Colombia is quietly becoming one of the world’s best overseas havens. From colonial Bogotá to friendly Medellín, and famous Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, this corner of the world is shedding the stigma that has lingered since Pablo Escobar’s death more than 20 years ago.
These days Colombia is a solid, stable democracy on the move. The country is on strong economic footing, showing impressive growth, boasting a powerful industrial base, and enjoying an energy surplus, thanks to its abundant natural resources. In a show of international faith, Colombia’s government bonds joined the investment-grade club in 2011 and the country remains a good bet for investors.
Importantly for retirees and expats, Colombia is also home to the best health care in Latin America, with well-equipped hospitals and excellent service available at very affordable prices.
On top of the fantastic financial opportunities Colombia offers great beaches, great weather, fascinating culture and friendly people…
Colombia, and in particular, City of Flowers, Medellín, is the emerging champion for retiring, living, investing, or owning a second home overseas. Both the The New York Times and National Geographic included Colombia on their best trips list for 2015.
Three types of people should be paying attention to Colombia right now:
The investor: Prices are an absolute, global bargain. Costs of getting in are low, and demand is growing at an accelerating rate. Right now in Medellin, you could buy almost anything and feel confident that you could make money. Rental yields are running from 8% to 14% on good properties…
The retiree: Colombia, specifically Medellín, the City of Flowers and Eternal Spring, is going to become a top destination among North American retirees.
The second-home buyer: More and more, We’re seeing people who are spending their summers in the United States or Europe but skipping out on the ice and snow by wintering in places where they can leave their windows open day and night, all year. These folks are bypassing the old-school snowbird haunts like Arizona and Florida and opting instead for the romance, the excitement, the adventure, and the affordable high-end lifestyle on offer in cities like Medellin.
Cost Of Living In Colombia
Live and Invest Overseas offers monthly cost of living budgets for a couple of our favorite destinations in Colombia:
Infrastructure In Colombia
Generally, infrastructure in Colombia is in need of improvement, but it’s constantly being improved. The past 15 years, in particular, have seen dramatic improvements across the country. Three mountain chains in heavily-populated areas mean that road construction or maintenance is difficult and costly. Initiatives in recent decades have made Colombia competitive within its regional market, but more needs to be done before Colombia has uniformly good national infrastructure.
Pockets of Colombia are much better-developed than others. Cities and their suburbs are modern, well-developed, and constantly improved. Rural and remote regions, though, don’t receive as much attention.
Colombia has some of the poorest roads in the world, ranked 130th out of 148 countries. Road travel in Colombia, including Bogotá can be challenging and roads are usually congested. Challenging geography—the Andes is split into three chains and the Pacific coast backs onto jungle—as well as roads in poor condition mean Colombia has the second-fewest vehicles per person in South America. Highway closures due to landslides resulting from heavy rains and seismic activity can occur.
Fourth Generation, the ambitious nation-wide road improvement project announced by President Santos in 2014, is expected to nearly halve travel times between cities.
Internet access in urban parts of Colombia is swift and reliable, outside of the main centers things are also improving fast. Tough competition among cellular service providers is resulting in falling local and international calling rates.
Medellín boasts Colombia’s only metro line and locals are intensely proud of it, even becoming a symbol for the city. Its trains and stations are kept sparklingly clean and is perfectly safe for anyone to ride. It has greatly improved quality of life in Medellín, reducing road congestion and commute times to one-fourth or less than they were by car or bus.
Colombia is a country on the move. It has caught the attention of the world’s investors and a few years ago, received the coveted “investment grade” rating from major rating agencies.
Climate In Colombia
Colombia has a tropical climate, but the intensity of heat varies according to region. At sea level, Colombia is very hot, but once you climb a bit in altitude, the temperature quickly becomes a comfortable.
The temperature in all areas of Colombia typically ranges between 50°F and 80°F throughout the year. Average annual humidity is around 70%. Average annual rainfall in most parts of Colombia is about 80 inches. Mountainous regions and any area above sea level may experience cooler temperatures and lower humidity.
Called the “City of Eternal Springtime,” Medellín is blessed with mild temperatures year round, with two rainy seasons, from March to May and from September through December.
As in any country, weather depends on your region, but generally Colombia enjoys a temperate, mild climate with little temperature change throughout the year.
Colombian Dry Seasons: April to May, October to November.
Colombian Rainy Seasons: December to January, July to August.
Residency In Colombia
U.S. citizens may enter Colombia without a visa and remain in the country for a maximum of 90 days per trip. You may be asked to provide proof of onward travel.
The process for residency is fairly simple and straightforward, with low income and investment requirements. Colombia offers some of the world’s easiest residency options, with the least amount of red tape. Expats report that it’s possible to apply and get the permanent residency visa issued in just one hour. Granted, that’s of you go to the local ministry in person, but it shows you how simple the application and approval process can be.
Colombia offers 20 different visas, and about seven of them are commonly used by expats. A temporary visa in this country is usually valid for one to three years. For permanent residency, the investment value is just under US$200,000 at this time.
The most popular types of temporary visas for expats and investors include the pensioner, rentista and property-owner visas.
The pensioner visa is intended for a retiree who receives a pension from a public or private company or the government (or Social Security). Pensioners’ visas start at a threshold of less than US$1,000 per month.
Also popular is the rentista, an option for someone who receives a non-pension income from outside Colombia from a public or private company.
Finally the property owner or business proprietor visa, which requires investing in your own business or in your share of a business. You can also qualify for this visa by making a property investment. Investments (in properties or companies) start at just over US$30,000.
Obtaining residency in Colombia is easy, and you don’t need to be here full time to maintain it. Our advice is to obtain a residency permit as soon as you firm up your interest in the country. Not having a residency card creates hassles for banking, business, and utilities—while having it makes everything go smoothly. It’s not worth putting it off.
Residency in Colombia can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship.
Health Care In Colombia
According to the World Health Organization, Colombia has one of the world’s best healthcare systems. In fact, it surpasses many developed countries such as the US, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany.
Colombia’s medical system is one of the best in Latin America and respected internationally. Many clinics and hospitals are accredited by U.S. organizations, including the Joint Commission International. 5 of the top 35 hospitals in Latin America are in Medellín. Physicians enjoy excellent education in Colombia and often receive at least part of their training in the United States.
Not only is the medical care in Colombia of an international standard, it’s also very affordable. Costs for procedures can be 50% to 90% less than for comparable procedures performed Stateside.
Medellín in particular is expanding its reputation for medical tourism, especially for cosmetic treatments, dentistry, and eye surgery. Medellín’s Health Care Cluster, a public/private partnership between the municipality of Medellín and the Chamber of Commerce, has set exceptionally high requirements for applicants seeking membership, improving quality standards in the city even further. Medellín also has five top-notch hospitals, which are ranked among best 35 in Latin America.
Medellín has some of the continent’s best medical facilities and most highly skilled doctors. Long-known as a destination for cosmetic surgery, Medellín is now established as a destination for complex procedures and advanced technology, including transplant surgery. It’s a major medical tourism destination due to the high quality and low cost of care.
The basic, government-subsidized health plan is called EPS. With no Colombian income, this will cost you 12% of the minimum wage (a premium of about US$36 per month). On this plan, you would use the facilities they specify, which will be basic.
From there you can buy add-on plans, many of which require that you have EPS as a prerequisite. These entitle you to faster service and better, more-upscale facilities. Not every insurance company offers add-on coverage to people over 60, so you may need to shop around if you’re older. Comfenalco (who takes people over 60) has upgrade plans starting at 120,000 pesos per month (Click here for currency conversion at today’s exchange rate).
A private, premium plan for in a network of high-end clinics, would run you about 3,000,000 pesos per year (Click here for currency conversion at today’s exchange rate).
Real Estate In Colombia
The real estate market in Colombia is mature, active, and undervalued. There’s a well-organized real estate industry here, with a generous inventory of quality properties. Construction standards are high—even in older buildings—yet prices are lower than you’ll find in most markets in the hemisphere… an amazing value when compare to the quality of life offered. Prices in Colombia are still an absolute global bargain. Costs of getting in are low, and demand is growing at an accelerating rate. The rental market is active and profitable, and you don’t even have to be a resident in order to purchase here.
Real estate in this country is priced in pesos, meaning you have to contend with the exchange rate, which fluctuates daily. Also note that a number of bureaucratic restrictions are in place. As an expat in Colombia, you would need to be prepared to navigate the system.
Colombian real estate is subject to municipal taxation, which is usually levied at rates within a band based on the value of property without regard to the number of owners or the taxpayer’s personal wealth.
Medellín is a particularly fantastic investment for a second-home buyer, especially now that expats are bypassing the well-worn snowbird haunts like Arizona and Florida, for the romance, excitement, and affordable high-end lifestyle in Colombia.
Foreigners cannot own within 2 kilometers of international borders. Foreigners cannot own within 2 kilometers of the coast.