The Ultimate Expat Guide To Living In Colombia- Costs, Visas, Safety, Pros & Cons [2022]

01/04/2024

MINUTE READING TIME

Why Consider Living In Colombia?

QUICK SUMMARY- EXPAT LIFE IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • Cost to live in the Philippines for a single person = ~$1000 - $1500 per month <jump to budget details>.
  • Affordable tropical island lifestyle on the best beaches in the world. 
  • Most expats can obtain long-term visas cheaply and easily. 
  • Lots of friendly English-speaking locals to make friends with. 
  • Manila can feel crowded with intolerable traffic and pollution. 

On the one hand, just hearing the country’s name sparks violent images of cocaine and drug wars. On the other hand, you are reading positive story after positive story in the news about Colombia’s resurgence as the new “It” expat spot: a safe, chic, low cost, and beautiful country to visit, move, and retire to. Confused about which side to believe? Don’t be. I loved the culture and atmosphere of living in Colombia, and you can live well: maid service, a vibrant social life, frequent dinners out, fitness gyms- all for less than $1000 a month.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

5 Quick Tips To Prepare For A Move To Colombia

TIP 1. Understand Colombia's visa policy- A decade of experience living abroad taught me that a country's resident visa and permit situation can make or break a plan to move overseas. Chat with a Colombian visa attorney.

TIP 2. Learn about Colombia's health care system- You can relax knowing that the country has one of the Top Healthcare Programs in the world. Expats moving to Colombia long-term should purchasInternational health insurance to access the best hospitals and care.

TIP 3. Save on Moving CostsInternational moves can get expensive. Save hundreds of dollars by getting accredited moving companies to compete for your business. Fill out a quick form, sit back and let our moving partners get you five free quotes from trusted and reliable international moving companies. Save time and money.

TIP 4. Set up a Traveling Mailbox- Change all your critical mailing addresses to a traveling mailbox. Don't lose an important tax return, bank statement, credit card, or government document in the mail. Sign up for a virtual mailbox, and you can keep a permanent US mailing address and check your mail via your phone or PC.

TIP 5. Pick up some Spanish Skills- The most common difficulty experienced by expats in Colombia is English being less common than expected. Only 4% of the country speaks English. You can get a free 7-day Spanish language crash course to make your move to Colombia easier.

Other Guides On Expat Life In Colombia

Colombia Identification Card: How Expats Get A Cedula De Extranjería
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa Requirements: How to Apply, Work Remote, And Live Cheap
How To Rent Apartments In Medellin Without Getting Scammed
How To Get Health Insurance In Colombia As A Foreigner
Expat Guide To Medellin Nightlife: Best Clubs, Party Areas, Bars, and Dancing
The Best Medellin Salsa Clubs [2023]
The Complete Expat Guide On How To Buy A Car in Colombia
How To Apply For A Colombia Tourist Visa [2023]
The Top 26 Reasons Why You Must Visit Colombia [2023]

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Safety, I’ll address this first, as it is the first question friends and family ask when I mention living in Colombia. It has been over 25 years since the days of Pablo Escobar (he died in 1993). Narcos, the Netflix show, in real life, this is not.

Colombia has enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace. When moving here, this means you’ll find yourself amid the country’s renaissance. So, set aside any stereotypes because the Colombia of old is long gone. Now the beautiful scenery of Colombia’s Caribbean coastlines, Amazonian jungles, and Andean mountains are safely and easily accessible for FIRE Nomads, Location Independent Freelancers, and Early Retirement Expats. For those looking for the amenities and nightlife of a city, Colombia’s cosmopolitan cities are statistically safer than many major cities in the US.

While still off the beaten path for most world travelers, the torrent of accolades for Colombia won’t let it stay a “hidden gem” for long. Forbes included Colombia in its list of “Coolest Places to Visit.“ CNN awarded Medellin as “One of the Five Best Cities to Retire.” While the New York Times named Colombia as the number two country to visit in 2018. Even better, Colombia’s beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan cities have the best value for cost of living you’ll find in South America. Those looking to retire and live long term in Colombia will be happy to know that the low prices even apply to the modern well-equipped hospitals and one of the Top Healthcare Programs in the World. 

In this Ultimate Guide to Living in Colombia, Nomadic FIRE gives you the insider’s view of what life is actually like living in Colombia:

  • Get realistic examples of the Cost of Living in Colombia and the kind of lifestyle that the monthly budget buys you.
  • Discover the best cities for expats to live in Colombia
  • Learn the multiple ways that you can legally retire and immigrate to the Colombia
  • Learn the Pros and Cost of expat life in the Colombia

Who is this guide meant for?

The power of Nomadic FIRE is combining Financial Knowledge with Minimalist Principles and leveraging Geographic Arbitrage to reach Financial Freedom in 10 years or less.

I have designed this series of Ultimate Overseas Living Guides for 3 types of people: 

  1. 1
    Digital Nomads working remotely and looking to jump-start their path to Financial Independence.
  2. 2
    Expats looking to live abroad and leverage Geoarbitrage.
  3. 3
    Retirees and looking to Reinvent their Retirement and upgrade their Quality of Life.

Expat Guide To Living In Colombia Overview:

  1. 1
    THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN COLOMBIA- Get the highlights of can't miss places to visit. From the best beaches to the best nightlife to must-see nature sites, we give you the highlights of the best things to see and do in Colombia.
  2. 2
    EXPAT SCORES- Get an objective scorecard to compare what life is like living in Colombia. See the country's ranking and grades for things that matter to people moving to Colombia: English Scores, Quality of Life, Cost of Living, and Healthcare rankings.
  3. 3
    PEOPLE AND CULTURE- Help lessen the culture shock moving to another country can bring. Learn about the culture and people of Colombia. Get local insight on cultural quirks that can surprise people moving to Colombia.
  4. 4
    FOOD AND DRINKS- The best part about traveling is trying new specialty foods. Get an introduction to some of the best savory eats and sweet treats to taste in Colombia. As a bonus, we provide our favorite money savings hacks from locals and expats.
  5. 5
    COST OF LIVING- Do you want a realistic guide of cost of living in Colombia? I provide examples of an economy budget for those looking to leanFIRE in Colombia for less than $1000 per month. If you are looking for a more extravagant lifestyle, I show a detailed breakdown of a luxury life under $2000 per month.
  6. 6
    HOUSING AND REAL ESTATE- Want to rent an apartment? Interested in co-Living options? How about investing in a home? With so many different options to chose from, I give you an essential guide of things to consider, where to find, and what to avoid when looking for housing in Colombia.
  7. 7
    VISAS AND RESIDENCY- Are you looking to stay in Colombia for longer than 90 days? I give you a breakdown of all the legal ways to remain in Colombia long term. *HINT* It's a lot easier than you think.
  8. 8
    TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION- Admittedly, Colombian transportation infrastructure is not up to European standards, but there are some easy (and extremely cheap) ways to get around the country. I breakdown the best transportation modes and provide money-saving tips that only locals know about.
  9. 9
    HEALTHCARE AND INSURANCE- If you are from the US, you will find Colombian healthcare a refreshingly affordable change. Get information on the cost and quality of care available to you while living in Colombia.
  10. 10
    SAFETY- Usually, the first question on everyone's mind when talking about moving to Colombia deals with safety. I get it. I understand. With Colombia's history, it makes sense to be concerned. Get local information on what safety is really like in Colombia.
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Living In Colombia- Expat Life

young couple living in the Philippines enjoying the view of Makati


What are the living conditions in Colombia like?

Quality of Life

Light years removed from the violence of the Pablo Escobar days, Colombia is now a safe tourist destination. However, diligence is required. Pre-plan activities to avoid rush hour traffic in the major cities and avoid suspect areas alone after dark.

Do they speak English in Colombia?

English Score

English is not commonly spoken. Only 4% of the country speaks English, which includes 63,600 US and British expats living in Colombia. Even in cities, it is advised to learn a few words of Spanish beyond “Hola.”

What Language Do They Speak in Colombia

Oddly, this is a commonly Googled question, so I will address it. The primary language in Colombia is Spanish. As previously mentioned, English is still limited here, so learning Spanish is essential for someone retiring here to integrate and live in Colombia long term

 INSIDER TIP : Colombian Spanish-  It is widely said that Colombia has the most neutral and pleasant to hear Spanish accents in South America. If you are learning Spanish, this is a great country to learn.

US State Department rates Tagalog as an "Easy" Language (Category I) with language structure most similar to English. Spanish requires roughly 24-30 weeks and 600-750 class hours to reach 3/3+ (Professional Working Proficiency) or C1 on the CEFR scale.

Here is the "Secret" method that the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military uses to learn new languages quickly and effectively- The Pimsleur Method

Avoid hours doing mindless repetitive vocabulary. Pimsleur focuses on quick, easy-to-digest organic learning to get you conversational as fast as possible.

Is Colombia Safe To Live In?

I addressed this in the very first part of the article because I know it is one of the first things on anyone’s mind when you think about Colombia. The short answer is as I stated earlier is- “YES.”

The longer answer is, “It Depends.” I know most expats and people visiting Colombia will think me hedging a little is me just feeding into the Colombian stereotype. But the reality is I feel that I must be fair and unbiased in my assessment.

My girlfriend and I moved to Colombia without hesitation, and we happily will do it again. But I wouldn’t necessarily try hard to persuade my mother to visit here by herself. There are some elements where you must be cautious. This caution is true in most major cities in the US, as well. There are neighborhoods that you would like to avoid at night.

The reality is if you keep your wits about you, don’t put yourself in dangerous situations (i.e., buying drugs or hookers), and stay in the expat or tourist areas, you will be fine.

The days of drug shootouts and kidnappings are in the past, but petty crime is still common (like every major city around the world). Pickpockets and muggings still occur, particularly late at night, when criminals know people are drunk and less likely to be alert. I always recommend taking a taxi or Uber home after a night out, rather than risk walking home in the dark.

 INSIDER TIP : No Dar Papaya- Don’t Give Papaya- This is a Colombia saying that essentially means don’t be stupid with “sweet” things: Don’t flash your expensive watch or jewelry. Don’t carry large sums of cash. Don’t leave your cell phone or handbag on the table. Simply put, don’t make yourself a target.

Learn More About Expat Safety In The Philippines

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EXPAT INSIGHTS

Firsthand experience from foreigners living in Colombia

Where is the nicest place to live in the Philippines?

I am a 67-year-old American expat in Davao City and find it a fine place to live. Because it's a major city, shopping and access to medical care are excellent.

I lived in Indianapolis in the USA and find Davao to be safer. I carried a .45 caliber pistol in Indiana. As a foreigner, I cannot own a gun in the Philippines. I don't miss it.

Please do not expect to come here and find a job. If you are a writer or a freelancer, you can make some money. I live on my retirement income.

People are friendly, taxi drivers are honest, internet connections are not as good as the USA.

DanielAmerican Living In The Philippines Since 2015

What's It Like Living In The Philippines?

"VERY polite people...People are MORE than willing to show me around if I have any questions or am lost. Its totally different than the US. I am originally from NJ, so people are kind of pricks there.

It is a totally different feel... with the people here, I have yet to bump into anyone who has been mean or rude to me. People on the street are very nice and are happy to talk to you in English even though their native language is Tagalog (which I only know a few words of). 

People chat with me at the bars or restaurants, and are overall very nice. Also, everyone is very trusting here it appears. I was worried before I came here since I hear people may try and rob you, but it doesn't seem that way at all."  

-Foreigner Living In The Philippines

More Details On Expats Moving To COLOMBIA

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Living In Colombia- Visas and Residency Permits

family of expats living in the Philippines

Can foreigners live in the Philippines? Yes. Most countries can enter on a tourist visa for 30-days and extend the visa for up to 3-years.

Do I Need A Tourist Visa?

For most strong passport holders (Americans, Canadians, and Europeans), no visa is required to visit Colombia for 90 days or less. You can extend a Tourist visa for a total of 180 days. You can extend the visa while in the country and do not need a visa run. However, Colombia only allows 180 days in a year without a visa. After that, you will need to leave the country or apply for a Migrant Visa (M). To guide you, I have written an entire post detailing the requirements for a long term visa for Colombia.

Permanent Residency Visa for Expat Retirees

Does Colombia Have A Retirement Visa?

M VISA- RETIREMENT (PENSIONER) for people with Government Pensions/Social Security, $774 USD per month using current exchange rates.

M VISA- FOREIGN INVESTMENT INCOME (ANNUITY VISA) for people who generate income outside of a government pension/social security (rental property, retirement funds, etc.). $2,579 USD per month

M VISA - REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT the visa investment can be a residence or a rental property. As of 2019, your investment would be $90,262 USD.

Does Colombia Have A Digital Nomad Visa?

There is technically a “Freelancer” visa whose official title is SPECIAL TEMPORARY VISA FOR THE PRACTICE OF INDEPENDENT WORK OR ACTIVITIES. I have heard only frustration from people applying for this visa. The current rules are difficult to follow, and processing times are uncertain. Your best bet would be to contact a visa company for the latest information.

Does Colombia Have A Path To Citizenship?

R VISA - REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT
A 5-Year Permanent Resident Visa. The main differences between the M vs. R Real Estate Visas are the amounts required to invest ($90,000 vs $168,000) and the duration of the visas (3 vs 5 years). After five years on the R Visa, you can apply for Colombian citizenship.

Can I Use A Student Visa To Live In Colombia?

There are two versions of a Student Visa (M) meant for people going to a degree program (M) or (V) for people non-degree programs like Spanish Language classes. You will be applying for the Visitor Visa (V). You will be required to attend 10 hours of Spanish language classes at a government recognized university (check with your school to ensure they are qualified) each week to keep the visa valid.

Living In Colombia- Living Costs

Monthly budgets vary depending significantly based on location. Manila is the most expensive city for expats to live in the Philippines.

What is the Cost of Living in Colombia?

Most expats can live very comfortably between $900 to $2000 per month for ALL living expenses. Daily living costs here are some of the lowest I have experienced in my travels. You can find a luxury penthouse with steam room, sauna, swimming pool, fitness center, maid service and a doorman for $700 per month, utilities and furnishing included. Even the high end of my expenses in a fantastic city like Medellin was only ~$1800 per month. 

You can view the specific detail on these budgets, including housing pictures and restaurant examples in our Ultimate Guide to Medellin.

Bogota, ranked 170th out of 210 cities in the world, is the most expensive city to retire to in Colombia. 

How expensive is Colombia in comparison to other countries?

Living Expenses

 1-Person

Total Monthly Budget

$1,160

$1,500

$1,380

$1,420

$3,670

Average salary for a live-in housekeeper in ranges $82 per month in the Manila metro to $50 in the rural countryside.

Cost of Living in Colombia vs. United States

Moving to Colombia could reduce your living expenses by 70% when compared to a medium-cost city (Portland, OR) in the United States. Many US retirees can afford a high standard of living spending only their social security income.  

Monthly Budgets For Major Cities In COLOMBIA

Detailed cost of living in Cartagena = $1500

Estimated cost of living in Bogota = $1,200

Estimated cost of living in Cali= $1,100

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Average Salary and Minimum Salary In Colombia

Average Salary in Medellin (monthly net tax) = $443

Median Monthly Salary In Medellin xxx

  • FINANCE MANAGER- $1,739
  • IT MANAGER- $1,790
  • SOFTWARE ENGINEER- $1,349
  • MEDELLIN AVERAGE EXPAT COST OF LIVING- $950

Salary Data For Medellin xxx Image Source

The average salary is an excellent benchmark to understand the "real" cost of living in the Philippines. Wages in Manila, the country's financial hub, are higher than anywhere else in the country. Expatriates who earn more than average local salaries in Manila can reasonably afford a middle-class lifestyle in any smaller or less expensive cities in the Philippines. To compare how much further your money goes outside of Manila, the average income outside the capital is 70% less ($301 per month). XXX

INCOME GROUPMONTHLY INCOMENUMBER OF PEOPLE (,000s)% of Wealth
Rich$4636+360.03%
Upper Class$2790 to $46361,0001%
Upper-Middle Class$1621 to $27903,0003%
Middle-Middle Class$927 to $162111,20010%
Lower-Middle Class$463 to $92731,00029%
Low Incomeless than $46358,40056%
Expats earning over $2,790 are in the Top 1.3% of the country.

What is the minimum salary in Colombia?

The Philippines has a tiered wage system separated by Farm vs. Non-Farm labor and by region. To keep things simple, I'm using the Non-Farm minimum wage for Manila. The Department of Labor and Employment set the minimum wage to 16,110 PHP per month, equal to ~$318 USD per month.

Living in Colombia- Cities and Sites

Get the highlights of the best things to see and best cities to live in.

What are the best cities to live in Colombia as an expat?

Medellin, Bogota, Cartagena are just a few of the diverse and amazing locations to visit in Colombia. Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world. You can choose to live in the warm, tropical Caribbean coastal cities, in the fresh mountain cities of the Andes, near the lush coffee plantations of the interior, or visit the lesser-known wild nature available on the Pacific coast. Colombia makes it easy to visit the country and provides several alternatives for FIRE Nomads to Retire Early and legally stay long term for a monthly cost 70% less than the US.

Medellin- My pick for one of the best places to retire overseas

When most people think Medellin, they can’t help but link Pablo Escobar, the Narcos HBO show, violence, and cocaine, but this beautiful city is far removed from that dark past. Medellín, once known as one of the world’s most dangerous cities, was named the most innovative city in the world by the Wall Street Journal.

Despite being smaller than the Capital city of Bogota, Medellin has better infrastructure. In the two main expat hubs of El Poblado and Laureles, the streets are clean and easily walkable. A European-level metro system connects the city.

Now a growing number of retirees, tourists, and entrepreneurs are flocking to the city known as the “Eternal Spring” for the best weather anywhere and an electric cosmopolitan lifestyle. The energy and vibe of Medellin’s streets are palatable. While living there, I often enjoyed impromptu street concerts, savored a growing gastronomy scene, and marveled at the giant street art murals.

AVERAGE LIVING EXPENSES For MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA

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Cali- The salsa capital of the world

While Cali is the 3rd largest city in Colombia, it is still a hidden gem to tourists, retirees, and expats. Cali hasn’t received the fame and positive press Medellin has, but locals from all around Colombia flock to the city for its renown nightlife.

If Medellin is known as the City of Eternal Spring, Cali has been dubbed the City of Eternal Summer, with a climate that hovers around 80°F. But Cali is better known as the Salsa Capital. If you have ever wanted to learn to salsa, this is the place to learn. It even has its own style of salsa, Salsa Caleña or Cali-style. In Cali, which has the most salsa schools and salsa teams in the world, learning how to dance salsa maybe be a better skill to learn than speaking Spanish.

Cartagena- A Caribbean postcard come to life

If you need to get away from the streets teeming with cars and crowds of people, come relax in the gorgeous Caribbean beachside city of Cartagena. Wander the sun-kissed buildings and miles of colorful streets featuring preserved, centuries-old architecture or stroll the pristine golden beaches on the islands just off the coast. Enjoy a sunny day walking around the cobblestone streets of Ciudad Amurallada or walled city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The carnival colors of the Old World buildings and colonial architecture make everywhere you look an Instagram-worthy picture. Cartagena is a travel photographer’s dream.

The vibrant Caribbean culture of the city is unique in Colombia. While I found the prices here more expensive than other cities on this list, it was much cheaper than many other Caribbean destinations in other countries. While the summers are undeniably hot and sticky, Cartagena is safely beyond the volatile hurricane zones of the Caribbean.

AVERAGE LIVING EXPENSES For CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

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Santa Marta- A Jumping Off Point to Nature

Cartagena, just 200 miles up the coast from Santa Marta gets the fame for the city’s beauty. With reputation comes the tourists, who flock to Cartagena in droves on giant cruise ships. By comparison, Santa Marta is more known as a local Colombian vacation destination. About half the size of the more well-known neighbor, Santa Marta has lower temperatures, less sticky humidity, lower cost of living, and more stunning natural beauty.

The area surrounding Santa Marta is rich in beautiful white sand beaches, National parks, affordable scuba diving, and historical jungle hikes. In Taganga, you can learn to scuba dive at one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified (~$200 with accommodation included vs. $400+ in the US). Both Minca and Tayrona (see Top Things To Do in Colombia above) are day trips out of Santa Marta as well.

Santa Marta is also the jump-off point for the “Lost City Hike.” A breathtaking four-day challenge through dense jungle terrain, river crossings, and waterfalls in search of a long-lost pre-Inca archaeological site older than Peru’s Machu Picchu. While I did not get a chance to trek Ciudad Perdida myself, it is on my shortlist of things to do on my return trip to Colombia. 

Bogota- The Bustling Colombian Capital

Bogota- this mountain metropolis is capital to Colombia and home to over 7 million. If you like big cities, Latin culture, salsa music, bustling nightlife, and a wee bit of chaos – then Bogota could be your Colombian home. Are you looking for chic and sophisticated? Zona Rosa and Chapinero neighborhoods have plenty of trendy shopping and haute-dining options.

La Candelaria, the city’s cultural epicenter, is an eclectic juxtaposition between old and new, historic and modern. This historic neighborhood’s cobble stoned streets lead you through the numerous museums, art galleries, elaborate churches, and historic plazas. Bogota has it all: history, culture, music, food, dance, and art.

READ MORE ON THE BEST PLACES TO LIVE IN THE PHILIPPINES

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What are the Top 4 Things to See and Do in Colombia

Sleep on the Beach at Tayrona National Park

Hear the waves crashing next to you, while the ocean breeze gently rustles the palm leaves above your head until you drift to sleep under the starry night. Prepare yourself for spectacular sunrise casting a warm orange glow along golden sand beaches lined with coconut trees and rainforest. 

Spend the day Hiking around Minca

Escape the Caribbean heat and visit this hippie bohemian town at foothills of the Sierra de Santa Marta Mountains. Breath the fresh mountain air while trekking to see organic coffee plantation, cascading waterfalls, mountain views, and colorful toucans. Stop at a local artisanal farm to see how raw cacao is made into delicious chocolate milk or rest on the world's biggest hammock overlooking the lush green forest below.

Party at Andres Carne De Res in Chia

I overheard the perfect description of this out of the ordinary party spot as "A Cheesecake Factory had kinky sex with an Ibiza nightclub, but also happens to have great Colombian food.” Another description is “Alice-in-Wonderland gets drunk at Mardi Gras.” Regardless of the name, you don’t want to miss Colombia’s wildest night club.

Enjoy the Caribbean vibes of Cartagena

This historical colonial city on the Caribbean coast is known for its fort protecting the walled old town, delicious food, colorful colonial-era buildings, colorful sunsets, and even more colorful people. Visit the hipster scene in Getsemani to chill at the Plaza Trinidad. Every night, flashy musical artists and street performers embodied by the unique laid-back Caribbean vibe, entertain locals and travelers at the city square.

Other Things to See and Do in Colombia

Tour Comuna 13 in Medellin

Witness firsthand the revitalization of Colombia. Learn the real history of what used to the most dangerous neighborhood in the world. Comuna 13 has transformed into imaginative street art, warm, welcoming people, and the best views of the Medellin skyline

Find the Lost City

The Lost City (Spanish: Ciudad Perdida) Trek is a 4-day guide adventure hike showcasing the stunning biodiversity of the Colombian rainforest. The ruins themselves are no slouch. The ancient city dates back to the early 14th century and pre-dates the more famous Peruvian Machu Pichu ruins. 

Visit Guatapé

Guatape’s adorable rainbow-painted buildings and colorful hued streets are Instagram-chic, but the star of this quaint town is the view from the top of El Penol. This monolithic rock is the 3rd largest in the world. Conquer the 740 steps to the top of this 66 million ton goliath for a breathtaking view of the green scenery. For less than a $5 bus ride (1.5 to 2 hours from Medellin), Guatape is a well worthwhile visit. 

Relax on Providencia and San Andrés Islands

This island archipelago offers untouched beaches, unspoiled coral reefs, and world-class diving and snorkeling. Enjoy the turquoise crystal clear Caribbean island waters, without the Cayman Islands/Turks and Caicos prices. Sit at a white sand beach bar sipping rum cocktails and enjoy a fresh-caught fish platter the size of your torso for $8. 

Camp in the Salento Coffee Triangle

View the stunning backdrop of hills and valleys that surge skyward in region where the world’s best coffee is born. While best known for coffee plantation and culture tours (This area is both UNESCO listed and the 2nd largest exporter of coffee in the world behind only Brazil), this area’s unspoiled natural beauty is an experience that should not be skipped. National parks filled with camping, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and hot springs are here to burn off your caffeine high. 

Utilize Free Walking Tours

Living In Colombia- Healthcare

picture of a woman living in the Philippines as a foreigner


Health Care

Colombia’s health care system ranks as the best in all of the Americas. The World Health Organization lists Colombia higher than the U.S. or Canada and at far more affordable prices. All others, including the fan favorite, Medellin, are even cheaper.

What is the Quality of Healthcare and Health Insurance in Colombia?

While getting sick in the US brings about an anxiety-inducing attack on our retirement savings, Colombia’s health care is known for being Low Cost, high quality, and accessible to everyone. Even as an expat , once you establish residency, the public healthcare system, EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud), becomes available. You can be accepted into the plan, even if you have pre-existing conditions. For as low as $95 per month (or 12.5% of your gross monthly income), you can get access to the top healthcare systems in either North or South America.

The healthcare system in Colombia is BETTER than the United States

We are talking about state-of-the-art hospitals, internationally trained doctors, quality of care, and medical standards just as rigorous as those in the United States. Accessible for every resident and at a cost SIGNIFICANTLY lower than the US. So if you’re worried about the state of health care in the US or the cost of medical insurance if you Retire Early, Colombia is the answer. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia 22nd in the world (out of 191 countries) for healthcare quality. That surpasses Canada, which ranks number 30. The US? Yeah, they drop several spots further down to number 37. 

Best Hospitals in Latin America

Over 40% of the top hospitals in Latin America are in Colombia (24 out of 58).

Example of the HMO insurance premiums for a 25-year-old male or female in PESOS

Did you know that most US-based health insurance does not protect you outside of the US. Your insurance may not provide adequate medical coverage in a foreign country.


My International Health Insurance covers me everywhere I travel for roughly $60 per month.  

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

No. Most health insurance will not cover you for any medical issues outside your home country. You will either need to get Entidades Promotoras de Salud (Colombian Public Insurance), private medical insurance, or Expat Medical Insurance.

If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for expats outside the US, and insurance premiums are much cheaper than in the US. 

Living In Colombia- Money and Taxes


The local currency is the Colombian Peso (COP). At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 4,057 COP. For reference, 1 Euro = 4264 COP.

  • €1000 Euros = 4,264,877 Pesos 
  • £1000 Pounds =  4,982,044 Pesos

How to open a bank account

Where opening a new bank account in the US can be done online, you must open Colombian accounts in person. Be prepared for a bit of a run around when opening an account. Bureaucracy is terrible in banks. Processes and rules are not straight forward. Maybe you will get lucky and have a great experience, but the odds are about 50/50.

Different banks will give you different requirements. Some will say that you need a Cédula de Extranjería (Colombia resident ID). Some will say that you only need a passport. Others will require that you have already lived in Colombia for at least six months. If you know a fellow expat who had an easy time opening their bank account, see if you can get the name of their bank rep. Sometimes it will depend on who you get and what kind of day they are having. The account opening process can take up to a week or longer. 

 INSIDER TIP : *REMINDER* US Citizens- If you have more than $10,000 in total ACROSS ALL YOUR FOREIGN BANKS, you need to file an FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) with the IRS when you file your taxes.

Wise.com is the easiest banking solution I've found for living abroad

Receive money as if you were still at home.

You don't need to hassle with multiple bank accounts. Receive your rental income, salary, pension, etc., using your Wise banking details.

Move your money between countries.

You can send money to more than 70 countries, always with a low and transparent fee. With Direct Debits in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada, paying your bills and subscriptions across currencies is easier.

Spend in local currency with a debit card.

Don't worry about currency rates when changing money. You can use a Wise debit card to always get the best exchange rate and avoid sneaky bank foreign transaction fees.

If I live in Colombia, do I need to pay Colombian Taxes?

I’m not a Colombia Tax Attorney, nor do I play one on TV. Always consult with a local Tax Attorney or Accountant for specific tax strategies.

Tax Residency in Colombia

If you are considered at Tax Resident in Colombia, your worldwide income is subject to Colombian tax.

If you live in Colombia for more than 183 days over 12 months, you are considered a tax resident by the Colombian government. Note that is 183 days (continuous or non-continuous) over a rolling 12-month period, UNLIKE the 180 days over a calendar year clause that affects your visa and immigration status. Confusing, I know, but be aware it’s 183 days over a rolling 12 months.

As an example, if you move to Colombia on August 1, 2019. 183 days would take you till January 31, 2020 (the following year). Staying in Colombia until February 1, 2020 would make you a Tax Resident for 2020, even though you only lived in Colombia for 31 days in 2020. Any income you earn worldwide in 2020, including dividends paid on your US stocks, rental income from the US, even your social security is subject to Colombian tax. 

 INSIDER TIP : US and Colombian Taxation- As of 2018, Colombia and the US Does Not Have a Double Taxation Treaty. You may be subject to income tax in both the US and Colombia. Check with an International Tax Accountant to understand how this treaty may impact you.

Living In Colombia- Pros And Cons 

man enjoying expat life in the Philippines


With the country's natural beauty, welcoming environment, and low living costs, the popularity of immigrating to the Philippines isn't a mystery. But like any place, there are pros and cons of living in the Philippines.

PROS- BENEFITS OF LIVING IN COLOMBIA

  • Cost of Living- Live in a nicer house and enjoy an active life for less cost
  • Quality of Healthcare- More affordable and better than the US

CONS- DISADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN COLOMBIA

  • .Safety- No dar Papaya
  • Taxes- Minimizing tax requires proper planning