13 Pros and 8 Cons Of Living In Colombia 2021
We asked Expats about the pros and cons of living in Colombia. Moving abroad is a big step for everybody. I always think that it’s very important to weigh the good against the bad in the country you want to move to. Even though we have a company that lives of people who move abroad and use our knowledge or services, we still want to give you the whole picture. That’s why we talk about the good AND bad of living here in Colombia.
In this article we cover:
- 13 Pros of living in Colombia (with video)
- 8 Cons of living in Colombia (with video)
We Asked Our Expat Friends About The Pros And Cons In Colombia
Here we will talk about the pros AND cons of Colombia with the experiences of our Expat friends that we collected over the last year.
For around 5 years Colombia is officially on the Expat map. Before that time, too many concerns about safety understandably blurred the vision of foreigners to come to this beautiful country.
The bad image of the past including Pablo Escobar surrounds Colombia still to this day. The beautiful messages that the people that have visited Colombia are fighting against the mainstream recognition of Colombia.
This especially affects soon-to-be Expats from North America and Europe who are thinking about moving abroad to retire and take on a new adventure in their life. When researching, many of those Expats (like we, when we started to do the research) ask themselves. How is life in Colombia really?
First, we start with the pros of living in Colombia.
Pros Of Living In Colombia
Colombia is a beautiful country and has much to offer. From the amazing landscapes to the diversity, to the warmth of the people and the low cost of living. Here we have the 13 pros that we and the people in the video think are the best traits of living in Colombia.
1. Weather In Colombia
The weather in Colombia is great and the best part is you can choose what you like best.
Are you the beach type that does not mind temperatures being around 90ºF (32ºC)? Santa Marta and Cartagena are your choices where you can enjoy the laid-back beach lifestyle. Or if you prefer the heat but like to be in the mountains Cali or even small towns like San Rafael near Guatape could be for you.
Do you like the moderate summer weather around 75-85ºF (23-30ºC) then surely Medellin is your pick? Medellin is never too hot and never too cold. Alternatives are of course the 2 big towns in the coffee axis, Pereira and Armenia, or the city Bucaramanga.
If you rather like the cooler spring weather around 60-75ºF (15-23ºC) you can choose Bogota or Rionegro (near Medellin). Or even smaller towns like Manizales, Jardin, Jerico or Salento. This variety brings me to the next point…
2. Diversity In Colombia
In Colombia you can experience everything, hiking in the mountains, bird watching in the Amazon, snorkel in the Caribbean and whale watching in the Pacific. There is so much to explore especially of the beaten track.
3. People Of Colombia
One of our personal favorites is the people. The Colombian people are super friendly. A good mix of an organized mindset but with enough joy for life to have a great time. Not too vibrant not too straight.
4. Eating Out In Colombia
You can get a healthy lunch menu on the coast containing fish, rice, plantain a little salad with avocado for less than USD 3. In the mountains of the Andes you get the same menu but with chicken, beef or pork instead of fish.
5. Fresh Fruits In Colombia
The abundance of fertile soil produces a great variety of fruits. Ever heard of Lulo, Guanabana, Chupa-Mango? These are just a couple of countless exotic fruits that grow on trees here in Colombia.
6. Base To Travel
Colombia sitting in the middle of Latin American countries make it a great place to use it as a hub to travel to places like Peru, the Caribbean, Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador…
Maybe not every flight will be direct because the main airports of Cartagena and Medellin are still small compared to Bogota or even Panama City. But almost every 3 months there are new destinations added to these airports with direct flights.
7. Activities In Colombia
Diversity brings not just a lot of things to see but also a lot of things to do. Either inside the city like for example in Medellin where you can go hiking in the morning and in the evening sitting in a rooftop bar in the middle of a big city. But also countywide, you can hop on a plane and be in 45min on the Caribbean coast with a flight that costs USD 50.
8. Culture In Colombia
The Colombian culture is full of many different traits foreigners don’t know about. There are many festivals, events… but even more surprising on a weekly basis a lot of events and concerts.
We stumbled on many cultural activities when we were just walking around.
9. Cost Of Living In Colombia
The brutally low cost of living in Colombia combined with top amenities like good infrastructure, international cuisine and good public transport make it that you have a lot of “bang-for-your-buck”.
I would say, Colombia is one of the places where you get the most for your money. You can live here with the cost of living at about USD 1500/m. More in our comprehensive article about the cost of living in Colombia.
10. Transportation In Colombia
Compared to many other cities in Latin America and the US and Canada, many cities in Colombia like Medellin, Bogota, have a very good Public Transport system. Especially in Medellin, the local Metro makes life a lot easier.
With the implementation of sophisticated Bus lines and Cable Cars, Medellin is one of the most innovative cities regarding public transport in the Americas.
11. Quality Of Life In Colombia
“Take it easy and enjoy life”, which could easily be Colombia’s motto. Mixed in, that things still can get done if you really need it (maybe just with a couple of days delayed) and you get a great quality of life, where you can move more or less efficiently. People are not so much focused on getting that dollar, so they still have time for human interactions.
Colombia is full of Entrepreneurs. Small families or people that just have an idea and pursue it. Mom and Pops shops are common, where you walk in, and they know you by your name.
This is one of the points that Expats we talk to, never mention while they are planning their journey in Colombia, but love once they are in Colombia for a while.
Not everybody in Colombia has a car. Let’s correct that, maybe 1 out of only 5 people owns a car in Colombia. That means that especially the cities but also the small outside villages (Pueblos) are built to be able to navigate by foot.
No big highways to cross, no decentralized Walmarts. Most people are able to live in Colombia where they have everything they need and more, around 4 blocks where they live.
The Cons of Living In Colombia
“Where there is light, there must be shadow.” Colombia is no exception. As I said at the beginning of this article, we want to give you the whole picture. That’s why we list here the most common downsides of living in Colombia.
1. Bureaucracy (Getting Things Done Fast)
It depends heavily on many factors like your knowledge, your Spanish skills, where you are located, and other factors. But Colombia can be hard to navigate for an Expat. From obtaining your visa, to getting an apartment and opening a bank account.
Some processes can take a lot of time. To be fair, things constantly get better with live chats, streamlined processes, and much more. So Colombia is quite efficient compared to other Latin American countries, but not comparable to the developed world countries.
2. Too Many Motorcycles
One of the things Expats (and Colombians) hate the most are the many motorcycles on the streets. Swerving between lanes, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and producing noise that can wake you up in the middle of the night.
This is not just an annoying factor about living in Colombia but also a dangerous one. As you have to be careful not to get run over by them.
3. Lack Of English
For Expats that don’t speak a lot of Spanish, it can be quite a hassle navigating in Colombia. Compared to Mexico or Panama, not a lot of people speak English. So you better get google translate out if you don’t speak Spanish in Colombia.
4. Pollution In Colombia
Especially in the bigger cities like Medellin and Bogota but also in cities like Santa Marta and Cartagena, there is a big pollution problem. It’s not as high as some cities in Asia, but it can restrict some parts of daily life. Like during the pico y placa, where only certain vehicles are allowed on the road. Another restriction is that we already experienced that the public sports complexes were closed because of pollution.
5. Traffic In Colombia
Traffic in the bigger cities of Colombia can be a mess. The unorganized tendencies of Latin America compared to the developed world countries really shows here. I always say, here is the law of the jungle, the strong survive. So as a pedestrian, you kind of come last when it comes down to the right of way.
Another thing is that it is very possible that there is no sidewalk near where you want to pass a street. Sometimes there is one on a big intersection but without traffic lights for pedestrians. So you just kind of take a shot of running to the other side.
6. Driving In Colombia
First of all, to be able to drive as an Expat in Colombia you technically need to go through the driver’s license again. You can NOT convert your foreign driver’s license here. No, not even the international one counts (as a tourist you can drive BTW).
Secondly, navigating the sometimes confusing and dangerous roads with all the motorcycles is not for the fainthearted.
7. Safety In Colombia
A constant thing you have to keep in mind in Colombia is still safety. Ok, if you are from New York, LA, Chicago… that’s nothing new for you. But still, even though it changed for the better in the last 15 years, it’s still a thing. Especially as a foreigner you are a bigger target because you have more money, don’t know the culture and maybe not even the language.
You don’t have to worry to be confronted by such issues on a daily basis but you have to be aware of it in order to avoid them in the first place.
8. Stability In Colombia
Colombia as a whole was going through a rough time in the past. This was not too long ago, like 15-20 years. The currency is also a thing that is not too stable. In the last couple of years one of the most volatile currencies in the world.
Like in Latin America in general, if you search for stability in your life you are maybe better of staying in your home country. Because as a general rule, Colombia is in a constant up and down. That is what makes life interesting for sure, but maybe a little too unstable for many foreigners.
Conclusion – Pros and Cons Of Living In Colombia
Colombia is an amazing country with many upsides and downsides. It’s your job to find out if your specific preferences and life situation will turn your life in Colombia for the better, or if you are leaving this tropical place faster than you got here. So these were the pros and cons of living in Colombia.
I want to add here, research is good and all, but if you really want to find out if long-term living in Colombia is something for you, just come here for a visit. If you want us to show you around check out our services here.