Before we can give you advice on safe neighbourhoods, we would really need to know exactly where in Colombia you will be moving to. Every town and city is different, from security, climate, way of life, etc. The variety is amazing, and so is the country and its people.
I assume you may be transferred here, for work?
Depending on your reasons for coming, it will also affect any visa requirements.
I will be transferring here for work. My wife is a photographer so she will be able to network herself.
In terms of neighborhood or city, I want to first know which are the best per city before I even decide to move to Colombia. I am so early in deciding that before I fly there and start meeting people I would like to do research. I know that this is very broad but maybe the top 5 neighborhoods and what city they are in would be a great jump off point.
Help us help you. The top 5 neighborhoods in Colombia is open to interpretation. So let us know what you consider the top 5 neighborhoods in the states and we might be able to compare them to cities here. Do you like cold, warm or hot climates? Big cities or quite cities or small town? Cali is nice but hot. Medillen is nice but worm. Bogota is another popular city but cold. Want a beautiful little village maybe? Also what can you afford? (I would assume because your asking for a risk manigment company your looking more up scale).
Its not just the climate, its understanding the people and the culture plus the language! You have to mix with the Colombian people most of the time and there isn't actually a barrio of ex-pats to go to, who talk about "Obamacare" all day (whatever that is!!!) and what safe secured estates to live in with "thanksgiving parties (whatever they are). You will have to learn to put up with queue jumping, manic driving and people molesting you for money because they think you are a rich Gringo!! Geoff from UK
Thanks for both replies! Jeff, those are some funny comments. Good news is that I am not coming from the US so no "Obamacare" and Thanksgiving for me is in October :).
Masterita, I love the city of San Francisco in terms of climate. Not too hot, but definitely no winter. LoL. I am in NY and Chicago quarterly. Both beautiful cities for me and my wife. I am positive that I will be working in the heart of one of the big cities, so no small towns as I am sure that traffic is quite bad there. My wife is very particular with the neighborhoods. What I want to show her are the neighborhoods and cities that we possibly could move to. I am looking for a gated community for sure. Colleagues of mine that have moved to central/South America have advised me to meet with a risk management company and find a gated community. I have searched the internet for communities in Colombia but have not found any.
I am excited about the chance to move somewhere I have never been and look forward to learning the beautiful language. But before I think of that I have to get my wife's stamp of approval. For her it is all about the safety of the house and neighborhood.
Well my wife and I are moving back this year. My wife is from Bogota so that makes a little difference. I also lived in Bogota for 5 years. We are moving to Fusagasuga (simply called Fusa) which is about 45 miles outside of Bogota. The climate is constant, about 70F, year round. It has several gated communities and a lot of new construction going on with very reasonable prices. We are going in May to make the, hopefully, final preparations and plan on being in Fusa by October. This blog, including several people who have responded to you, is very helpful but as Masterita indicated maybe a little more info would be needed to help those who are already in country. Very beautiful country and, in my experience after living in 5 SA countries, the people are the best.
ethandelacroix . Well, I think both Masterita and Geoff have highlighted the difficulties of trying to help you, with so little information to go on. We must remember that what one person thinks of as paradise, another may think of as Hell. But although Geoff's take on it carries his sense of humour, it is actually very true what he says. Read between the lines, and you might understand it. :)
For me, "gated communities" are prisons. I find that the people most likely to desire living like that are Americans (Please do not take offence), who have been scared by all the reports from your own embassy, as to how dangerous the country is. They have even banned their own people from going there at times, and Government employees/armed forces personel are still not allowed to travel freely, and miss all the good things about the country.
In my own personal opinion, living in a gated community is like shutting yourself away in isolation, segregating yourself from the rest of Colombia, so that all you see is the insides of the gated community. You should always think about security, by all means, but not to the extent that you become so self-sufficient and even dependent on the shelter inside, that you miss everything that is so wonderful about the country. (You even end up in ex-pat groups, discussing Obamacare). I would suggest an apartment (or casa) where they have a reception/security person/doorman, as this is a deterrent, but that's all you need. Yes, there is crime, but there is crime in any city of the world, and Colombia is no exception. But do not become paranoid about it, you would even stand out as scared and vulnerable, and so inviting people to rob you. Think about the fact that most of the robberies happen in the wealthier parts of the cities, for this is where the robbers are most likely to get more stuff. They hang around in the streets, waiting for a scared rich American to step out of his "Fortress", and nick his wallet, phone, and money. This in turn, fuels the stories and escalates the fears still further. I have found that living in a slightly lower strata is better, say an estrata 4, instead of a 6. You then blend in with normal people, and the crime, and also the fear of crime, is a lot less.
Then INTEGRATE ! Have a car by all means, but do take a bus from time to time, or the Transmilenio, even in the rush hour, where you get shoved into a bus like sardines. Its part of normal living for Colombians, and so it should be for you too. In fact, if you choose Bogota, you won't be able to use your car for half the week anyway, as they have a scheme (Pico Y Placa) where certain number plates are not allowed on the roads at peak periods (Rush hour).
Climate is also an individual thing. I actually like Bogota. Coming from England, I find it is like a Spring day, all year round. I am not too hot, and not too cold. Most of the time I wear simple Polo or T-shirts, and I feel absolutely comfortable. If I want a little more heat, I simply drive down the mountains, and within a couple of hours can be in 30-40 degrees, but 3 or 4 days is enough for me . Masterita and Geoff would both feel a little cold in Bogota, and prefer the warmer climates, where I wouldn't like to live permanently in those temperatures. They, and many others do. Some live on the coast, and are totally dependent on air conditioning, otherwise they would suffocate. So we all have our preferences, and I'm sure even you and your wife may also have different ideas on what is the ideal. If you have children, do think very hard about the temperatures, for babies and children cannot regulate their body temperatures like adults, and as your genes have not adapted over the generations, your babies and kids may be unbearably uncomfortable in the extremes, even if you yourselves like it.
Top 5 here/The USA? I'm not even going to go there. But I might suggest you try to take a couple of weeks away, and get down here. Try visiting a couple of places for a day or two each. I know its not enough to see everything, or experience proper normal life, but it might give you a flavour that you might want to explore in greater detail.
If you do decide to move here, you will find a much better quality of life, a healthier lifestyle, friendly and more genuine people, and if you don't try to live an American lifestyle, you'll actually find you can live much cheaper too. And lets face it, if you have an emergency of any sort, you are only a couple of hours flight from back home, where you can get medical or other facilities if you don't trust the natives. :)
Hi,, I enjoyed your post. I will say my only issue was about the gated community. My new wife gave me a great new 6 old son. By moving into that gated community, completely changed his life. He is now able to walk out our front or back door at anytime without great concern. He is able to ride his bike without us taking him to the park and standing there , watching him ride by himself. He also has found two little friends to play with. No more sitting inside watching tv, while mom has to work. And best of all, he also has a small community pool. A real treat in the heat of the day. You are right on the other issues. I am amazed at the folks, that just need the USA in a different location, lol
The forum is right on about this. Every city big or small town will have it's own issues to deal with. Crime is everywhere and not just because we live in Colombia. Period. However, this should not deter you from visiting this Country. Culturally, it takes some time to get used too but nothing mind blowing (at least for some of us).
I recently made friends from a group of English teachers at a local bilingual school in Salento. However, I choose to make my friends from every pool of society. After speaking Spanish for a year, you are automatically drawn to English when you hear it being spoken. I guess if you look hard enough you will find the English, Australian and the USA environment here.
Boring! Live life to its fullest.
However, I do miss a good Mexican cooked meal here from time to time. But I do hear that Bogota has several. :-)
PS: this bilingual school only recruits out of country with interviews in Canada and USA. Sorry folks, I tried to get job openings for some of us. lol.
If you like San Francisco's climate, it seems Bogota, Medellin, and Manizales are good places to start your search (although the warm days in all easily outnumber the warm days in SF). I don't live in any of these cities, but others who do may be able to provide more specific information on neighborhoods. If they don't, you should search each city for neighborhoods with Estrato 5 or 6 ratings only (look here for an explanation of what that means: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estratificaci%C3%B3n_socioecon%C3%B3mica_en_Colombia). If you are looking for places with more active expat communities, I'd suggest you stick to Bogota and Medellin.
A lot of great point of views. I don't know a great deal about communities outside of my own city. But I live in a gated community (condos). Like Spank I have a son (but 18 months old) and feel very comfortable that everyone in our community knows him, drives by slow and we all watch out for each other, like a big dysfunctional family. If we did move I would prefer moving to another gated community just for the added piece of mind of not having people speed past my home or vagrants walking through. I feel it is much safer from agresive type crimes but there have been 2 brake ins in the past 3 years. Not too bad in my opinion.
T ypical Colombian school that doesn't want english teachers who know the colombian culture, AND speak good english! you HAVE to be able to speak Colombian Spanish to teach in a school here, that is their native language. The TEFL play-acting and charades does not work here.... The "Colombo" institute here, teaches the people to say "Eseven Estudents.....number TRee not THree.....what???? Geoff
Well,, I also spent a little time in the classroom with students under 13 yoa. I have to say most books and material I saw were from U K and the tone of the language and a lot of words, I have never have heard in the U S. You are very correct, they do not want to hear anything different, even thru a college setting,
Colombians find it difficult to make the TH sound and it is part of their accent to put an E in front of S words I guess. I find it very effective in order to help them brake the habit of putting E in front of words with S is by using a stun gun and shocking them when they make the mistake. After the 2nd or 3rd time they stop.
Hi. Ok, maybe we should just clarify something here. Both Spank and Masterita have experience with gated communities, and I gave my own opinion on them. But are we talking about the same thing?
As I have always understood it, a gated community is rather more isolationist, where people can live without even going out of the complex. Everything they could need for living, will usually be found on the site, and the residents can live without necessarily mixing with the natives, and keeping themselves very much unto themselves. I understand that in some countries, they are particularly attractive to older residents, much like "old people's homes", but in their own property, living alongside other elderly people. This type of lifestyle is the one where I am opposed to the concept, and personally wouldn't like to live in one, as it really does segregate you from the rest of society.
But there are also "Conjunto cerrados"", which are developments of maybe a few tower blocks, maybe a few blocks of houses, all surrounded by a nice fence to keep unwanted intruders out, and there is usually a security guy on the gate. This allows the residents to live in a safer way than if they were a simple tower block or house on the open street, but of course, they are not totally self sufficient or isolationist at all. You have to go to work, you have to do your shopping, the kids go to school in the normal manner, and all normal life is outside of the gates, which encourages you to mix with, and interact with the local population. But of course, by its nature, it is a lot safer for the kids to play outside, knowing that they won't be able to get out, or intruders able to get in. The danger of traffic too, is diminished, so the kids can ride their bikes etc, in safety.
If it is a "conjunto cerrado" that you mean, then I readily accept that this is quite an attractive proposition, and I myself am readily in favour of that type of residence. In fact, my own penthouse (when they get around to finish building the damn thing), is also in a Conjunto Cerrado, and I'm happy with that type of set-up.
Anyway, as to your last question, where do you find them? If it is Conjunto Cerrados, you'll find them literally everywhere. I use a couple of sites for property, both www.fincaraiz.com.co and also www.metrocuadrado.com.co and just by looking at the adverts you will see very many of them will state "conjunto cerrado", as it can be a good selling point. But you do pay an administration charge each month, which includes the security guy on the gate, people who keep the complex clean, even gardeners, maintenance men, and the garbage removed, etc.
As I live in Bogota, I can only talk with confidence about this city. So if you are looking at Bogota, then I must say, avoid anywhere in the south. The best areas are to the north, and from my own experience, areas like Mazuren and Cedritos are excellent in terms of safety, standards and quality of life and its residents, whilst still remaining reasonable pricewise. Don't go too far north though, or northwest, for the rapid pace of development continues, and what is now on the edge of the city will be swallowed up by development, and you'll find yourself in the middle of a concrete jungle in a few years. At least they can't build much more to the east of Mazuren or Cedritos, as the mountains prevent that, so you will always be near the edge of the city without having to commute for hours. (Commuting is crap). Both areas mentioned are very close to the Transmilenio, a rapid articulated bus service that has its own designated carriageways, so is fast, and cheap too, but gets somewhat crowded in rush hour. In just 14 years, my in-laws property, near calle 150, was actually on the northern edge of the city, but now, I think the streets go up to calle two hundred-ish, and still going up. Also, Suba, to the northwest was actually a separate town, and Chia too. Now the expansion has simply gone around them, and they have been swallowed in urban development. (Chia is still a separate town, but is suffering the same).Like I said, they can't build much more to the east, so you shouldn't get swallowed up in non-stop development.
But the two I mentioned are not the only areas of course, and I would say, if you look on a map, there is a strip between Carrera 7, and the Autopiste North. where all the way up, from about calle 80-ish (Rosales/Chico,etc - expensive) through to about calle 152 (quality, but a fair bit cheaper), you should find masses of property to look at, and most in conjunto cerrados.
To the easy of Carrera 7, you'll find a lot of poorer barrios, where the poorer locals have built up the sides of the mountains, but you will find poor areas literally everywhere, and one of the special things about Colombia, is how the very poor live right alongside the very rich, yet there is little problem with that. I know in the USA and in the UK too, there would be friction between communities, but Latin America has lived forever with the 2 extremes in harmony, and there is rarely a problem. In places like near Chico Park and Rosales, the very rich have also built up the sides of the mountains for the views, and some are actually next door neighbours with slum dwellers. Doesn't seem to worry them.
Anyway, have a look at those property websites, and it might give you a flavour of the kind of areas, property and prices.
I know Bogotá is a great city with a lot cultural events. It has several nice malls and shopping center. You need to live in the north part of the city like El Chico and similar areas. Bogotá is safer than many cities in US. Restaurants and night life are great, Christmas is incredible time with fantastic decorations and lights everywhere. Cali is hot and humid but nice and smaller than Bogotá.
ElingesLoco it is a conjunto I live in. Amongst other conjuntos. We all share a local shopping mall but is obviously open to the public as well. I don't know of any other expats in this area though.
Yes far safer but certainly not isolated. I would agree with you about a full gated community. I've seen them in Central America and can't seem to figure out the point of living in the them as most people I know in them get board after a year of two. Most, not all.
I have been advised by a colleague to check out Zona Norte, or Chico in Bogota. Any feedback from these 2 areas? I have contacted a real estate agent there and he said that I will either choose between a townhouse or an apartment. I might be visiting there in the next few weeks to see the city and possible housing.
Hi! I've been here in Antiguo Country for almost 18 months. Excellent location, lots of apartments for sale. Zona T, Andino Centro Comercial, Parque de Virrey, all close by. Lots of restaurants, Transmilienio has a stop here on 85. Excellent hospital, Clinica del Country, within walking distance, Carulla right down the street. Anything from here to the mountains (east) is worth looking at.
If you are seriously considering Medellin I will PM you the contact info for my friend. He knows the city areas very well and will help you negotiate a great rate for rent so your not paying the gringo price.
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