I searched for info on Bucaramanga and didn't really find anything. So if I missed it and am beating a dead horse somewhere in this forum--I apologize. Here is my question: I am thinking of making a trip there early in 2018. Looking at google street view, which is from Aug 2017, Bucaramanga looks really nice. That is the extent of what I know. I might even try and stay a little while if I like it and offer some tutoring in English. So can anyone offer some firsthand information--what airport is most convenient--cost of living--etc.? Thanks in advance.
Hi. I lived in Bucaramanga from April 2016 until October 2017. I'm in Barranquilla now. I'll try to give you a good overview of what to expect, but I also want you to explore Bucaramanga and the surrounding areas. It is truly a gem of a place!
In terms of cost of living, it is one of the most affordable cities in Colombia. You could rent a fully-furnished apartaestudio in nearby Floridablanca for as little as 800.000 COP (that's about $275 USD) if you spend the time to look. I suspect you will be traveling alone, so this is a great option for you.
Floridablanca would be a great area for you to base yourself if you want to offer tutoring. A lot of the "old money" in Bucaramanga has left the city to start anew in Floridablanca. I can't tell you how many people from there sent me messages asking for tutoring. Aso, Universidad Santo Tomas is located there, and nearby are Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana and Ruiotoque, a new, upscale residential complex.
As far as foods, you are going to want to try obleas de Floridablanca. These are legendary, delicious wafers filled with arequipe, cheese, cream, and any fruit of your choice. You'll only spend about 5.000 COP for one. Less than $2 for a famous dessert! Also, you have to try the hormigas culonas. Don't be shy, the ants are tasty! But even if you don't like them, at least you tried.
As long as we're on food, lunch is the best value of the day. You'll only need to spend about 7.000 COP for the Menú del Día. With this you'll get pork/beef/chicken/fish, rice, salad, soup, and fresh fruit juice and maybe a little desert/candy at the end.
I'm going to assume (please advise if this is off) that you are a relatively young, single male. If so, I have to give you some nightlife information. While you definitely wouldn't need to leave Floridablanca to find a good party, Cabecera del Llano is still the central zone for this. I want to highlight two different places...one is called Dash - Calle 48 #38-12 and another is Discoteca Calison - Calle 33 #31-35.
Dash is a nice spot, there is an outdoor terrace upstairs where you can smoke with tables next to a bar with decent electronic music. It's a good vibe, great for chatting and letting loose with your new friends.
Discoteca Calison is primarily a salsa spot with pretty excellent music (from Cali) and a pretty full dance floor by around 11ish. You absolutely must go here if you have even the slightest interest in salsa. People will show you how to do a few moves if you're shy or an absolute beginner.
I must finally mention "cuadra picha." This is at Cra. 34 with Calle 48. There are some real smokeshows here on Friday and Saturday nights, and during Colombian football matches. If you forget the address just ask your friends and/or a cab driver. Everyone knows it.
Malls, malls, malls. If you like to wonder around malls, you'll be a bit surprised at the number and quality of the malls. Just in the last 10 years, 3 new malls have opened near the Floridablanca area: the newest and largest is Centro Comercial Cacique. It has 4 floors with anything you would want to buy. Also there are Caracoli and Florida not too far away. Both new with lots to see.
The only real airport nearby is Palonegro. You should be able to find cheap flights from Bogotá and Medellín. Get in a collective taxi to save money. They are safe and reliable.
While you search for an apartaestudio in Floridablanca, you could stay at the Holiday Inn Cacique or Sonesta on the upper end, but if you want budget options, just ask and I'll give you more information.
Lots of high-quality hospitals and clinics all over the place if you need them. I don't know what other information you might want or need. I'll check this thread frequently to see if you have any more questions.
PittsburghSound, thanks so much for the information. I must say, you make it sound like a great place to visit. I tend to go for places that are not so big, such as Medellin, Cali, and Bogota. I also like the better cost of living. My plan is to go and give it a trial run for a week or so--probably do an Air BnB--then decide if it's right for me for the long term. I am a single traveler as you guessed. By the time I get there, I will be 59--so not super young. I am taking an early retirement in Jan 2018, so I will have time to scope things out. Thanks again. I will give you a shout for any future questions. Just curious--and you don't have to answer if you don't want to--but why did you leave Bucaramanga for Barranquilla? I always imagined Barranquilla as being kind of a nasty place. Never been there. I only know Cali, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Pereira.
Barranquilla has some nasty parts--in the south toward Soledad. But I don't go there. If you arrive in Soledad via the bus station (you can get a direct, 24-hour trip to Cali from there), you'll slowly see Barranquilla's infrastructure and cleanliness improve the further north you go.
The northern part of Barranquilla reminds me of middle-class Miami at a fraction of the cost. Tons of new shops and restaurants, and a surprising amount of cultural activities/green spaces. The only thing is that it is hotter than Miami, and it's not even close. You've been to the Colombian coast, so I don't need to go into depth on the heat a whole lot.
Anyway, the reason I left Bucaramanga is two-fold, One, I'm probably the youngest full-time expat here at 28 years old. Unmarried, no kids. I spent a year and a half in Bucaramanga and wanted something new.
And two, now that I have decided to stay here in Colombia for the long haul, I thought it would be in my best interest to seek out a larger (though not too large) city to base myself. Barranquilla is the largest city on the coast, and it is growing at an impressive rate. Lots of new money coming here from all over the place. I've only been here for a few months, but I already see employment opportunities that aren't likely to be found in my quaint little Bucaramanga. I do miss it, and I plan to visit soon. I just think it's more of a permanent city for retired people such as yourself than a young guy in his prime looking to make a buck.
By the way, how did you like Pereira? I liked it a LOT when I visited there. If you did, too, then you'll also like Bucaramanga. It's a little bigger, but it's also much drier and more humid.
Pittsburgh...I have not visited Buca yet, but un amigo told me it is real HOT there...maybe 96 degrees sometimes...less humidity than on the coast...but hot. What high temps did you experience there ? Other than that...I have nice things about Buca. ' Been to the coastal area of Colombia= Que Calor. I still like Medellin a lot. Buena Suerte ! Tranquilo.
While you are in Bucaramanga, you must visit Chicamocha, just a few miles south of the city. Its the 2nd biggest canyon in the world, second only to the Grand Canyon. You can take a cable car down to the river below, and up the other side, which has a height of, I believe its a mile. The scenery is awesome, as is the cable car ride itself.
Also, to the south of Bucaramanga is the town of San Gil, beautiful place nestled in the mountainsides. Another very quaint town is Barichara, which retains the flavour of life and architecture of a hundred years ago, and the inhabitants of the small town come out in the evenings to the town square, and you can simply step back in time.
These places are well recommended, whether you are going to live there, or just tourists.
Again, thanks for the information on Bucaramanga. As for your question about Pereira---I liked it a lot and could see myself staying there (I hesitate to use the word "live") for a lengthy period. I enjoyed the information about Barranquilla also. I happen to like hot weather. I live in Texas--so I am no stranger. I might have to check out Barranquilla one day. Any place that produced Sofia Vergara can't be all bad. One thing that attracted my attention about Bucaramanga was it appears to have a lot of English language institutes. I am looking more at flexibility when it comes to teaching English. I will probably even donate my time for free, so I imagine I could do that anywhere. I am fortunate that I will retire with a gov pension, but low cost is a priority--It seems that Bucaramanga and Pereira both fit that bill. My length of stay at any one time will probably be no more than 2 months. I also plan to explore other countries. Thanks again--and let me know if you think of anything else.
I will second everything Mr P.S. has had to say about greater Bucaramanga..even if he did move away... Seriously, have been here over 7 years now and have not found a place I like better ,,and we've traveled alot. A cheaper stay might lead to Canaveral...across the autopista from Hotel Sonesta...there are three hostels there which I'm sure are less $ yet still a quality stay.
I plan on putting Buca on my list. I think I would like the hotter weather and less rain. Also, I like the fact that it is a little more off the beaten track. I will also give Medellin a look also. Thanks again Pittsburgh for the information. Can you recommend any places in Buca that might be interested in an English tutor?
- Universidad Industrial de Santander (famously known as UIS). UIS is a public university known all over the country as one of the premiere engineering universities, especially for Petroleum Engineering. Many UIS graduates go on to work for Ecopetrol. They also graduate a lot of people in healthcare and education. Lots of potential to tutor these students.
- Universidad Santo Tomás. This is a private university located in Floridablanca. I don't have as much information about it as UIS. It would definitely be another good option for tutoring. All the students want to improve their English.
You should definitely be able to fill up your time tutoring students fro UIS and Santo Tomás. Whatever you do, make sure you avoid the Centro Colombo Americano like the plague. In other cities, it would be a great option. But the director of the Bucaramanga branch is a sinking ship, to put it lightly. Avoid avoid avoid trust me. I only speak negatively of people and places that truly warrant it.
Pittsburgh, did you get the humidity figure for Medellin from the Rio Negro airport data? There's a big difference in the climate. The airport is at a much higher elevation than the city itself. I've been to both Medellin and Buca and saw little difference.
Hate to generalize but feel you people put way too much creedence in numbers. Hows the weather here.?..its great...come see for yourself. Dont get your panties all up in a twist if the relative humidity is this or that. As you get older...and I hope wiser, things become a lot simpler. Weather here is great. Medical care here is probably second to none in Colombia, people are more or less friendly, you probably wont get robbed if you walk at night. Theres as many universities here...per square mile as Boston...ahhhh, getting into the accursed numbers again...old habits.....Come on down....you'll really like it. For those of you who just need numbers.....its 4:30 pm, the temp is 77 degrees farenheight and the humidity is 74 percent.....another day in paradise...
I do miss the wonderfully cool nights in Bucaramanga as opposed to Barranquilla. I always thought the weather was good, but some people won't like the midday heat in Buca.
As far as safety... in a year and a half, I never got robbed nor did I even feel in danger of being robbed. I walked at all hours of the night alone. There were times this little voice in my head screamed at me... WHAT ARE YOU DOING, THIS ISN'T SAFE.
Just spent 5 days there. Probably go for another week.
Nice, modern city. (el centro a little dirty in comparison to clean cities in el Eje like Manizales and Armenia). Lots of money especially in Floridablanca. Lots of big shopping malls.Even more than in Medellin I would say.
Big draw back for me is the climate.Really hot. Kinda like Cali.
I went to Mesa de los Santos, rode the Teleferico both sides of the Cañon de Chicamocha, toured the historic sites of the city, took the teleferico up to Cerro del Santisimo wand went up in the big statue of Christ.
Lots to do and see in and around there. Dont know if I would live there because of the climate.
Pittsburgh Thanks for the great info. I just joined the board and thinking of moving to Colombia and was considering Bucaramanga..You seem to have a good handle on the city so I wanted to ask your opinion of 1.)best places to work in that area and your thoughts of the dating environment for a single gringo like yourself..albeit about 12 years older..lol...
What type of work are you looking for? Outside of teaching, there's not a whole lot there. I'll advise on where to work if you're looking for a teaching job.
Don't worry about dating. You'll have plenty of young girls interested in you. The thing to remember about dating in Colombia is you have to play up social circles. Make guy friends and have them introduce you to their pretty friends. You don't HAVE to do this, but it works well. Also, having friends isn't such a bad thing.
If you want me to get more specific, I certainly can.
My situation is similar to maximoto in that I am familiar with several cites in Colombia but not so much Bucaramanga, I am intending to visit this coming winter for a month or two, probably renting an apt on AirBnb and just seeing what life is like there. My long term goal is to have a small finca somewhere, not necessarily in Buca, or even Colombia, but I am searching for a tranquilo, agrarian lifestyle.
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