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Bucaramanga, Colombia

Moving to Colombia

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Nov 22, 2022

Summary: Moving to Colombia? Expats talk about what you need to know before moving to Colombia.

What do I need to know before moving to Colombia?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Colombia, they said:

"If you have never been here, come, rent for 6 mos - one year, learn the pace, then choose neighborhood, learn the ropes a bit," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Medellin.

"Rent first. Get to know the area you are moving to first. Bring only the money you need while here. The money is taxable in the US but not in Solombia if pension of Social Security. Colombia is a heaven," commented one expat who made the move to Cartago.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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How do I find a place to live in Colombia?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"Found on fincaraiz.com. Friend checked it out, said it was good, negotiated with owner, came down two weeks before move, checked it out, signed papers," explained one expat living in Medellin, Colombia.

"I visit the area many times and was in love with the Cerritos, Cartage and Quindio area. This area is safer than the USA," said another expat in Cartago.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Colombia?

"I have a US $70,000 home I found and fell in love with. This home in the Gig harbor area in WA will cost $600,000. Some expats buy homes in more expensive areas out of town for US $120,000 with swimming pools and entertainment areas," commented one expat who made the move to Cartago.

"Look for US designed and constructed condos - real estate values here are appreciating rapidily (similar to Panama 10-15 years ago) and dollar is falling so NOW is a good time to invest here (do not waste money on rent) US style housing is NOT common here - typical housing is more european (my 1st apartment) with smaller box rooms and closed in feeling, miss the US kitchen and bath design including appliances in typical housing here (my new condo is US design and is good), much construction here is NOT equal to US standards (no inspection process) and could require much money for repairs," remarked another expat in Medellin, Colombia.

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What is the average cost of housing in Colombia?

If you are thinking about moving to Colombia, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Lower. Comparative USD $3,000+. I pay USD $1,400 or lower depending on exchange rate, for 90 sq mt, live in Poblado, many apts are less expensive. I know people who live nicely on monthly Social Security, they stay out of high rent places a couple of blocks of Poblado Avenue, literally," explained one expat living in Medellin, Colombia.

"One dollar in the area will buy the equivalent of $9 dollars in the USA. I have a car if I want to drive, however at less than US$1 for a taxi ride in town, I prefer for them to pick me up. You can live in Colombia on US $2000 with a maid cleaning, cooking. I travel to the coast for six days for US $500. I live like a king," said another expat in Cartago.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Colombia

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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Should I buy or rent a home in Colombia?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Colombia, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"We knew we had come to stay for several years or more. So we rented an unfurnished apartment. Some friends referred us to locals and the process was very easy. We bought a few things new like mattresses, TV and recliners, but all the rest of the furniture was used and we got some bargains. We had to buy lots of accessories, and those cost more than we counted on, but we have them now and they aren't going anywhere. In 3+ years, we have had 5 different homes. We could not have had all our adventures if we had purchased a home," said another expat in Medellin.

"We built a beautiful country home. Again, the family helped throughout this process. From land purchase to completion of the house took a total of around 18 months," added another expat who made the move to Medellin.

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What should I pack when moving to Colombia?

We asked people living in Colombia to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Miss my friends, some of my regular TV programming and my boat. I should have left my old furniture, sell your stuff before moving to Colombia. They have nice stuff to buy at good prices," explained one expat living in Cartago, Colombia.

"3 Things to Bring: Any imported products and electronics (computer is a must) - prices higher. Unlocked cellular phone - buy chip here for $3 and no contract required, free incoming calls. VOIP phone modem such as Vonage - do not count on cheap Magic Jack or Skype (poor quality) to talk free to friends and family in USA. 3 Things to Leave: health insurance - $34/mon here, sell house - prices start $100k, anything for keeping warm or cooler - will not use as perfect climate 365 days / year," said another expat in Medellin.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Colombia?

We asked people in Colombia if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"Yes said to a man's wife "su esposa..esta caliente?" which is " Is your wife hot? (is she a "hot piece"?) They say "Su esposa tiene calor"? which is "Does your wife feel the heat?"," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Buga.

"When I was first learning Colombian Spanish I used the word cochina because as an American we use the word nasty like a slang word. For instance öh how nasty is that?"Here cochina is used only for the real reason and if used other ways it is considered an insult," commented one expat who made the move to La Buitrera de Palmira .

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Why do people move to Colombia?

When we asked people why foreigners move to Colombia, they responded:

"Medellin is knows as "The City of Eternal Spring", and the weather is the most agreeable of any place I have ever been. The country has had image problems in the past, and today the people welcome foreigners with open arms," remarked another expat in Medellin.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Colombia

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

How are healthcare services Colombia?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Colombia, they replied:

" Minor problems can be taken care of here, but really serious problems require a trip to a bigger City like Bogota which is 11 hours away by car.," added one expat living in Florencia.

"There is a vast difference between the lowest level of health insurance and the highest level. The difference is night and day. I have both a low level and high level. I pay $30/mth, SaludTotal low level, $250/mth AXAColpatria, high level. The lower level insurance is required by my high level insurance. With my AXAColpatria, the doctor will come to my house as a non-emergency first response," commented another expat living in Bucaramanga.

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"I had a sinus infection and rather than go through the insurance plan, I just went to a private physician and paid cash. The doctor visit (including a basic physical exam) plus an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection was less than 20 US dollars," added one expat living in Ibague.

"The public and private insurance are difficult to use because since the pandemic everybody wants to do their work online and they are dropping the ball," commented one expat who moved to Santa Marta.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

Bucaramanga, Colombia

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