Living in Colombia: The Complete Guide
Welcome to Colombia, the land of magical realism, salsa dancing, and delicious arepas! Let me tell you, living in Colombia is like stepping into a Gabriel García Márquez novel – full of colorful characters, surreal experiences, and unexpected plot twists.
From the buzzing metropolis of Bogotá to the laid-back Caribbean coast, Colombia has something for everyone. As someone who has visited this vibrant country, I can attest to the warmth and friendliness of the Colombian people, who will make you feel right at home. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure like no other – Colombia is waiting for you!
Why You Should Live in Colombia
Located in Latin America, Colombia is a country that offers a unique and quirky experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. From lively street parties to delicious street food, Colombia is a place that will charm you with its charisma and leave you wanting more.
One of the biggest draws of living in Colombia is its stunning natural beauty. From the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, there’s no shortage of breathtaking vistas to explore. And let’s not forget about the vibrant cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena, each with its distinct character and charm.
But what sets Colombia apart is its people. Colombians are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet, always eager to share their culture and traditions with visitors. Whether through a lively salsa dance or a steaming hot cup of Colombian coffee, the people of Colombia will make you feel right at home.
I was struck by the passion and energy of the Colombian people during my visit. Everyone seemed to be bursting with enthusiasm for life from the street performers to the shopkeepers. And that infectious energy is something that you’ll carry with you long after you leave.
So if you’re looking for a place that will inspire and enchant you, look no further than Colombia. It’s a country that will capture your heart and leave you forever changed.
Pros and Cons of Living in Colombia
Pros of Living in Colombia
- Affordable Cost of Living: Colombia is a relatively affordable country to live in, with reasonable prices for food, housing, and transportation.
- Natural Beauty: With its stunning landscapes, from the Andes to the Amazon rainforest and the Caribbean coast, Colombia offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures and exploration.
- Cultural Diversity: Colombia is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from indigenous, African, and European traditions, resulting in a vibrant cultural heritage.
- Warm and Welcoming People: Colombians are known for their hospitality and friendliness, making it easy to feel at home in this country.
- Delicious Cuisine: Colombian cuisine is diverse and flavorful, with dishes like arepas, bandeja paisa, and empanadas, to name a few.
- Lively Nightlife: Whether you enjoy dancing to salsa music or sipping cocktails at trendy bars, Colombia has a vibrant nightlife scene that caters to all tastes.
Cons of Living in Colombia
- Safety Concerns: Colombia has a history of violence and drug-related crime, which can be a concern in some areas. However, the country has made significant strides in improving safety and security in recent years.
- Bureaucracy: Dealing with government bureaucracy and paperwork can be frustrating and time-consuming in Colombia.
- Traffic Congestion: In major cities like Bogotá and Medellín, traffic congestion can be a significant issue, leading to long commute times and delays.
- Limited English: While many Colombians speak some English, it can still be challenging to communicate if you do not speak Spanish fluently.
- Unpredictable Weather: Colombia's tropical climate means that rain and sudden weather changes can occur at any time, which can be inconvenient if you are not prepared.
Cost of Living in Colombia
If you’re considering living in Colombia, one of the most significant advantages is the affordable cost of living. In comparison to many other countries, Colombia offers a comfortable lifestyle at a fraction of the cost. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Colombia is 56% lower than in the United States. The cost of groceries, transportation, and housing is also relatively low, making it an attractive option for those looking to live on a budget.
In my personal experience, I found that I was able to live comfortably on a modest income in Colombia. Housing costs can vary depending on the city and neighborhood, but generally speaking, it is much more affordable than in many other countries. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in a central location in Medellín can cost around 1,200,000 COP (approximately $325) per month, whereas a comparable apartment in New York City could easily cost $2,500 or more.
Food is also very affordable in Colombia, especially if you stick to local cuisine and markets. A typical meal in a local restaurant can cost around 15,000-20,000 COP (approximately $4-5 USD), while groceries for a week can cost around 150,000-200,000 COP (approximately $40-55 USD) for a single person.
Overall, the cost of living in Colombia can be very reasonable, especially when compared to other countries. Of course, costs will vary depending on your lifestyle and where you choose to live, but in general, you can expect to live a comfortable and enjoyable life in Colombia without breaking the bank.
Accommodation in Colombia
As someone who has lived in Colombia for a while, I can attest to the fact that finding accommodation can be a straightforward and relatively inexpensive process. When it comes to choosing where to live, there are many factors to consider, such as location, amenities, and cost.
For those on a tight budget, hostels and shared apartments are popular options. I’ve stayed in hostels during my travels throughout Colombia, and I’ve found them to be a great way to meet new people and save money on accommodation. Prices for a bed in a dorm room typically range from 20,000 to 40,000 COP (approximately $5 to $10) per night.
If you prefer a bit more privacy and comfort, renting an apartment or condo may be the way to go. Rental prices can vary significantly depending on the city and neighborhood. For example, when I lived in Medellín, I rented a one-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood for around 1,300,000 COP (approximately $350) per month. Similar apartments in more expensive neighborhoods or cities can cost considerably more.
Overall, finding accommodation in Colombia can be a straightforward process, and there are many options available to suit different budgets and lifestyles. Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly hostel or a luxurious condo, there’s something for everyone in Colombia.
Traveling Inside and Around Colombia
Colombia is a country with incredible diversity and beauty, making it a fantastic destination for travelers. From lush jungles to stunning beaches, and historic Colombian cities to quaint towns, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
One of the most popular destinations in Colombia is Cartagena, a coastal city known for its charming colonial architecture and vibrant nightlife. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore the city’s rich history and culture.
Another must-visit destination in Colombia is the coffee region, located in the central part of the country. This area is famous for its lush green hillsides, coffee plantations, and charming small towns. It’s an excellent place to relax, soak up the local culture, and try some of the best coffee in the world.
For those who love the outdoors, Colombia has plenty of natural wonders to explore, including the stunning Tayrona National Park, the breathtaking Chicamocha Canyon, and the majestic Andes mountains.
Traveling around Colombia is relatively easy, with numerous options for transportation, including buses, taxis, and domestic flights. However, it’s essential to be aware of safety concerns and to take precautions when traveling, especially in more remote areas. Moreover, you can travel to other beautiful destinations in Latin America when you’re based in Colombia.
Weather in Colombia
In Colombia, you can experience a variety of climates and weather patterns, depending on where you are in the country. From hot and humid coastal regions to cooler mountainous areas, Colombia has it all. You could experience all four seasons in just one day in certain parts of the country!
Just remember to bring an umbrella with you, as rain can often come unexpectedly. But hey, what’s a little rain when you’re surrounded by the lush greenery and stunning landscapes that Colombia has to offer? So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen and raincoat, and get ready for a wild ride through Colombia’s ever-changing climate.
Lifestyle and Culture
From the vibrant music and dance scenes to the delicious cuisine and friendly people, Colombia has a lot to offer in terms of lifestyle and culture.
One thing that stands out about Colombian culture is the emphasis on family and community. Family gatherings are a big part of Colombian life, and there’s always an excuse to get together and celebrate. And when it comes to hospitality, Colombians are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.
Music and dance are also an essential part of the culture in Colombia, with traditional styles like cumbia and salsa still popular today. Colombians love to dance, and you’ll find people of all ages and backgrounds hitting the dance floor at parties and festivals.
Colombia’s lifestyle and culture are colorful, vibrant, and full of energy. So come on down and immerse yourself in the warmth and hospitality of this amazing country.
Transport Options in Colombia
Transportation in Colombia is a wild ride, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. From colorful Chivas to speedy moto-taxis, there’s never a dull moment on the road. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a ride on a “Willys” jeep, a classic vehicle that’s been used for transportation in Colombia for decades? With its open-air design and rugged terrain capabilities, you’ll feel like you’re on a wild safari adventure. But no matter how you choose to get around in Colombia, one thing is for sure: you’re in for a fun and exciting journey.
Food & Drinks in Colombia
Colombia is a foodie’s paradise, with a rich culinary heritage that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds. From street food to fine dining, there’s something for everyone in Colombia’s vibrant food scene.
One of the must-try dishes in Colombia is the arepa, a round, flatbread made from cornmeal that’s often stuffed with cheese, meat, or other delicious fillings. Another favorite is the bandeja paisa, a hearty platter featuring beans, rice, meat, and plantains. And don’t forget to try the empanadas, crispy pastries filled with meat, cheese, or potatoes.
When it comes to drinks, Colombia has some unique and refreshing options to choose from. One of the most popular is agua panela, a sweet drink made from sugar cane that’s often served with lime juice. And for a more adult beverage, try some of the country’s famous rum or beer.
In my own experience, I’ve had the pleasure of trying many of Colombia’s delicious dishes, from the traditional soups and stews to the mouth-watering desserts. And wherever I go, I always make sure to sample the local street food, which is often some of the most flavorful and affordable cuisines around. So if you’re a food lover, Colombia is a destination you won’t want to miss.
Healthcare is an important consideration when visiting a new country for travelers. And when it comes to healthcare in Colombia, there are some unique quirks to keep in mind.
First off, it’s important to note that Colombia has a mix of public and private healthcare options available. While public healthcare is free for Colombian citizens, it can be a bit more complicated for travelers and non-residents. Private healthcare, on the other hand, is widely available and generally of good quality.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Colombia is known for its plastic surgery industry, with many people traveling to the country for cosmetic procedures. While this may not be relevant to everyone, it does speak to the level of expertise and technology available in the country’s medical facilities.
In my own experience as a traveler in Colombia, I’ve found private healthcare options to be reliable and affordable. Many doctors and medical professionals speak English, which can be a relief for those who don’t speak Spanish fluently. And while it’s always important to have travel insurance in case of emergencies, I’ve always felt confident that I could receive quality care if needed while in Colombia. In short, it’s safe to say that the country offers world class healthcare.
Safety is likely at the forefront of your mind when considering a new destination as a traveler. And while Colombia may have had a tumultuous past, it’s important to note that the country has made significant strides in recent years when it comes to safety.
One quirky thing about safety in Colombia is the prevalence of “tourist police” in popular areas. These police officers are specifically trained to assist and protect tourists and can be easily identified by their bright green uniforms. It’s a reassuring sight to see them patrolling the streets and offering help to visitors.
Of course, as with any destination, there are still certain areas of Colombia that are considered at higher risk for crime. It’s always important to do your research and take necessary precautions, such as avoiding unlit or isolated areas at night and not carrying large amounts of cash.
In my own experience traveling in Colombia, I’ve felt safe and welcomed by the locals. The country has a rich culture and vibrant energy that make it worth exploring, and with proper precautions, it’s possible to have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Airports: The Gateway to Colombia
Airports can be both exciting and stressful places. In Colombia, several major airports serve as gateways to different regions of the country.
One quirky thing about airports in Colombia is the prevalence of musicians and performers who entertain travelers while they wait for their flights. From traditional folk musicians to modern pop singers, you never know what kind of talent you’ll encounter at a Colombian airport.
Another aspect of Colombian airports to keep in mind is the importance of arriving early. Security can be tight, and lines can be long, so it’s always a good idea to give yourself plenty of time before your flight.
But once you’re through security and settled at your gate, the fun begins. Colombian airports offer a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and other amenities to help make your wait more enjoyable. From duty-free shopping to local cuisine, Colombian airports can provide a fun and interesting way to start or end your trip.
Expat Life in Colombia
Expat life in Colombia is a unique and fascinating experience, with plenty of interesting communities and groups to explore. One of the most well-known expat communities is in Medellín, where you’ll find a thriving group of digital nomads, entrepreneurs, and remote workers. There are plenty of co-working spaces and cafes to work from, as well as social events and meetups to connect with other expats.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back vibe, the coastal city of Cartagena is a popular destination for retirees and expats who want to soak up the sun and enjoy a slower pace of life. There are plenty of expat-friendly restaurants and cafes, as well as a vibrant arts and culture scene.
Another interesting expat community is in the small town of Salento, located in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region. Here, you’ll find a mix of Colombia expats who have fallen in love with the town’s charming colonial architecture and stunning natural beauty. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking and outdoor adventures, as well as a tight-knit expat community that’s always happy to welcome new arrivals.
Best Places to Live in Colombia
- Medellin: Known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellin boasts a mild climate, affordable living, and a vibrant cultural scene.
- Bogota: The bustling capital of Colombia is a cosmopolitan city that offers a mix of modern and colonial architecture, world-class dining, and plenty of cultural activities.
- Cali: With a warm and tropical climate, Cali is the perfect destination for those who love salsa dancing, outdoor sports, and delicious food.
- Cartagena: This historic walled city is a popular tourist destination thanks to its stunning beaches, colorful architecture, and lively nightlife.
- Santa Marta: Located on the Caribbean coast, Santa Marta is a laid-back town with easy access to some of Colombia’s best beaches and natural wonders, such as Tayrona National Park and the Lost City.
- Manizales: This picturesque city is surrounded by mountains and coffee plantations, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and coffee enthusiasts.
- Pereira: Known as the “Pearl of the Otun Valley,” Pereira offers a mix of modern amenities and traditional Colombian charm, with a growing expat community and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.
- Bucaramanga: This up-and-coming city is known for its innovative business scene, top-notch universities, and stunning natural scenery, including Chicamocha Canyon and the Panachi National Park.
5 Things You Didn't Know About Colombia
- The town of Villa de Leyva has the largest handmade square in South America, and it’s so big that it takes 50 people to hold hands and surround it.
- Colombia has a unique and traditional sport called Tejo, which involves throwing a metal disc at a target rigged with explosives. Yes, you read that right!
- The famous author Gabriel García Márquez was not only born in Colombia, but he also wrote some of his most famous works in the country, including “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
- The Tatacoa Desert may look like a typical desert, but it’s a dry tropical forest. Its unique red and gray landscapes make for some stunning views.
- The town of San Cipriano has a unique mode of transportation – homemade wooden railcars that run on abandoned train tracks through the jungle. It’s a fun and quirky way to explore the area!
Tips to Live in Colombia
- Embrace the “mañana” culture: Colombians, like many other peoples in Latin America, have a more relaxed approach to time, so don’t stress if things don’t happen exactly when you expect them to.
- Learn Spanish: Even if you’re in a city with a lot of English speakers, knowing some Spanish will help you navigate everyday life and connect with locals.
- Be open to new experiences: Colombia is full of surprises, so be ready to try new foods, explore new places, and meet new people.
- Dress for the weather: Colombia’s climate can be unpredictable, so make sure you’re prepared with rain gear, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes.
- Use caution with street food: Colombian street food is delicious, but make sure you’re buying from a vendor with good hygiene practices to avoid getting sick.
- Be aware of your surroundings: While Colombia has become safer in recent years, it’s still important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to keep yourself safe.
- Take advantage of the local markets: From fresh produce to handmade crafts, Colombia’s markets offer unique shopping experiences and opportunities to support local vendors.
- Practice patience: Whether you’re dealing with bureaucracy or just trying to catch a bus, patience is key in Colombia.
- Get to know the local customs: Colombians have a rich culture and history, so take the time to learn about their traditions and customs to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the country.
Colombia is a beautiful country, but it’s important to be aware of some potential health risks when visiting or living here. While the risks may vary depending on where you are in the country, it’s always a good idea to take precautions. Here are a few tips to stay healthy and safe:
- Be mindful of the water you drink and use for cooking, as some areas may have contaminated water.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites to avoid diseases like dengue fever or Zika.
- Make sure to use sunscreen and stay hydrated in high-altitude cities like Bogotá to avoid altitude sickness.
- Be cautious with street food, and ensure that it’s prepared in a clean environment to avoid food poisoning.
- Be aware of the air pollution in some urban areas and take necessary precautions.
With a little bit of preparation and mindfulness, you can enjoy all that Colombia has to offer while staying healthy and safe.
Living in Colombia: The Wrap-Up
In conclusion, living in Colombia can be an exciting and enriching experience. From the vibrant culture and friendly locals to the breathtaking natural beauty, Colombia has a lot to offer. While there may be challenges and health risks to consider, with some preparation and caution, they can be easily managed. So why not leap and embark on an adventure in this beautiful country? Who knows, you might just fall in love with Colombia and all that it has to offer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Colombia safe to live in?
Colombia has made significant strides in improving its safety and security situation in recent years. While there are still areas of the country that may be considered unsafe due to crime or armed conflict, many cities and regions have become safer for both locals and expats. It is important to exercise caution and awareness in any unfamiliar environment, but with sensible precautions and good judgment, it is possible to live safely and happily in Colombia. It is always recommended to do your research and consult with locals or trusted sources for advice on specific locations and situations.
What language do they speak in Colombia?
The official language of Colombia is Spanish, which is spoken by the majority of the population. However, there are also many indigenous languages spoken in various regions throughout the country, as well as some communities that speak English due to tourism or business.
Do they speak English in Colombia?
English is not widely spoken in Colombia, particularly outside of major cities and tourist areas. While some Colombians may have a basic understanding of English, it is always helpful to have some knowledge of Spanish to communicate effectively with locals. In cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena, it may be easier to find English speakers in places like hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions, but it is still not the norm. To fully immerse oneself in Colombian culture and daily life, it is recommended to learn some basic Spanish phrases and try to communicate with locals in their language.
Why consider living in Colombia?
There are many reasons to consider living in Colombia. The country offers a diverse and rich culture, a pleasant climate, friendly people, delicious cuisine, and a low cost of living. Additionally, Colombia has made significant progress in recent years to improve its security and stability, making it a safer place to live.
How large is Colombia?
Colombia is the fourth-largest country in South America and the 25th-largest country in the world, with an area of 1,141,748 square kilometers (440,831 square miles). It is slightly smaller than the state of Alaska in the United States. Colombia has a diverse geography that includes the Andes mountains, the Amazon rainforest, and the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
What are some of the challenges of living in Colombia?
Some of the challenges of living in Colombia include language barriers for non-Spanish speakers and navigating the complex bureaucracy for visas and other administrative tasks.
Is it easy to make friends in Colombia?
It depends on various factors such as your social skills, language proficiency, and willingness to immerse yourself in the local culture. However, Colombians are generally friendly and welcoming toward foreigners.
How easy is it to find work in Colombia?
Finding work in Colombia can be challenging, particularly if you do not have a work visa or fluent Spanish skills. However, there are job opportunities available in various industries, including tourism, teaching English, and remote work for digital nomads. Networking, being persistent, and having a strong skill set can increase your chances of finding work in Colombia.
What are the visa requirements for living in Colombia?
The visa requirements for living in Colombia vary depending on the purpose of your stay and your nationality. In general, visitors from most countries can enter Colombia without a visa for up to 90 days. If you plan to stay longer, you will need to apply for a visa, such as a work visa, student visa, or retirement visa. Each type of visa has specific requirements and application procedures. It is recommended to consult with the Colombian embassy or consulate in your country of residence to determine the appropriate visa for your situation. Additionally, some nationalities may need to provide additional documentation or undergo a background check before being granted a visa.
How is the internet connectivity in Colombia?
The internet connectivity in Colombia has greatly improved over the past few years, with many cities and towns having access to high-speed internet. However, in some more remote areas, internet connectivity can still be limited or unreliable. It is always recommended to check the internet availability in the specific area you plan to live in or visit. Many cafes and co-working spaces offer free Wi-Fi, making it easy to stay connected while on the go. Overall, digital nomads and remote workers can find a suitable internet connection in Colombia.
Is there a language barrier for expats in Colombia?
While Spanish is the official language in Colombia, many locals speak English, particularly in tourist areas. However, outside of these areas, it may be challenging for expats to communicate without a basic understanding of Spanish. Some expats may find it helpful to take language classes or hire a translator to assist with daily activities. With some effort and practice, it is possible to overcome the language barrier and fully integrate into Colombian society.