I visited Bogota for a month in 2009 and enjoyed. But now I want to visit another city. I am having trouble deciding between Medellin or Cali. Besides safety, having reliable wifi and using my laptop is very important. I can't stress that enough. I realize Medellin is more modern, but I'm considering Cali because there are less gringos there. Another important thing, is I want to be able to find some good quality food items, like organic and non GMO. I plan to use Air BnB for a room. Lastly, I want good transportation options. So I guess my question...is Cali sufficient enough to offer reliable wifi and healthy food options? I'm not really a party guy, but enjoy a nice dinner out. My Spanish is barely at intermediate level, but I'm practicing. Thanks for any feedback.
I´ve spent enough time in both these cities to form my own opinion, and in answer to your direct questions there is very little difference in them as far as internet speed, shopping options, transportation. Medellin probably is more ¨modern¨ and a little more ¨progressive¨ but both are still third world cities compared to similar size cities in the US.
As for Internet, I´m in a very small city a few hours from Cali and have 10mb and for the past three months have had not one moment of interrupted service.
Medellin of course has that super slick train and the cable cars which pretty much outshines the badly-in-need-of-repairs megabus system in Cali.
Medellin has about 3,000,000 people, of whom a few dozen are gringos. Cali has about 1,000,000 people of whom maybe a couple dozen are gringos. Quite frankly, in a couple weeks each in both these cities I didn´t see another gringo,. Although I have read accounts of huge numbers of them hanging out and trying to pick up Latina teeny boppers in the main park in Poblado in Medellin. I didn´t see anything like that while I was there, though.
The big difference in my opinion is the weather. Consider Medellin climate as being similar to Washington DC in early May whereas Cali is more like Atlanta in late August.
Organic and non-GMO is not really a thing here in Colombia as far as I can tell. I´ve not seen it advertised anywhere and nobody mentions it at all. When I ask they just look puzzled.
For most of my adult life I was an organic gardener in the US before retirement so take these comments in that context. For the most part, vegetables and fruits at a good farmers market in the US will far outshine the stuff available here. I have been terribly disappointed that a country like Colombia with this rich soil, abundant rain and abundant sunshine and with willing and inexpensive labor, produces such inferior fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables here are especially bad because they have not been bred up to produce sweet, good tasting fruits and vegetables.
Bananas are often woody and starchy, oranges are terrible, payapa is okay but not very sweet, strawberries aren´t worth buying because they are picked while still green, same with cantaloupe and watermelon.
Combine that with harvest and storage methods that are devilishly designed to bruise and damage produce. Everything is picked green, handled harshly and shoveled into unrefrigerated bins where it starts rotting immediately.
Things we take for granted in the US, like ripe grapes, fresh blueberries, sweet and juicy oranges and grapefruit, fresh asparagus, fresh basil, are simply not available here. Although one time I did find hydroponic basal at La Catorce, and last week I found asparagus at Price Smart.
Bagels and real Philadelphia cream cheese at Price Smart, too. and organic coconut oil.
There is a Price Smart in both Medellin and Cali, similar to Costco but not a huge selection, except for candy and chips, four whole aisles devoted to those.
There are plenty more similarities than differences, but for your direct questions, public transport is better in Medellin, wifi works in both towns, and on the long list of wonderful things in Colombia, food is seldom mentioned. Anyway, flights between the two cities are so cheap you'll spend more on taxis to and from the airports than you'll for the airline ticket. Visit both. And remember, the Colombian government says English speakers represent ~1.5% of the Colombian population. You can reasonably expect to go days -- or weeks -- without hearing spoken English anywhere in Colombia, outside Poblado/Lleras.
If you've ever been to Georgia in the summertime (Visitando's reference), you know it's practically unlivable it's so hot and humid. For this reason alone, most Gringos should avoid Cali in favor of Medellín if that's the choice. Though it can get to 90 F. on some summer days in the Paisa capital.
It would be a major mistake to rule out Medellín because it's supposedly overrun by Gringos. I buy the 1-point-5 percent Gringo statistic. If you live outside Poblado, you may almost never encounter Gringos unless visiting Poblado or a tourist hotel/landmark.
Our produce expert properly stated his bona fides, so we can appreciate his overstating the case against Colombia produce.
Pineapples are terrific as a rule. The bananas are fine at the places I buy them. Apples are fine. Pears: hit and miss. Melons and strawberries: mostly disappointing in my experience.
I make a fruit salad every day, so I watch the fruit situation closely.
An Expat recently posted that Carulla -- a popular chain with a number of supermarkets in Medellín -- is the Whole Foods of Medellín. When you visit, check out one of their locations.
Cali has a LOT more than 1 million people - Cali is the third largest city at 2.4 million people (2012), and Medellín is the second largest at 2.46 million (2015). Bogotá is of course the largest city in Colombia with approximately a gazillion people.
So Medellín and Cali are about the same in population size. Cali is hot but not really that bad unless you are physically laboring hard in the sun - something most expats will not be doing.
The Medellín metro has a population of over 3.7 million people and the Cali metro has about 3.4 million so Medellín is roughly 10% bigger.
In reply to @Vistando - Medellín has many more than a few dozen gringos. There are many hundreds of gringos living in the city full-time, probably even a few thousand. I have met well over 200 in my nearly 7 years living in Medellín and there are hundreds more I haven't meet. Plus there are thousands of tourists each month coming from North America and Europe filling all the hostels, hotels and furnished apartments in the city. There are well over 300 furnished apartments in Medellín primarily in El Poblado catering to gringo tourists.
There are also more than a couple dozen gringos in Cali - probably at least a hundred or more from North America and Europe.
I'd bet that the ration of gringos is much higher in Medellin versus Cali. Being a gringo in Cali is probably more of a novelty. However, Medellin sounds like a more user friendly city. The Cali heat would not bother me as I am used to hot climates. However, I would want an aircon in my apartment, and that may not be so easy to find. I guess reading all the details on Air BnB would be the best way to improve the chance of getting an aircon room.
okay, mr know it all, I admit, you´ve caught me with made up figures, which were, after all, merely tongue in cheek. That´s what happens when you offer an opinion, as mine was, it´s always proven wrong. Oh well.
So, since you are the self-appointed authority on Medellin and Cali, we shall use your figures.
In 7 years you've met 200 gringos. That´s 2.3 per month average. Most of them were probably visitors. Its not surprising then that in the 2 weeks I was there I didn´t see any.
In a population center of 3.7 million, your 200 gringos amounts to 0.000005 percent of the population. I rest my case.
In my opinion one should not base their relocation plans in Medellin or Cali on the number of gringos already there. This is not like Ecuador where there are 5,000 gringos in one small city of Cuenca, or San Jose, Costa Rica which has 35,000. Why just today I saw my first gringo this month, an exchange student visiting my neighbor´s son. My neighbor´s son was an exchange student in the US last year.
Incidentally, today I also talked with two Colombianos who have 10 year visas to the US. Both Colombianos told me how sad and disappointed they are that Trump is going to take away their visas. Wow, that´s so sad, that legitimate visa holders have been led to believe they will never be able to visit the US again.
What is even more sad, is that I, a US citizen, could not reassure them that´s not going to happen. I have to acknowledge that it is entirely possible they will lose their visas under the new policies being promulgated willy nilly by El Idioto and his band of right wing despicables.
I am not one for numbers but in the last two months I have only seen two Gringos and that was today when I went to Santa Fe mall in Poblado. I would very surprised if there were "thousands" living here full time. I would agree your chances of "spotting" a Gringo are better in Poblado and especially in Zona Rosa but most there are probably tourists.
I can tell you all the gyms I have gone to here I am an oddity. Also outside of Poblado and LA 70 the places I go to on the weekends I have not met any Gringos.
Visitando probably has it correct or close to it.
Anyway in my opinion basing a place to live on occasionally running into a Gringo is wayyyy down on the list. Comparing crime rates would be near the top. Also there are many places to live in Medellin where you are the only Gringo "on the block".
I think research on and time spent in both cities would be a good suggestion for you.
If you speak English first it's surprising how many Colombians speak it. so far i've found 4 men in my health club that speak English. My Spanish fluent speaking brother has an interesting approach whenever he visits. He starts with English "Hi, how are you today?" And if they say something like "hello" then he says "Oh, you speak English." and then you find out if that's the only word they know or not. Even found a lot of Uber and taxi drivers that speak English.
Visitando, maybe it's because I live in Quindio, but for me Colombia is a fruit lover's paradise. It's true that great watermelons and cantaloupes may be hard to find, but where in the USA can you get quality zapotes, mangosteenos (or mangosteens), cherimoyas, etc.
I do find it disconcerting that some supermarkets refrigerate their tomatoes, but some places in the USA you have to search to find quality tomatoes.
I must be living in a different Medellin than Visitando. The fruit is pretty, pretty, darn good. A guy pushing a cart loaded with sweet, fresh fruit walks under my window every morning. First thing every day I walk to the corner "puesto" and order up an orange juice squeezed fresh in front of my eyes. I tell him to pick the sweet yellow ones. Later I'll stop at La Jugosa for a fresh watermelon juice with crushed ice, no sugar added. Lovely. Then there's the guy pushing the pineapple cart. Extraordinary bright yellow ones whose sweetness I can smell from across the road. Way better than store bought. They sell them whole or by the slice for 1,500. occasionally I'll stop in at Salud Pan restaurant for a fresh squeezed carrot & celery "zumo" with a touch of ginger.
I agree, the food is good! Fortunately when I'm in Cali I get home-cooking from family and friends, and it is definitely a cut above. And almost every restaurant I've been to is good, too. There's plenty of good fruits and vegetables, even at La 14 which rivals any US supermarket I've seen at least in basic foodstuffs. The different varieties and fresh vegetable section in our closest La 14 is bigger than what I have available to me in the US. Plus you get exotic (to US tastes) fresh fruits in the markets and streets. All the tilapia and trout I've eaten has been excellent, and for meat I can always go to Restaurante Sabor Llanero for great llanero-style beef, some of the best meat I've had anywhere.
OK, they don't have much cheese. And I'm still searching for really good sausage, the Antioqueño style sausage can be pretty good, but it's still not up to US standards and certainly not to German standards!
My comments regarding the food in Colombia were in direct response to the original poster´s question about Organic and non-gmo. When I lived stateside I had large gardens of organic vegetables and fruits and nearby farmers markets and Whole Foods stores with a veritable paradise of delicious fruits and vegetables and meats and poultry. I´ve made my comments in this thread from that perspective. I agree that sometimes you get lucky and find good food here in Colombia. When I visited Popayan in the south I had some of the best watermelon I´ve ever eaten. But, for the most part, the food here is disappointing compared to what I feel it could be if they had good seeds and good growing methods and proper harvest times and better handling and transportation so the fruits and vegetables don't get beat up so badly. I will admit, mangos here are better than the ones I was buying in the US.
Someone asked clarification on what I meant by "wifi". I'm not just referring to public hotspots. And I'm not referring to the low quality wifi that is only needed for sending messages on FB or Whatsapp. I'm talking about good wifi where you check-in to an Air BnB room that is listed as having wifi and you can actually work on a laptop, and browse the web on a modern browser like chrome with fair page load speed, steady connection, etc. Any more feedback on this?
RE; masc.-fem. This is strictly by rote memory; neither rhyme nor reason exists. I recall years ago visiting the US Embassy in Mexico City -- in the days before you need an assault force to get in -- because of a stolen passport. There was a Mexican national waiting in front of me, and the consular officer's first words to him were "Cual es la problema?"
Yeah, I agree, the cheese here sucks, and for the most part the sausage is only moderately successful.
However, in Price Smart you can buy actual american cheeses like Monteray Jack and Sharp Cheddar and real mozzarella and real Feta and Greek Yogurt. And don´t forget the real Philadelphia cream cheese which is my favorite topping on fresh bagels. And they have a decent selection of sausage, and even real bacon instead of tocineta which is the Colombian excuse for bacon. Again, only my opinion, I admit I´m a bit of a food snob, but the Colombian food is not one of the reasons I chose to live in Colombia.
The real shame of it in my opinion is that with this rich soil and warm to cool temperatures, abundant sunshine and rain, and lower cost willing and trainable labor force, Colombia could one day be bigger food producer for the US and Europe than California is now. Its a pity the Colombian government doesn´t get wise to that possibility.
The clarification is necessary. The answers you will get here, is what the members here have in their house. They may have the highest tier of service. I think every ISP that I know in the US sells their services in tiers, it should be the same in Colombia. Different providers may also differ in their bandwidth offerings.
It looks to me you will be at the mercy of your host (hotel, hostels, airbnb, etc...)
You should definitely inquiry on the internet access before finalize the booking.
My two cents, I will let the local guys comment on this.
In reply to @visitando. Those over 200 expats I mentioned are only the ones I have met that actually live in Medellín in the nearly 7 years I have lived in the city.
One of the managers at Migracion Colombia told me there are over 2,000 from North America and Europe with visas in Medellín. I think Migracion Colombia would be the best source of how many expats are living in Medellín.
But that still is a tiny percentage of the total population of the city. If you include a couple thousand tourists, it's still likely less than 5,000 gringos in the city at any time. If they were all in El Poblado that has a population of about 125,000 it would only be 4% of the population of El Poblado. El Pobaldo is where you are most likely to run into gringos in the city as that's where the tourists primarily stay. But about 75% of the expats living in Medellín live outside of El Pobaldo. Outside of El Poblado it is rare to see gringos. In 4 years time I lived in Belén I only heard English 5 times. In 2 years living in Sabaneta I have heard English only 4 times.
Bottom line there aren't that many expats living in Medellín. But it's much more than a few dozen gringos.
Expats talk about some of the biggest challenges they've faced living in Latin America. Whether you're moving to Panama City or Punta del Este, this article is a must read to help you prepare (hint: you'll be much happier if you learn the language) and adjust your expectations (realities: the roads are rough, the pace of life is slower and bureaucracy is unavoidable). Despite all of the challenges, the list of what expats like about life in Latin America far exceeds the challenges.
Expats talk about some of the biggest challenges they've faced living in Latin America. Whether you're moving to Panama City or Punta del Este, this article is a must read to help you prepare (hint:...
An American woman talks about moving to Cali, Colombia to retire with her Colombian husband. She describes how the low cost of living in Colombia has given her a new lease on life. They are traveling throughout Colombia, living in a beautiful new penthouse apartment and enjoying retirement in Colombia.
An American woman talks about moving to Cali, Colombia to retire with her Colombian husband. She describes how the low cost of living in Colombia has given her a new lease on life. They are traveling ...
An expat in Cartago, Colombia has found a little bit of heaven living in Colombia. He appreciates the much lower cost of living and admits he lives like a king in Colombia for $2,000 a month. He advises others moving to Colombia to bring only the necessities and buy furniture there.
An expat in Cartago, Colombia has found a little bit of heaven living in Colombia. He appreciates the much lower cost of living and admits he lives like a king in Colombia for $2,000 a month. He adv...