- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Colombia Guide (PDF)
If expats contemplating a move to Colombia can look beyond the country's documented troubles, they'll find an unspoilt land with a friendly and curious local population. Colombia is a geographically diverse country. Foreigners are constantly in awe of its scenic beauty, from vast mountain ranges to green prairies and lush rainforests. Most foreigners living in Colombia are based in the capital, Bogotá, but expats should be able to find a community of expats in most Colombian cities.
One of the major considerations of living in Colombia is safety concerns. While the government has done a lot to tackle drug trafficking, the issues associated with it are still rife. Muggings, burglary and credit card fraud are common crimes. These issues have caused Colombia's popularity as an expat destination to lag behind other South American destinations like Brazil and Argentina. However, its expat population is nonetheless steadily growing.
Many young expats come to Colombia to work as English teachers and spend a few years exploring South America. Other thriving industries include construction, medicine, and oil and gas. Having at least a basic knowledge of Spanish will not only be advantageous in the workplace but also helps in interacting with the local population.
The cost of living in Colombia is low compared to North America or Europe. Bogotá, Colombia's capital, is much more affordable to live in compared to other major South American cities including Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Montevideo. While the cost of school tuition can be high, especially at private and international schools, expats will find that private healthcare is reasonably priced. Furthermore, these expensive elements of expat life in Colombia are offset by low taxes.
Relocating to Colombia will be an exciting step full of new opportunities, even for the most seasoned expat. While some extra safety precautions will be necessary, new arrivals should rest assured that the warm hospitality offered by the Colombian people will ensure that they settle in easily.
Population: 49 million
Capital city: Bogotá
Other major cities: Cartagena, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla.
Neighbouring countries: Colombia is bordered by Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.
Geography: Colombia forms part of a region known for earthquakes and volcanic activity. The Andes mountain range dominates the country and most of the urban centres are set in the mountains. There are large coastal areas and deserts along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, as well as vast areas of Amazonian jungle, shared with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Colombia also has a few remote islands near Nicaragua.
Major religions: Roman Catholicism and other denominations of Christianity
Political system: Multi-party democracy
Main language: Spanish
Money: Colombian Peso (COP)
Tipping: Tipping is common for foreigners, but locals rarely tip. Tipping in a restaurant is usually 10 percent of the bill. Some restaurants automatically add a service charge.
Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachment plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with round grounding pin) plugs are used.
Internet domain: .co
International dialling code: +57
Emergency contacts: 123 (medical, fire and emergencies), 112 (local police)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side. Public transport includes minibus taxis, metered taxis and buses. Taxis are easy, safe and relatively cheap. Ride-sharing services are becoming increasingly popular in major cities. Getting a drivers' licence will often include a series of tests and a large amount of paperwork. Contact the local Colombian consulate before departure to jumpstart the process and avoid drawn-out complications.
"I found living in Bogotá so much cheaper than living in my home country. Groceries from a local tienda were so much cheaper which meant my weekly grocery bill was considerably smaller than that in my home country." Read Taryn's experiences as an expat in Colombia.
"I’ve had better healthcare experiences in Bogotá than back home. When I’ve needed care over several weeks, I’ve even had doctors get teary-eyed on the last appointment! That kind of care I never got in the States." Learn more about Karen's experiences in Colombia.
Are you an expat living in Colombia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Colombia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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