women and found myself a Brazilian girl.

Advantage: Brazil

NIGHTLIFE

Colombia: Tables and chairs. People prefer to sit down everywhere, even in clubs, but on the plus side nightlife is concentrated in the cities so it’s easy to stumble on a variety of places that have electronic, rock, pop, or local music. Bars are a total bust in meeting people. Clubs have decent value in terms of cover charges and drinks.

Brazil: Much more Western in that people mingle. While typical bars offer tables for socializing among friends, you can find bars where there is standing and movement. Some cities have nightlife centered in specific areas, but others like Rio can be quite spread out and hard to get around. Cover charges for the high-end clubs can be astronomical.

Argentina: It has the typical bars with tables, which people start going to around midnight, and then a progressive club scene with rotating DJs develops after 2am. The nightlife is agreeable for younger kids with energy to stay up all night and dance, but for older guys over 30 it can be quite annoying to go out so late to deal with girls who aren’t even drinking anyway. A positive is that the value is very good, and you won’t pay much for cover charges and drinks.

Advantage: Brazil

COFFEE SHOPS

Colombia: There is a cafe culture with the Juan Valdez shops where you can sit with your latte and laptop for an hour or two. Ironically one of the best cafes I’ve been to in Medellin was the McCafe.

Brazil: Brazilians love their cafezinho (espresso shot), but they don’t linger. Since all coffee shops have waiters, they don’t expect you to sit down and write the next greatest American novel. For that you need to go to the mall and find a Starbucks, which is prohibitively expensive (10 R$ for a caramel frapp).

Argentina: Hands down the best coffee shop scene. Big cities have tons of pleasant cafes with wireless internet and delicious sweets. There is a lingering culture here so feel free to camp out for a couple hours.

Advantage: Argentina

SAFETY

Colombia: Safer than I was led to believe. I never had issues walking around at night even in shady areas. It’s a shame that the stereotype of the country being a warzone persists, but in a way this is good because it keeps out a lot of gringos who visit Costa Rica or Panama instead.

Brazil: Most dangerous of the three. While I’ve never been robbed in Brazil, I keep hearing stories that tell me my Brazilian-like appearance probably helped keep me safe (though don’t think Brazilians don’t get robbed). Brazil is very unforgiving for gringos who don’t have a lot of travel experience, though the most common “robbery” is getting severely overcharged by a taxi driver. I have to dedicate more energy here to staying safe than I would like.

Argentina: I’ve never heard a gringo getting mugged here—only petty theft in bus stations. Many times in Cordoba it didn’t feel like I was in South America at all.

Advantage: Argentina

FRIENDLINESS OF THE LOCALS

Colombia: Very friendly. They are much more intrigued that you’re a gringo and will always ask about where you’re from and why you’re in their country. They’re almost thankful that you’re visiting Colombia.

Brazil: It depends. I’ve met some incredibly rude and cold Brazilians, and I’ve met some who welcomed me into their home without even wondering if I could be a ax murderer or not. I would say Brazilian people are friendlier than Americans, but their friendliness is overhyped by quite a bit. A better term to describe them is warm—within a short time you’ll feel quite at ease, like you’ve known them forever.

Argentina: Outside of clubs Argentines are friendlier than Brazil, believe it or not. Even though Brazil has a more open culture to gringos, it seemed easier to make superficial friendships in Argentina with random people. I accumulated more phone numbers of both guys and girls one month in Argentina than six months in Brazil. A lot of guys though initially mistake the friendliness of Argentine women to be that they’re easy. They learn eventually.

Advantage: Undecided

TAXIS

Colombia: Taxi drivers are usually honest, and are great to practice Spanish with. All I had to do is ask “How are you today/tonight?” and we’d get into a long conversation. Towards the end of my time here I had pretty tight taxicab game, rarely getting ripped off.

Brazil: Taxis here are the worst. It’s very rare that a taxi driver, no matter how nice to me on the surface, will not try to scam me. I’ve had to argue with so many that I dreaded taking a Brazilian cab—I began taking buses everywhere instead, even late at night. While getting ripped off rarely means more than a $5 difference, it was the principality of it.

Argentina: Mostly honest, though less friendly than the Colombians.

Advantage: Colombia

MUSIC

Colombia: You got three main choices here: salsa, reggaeton, and vallenato, all of which are danceable, in addition to your normal house clubs. Plus you got Juanes, Colombia’s Michael Jackson, and Shakira, Colombia’s Shania Twain. Rock is also popular.

Brazil: Brazil has a very rich musical culture. Each state has their own flavor of music and you can live here for years until you know them all. From traditional samba to pagode and forro (I need more triangle!) to the newfangled tecno brega, music is an important part of how Brazilians connect with each other and pass the time, but most of the music is hard to dance to for the average gringo. Expensive clubs usually have Western music (fun fact: the song “Forever Young” is huge in Brazil).

Argentina: Reggaeton is slowly making its way here in addition to mainstays like cuarteto, cumbia, rock, and house. Argentines are pretty crazy about house music, but unfortunately they have very little idea how to dance to it.

Advantage: Colombia

CELL PHONE SERVICE

Colombia: Expensive and mostly reliable, though some text messages remain in the ether for hours until delivered. You have a lot of options on the street to make cheap calls from minuto celular vendors.

Brazil: Crazy expensive at more than 50 cents a minute if calling another cell phone from your own. Your only other option is Skype as they don’t have phone vendors on the street like in Colombia. Text messages sometimes get temporarily lost here too.

Argentina: About the same as Colombia, but no minuto celular vendors.

Advantage: Colombia

LANGUAGE CLASSES

Colombia: Group classes can be found at reasonable prices, from $5-10 an hour.

Brazil: Expensive as balls. Prices starts at $20 an hour for group classes if you include “enrollment” and “material” fees. I eventually found a private tutor for $35 an hour that I used for two hours a week, but I couldn’t help but feel raped. Everyone I met reminded me that I was indeed getting raped. Unfortunately Portuguese is harder to learn on your own because of a dearth of self-study materials.

Argentina: The cheapest, which is why so many gringos come here to study Spanish. You can find freelance private tutors starting at $6 an hour.

Advantage: Argentina

VALUE

Colombia: Great value that is slowly diminishing as both the economy (and peso) get stronger.

Brazil: While I was in Brazil I felt like I was paying American prices. Besides grocery store food there is very little value to be found. It was rare that I felt like I was getting a good deal on something.

Argentina: Super great value that will only get better as the peso crashes and burns due to continued government incompetence. They say the Argentine government is so corrupt because their ancestors are Italian.

Advantage: Argentina

VIBE

Colombia: Colombia is full of good-natured, curious people who want to learn about foreigners while showing the best of what their culture has to offer. While Colombians don’t go nuts like Brazilians, they’re a sensual people who are fun to pass the time with. Edgy city life keeps you engaged and interested.

Brazil: Brazilians are constantly in celebratory moods, and it seems like there is always some type of street party or event that makes for a good excuse to start drinking early in the day. There are lots of nightlife choices and daytime activities, and the locals are always ready to party and meet others. The sexual atmosphere is very favorable to visitors of both sexes.

Argentina: You’re not going to have much fun here unless you get into a social circle or have some sort of university class or job where you can make easy friends. Argentines are diehard conformists and always worried about what other people think of them, so there is not much in way of personal flair or spontaneous excitement. But once you get to know some cool people, you’ll have a good time and maybe bang a cutie or two.

Advantage: Brazil

There is no debate in my mind that the overall winner is Brazil. While it doesn’t outperform Colombia and Argentina in all categories, and is also frighteningly expensive, it’s the one place in South America that I must return to. It’s also the best option for the single man. While Colombia is a fine choice as well, I think it’s worth saving up your money for a Brazilian adventure that I guarantee will be the first of many.

While I’ve tried my best to explain Brazil’s charm in previous writings, it’s something you have to experience yourself to understand why fans like me love it so much. I remember something a man told me many years ago: “There are two types of men—those who haven’t been to Brazil, and those who are trying to go back.” Not a week goes by that I don’t fantasize about what my third visit to the country will be like.

114 Comments
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CS
CS
10 years ago

nice post, can’t wait for the Colombia book to be released.

CS’s last blog post: How to Squat.

Stone
Stone
10 years ago

Good summary. So what’s next – Brasil again, or perhaps EE? Lots more countries there to compare, you know… if you have to spend 6 months in each, we’ll enjoy many years of quality blogging.
Hit me up if you do visit.

Dakota
10 years ago

Great review. I’d really like to hear a comparison of Brazil to Cuba from anyone who’s been to both.

CG
CG
10 years ago

Very interesting, excellent post…

Hydrogonian
Hydrogonian
10 years ago

A great and useful post. A dense amount of information that guys will really appreciate.

The G Manifesto
10 years ago

Great data sheet.

I thought that the grinds in Colombia were excellent.

Then again, I was eating at the same places as Gabriel García Márquez, so my experience could have been skewed.

– MPM

The G Manifesto’s last blog post: The G Manifesto Tour 2010.

Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
10 years ago

Nice little review.

Looking forward to the new book

Hydrogonian
Hydrogonian
10 years ago

Dakota:

I haven’t been to Cuba, but I hear its enormously expensive, and at the same time almost third world for the most part. Or at least lower tier second world. Thats not saying that you cant have fun there.

nathan
nathan
10 years ago

One of these days I’ll get the balls to quit my job and do an extended tour of Brazil

therealdeal
therealdeal
10 years ago

My uncle travelled all over the big cities in latin america on a sabbatical, he told me that brazil is a whole different ballgame on a much larger scale…he said if it wasnt for the crime and economic situation at that time (early 2000) he would move there in a heartbeat!

btw your comment here:If I remember correctly they did this with an HIV study in Africa where they tested if circumcision led to lower infection rates.

is NOT true. the studies where unconclusive and even if removing more than a third of your MOST SENSITIVE AND SENSUAL penile skin gave you a tiny boost, it aint worth it cuz you have to use condoms too.

check out this highly informative site.

http://circumcisionandhiv.com/

circumcizing babies without their consent is mutilation in my opinion.

speakeasy
speakeasy
10 years ago

“There are two types of men—those who haven’t been to Brazil, and those who are trying to go back.”

Truer words have never been spoken. It’s been a year and I still have a bad case of the saudades. Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I was sitting on the beach in Ipanema.

Wedding Toast
10 years ago

Hey Roosh – just curious why did you choose to write Bang Colombia and not Bang Brazil?

Do you think that there is more demand for a Colombia book?

Tony Snow
Tony Snow
10 years ago

Good breakdown of information. Reading your blog has really influenced me into deciding to travel to Brazil. How late do buses run in Brazil? How much is it for a monthly bus pass in Brazil? I think the Escobar era of narco terror has given Colombia a bad reputation and has scared off a lot of gringos from traveling to the country.

The Rookie
10 years ago

As for safety, I found Colombia to be far more safe than Costa Rica.

Argentina seems like a place to go when you’re old and married and want to experience cliche culture stuff.

Brazil if you’re horny.

The Rookie’s last blog post: Is My Babyface Costing Me Notches?.

Boss
Boss
10 years ago

“Brazil: Taxis here are the worst. It’s very rare that a taxi driver, no matter how nice to me on the surface, will not try to scam me. I’ve had to argue with so many that I dreaded taking a Brazilian cab—I began taking buses everywhere instead, even late at night. While getting ripped off rarely means more than a $5 difference, it was the principality of it.”

Principality is the wrong word, should be just principal. Edit.

Cliff Arroyo
Cliff Arroyo
10 years ago

“should be just principal. Edit.”

principle, even

Vincent Ignatius
10 years ago

Very useful.

As a Spanish speaker, I’ll add that the Spanish you learn in Colombia will be more comprehensible and preferred across the Hispanic world than the Spanish you learn in Argentina.

As for friendliness, it seems that the entire Western hemisphere is more friendly than Europe.

Of the foreign places that I’ve visited, Tel Aviv is the only one that I would want to fully integrate myself into.

Vincent Ignatius’s last blog post: In Defense of Shy Girls.

jkc
jkc
10 years ago

thanks for providing us with the awareness of the cost and/or availability of mankind’s 2 most important food staples – lemons and peanut butter.

The Rookie
10 years ago

@ therealdeal: no one under 18 can consent. definition of being a minor.

The Rookie’s last blog post: Is My Babyface Costing Me Notches?.

Carlos
Carlos
10 years ago

I think it would be preferable to speak about cities instead of countries. Medellín and Bogotá are quite different, at least in my experience.

Vincent Ignatius
Vincent Ignatius
10 years ago

thanks for providing us with the awareness of the cost and/or availability of mankind’s 2 most important food staples – lemons and peanut butter.

I was laughing every time I saw this. I pictured Roosh eating peanut butter and lemon sandwiches.

Lika
Lika
10 years ago

>>Not a week goes by that I don’t fantasize about what my third visit to the country will be like.

Yeah but you wouldn’t know where to go… Your heart lies in Rio (like a lot of us) but your head tells you to go elsewhere… but where ? You still have to find the place. I remain convinced it would be São Paulo in your case… 🙂

I’m pretty sure also that after this time in Brazil, a lot of stuff about Medellin girls would bother you more compared to the Brazilian spirit. (at least it’s my case)

>>I’d really like to hear a comparison of Brazil to Cuba from anyone who’s been to both

Brazil is well described by Roosh. I was in Cuba in 2000, when the population could still mingle with foreigners much more freely than nowadays. The lodging was already quite expensive (Private “guest houses” owners pay a lot of taxes).

Food is terrible. Service is rude like most people are (Caribbean coast people). People don’t go out at night in clubs except jineteras (prostitutes). They go to “matinées” during the afternoon on the weekend where no tourist “usually” goes.

Back then, everybody was hitchhiking so it was easy to rent a car for a few days (but quite expensive) and drive around like a madmen collecting a lot of phone numbers from nice non-pro girls (no cellulars at that time) ^^

Girls are very sexual and sensual and of course they dance salsa very well.
I had a great time there, much better than in Colombia where girls are way too flaky, conservative and hypocrite to my taste.

I don’t know how Cuba is these days but I don’t think it’s great because I heard it has become very dangerous for girls to be seen with foreigners (serious jail sentences). In 2000, girls would go to jail sometimes because of prostitution accusations or such but it wasn’t serious until the third time if I remember well.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

What about STD factors in these countries? surely that has to come into the equation….

Dt
Dt
10 years ago

Hey Roosh! How did you find it living in Rio for the summer months? Did it get too hot for you at all?