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6 Best Places to Live in Colombia

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on: Jul 27, 2018

Summary: Colombia has made an incredible transformation. Expats in Colombia have a lot to say about the best places to live in Colombia. From cities on the Caribbean coast to inland cities, here are 6 of the best places to live in Colombia.

Expat Colombia - 6 Best Places to Live in Colombia

"Colombia allows you the choice of climates - the higher in altitude, the cooler. You can get internet weather for all the major cities and many smaller ones. The better your Spanish is, the easier everything becomes. I would not want to try to live in Colombia with anything less than at least an intermediate level Spanish where you can deal with food, shelter, clothing, transportation and entertainment vocabulary without straining too much," advised one expat in Colombia. "There are friendly people everywhere in this country. I remember living in an apartment in Boston for a year and I never met the couple that lived above me or the single fellow who lived below me except to smile politely and nod in the hallway. Here, when I smile and nod they start talking and sometimes I find it distracts me from what I was planning to do that day. I get invited to watch the games, go out drinking, ice cream, lunch, drive out to the fincas, all from people I only just met. The key is to have at least a basic grasp of the language, and a sincere smile," commented another expat in Colombia.

We've read through forum discussions and reports submitted by expats in Colombia in order to compile a list of the 6 best places to live in Colombia according to members of our site. Our list is by no means complete and exclusive. If we missed your favorite place to live in Colombia, please add it at the bottom of the article under "Comments."

Living in Pereira, Colombia

With a population of approximately 500,000, Pereira, Columbia is located in the foothills of the Andes in what is known as the Eje Cafetero, or the Coffee Axis. According to Wikipedia, Pereira is located in the center of the Golden Triangle (of the cities of Cali, Bogota and Medellin) and as a result is a growing center for trade and commerce.

"I have lived in and around Pereira for several years. I really enjoy it. It's a friendly city with plenty to do. The upside: All the big box stores are in Pereira now, including Price Smart for American goods so you will be able to find just about everything you need. The cost of living here is waaaaay less than Bogota, probably cheaper by 1/3 or 1/2. The cities of Pereira and Dos Quebradas combined are about one million population. The two cities are divided by the Rio Otun. Museums, theater, street festivals, and more are easily accessible. You can drive from one end of the city to the other in about 1/2 hour except occasional rush hour traffic can be a little slower than usual. Good bus service everywhere, and costs only 1800 pesos per ride. Most taxi rides are minimum price 4200 pesos except late and night and Sunday and national holidays the minimum is 5000. There is a cross town metro bus you can buy rides on a card you swipe to board the bus. There is a Facebook page for Pereira Social Group that has 2 or 3 dozen members. The social group meets for drinks two nights each month. Last week there were a dozen of us there representing US, France, Germany and Colombia. It's easy to get outside the city into the pueblos and countryside. There are hot springs nearby in Santa Rosa de Cabal. The famous National Coffee Park and Panaca Park are nearby in Montenegro, Quindio. There are really too many things to do to list them all here. When you visit Pereira you are nearby to visit Armenia and Manizales, the other cities in the coffee axis. I believe there's something enjoyable here for everyone. The downsides: There are only limited direct flights to US and they are expensive, about $800 one way. For most flights you have to route through Bogota and the layover in Bogota can be an all nighter. There is one flight per day from Armenia to Fort Lauderdale for about $550 on Spirit, the airline with the worst customer satisfaction of them all. Also, it rains a lot in Pereira, about 85 inches per year average. Compare that to Medellin, which only gets about 35 inches per year. I personally like the rain because it keeps everything cleaner and greener," described an expat living in Pereira.

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Living in Medellin, Colombia

Living in Medellin Colombia

Medellin, Colombia used to be an extremely dangerous place to live. Today, Medellin, Colombia is much safer, has a population of over 3.5 million and boasts a thriving nightlife scene. If you like city living, Medellin may be the right spot for you. On the downside, many expats complain about the traffic and air pollution. "Medellin is said to be the City of Eternal Spring. 85 during the day. 65 at night," described one expat. Another expat who moved to Medellin said, "Found Medellin from a friend - climate is perfect 75 days, 65 nights for sleeping (other cities' climates can be much colder), good infrastucture equal to USA (drinkable water - no bottled water, low cost hydroelectric, same voltage - no convertor, natural gas in ground) and products / services (from USA, we are very accustomed to finding everything we want) and the people are very friendly and helpful." Interested in meeting other expats in Medellin? One expat recommended, "Parque Lleras my friend. Patrick's is an Irish bar and most of the servers and bartenders speak English. 90% of the patrons are Gringo's. I have been to almost all of the bars in Lleras and this is what you are searching for if you want English-speaking people to hang out with." Check out our article, 5 Tips For Living in Medellin, Colombia for more information on Medellin.

Living in Cali, Colombia

"You should enjoy Cali with no worries. The school you mention [Colegio Colombo Britanico] is in a very nice part of town and has a great reputation. Food is, by US standards, plentiful and inexpensive. Lots of wonderful fresh produce and meat. Convenience food is more and more common and relatively expensive. The area of the city where the school is is very safe and there are lots of things to do with young kids. The air quality in the valley is so-so. Far better than Bogota but the heat and humidity trapped can cause a little smog to build up from time to time. The Pacific is just across the western Andes. It's not popular with Colombians but it's quite nice. Mostly wild with small towns accessible by boat from Buenaventura. Have lived in a small town a few minutes south of the city for several years and I love it." Another expat added, "The whole area in that part of Cali is considered upscale - over 80% of the inhabitants being considered as estrato 6, where estrato 1 is the poorest and 6 the richest. The various malls are the equal of almost any in North America, and they really go all out for Christmas decoration, it is quite a sight to see. Many prices of consumer goods are higher but (mostly) not alarmingly so, especially with the dollar stronger now against the Colombian peso."

Expats living in Colombia interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA. Get a Quote

Expats living in Colombia interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Living in Barranquilla, Colombia

Living in Barranquilla Colombia

Known for its large carnival, Barranquilla, Colombia is a port city on the Caribbean Coast with a population of over 2.3 million. "I find Barranquilla very comfortable weather wise, generally breezy and not very humid at all. It isn't overgrown with gringos and it has great nightlife. It has great restaurants, infrastructure, medical care, transportation etc. Bustling and growing especially in the north," commented an expat in Barranquilla, Colombia. In a thread about expat community in Barranquilla, one person said, "Bogota Beer Company.. Decent bar, watched American football, NHL and some decent sports other than soccer. They also have those Freon chilled fans outside. Check it out next time."

Living in Santa Marta, Colombia

Living in Santa Marta Colombia

Santa Marta, Colombia has a population of over 450,000 and is located on the Caribbean coast. "Although Santa Marta is the best kept secret. Best to take a week or two to check it out. Santa Marta has some beautiful beaches, National Park along the coast, and the highest coastal mountain range in the world. I spent a large portion of November and December in Santa Marta with plans on retiring there in the near future. The Caribbean Coast of Colombia rocks!" Looking to meet other expats in Santa Marta? One member suggested, "In Santa Marta two American brothers from San Diego own the Hostal La Brisa Loca. Carry all of the NFL games. Got to watch my Philadelphia Eagles every Sunday. Bribed the bartender $10,000 Pesos:-)"

Living in Bogota, Colombia

Living in Bogota Colombia

With a population of approximately 7.8 million people, Bogota is the capital of Colombia and located in the center of the country. Although some people feel that Bogota has too much traffic and crime, others disagree. One expat in Bogota said, "I LOVE BOGOTA!!! I have lived in Hawaii for the past 30 years; I was born in Bogota in 1953 and it was so easy to get my Cedula and Colombian passport. It is a huge city. I ride the Transmilineo everyday and I have NEVER been hassled, robbed, bothered, questioned... NADA. No one has tried to steal my backpack or cell phone. Bogota has a reputation that is taking some time to overcome or rectify. The taxi drivers are regular guys, family men, just trying to make a living. I give clothes and food to the local homeless man who sleeps in the beautiful neighborhood of La Soledad -- Parkway -- on the street, and most of the neighbors and vendors help this guy out. He is disabled and just had rough luck. Perfectly harmless. I do volunteer work, take some Spanish language classes, go to the big malls, visit parks, gardens and museums. Everyone I have encountered is polite and helpful. The police are fantastic. They actually DO help old ladies and blind people across the street and into the Transmilineo station. I really can not understand why people who want to move here do not see the beauty in this lovely, modern, progressive city. The US never had anyone like Antanus Mockus, a mathematician and college president who ran for Bogota mayor, and replaced the traffic police force with MIMES (!!!), or Enrique Penalosa, another progressive mayor, who revitalized the city of Bogota by creating the largest bus rapid transit system in the world, turned slums into parks and housing developments, and eradicated crime. Please educate yourselves and watch 'Bogota Change' on You Tube."

Related Resources

10 Tips for Living in Bogota

Colombia Expat Forum

Expat Guide to Living in Colombia

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On the Colombia Expat Forum

Join our Colombia Forum and talk with other expats in Colombia who can offer you insight and tips about living in Colombia. Here are a few of the latest discussions on the Colombia Expat Forum:

Colombia expat forum topic
Rental Agreement Problem (3 replies)

I signed a 5 month lease on a house here and it will be up in March. I knew I had to give them notice that I would not renew. I thought it was one month notice, but my contract says two months. I missed the deadline. My fault. To make things worse, the lease automatically renews for another 5 months. I thought it would just convert to month-to-month like many leases in the US, but I didn't read it. And to make it even worse my Colombian wife is the co-signer on the lease. I'm not asking for sympathy. It was all my fault. I contacted a lawyer here to review the contract this week for $15 and he confirmed the conditions. Tip for the next guy: Have a lawyer review the contract first. It will cost you about $20 - $50 in Colombia. Messing up costs a lot more. So I'm asking if anyone here has had practical experience in this area. If I don't pay the bill and I come back to Colombia will they look for me and punish me somehow? If I don't pay will it mess up any chances to rent or buy a house with a mortgage if I want to do that some day, or if my wife wants to do that? I may ask the lawyer to call the landlord and try to negotiate. The only carrot I can think of is they don't know if I ever plan to come back to Colombia. If I don't, I probably won't pay that bill. I don't have any assets here they could garnish except maybe the furniture and fridge I bought, but I may just sell those cheap my last week here. Maybe the realtor would let me off for a month or two penalty. Any other ideas? We can't sublease according to the contract, and I wouldn't want to risk let a stranger sublease anyway. Maybe a family member could have it cheap, if it comes to that. Thanks, Steve

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Colombia expat forum topic
Western Tanager first trip to Colombia (2 replies)

My wife and I are about halfway through our 17 day trip to Colombia. I am enjoying it more than her. We rented a car and she has done 95 percent of the driving due to her being prone to motion sickness. We flew into Pereira and took a taxi to Otun Quimbaya Reserve for the first 2 nights. We had a great day of birding there. Then taxi back to the airport to rent a car and on to Rio Blanco near Manizales for another day of birding which was fantastic. Then we drove to Hotel Tinamu also near Manizales for another full day of birding on their property. Next day we drove to Nevado del Ruiz above Manizales for more birding at high elevation. Then we stayed a night in Manizales with an acquaintance of my parents who live in Ecuador and then drove to Jardin. There was some drama before this drive because we heard from a couple sources that the ELN and some indigenous people were c causing troubles on the route to Jardin but a call to the police relived those concerns when we were informed that all was clear. We have 2 more nights in Jardin. Tomorrow is a full day of guided birding. Then on Thursday we drive to Salento. So far so good. The driving can at times be a bit wild but really I think it has been a piece of cake. Of course there are times in the past that things have been much worse but we are doing fine. Some food has been rather bland but some has been exceptional. The weather has been great, although a bit too hot for me. All for now.

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Colombia expat forum topic
Onward ticket requirement (7 replies)

I am aware that most countries require an onward ticket for entry as a tourist. My plan works cheaply from PHX to FLL to LIM and on to Arequipa, all OW for 3 to 6 months. I know Peru has this requirement. My objective, though, is residency in CO. So, the dilemma is either showing an onward ticket to Rio Negro or paying for a RT ticket to satisfy CO passport control and just suck up the extra and likely unused fare. How do others "moving" to CO with the same objective solve this problem?

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Comments about this Article

WeilandUSMC
Jul 30, 2016 15:26

Ron he Marine. Best place IN coffee triangle, reasonable long term, furn, security, Apt. walking to most areas, nice Ladies for friendship and Med Care. not isolated, not too crowded. best person to hire to find for me. Honest. Much appreciated. Ron the Marine

Dean01UK
Jan 22, 2017 19:50

Living in Pereira... Thanks for mentioning the 'Pereira Social Group' on FB - Update: As of Jan 2017 we have well over 100 members now. We have 'Thirsty Thursday Drinks' EVERY Thursday. (13 countries has been the record so far from a head-count on one of the busier nights) and we have other regular family and social events too - Therefore the wives and husbands etc of the group members have also met and become friends... kids too! I've been an expat for about 20 years or so, I'm from London and have lived in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Germany and Switzerland - I've been in Pereira, Colombia since Aug 2015 and the expat scene, whilst smaller, is far more friendly than the other cities I've lived in (Switzerland is a close second, a very happy 9 years in Geneva.) The expats, the spouses and the children get on really well (for those that make the effort of course) and maybe that is because those of us that are here, are mainly staying here indefinitely, so there's a more rooted common ground between us. So anyone coming to Pereira, you'll find us on Facebook thanks to Betsy's link in the article above, (thanks again) and between us all, we know everything there is to know about our secret little gem of a city, Pereira!

guest
Jun 27, 2018 12:54

I have a 5 acre farm with rustic home in the mountain area of Armenia. I love it, weather and cost of living in the Coffee axel of Colombia is very low compared to other cities. Weather is great and if you can stand a few earthquakes a year, you will be fine. People in this area are extremely friendly. I am Salvadorian and speak fluent Spanish, which helps a bunch, because I can blend in with the locals. I am not a resident, but can do back and forth trips as a tourist and my tourist visa (US Passport) can be extended for 6 months. For medical care, I always purchase the travelers insurance online when making reservations, I know that it works because we used it once when my wife injured her arm and had to delay her flight. Insurance paid all medical cost and airline penalty for rescheduling her flight. I have been travelling back and forth to Colombia since 1989 and love it ::)

bilcheek
Jul 27, 2018 09:30

Bucaramanga is on our list of places to live in Colombia. One word....Ants.

First Published: May 18, 2016

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