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Expat Exchange - Pros and Cons of Living in Colombia
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Bogota, Colombia


Pros and Cons of Living in Colombia

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Colombian Visa Services
Colombian Visa Services

Summary: If you're moving to Colombia, it's important to learn about both the Pros AND Cons of living in Colombia.

Colombia, a country known for its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and warm-hearted people, has become an increasingly popular destination for expats from around the world. Whether you're drawn to the bustling city life of Bogotá, the coastal charm of Cartagena, or the lush coffee plantations of the Andean region, Colombia offers a unique blend of experiences that cater to a variety of lifestyles. However, like any country, living in Colombia comes with its own set of advantages and challenges. In this article, we'll delve into the pros and cons of making Colombia your new home.

Pros of Living in Colombia

One of the most compelling reasons to move to Colombia is the cost of living. Compared to North America and Europe, the cost of housing, groceries, healthcare, and entertainment in Colombia is significantly lower. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in a city center may cost around $300 per month, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant might set you back $10. This affordability extends to healthcare as well, with Colombia boasting a high-quality healthcare system that is often cheaper than its counterparts in more developed countries.

Another major draw is Colombia's diverse and stunning geography. From the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to the golden beaches of the Caribbean coast, the country offers a wide range of climates and landscapes to explore. This natural beauty is complemented by a rich cultural heritage, with numerous festivals, music, dance, and culinary traditions that reflect the country's indigenous, African, and Spanish influences.

Colombians are known for their warmth and hospitality, and as an expat, you'll likely be welcomed with open arms. The local people are generally friendly and helpful, and many are eager to share their culture and traditions with newcomers. This sense of community can make the transition to life in a new country much smoother.

Finally, Colombia's growing economy offers a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals. The country has made significant strides in recent years to attract foreign investment and foster business growth, making it an attractive destination for those looking to start a new venture or advance their career.

Cons of Living in Colombia

While there are many benefits to living in Colombia, it's important to also consider the potential challenges. One of the most significant is safety. While the country has made significant progress in reducing violence and crime in recent years, it still has higher crime rates than many other countries. This can vary greatly by region and even by neighborhood, so it's important to do your research and take necessary precautions.

Another potential drawback is the language barrier. While English is increasingly taught in schools and used in business settings, Spanish is the dominant language in Colombia. If you don't speak Spanish, you may find it difficult to navigate daily life, from shopping at the local market to dealing with bureaucracy. However, many expats view this as an opportunity to learn a new language and immerse themselves in a new culture.

While Colombia's healthcare system is generally high-quality and affordable, access can be a challenge in more rural areas. If you're considering living outside of a major city, it's important to consider the availability of medical services in your area.

Finally, while Colombia's economy is growing, it still faces challenges such as unemployment and income inequality. While there are opportunities for professionals and entrepreneurs, finding a job can be competitive, and salaries are generally lower than in more developed countries.

Despite these challenges, many expats find that the benefits of living in Colombia far outweigh the drawbacks. With its affordable cost of living, stunning landscapes, warm people, and growing economy, Colombia offers a unique and rewarding experience for those willing to embrace a new culture and way of life.

Expats Talk about Pros & Cons of Living in Colombia

"Amazing people, high affordability, super dog-friendly and no expats thus far, which I consider a plus. I have no interest in listening to aging hippies caterwauling about Trump for the next 10 years. English is not spoken here, which is splendid expat repellant. The people could not be more wonderful, kind and helpful. The city and mountain view from my 16th floor unit is incredible. It was ridiculously cheap in a great area. Great decision, I would do it again without hesitation," commented one expat living in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

"I have lived in Republic of Colombia in Barranquilla since 1983. I established my private office and invested assets here since 1987. I am very satisfied with my decisions," mentioned one expat living in Colombia.

"Before I moved here, I knew what my Likes were: playa, pescado and perros. This is a very, very dog friendly pueblo, so I was gifted the dog I wanted UPON ARRIVAL. I don't just want any beach: I want one I can use as my private lap pool. So the small, wave-less bay and beach are what I desire. Being that I'm not a meat eater, it has always been expensive to buy seafood. Not here in a 400 year old fishing village. So, if you know your priorities BEFORE you move anywhere, you'll be content," said an expat in Colombia.

"Sevilla is somewhat isolated from most conveniences found in larger cities. It's 1 & 1/4 hr drive to Armenia, Quindio where one can find most of what one wants. It's a town of 70,000 with NOT one car dealership, zero fast food, limited restaurants (most cook and eat at home) , it's an old town kinda feels like living in the US in the 1950's. Most streets and roads are in bad repair in general, with lots of pot holes and poor road construction. There is virtually no parking anywhere, very limited and tight private parking garages. There's one secondary road that passes thru the town which accounts for the unavailability of so many things gringos are used to. Being able to find canned soups, dill pickles, mexican salsa, frozen ready to heat meals, decent pizza, anything not fried, good luck cause ya gonna probably be really disappointed. The Colombian diet in general is very bland and limited in terms of variety. These are some of the downside, BUT if you come here looking for an 'affordable', simple, manana lifestyle, hoping to live on maybe only a social security check (anything above $800usd per month) you're gonna be really yard pressed to find a better place than Colombia to call your forever home. The people (my experience only) in both cities but especially smaller towns are exceptionally kind, nice, approachable, helpful, not aggressive/assertive, good looking, calm. Also, having lived in Costa Rica, and Mexico for many years, I can testify that Colombians are so diverse in their physical makeup, due to so many having originated from Spain and other parts of Europe. Green and blue eyes with blonde or light brown hair and very fair skin is not uncommon. The infrastructure in general (Sevilla's one of the exceptions) is hands down far superior and more developed than most if not all latin american countries. Now for the biggest hurdle (my opinion), if your Spanish is so elementary that you have to use google translate to understand every sentence spoken or heard, you should not make a more permanent move here until your grasp is much better. So many think they'll start to learn the language after they are here, or they'll rely on other english speakers here to help them out. Those will most probably be the ones who don't have the stamina or comittment to stay beyond 6 months or so. Navigating the real estate process whether renting or buying and without understanding exactly what you are being told, or what the document being presented to you for signature specifically says is a substantial risk, as well as attempting to enroll and navigate the EPS public health care system...it can be beyond frustrating and infuriating...example: Three different people with the same provider can give you completely different opinions and answers to your question on how you should proceed. Then today you may be directed to see this office for this process, for which you 'schedule' an appointment, then wait 2-3 weeks for that appointment, only to find out that this office can't help you cause they only process applications for the poorer folks who qualify for a subsidized regimen, so you are directed to go see a person at the corner 'multiservice/delivery/prepay for online orders, etc. etc. because only they can take money. Now you wait a minimum of 8 days for the data to be entered into the national system, once that's confirmed, now you can go to the provider's office to schedule your first appointment where you wait in lengthy lines with no direction as to which long line you should be in. Most smaller towns/cities do not have specialists for whatever circumstance one may have, so you must travel to a larger city for that appointment and any prescribed drugs for that condition which are considered 'costly' and therefore not included in their regular formulary for no cost or low co-pay meds. You may eventually have those meds included for low co-pays, but not until you've done some traveling and received sometimes more than a couple authorizations before you can pickup your meds. If you can arrive here and expect to confront these inconveniences and inefficiencies and accept that pretty much nothing happens quickly here or anywhere in latin america, you'll have a chance at a long term life that you may eventually love and wonder why you spent so many years in such a materialistic country where everyones' chasing their tail just to keep up and make ends meet, aka 'not a life most expats are interested in'. Bienvenidos a Colombia," remarked one expat in Colombia.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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Colombian Visa Services
Colombian Visa Services

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