Bright and early this morning in sunny downtown Medellín, Lee Harrison welcomed the crowd to our 7th Annual Live and...Read more
Capital City: Bogotá
Climate: Tropical, Isothermal
International Dialing Code: +57
Chief of State: Iván Duque Márquez
Colombia lies where the Andes converge with the Pacific and the Caribbean, providing a dramatically beautiful country with two coasts and lots of geographic and cultural diversity along with strong regional identities. Colombia is considered the second most biodiverse country in the world after Brazil.
Its population is about 50 million, and it has the third largest economy in South America, after Brazil and Argentina. Colombia offers great diversity, from the world-class colonial city of Cartagena to smaller Spanish-colonial towns… from international-class cities, including and especially Medellín, to mountain villages and fincas… plus great beaches, too.
The land was originally inhabited by the Muisca people. It was conquered by the Spanish in 1537 and became part of the Spanish empire. Colombia was liberated from Spain in 1819 with the help of Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Paula Santander during the Battle of Boyacá.
In the 70s and 80s, Colombia was run by drug lords, the most infamous being Pablo Escobar. Bogotá then became a battleground for rivaling cartels, and journalists, police, and politicians were murdered daily. In 1985, a socialist movement to overthrow the Colombian government by the M-19 group took place. The group assailed the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, taking over 300 hostages including judges, lawyers, and other employees of the building. The government stormed the palace in response, and over 100 people were killed in the shoot-out.
Colombia has suffered an unfathomable amount of violence, and as a result, its inhabitants are cautious. People have grown up living in fear, and past events are difficult to forget. Today, Colombia is experiencing a rebirth from its violent past. It’s now safer, and you can enjoy the lifestyle on offer in this bustling, thriving country without fear.
Colombia is quietly becoming one of the world’s top overseas havens. From colonial Bogotá to friendly Medellín, this corner of the world is shedding the stigma that has lingered since Pablo Escobar’s death over 25 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.
Rest assured, we aren’t looking at Colombia through rose-tinted lenses.
Colombia still has areas you should avoid, but this is true of every country in the world. Take the same precautions you would at home and you’ll be fine. The areas where tourists and expats spend time are safe with a heavy police presence. Venturing off into rougher areas is a calculated risk.
While it’s unfortunate Colombia has suffered from a tarnished reputation, it does provide benefits for visitors. The problems associated with mass tourism aren’t yet found in Colombia. There are no tourist prices, long lines at attractions, or tacky souvenir stalls hawking their goods at every monument.
As South America’s best kept secret, there’s a lot you might have missed about Colombia.
Prices are an absolute, global bargain. Costs of getting in are low, and demand is growing at an accelerated rate. In Medellín, you could buy almost anything and feel confident that you could make money. Rental yields are running from 8% to 14% on good properties.
Colombia, specifically Medellín, the City of Flowers and Eternal Spring, is well on its way to becoming a top destination among North American retirees.
We’re seeing people who are spending their summer 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 Medellín.
If you are looking to improve your health and overall well-being, then you should consider relocating to Colombia for many reasons—specifically, high-quality food and produce, readily available gyms, yoga studios, and public parks, extremely affordable health care, access to inexpensive alternative medicines and treatments, great climate, and lower stress.
It’s nearly impossible to start a business, open a bank account, or do any of the normal things to set up your life until you have your Colombian cédula. Luckily, there are a number of visa options that will grant you a cédula. Once you have a cédula, you can set up a business via a Cámara de Comercio office. Their website is in English and explains all the necessary steps to set up a business.
Living in Colombia has also improved my fitness. I walk everywhere. I joined a gym only a few blocks from my house, and the city provides free programs, making fitness available for everyone of any athletic ability or age. The most noteworthy program is the Ciclovía, or “bike lane.” For more than 15 years, the Ciclovía has traversed a combined 60 kilometers throughout the municipalities in the Medellín Valley, transforming major thoroughfares typically busy with traffic into lanes dedicated to fitness.
Every Sunday and holiday, the Ciclovía brings people of all ages and social and economic classes together. You’ll find casual walkers, joggers, families, and the more hardcore marathoners and triathletes putting in their miles. Free exercise classes, including zumba, dance, yoga, and stretching, are offered along the Ciclovía.
There are 67 Ciclovías throughout Colombia, including in the capital, Bogotá. If you prefer weight training and do not want to pay for a gym membership, many parks have free outdoor gyms with barbells, weights, and other equipment.
Remember the exchange rate. Right now, thanks to the U.S. dollar’s continued strength versus the Colombian peso, Colombia can be the greater bargain by far.
The cost of living in this country is likewise very diverse. You could live here, comfortably, on less than US$1,000 a month… or you could live on US$6,000 or US$7,000 per month or more in Bogotá, for example. Depending on whether you live like a local or not, Colombia offers a standard of living that competes with the best available anywhere, including a truly First World, luxury-standard kind of living. Again, it’s a question of what you’re looking for and what you want to pay for.
Establishing residency in Colombia is actually fairly easy. But it’s not only great retirement and lifestyle options that are available in Colombia right now. This country is also one of the best places in the world today to invest in real estate. Specifically, I would direct your attention to El Poblado in Medellín and Santa Marta on the coast.
The other interesting income opportunity in this country right now is to invest in a high interest-earning account. Open an account with the financial house, and you can earn 6% on your money from a time deposit. And you don’t have to be a resident of the country to do this.
Here you can have a premium lifestyle at a low cost. Monthly expenses might reach between 50% to 60% less than in the United States.
On top of the fantastic financial opportunities, Colombia offers great beaches, great weather, fascinating culture, and friendly people.
Importantly for retirees and expats, Colombia is home to the best health care in Latin America, with well-equipped hospitals and excellent service available at very affordable prices.
Health services and treatments are more affordable. Massages used to be a luxury for a birthday or Christmas present. If a therapy was not covered by insurance, it was likely too expensive otherwise. In Colombia, you can treat with physical and massage therapists for only US$16 to US$40 for 70-minute sessions. You can get your teeth cleaned and have a thorough dental check-up for only US$35. Alternative treatments can be found in Bogotá and Medellín, including chiropractic, biomagnetic, homeopathy, and more, and for only a fraction the cost in the United States.
The amazing weather, friendly people, lower cost of living, and a laid back lifestyle can significantly reduce your stress. Weekly massages help, too. Things that used to be considered luxury treatments are now part of aregular routine for better living.
Bogotá and Medellín are the hubs of international access in Colombia. Based here, it’s easy to get to and from your home country. Currently, there are direct flights from Colombia to the United States, including Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Washington D.C., New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles.
There is also direct access to Toronto, Canada, eight European destinations, and almost every country in Latin America.
Flying within Colombia is surprisingly affordable, and a round-trip flight from Bogotá to coastal Cartagena or Santa Marta can be as low as US$60.
Colombia is perhaps the world’s easiest place to establish residency right now. No lawyer is required, and we’ve known people to go through the process in one hour.
Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, has managed to stay under the radar as an amazing place for expats seeking a cosmopolitan lifestyle without the big-city prices. Some streets are gritty with vibrant graffiti while others are tree-lined and polished.
Dramatic green mountains line the northern part of the city. Neighborhoods like Chapinero have a Brooklyn vibe where creativity booms and buildings hide secret hipster cafés, art galleries, and cocktail bars that you wouldn’t know about unless a local filled you in.
While Bogotá is one of the most expensive cities in Colombia, its culture and food scenes can’t be beat. This is a destination for people looking to experience a booming gastronomic scene, live theater, art, fashion, and film festivals. The largest city in Colombia is definitely one of its best-kept secrets.
Image Source: wikimedia/Augusto Ilian CC2.0
Santiago de Cali, also known as Cali, is considered the salsa capital of Colombia and the “City of Eternal Summer.” Cali is one of the oldest cities in the Americas. Before the Spaniards founded the city in 1536, the area was inhabited by various indigenous tribes. It has a low cost of living and many things to do nearby.
At an elevation of 3,340 feet (1,018 meters), Cali is located in a valley with mountains to the west, the Cauca River to the east and plains to the north and south. Cali is located in the western part of Colombia, only a couple hours from the Pacific coast of Colombia. The Cali metro area is home to a population of over 3.4 million, making it the third largest city in Colombia after Bogotá and Medellín. The city is divided into 22 comunas, that are then subdivided into 249 official small neighborhoods (barrios).
Bucaramanga is the capital of the department of Santander in north-central Colombia. The city has the fifth largest economy in Colombia, and the sixth largest metropolitan area, with 1.2 million people. With around 550,000 people in the metro area, it’s about the size of Las Vegas.
Bucaramanga sits on a large plateau, at a pleasant 960 meters (3,120 feet) above sea level. Given its proximity to the equator, this altitude provides for pleasant temperatures all year. Bucaramanga is known as the Ciudad de los Parques—City of Parks—with more than 160 parks scattered within its borders. Bucaramanga is a comfortable city. And while it offers manyother qualities and conveniences, it is first-and-foremost a place where you can feel at home.
In Bucaramanga you can get away from the pressures of the world. It’s a big city, to be sure—with over a million people in its metro area—but it’s an unpretentious city. Most of the town is neither rich nor poor, but rather a solid, middle-class setting without the extremes that many cities have. Bucaramanga offers an excellent infrastructure, with drinkable tap water, reliable electricity, and fast broadband internet service at reasonable rates. Abrand-new metrolinea public transit system is being phased into service, to whisk commuters and travelers from one end of the city to the other.
Cartagena is considered the exotic jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast… It’s a beach resort city that is becoming increasingly popular with foreigners and wealthy Colombians who enjoy living or investing in a Caribbean beach location. Cartagena’s principal attraction is its Old City, particularly the inner walled district, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
The Old City is full of colonial architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and homes with overhanging balconies and shady patios. Wandering leisurely and enjoying the street life, as well as the many plazas, shops, restaurants, and bars, is the best way to experience the Old City. Walking these streets could make a romantic out of just about anyone.
Cartagena is also chock-full of history, which gives the city an Old-World beach lifestyle. However, the city also has many modern amenities, including a growing number of high-rise condos with spectacular water and beach views in addition to modern shopping centers.
Alamy/Juan David Jaramillo Maya
Today’s Medellín is Colombia’s second-largest industrial center, a magnet for international business, and one of Colombia’s premier cultural and intellectual capitals. In 2013, Medellín was declared the world’s most-innovative city (by the Wall Street Journal and Citi Global), beating out New York and Tel Aviv in the final analysis. It was also named the preferred corporate business destination in South America, and won the Veronica Rudge Urbanism Award conferred by Harvard University.
Medellín—and specifically El Poblado—are built on lush hills, with tree-lined streets, green parks, and meandering roads. Throughout the area, small streams tumble down from the mountains, their borders lined with dense areas of lush, tropical vegetation.
Perched at an elevation of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), it enjoys beautiful weather all year, with warm, balmy days and cool, pleasant nights. Medellín boasts well-maintained roads and drinkable water, along with dependable phone service, electricity, and high-speed Internet.
You’ll find shopping galore, from mom-and-pop stores to upscale boutiques, as well as a number of large, modern shopping malls. The banks and financial services are solid and dependable. You can also spend an evening at the orchestra or one of 28 theaters, explore the city’s 40 museums, visit its many galleries, or relax in one of 21 parks. And what’s more, the sizzling nightlife in Medellín draws visitors from around the world.
Image Source: flickr/getruve
Pereira is a highly walkable city, depending on where you decide to live. The weather is perfect… At an elevation of 4,829 feet (1,411 meters), Pereira enjoys beautiful weather all year, with warm, pleasant days and cool, freshnights. It’s part of the famous Colombian coffee region.
Nearby hot springs, picturesque little pueblos within a couple hours, and countless fincas (small farms and country homes) in the surrounding areas make for great getaways from the small city. Pereira is also a jumping off point to a pair of the top nature preserves in Colombia: Parque Ucumarí and Santuario Otún Quimbaya.
The city’s water is drinkable, and it boasts well-maintained roads, dependable phone service, electricity, and high-speed Internet. You’ll find many shopping options, from little tiendas to upscale boutiques, along with several large, modern shopping malls, including Parque Arboleda mall, which rivals the best malls found in Bogotá and Medellín.
It’s an enjoyable place to be, and what’s more, the sizzling nightlife in Pereira draws visitors from around the coffee region. The real estate market is active and under-valued.
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I've spoken with lots of potential expats who are trying to choose between Cuenca, Ecuador, and Medellín, Colombia... even though these two cities are actually very different in key ways. But, as I've lived in both places (and both are among my favorites in Latin America), I'm frequently asked to compare the two. Let's take a closer look... Weather Both Medellín and Cuenca enjoy great weather all year. My home didn't have heat or air conditioning in either city, which...Read more