The Expat Guide To Living In Colombia [2022]- Costs, Visas, Safety

10/26/2022

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Why Consider Living In Colombia?

QUICK SUMMARY- EXPAT LIfe IN COLOMBIA

  • Average cost to live in Colombia for a single person = ~$950 - $1200 per month.
  • Visa options for expat retirees and an affordable "Golden Visa" for property investors.
  • Cheap and affordable healthcare in some of the best medical facilities in the world.
  • Communication- Low number of English speakers makes learning Spanish a necessity.
  • Safety- while much safer than previous decades, muggings and robberies are increasing due to pandemic unemployment. 

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 expat life 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.

Other Guides On Expat Life In Colombia

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. Colombia has enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace. Moving here means you'll find yourself amid this amazing 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 mountain range 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.” At the same time, the New York Times named Colombia the number two country to visit in 2018. Even better, Colombia’s sandy beaches and cosmopolitan cities have the best value for cost of living you’ll find in South America. Expats looking to retire in Colombia will be happy to know that affordable life here even applies 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 an insider’s view of what life is actually like living in 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 looking to Reinvent their Retirement and upgrade their Quality of Life.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT COLOMBIA 

  • Dial Country Code:  +57 
  • Total Population: 49.07 million (2017)
  • Capital city: Bogota 
  • Neighboring Countries: Bordered by Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela
  • Weather: Tropical and warm on the coasts, with rainy season from May to November
  • Time: GMT-5 Same as East Coast of the US

Overview of Topics: Expat Life In Colombia 

  • 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 highlight the best things to see and do in Colombia.
  • 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.
  • COST OF LIVING- Do you want a realistic guide on the 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.
  • VISAS AND RESIDENCY- Are you looking to stay in Colombia for longer than 90 days? I breakdown of all the legal ways to remain in Colombia long term. *HINT* It's a lot easier than you think.
  • 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 expats living in Colombia.
  • 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.

Living In Colombia- Expat Life

expat living in Colombia overlooking the Andean mountain range


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 polishing up your Spanish skills or studying Spanish for the first time, this is a great country to learn.

US State Department rates Spanish as an "Easy" Language (Category I) with a 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. As I stated earlier, the short answer is- "YES."

The longer answer is, “It Depends.” Many expats and foreigners in Colombia will think I'm 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 will happily do it again. But I wouldn't necessarily try hard to persuade my mother to visit here by herself. There are some places in Colombia where you must be cautious. However, the same caution is true in most major cities in the US. 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 an 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.

EXPAT INSIGHTS

Firsthand experience from foreigners living in Colombia

Expats Living in Colombia

I'm an expat living in Colombia...hope to become a citizen soon. If you ask any expat, they will tell you it is a great idea to move to Colombia.

Colombians only see the bad things about the country. But it is a great country...You'll be spending significantly less than in the US, even if a few things are more expensive here, like consumer electronics and cars.

I work in the same building with some corporations with a lot of expats.

Koreans love living in Colombia;

Brazilians love living in Colombia;

Americans love living in Colombia;

Colombians hate living in Colombia 🤷

u/Chuox69- US Expat Living In Colombia

What is expat life in Colombia life?

I lived in Barranquilla for a year and loved it. I felt more relaxed, healthier, had a good social life, and made great friends. The people are friendly, welcoming, and proud of their country and culture.

Colombia is grouped by regions. You have the costeños (Caribbean coast), Paisas (Medellin/Antioquia), Rolos(Bogota), etc... Each region has their own Colombian culture. There are differences in food, weather, music, geography, and racial makeup.

The country does have its problems. However, as a foreigner, you probably won't be affected directly. Go in with an open mind and be prepared for any culture shock. Start learning if you don't speak Spanish or know how to dance.

Musa_2050- Living in Colombia As An American

Living In Colombia- Visas and Residency Permits

Can foreigners live in Colombia long-term? Yes, there are several legal ways to stay 6 months or more.

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 (technically, it is a permit, but everyone refers to it as 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 must 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.

picture of passport stamp allowing foreigners to live in Colombia for up to 6 months

A Tourist permit is available as a passport stamp on arrival

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.

M VISA - COLOMBIAN MARRIAGE VISA
If you're legally married, in a same-sex civil partnership or in a common- law marriage to a Colombian citizen, you can apply for a Migrant (M-1) marriage visa.  After 2 years with a temporary M visa, you can apply for a permanent residency visa (R). You qualify for Colombian citizenship after two years living in Colombia while holding an R-visa.

 INSIDER TIP : Colombian Dual CitizenshipColombia does not have any restrictions on dual citizenship. It is possible to become a Colombian citizen without giving up your current passport. Citizens of 62 countries worldwide (hint the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom are on the list) can obtain dual citizenship with Colombia without renouncing their existing 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 in 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

Here are examples of real-life expat budgets and the average cost of expat life in Colombia 

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 is ranked 205th out of 227 cities.

How expensive is Colombia in comparison to other countries?

Living Expenses

 1-Person

Total Monthly Budget

$955

$1170

$1,162

$1,381

$1,419

$3,670

Cost of Living in Colombia vs. United States

Moving to Colombia could reduce your living expenses by 70% 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 = $1170

Estimated cost of living in Bogota = $925

Estimated cost of living in Cali= $755

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Average Salary And Minimum Salary In Colombia

You are unlikely to read a blog about financial independence while making a minimum salary. However, knowing Colombia's average wage gives you a good benchmark for the country's actual cost of daily life. Logically, if your monthly income is greater than or equal to the average salary in Colombia, then you can afford a middle-class lifestyle in most expat cities in Colombia.

Average Salary in Medellin (monthly net tax) = $375

Median Monthly Salary In Medellin

  • FINANCE ANALYST- $3,150
  • ATTORNEY- $2,898
  • SOFTWARE ENGINEER- $2,685
  • MEDELLIN AVERAGE EXPAT COST OF LIVING- $950

Salary Data For Medellin Image Source 

What is the minimum salary in Colombia?

Each year the Colombian government sets a new monthly minimum salary. For 2022, the minimum wage in Colombia will be increased by 10.07%, reaching 1 million COP per month (approximately USD250).

Additionally, anyone earning up to two times the minimum wage in Colombia is eligible for Transportation subsidies paid by the employer. These subsidies are not included in income taxes, so they are not included in the minimum salary.


2022 monthly minimum salary: $226 USD / 1,000,000 COP
Monthly transportation allowance: $26 USD / 117,172 COP 

Living in Colombia- Cities and Sites

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

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

Medellin, Bogota, and Cartagena are just a few of the diverse and bustling cities to live in Colombia. Colombia is the second most biodiverse 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 see 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 personal favorite 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.The streets are clean and easily walkable in the two main expat hubs of El Poblado and Laureles. 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.

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 around Colombia flock to the city for its renowned nightlife.

If Medellin is known as the City of Eternal Spring, Cali is 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

Escape the concrete grey cities and 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.

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). In addition, both Minca and Tayrona (see Top Things To Do in Colombia above) are day trips out of Santa Marta.

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 short list of things to do on my return trip to Colombia. 

Bogota- The Bustling Colombian Capital

Bogota- this mountain metropolis is the capital of Colombia, home to over 7 million Colombians, and the country's main international airport. Bogota could be your Colombian home if you like big cities, Latin culture, salsa music, bustling nightlife, and a wee bit of chaos. Are you looking for chic and sophisticated? Zona Rosa and Chapinero neighborhoods have plenty of rooftop bars, trendy shopping, and international cuisine 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, a wide variety of food, dance, and art.

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. 

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 nightclub.

Spend the day Hiking around Minca

Escape the Caribbean heat and visit this hippie bohemian town at the foothills of the Sierra de Santa Marta Mountains. Breath the fresh mountain air while trekking to see organic coffee plantations, 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.

Enjoy the Caribbean beach 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 be 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 surging skyward in the 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 you should not skip. 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

Medical care in Colombia is very affordable, with lower costs and better quality of care available than in the USA.

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 medical system is known for providing affordable, world-class healthcare accessible to everyone, including foreigners.

Even as an expat, Colombia's public health insurance , EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud), becomes available once you establish residency. 

Public healthcare will accept you into the plan, even with pre-existing conditions. For as low as $95 per month (or 12.5% of your gross monthly income), you can access 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).

Are Foreigners Required To Buy Health Insurance Mandatory In Colombia?

In response to the pandemic, all expats must prove they have COVID-19 health insurance coverage for the entire duration of their visa in Colombia.

The minimum health insurance coverage depends on the visa:

  • Visitor Visas $35,000 USD
  • Migrant Visas $60,000 to $70,000 USD
  • Resident Visas $100,000 USD

Did you know that most US-based health insurance does not protect you outside 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 international health insurance.

If you retire abroad, international health insurance is a more complete option. An international health plan is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with from home, but with specialized coverage designed for expats outside the US.

To understand how international insurance works, read my article on "Expat Health Insurance Plans- Understanding Your Medical Coverage Options Abroad."

To see how much insurance premiums will cost you in Colombia, click here to get Free expat health insurance quotes.

Living In Colombia- Money and Taxes

picture of Colombian currency the Peso


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

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

How to open a bank account

You must open a Colombian bank account 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 straightforward. You may get lucky and have a great experience, but the odds are about 50/50.

Different banks will give you different requirements. Some insist on needing a Cédula de Extranjería (Colombia resident ID). Some will 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. Use your Wise banking details to receive your rental income, salary, pension, etc.

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 your 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.

Save even more for big-dollar transfers.

Need to show a large cash reserve for a visa requirement? Maybe you are buying property or a business. If you need to transfer large amounts of money abroad, Wise is about 5x cheaper than major US banks. And with tiered pricing for large amounts, you get an even lower fee on any transfers over 100,000 GBP or equivalent in USD (~$141,000).

 

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 Colombia considers you a Tax Resident, 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.

For 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, and even your social security, is subject to Colombian tax.

 INSIDER TIP : US and Colombian Taxation- As of 2018, Colombia and the US Do 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

Retire in Cartagena Colombia to watch beautiful sunsets by the Fort


Enjoy Caribbean beach cocktails while watching the sunset on the walled city of Cartagena.

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

PROS- BENEFITS OF LIVING IN COLOMBIA

  • Affordable Prices- While inflation and a heavy influx of foreigners is destroying the value initially found popular cities, cost of living in Colombia still allows a comfortable lifestyle and an active social life for less 50% less than the United States. 
  • Quality of Healthcare-  Boasting modern medical facilities and highly trained doctors and medical staff, Colombia is home to 20 of the top 49 best hospital systems in Latin America. With Colombia's health care system ranks 22 out of 191 countries, world-class healthcare is affordable at a fraction of the cost of treatment in the United States.
  • Cost of Groceries- Shopping at local markets can cut your food cost by 50% or more. Even better, the country's fertile soil and biodiversity grows delicious exotic fruits and organic vegetables.

CONS- DISADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN COLOMBIA

  • Safety - No dar Papaya- As a foreigner who doesn't speak the language, you will always be a big target, because of the immediate perception you are rich. Many foreigners will defend the safety in Colombia by pointing out every major city in the world has crime. However, most developed countries don't have to regularly warn visitors to not wear jewelry, expensive watches, or recommend only using a 3-4 year old burner cell phone in public. 
  • Communication- The lack of English-speaking locals makes Spanish language skills a near necessity. Expats need more than a few words of Spanish on a daily basis to get by even in foreigner-friendly neighborhoods.
  • Bland Local Food- Colombian food is cheap and filling, but is not one of the world's renown cuisines for a reason. Dishes lack punch and flavor. To the best of my knowledge the only spice Colombian use regularly are salt and pepper. Most meals are fried, starch heavy, and lack green vegetables.  

FAQs: Expat Guide To Life In Colombia

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Colombia?

Most single people can live comfortably in Colombia on a total budget of $1200 to $2000 per month. However, the average cost of rent is usually the most significant expense in an expat budget, and Colombian cities' housing prices vary greatly.

The post-pandemic influx of expats and digital nomads into Medellin and Bogota has caused Airbnb and apartment prices to skyrocket. One-bedroom apartments in Laureles that rented for $400 per month 3-4 years ago are topping $700 per month. Luxury high-rise apartments in El Poblado can top $1500.

However, foreigners can still find bargains by venturing past the popular cities. For example, an expat budget of $700 per month supports a very comfortable lifestyle in Colombia's Coffee Triangle (Pereira, Manizales, Armenia) or coastal cities like Santa Marta for $850. 

What's the most expensive city in Colombia?

Living costs in Medellin or Bogota are nearly equal. As the capital and business hub, Bogota was previously the most expensive city in Colombia. However, Medellin's rising expat popularity has increased the number of foreigners moving to Medellin and driving up the price of apartments and Airbnbs.  

How long can an American live in Colombia without a visa?

Americans and other strong passport holders can live in Colombia for up to 90 days without a formal visa. After the first 90 days, an additional 90-day extension is available for a total of 180 days in a calendar year without a formal visa.

Americans get another 180 days of visa-free eligibility after January 1st of the following year. 

However, Americans have a hard limit of 180 consecutive days in Colombia without a formal visa. If you have already lived 180-day consecutive days in Colombia, January 1st does not reset your visa.

Americans living in Colombia for 180 consecutive days must leave the country for at least 24 hours to restart the 180-day visa duration after January 1st of the new year.

Is Colombia a safe place to live for an expat?

Most of Colombia is safe for expats, though popular cities like Medellin and Bogota attract tourists, increasing crimes of opportunity. La Candelaria in Bogota or La 70 in Laureles attract foreigners indulging in drinking and drugs, which increases robberies and muggings in the area. 

Daytime incidents are less common, but expats are discouraged from wearing jewelry or flashy watches or carrying around their expensive cell phones. Locals and expats caution foreigners to avoid walking alone and only take Uber, Indriver, or Didi ride-sharing apps at night.

What is life in Colombia like today?

Most foreigners thought Colombia to have put behind the country's dark history of violence from the 80s and 90s. Gone were Escobar and the country's narcotics terrorist past. However, recent surges in homicides, theft and property damage have put Colombia back on many high-risk lists.

The economic impact of the pandemic, soaring inflation, and increased immigration from poorer Latin American nations have increased crimes of desperation. Recent statistics flagged Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, as one of the Top 3 riskiest cities of the world’s 30 larger cities, alongside Brazil's Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City (CDMX).

How can I stay in Colombia long-term?

There are 11 long-term Colombian Migrant visas allowing expats to live in Colombia for 1 to 3 years, depending on the type of visa. There are long-term visas for retirement, business investment, purchasing property, or for foreign spouses or parents of Colombian citizens.  

Expat Resources

This section is a one-stop resource of essential links to immigration and expats services, FAQs, foreign consulates, and embassies.

Useful External Websites For Expats Living in Colombia


About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

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