The Complete Guide: Live in Colombia

Learn about how to live in Colombia, visa options, healthcare, and education options for your family.

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Have you ever considered living in Colombia? This beautiful South American country is no longer just a tourist destination; it’s quickly becoming an increasingly popular choice for expats seeking a new life full of opportunity, adventure, and cultural richness. From the bustling streets of Bogotá to the laid-back charm of Caribbean coastal towns, Colombia offers a diverse range of experiences for those who dare to explore its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and friendly communities. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover all aspects of what it’s like to live in Colombia, including the pros and cons, major cities, language and communication, Colombian culture and traditions, navigating bureaucracy, education, transportation, expat communities, moving tips, climate, and geography.

Key Takeaways

  • Live in Colombia for a low cost of living, diverse lifestyle options and improved safety.
  • Enjoy world-class healthcare, vibrant cities and explore unique cultural experiences.
  • Prepare adequately to ensure a successful move with research, planning & building relationships!

Living in Colombia: Pros and Cons

Imagine living in a country where the cost of living is low, the diverse lifestyle options and the healthcare is one of the best in the world. It sounds too good to be true. Well, Colombia offers all of these benefits and more!

Nestled in the northwestern corner of South America, Colombia is a vibrant part of Latin America that encompasses everything from bustling cities to serene coastal towns and picturesque mountain regions. Major cities like Bogota, Medellín, and Cartagena offer a unique blend of urban culture and natural beauty, with access to modern amenities, a pleasant climate, and an increasingly safe environment.

However, navigating potential challenges and finding job opportunities could be more difficult, especially if you’re not fluent in Spanish.

Cost of Living

One of the most attractive aspects of living in Colombia is the affordable cost of living. Expats can live comfortably and affordably between $900 and $2000 monthly for all living expenses, including housing, food, and transportation. Living expenses in Colombia can be around 70% cheaper than in a medium-cost city in the United States. This gives an opportunity for significant savings for anyone who decides to move there. The cost of housing in Colombia varies by location, but you can find excellent deals in areas like the Coffee Triangle (Pereira, Manizales, Armenia) or coastal cities like Santa Marta.

Grocery costs are also very reasonable in Colombia, with a couple spending around $375 per month on average for food. Dining out is similarly affordable, with a traditional Colombian lunch costing around $3-$5 and dinner at a touristy area ranging between $10-$20 per plate. Public transportation is another area where expats can save money, as bus fares are inexpensive, and ridesharing services like Uber and Indrive are widely available.


Living in Colombia allows you to choose the lifestyle that suits you best. Whether you prefer the fast-paced city life of Bogotá or the laid-back vibes of a coastal town like Santa Marta, there’s a place for everyone. Colombia’s major cities boast a rich urban culture, with numerous museums, galleries, and cultural events to enjoy. Music and dance play central roles in Colombian life, with styles like cumbia and salsa celebrated throughout the country. For those who love the outdoors, Colombia offers a wide range of activities such as hiking, beach-going, and exploring national parks.

In addition to the vibrant cities, Colombia is also home to some truly remarkable natural wonders. Some of these include:

  • The Andes Mountains, stretch across the country and offer breathtaking views and opportunities for adventure.
  • The Caribbean coast, with its idyllic beaches and crystal-clear waters, perfect for relaxation and water sports.
  • The Amazon Rainforest a biodiverse ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.
  • The páramo highlands a unique ecosystem found in the Andes Mountains.

These natural wonders, including Tayrona National Park, make Colombia a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Immersing yourself in Colombian life will require adapting to local customs and traditions. Learning Spanish will not only help you navigate daily life but also build meaningful connections with locals who are eager to share their culture and experiences with you. Colombians are known for their warmth and hospitality, so expats can easily make friends and become part of the community.


Like any other country, safety concerns are common for those considering a move to Colombia. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting the significant progress made by the country in enhancing safety over recent years. Most expats report feeling perfectly safe in the areas where they live and work, and even Forbes has included Colombia in its list of “Coolest Places to Visit.” Major cities like Bogotá and Medellin have made great strides in improving safety, decreasing homicides, theft, and property damage.

That said, expats should still remain cautious and stay updated about potential risks. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in Colombia.

  • Familiarize yourself with your environment
  • Safeguard your possessions
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry
  • Use reliable transportation
  • Foster relationships with local people and other visitors
  • Use good judgment when going out at night and paying for services

You can enjoy a safe and fulfilling life in Colombia by taking these necessary precautions.


Colombia’s healthcare system is highly regarded, providing world-class healthcare through a three-tiered structure and offering affordable and efficient medical services. Expats can expect reasonable co-payments for lab tests, imaging procedures, specialist visits, and medications.

Once you have a visa and a cedula de extranjeria, you'll be eligible to enroll in Colombia's public and private healthcare options.

Job Opportunities

Job opportunities for expats in Colombia may be limited, but there are still options available. Some of these options include:

  • Teaching English: There are many language schools and private tutoring opportunities throughout the country.
  • Remote work: This is a great option for digital nomads who can work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection.
  • Emerging Tech Scene: Some bilingual expats may be able to find a job in the emerging tech scene in Bogota or Medellin.

Strong Spanish skills are paramount for finding employment in Colombia, regardless of your chosen field. The ability to communicate effectively with coworkers, clients, and customers will not only improve your job prospects but also help you better integrate into the local community.

Exploring Colombia's Major Cities

Colombia’s major cities offer a unique experience for expats and visitors alike. From the bustling streets of Bogotá to the lush green hillsides of the Coffee Triangle, there’s no shortage of fascinating places to explore and call home.

The following sections will examine four major Colombian cities' unique characteristics and attractions.

  1. Bogotá
  2. Medellín
  3. Cartagena
  4. Cali

Whether you’re drawn to the historic charm of Cartagena or the innovative spirit of Medellin, you’re sure to find a city that captures your heart and fuels your sense of adventure.

Not only do these cities offer a wealth of cultural and recreational activities, but they also provide ample opportunities for expats to connect with local communities and immerse themselves in Colombian life. From lively music and dance scenes to world-class cuisine and stunning natural beauty, each city offers its own unique blend of experiences that make living in Colombia an unforgettable adventure.


Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, is a captivating major city that offers a mix of modern and colonial architecture, cultural richness, and a vibrant food scene. Colombia’s largest city, Bogotá is home to over 13 million people and serves as a hub for business, government, and education. La Candelaria is the cultural epicenter of the city, a must-visit attraction for its beautiful cobblestoned streets, diverse museums, and numerous restaurants, churches, and convents. You will not be disappointed by the rich history this area offers its visitors!

In addition to its rich cultural offerings, Bogotá is known for its innovative urban development projects and bustling tech scene. The city is home to offices of major international companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Gold Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts, or join in the weekly Ciclova event, where arterial routes transform into a haven for pedestrians and cyclists.


Medellin, known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” boasts pleasant weather, innovative urban development, and a thriving expat community. The city is nestled in the Aburrá Valley, surrounded by the majestic Andes Mountains, and enjoys a comfortable climate year-round. Medellin has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, shedding its dark past and becoming a hub for innovation, art, and culture.

This vibrant city offers a wide range of attractions and activities at the city’s cultural epicenter, including:

  • Great and diverse restaurants
  • A growing art scene
  • Salsa classes
  • Many large malls

Medellin’s flourishing gastronomy scene is also worth exploring, with a variety of local and international culinary delights to satisfy any food lover’s palate. The city’s welcoming atmosphere and array of cultural offerings make it an increasingly popular destination for expats and travelers alike.


Cartagena, a historic coastal city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is renowned for its stunning colonial architecture, beautiful beaches, and lively Caribbean atmosphere. Its historic walled center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see for its vibrant colonial-era buildings, cathedrals, forts, and rich history. Cartagena’s lively music scene and delectable cuisine add to the city’s charm, making it a popular tourist destination and a wonderful place to call home.

In addition to its cultural attractions, Cartagena offers easy access to stunning nearby beaches and islands, such as the Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca. Cartagena has something to offer everyone, whether you’re interested in exploring the historic sites, lounging on the beach, or dancing the night away to Caribbean rhythms.


Cali, known as the world's salsa capital, is a city that pulses with the rhythm of music and dance. Located in southwestern Colombia, Cali has a vibrant music and dance scene that attracts visitors and locals alike. The city’s unique Cali-style salsa is famous worldwide, and numerous dance clubs and schools offer lessons for those eager to learn the steps.

Beyond its rich musical heritage, Cali offers access to nearby natural attractions like the Pance River and the breathtaking Farallones de Cali National Park. The city’s pleasant climate, with temperatures usually around 80°F, makes it an ideal destination for outdoor activities and exploring the surrounding natural beauty.

Whether you’re a salsa enthusiast or simply looking for a vibrant city with a unique cultural scene, Cali is an exciting place to live and explore.

Language and Communication

Although Spanish is the official language of Colombia, expats will discover that mastering it is vital for fully immersing in the culture and managing daily life. According to the US State Department, Spanish is an “easy” language (Category I). It is beautiful, vibrant and has a language structure highly similar to English. Mastering Spanish will not only help you communicate effectively with locals, but also open doors to new friendships, experiences, and opportunities.

Numerous resources are available for learning Spanish, whether you prefer taking classes, using language-learning apps, or practicing with language exchange partners. By dedicating time and effort to learning Spanish, you’ll enrich your experience in Colombia and better integrate into the local community.

Colombian Culture and Traditions

Colombia’s rich cultural heritage is a fusion of indigenous, African, and European influences, creating a diverse and vibrant tapestry of traditions, customs, and arts. Music, dance, and cuisine play central roles in daily life, bringing the country’s unique culture to life. Some of the amazing traditional styles of music and dance in Colombia are cumbia and salsa, which can be enjoyed in clubs, festivals, and even on the streets.

Colombian cuisine is equally diverse, with regional specialties and beloved dishes such as arepas, bandeja paisa, and empanadas. The country’s literary art scene is also renowned worldwide, with authors like Jorge Isaacs and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez leaving a lasting impact on the world of literature.

By learning about and embracing Colombia’s rich cultural heritage, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the country and its people.

Navigating Colombian Bureaucracy

Moving to Colombia comes with its own set of bureaucratic hurdles. Expats should be prepared for complex bureaucracy when dealing with visas and other administrative tasks. It’s essential to research the visa options available to you, such as visitor, migrant, and resident visas, and make sure you meet all the legal requirements before moving to Colombia.

In addition to visas, expats should also consider other administrative tasks, such as securing housing, obtaining health insurance, and setting up a bank account. Navigating Colombian bureaucracy can be daunting, but with proper preparation and patience, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any challenges that come your way.

Education in Colombia

For expats with children, Colombia offers a variety of quality private and international schools. Colombian education is known for its excellent quality, with public and private schools available. Public schools are free and offer a quality education, while private schools are more expensive but generally offer a higher quality of education.

International schools are also available in Colombia, offering curricula based on the student’s home country. These schools can be very affordable, with tuition fees ranging from $200 to $500 per month for private schools and up to $2,000 per month for international schools.

Transportation Options

Colombia offers a range of transportation options to suit every traveler’s needs. Affordable public transit, such as buses and taxis, is widely available in major cities, making exploring local attractions and commuting to work or school easy. Ridesharing services like Uber are also popular for those looking for more convenience and flexibility.

However, be mindful of traffic challenges in major cities like Bogotá and Medellin, where congestion can be problematic during peak hours. By familiarizing yourself with the local transportation options and planning your travel accordingly, you can minimize stress and make the most of your time in Colombia.

Expat Communities in Colombia

Finding a supportive and welcoming expat community can be an invaluable resource for those moving to a new country. In Colombia, expat communities are vibrant and thriving, offering newcomers support, networking, and social opportunities. These communities can help you navigate the challenges of adapting to a new culture, learning the language, and finding your footing in your new home.

Many online resources, such as expat forums, Facebook groups, and websites, can help you locate an expat community in Colombia. By connecting with others who share your experiences and challenges, you can build a strong network of friends and support in your new home.

Tips for a Successful Move to Colombia

A smooth transition to life in Colombia requires thorough research, careful planning, and adequate preparation. Before embarking on your journey, take the time to:

  • Work with an immigration attorney to make the move as smooth as possible
  • Learn about the country’s customs, traditions, and language
  • Familiarize yourself with the local culture
  • Secure housing
  • Obtain the necessary visas and insurance
  • Understand the local job market

Learning Spanish is key to successful integration in Colombia, as it will open doors to new friendships, experiences, and opportunities. Consider taking classes or using language-learning apps to help you become fluent in your new home. Building relationships with locals and other expats can enhance your experience and provide invaluable support and guidance.

Finally, be prepared for the challenges and adventures of moving to a new country. Embrace the uncertainties, celebrate your successes, and most importantly, enjoy the incredible journey that is living in Colombia.

Climate and Geography

Colombia’s diverse climate and geography provide a wealth of exciting environments to explore, from stunning tropical coastlines to majestic mountainous regions and the majestic Amazon Rainforest. Whether you’re drawn to the Caribbean coast's sun-soaked beaches or the Andes Mountains' lush green landscapes, Colombia offers various climates and ecosystems to suit every taste.

As a central location between many countries, there are many direct flights from Colombia, making it an attractive place to live.

In addition to its varied terrain, Colombia is home to several national parks and protected areas, showcasing the country’s incredible biodiversity and natural beauty. From hiking in the cloud forests of the Coffee Triangle to snorkeling in the turquoise waters of the Rosario Islands, Colombia’s unique landscapes provide endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.


In conclusion, Colombia offers a unique and captivating blend of culture, natural beauty, and opportunity for expats seeking a new life abroad. From its affordable cost of living and diverse lifestyle options to its improved safety and welcoming communities, there are countless reasons to consider moving to this vibrant South American country.

Whether you’re drawn to the bustling streets of Bogotá, the laid-back charm of coastal towns, or the picturesque mountain regions, Colombia has something to offer everyone. With proper research, planning, and preparation, you can embark on an unforgettable journey and embrace the adventure that is living in Colombia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Colombia a good place to live in?

Colombia offers a Western lifestyle at a fraction of the cost, with low taxes and many first-world amenities. It is an attractive option for expats looking for an excellent living place.

The country has a vibrant culture, rich history, and diverse population. It is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and landscapes. The cost of living is low, and the cost of living is low.

Can a US citizen live in Colombia?

US citizens can enjoy a stay of up to 180 days per calendar year in Colombia without a visa,

For a more extended stay or full-time residency, they need to apply for a Migrant Visa (M).

Can foreigners live in Colombia?

Yes, foreigners can live in Colombia with either a visitor visa for short-term stays or a migrant visa for longer stays.

How much money do I need to live in Colombia?

You can live comfortably in Colombia at a minimum of $800 to $1000 USD monthly. Costs may be higher in bigger cities like Bogotá or Medellin, but that won’t stop you from enjoying life in this beautiful country.

Colombia is a great place to live, with its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and friendly people. You can find a variety of activities to do, from exploring to exploring.

What is the cost of living like in Colombia?

Living in Colombia is affordable, offering access to modern amenities and the stunning Caribbean coastline at great value.

The cost of living in Colombia is much lower than in many other countries, making it an attractive option for those looking to stretch their budget. The country also offers a wide range of activities and attractions.

Daniela Cordoba
Founder and Lead Attorney

Daniela Cordoba is a lawyer specializing in immigration and commercial law. Daniela Cordoba has helped individuals and businesses live and operate in Colombia for over a decade. She also has training in compliance with the respective accreditations to serve as Compliance Officer.

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