"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.
Expat Health Insurance in Colombia
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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."
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
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:-)"
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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."
10 Tips for Living in Bogota
Colombia Expat Forum
Expat Guide to Living in Colombia