- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Colombia Guide (PDF)
Open-minded and adventurous expats moving to Colombia will find an unspoilt land with a friendly and curious local population. A geographically diverse country, Colombia has all kinds of scenic beauty on offer, 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.
Living in Colombia as an expat
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 be advantageous in the workplace and help in interacting with the local population.
Accommodation can be found to suit almost every budget in Colombia, although expats generally opt for a relatively small selection of middle- to upper-class neighbourhoods that offer security and proximity to public transport, grocery and department stores, and restaurants.
Cost of living in Colombia
The cost of living in Colombia is low compared to North America or Europe. Bogotá, Colombia's capital, is much more affordable than 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. Low taxes also offset these expensive elements of expat life in Colombia.
Families and children in Colombia
Colombia is becoming increasingly popular with families. There is plenty to do here, from adventure-filled holidays to kid-friendly parks, museums and restaurants in the major cities. Schools are also of a good standard, and those parents who'd like their children to keep studying in the curriculum of their home country will be pleased to learn that there are several excellent international schools in Bogotá and Medellín.
Climate in Colombia
Expats thinking of a move to Colombia can look forward to an extraordinary general climate, which is primarily tropical but has many variations within its diverse natural regions. Colombia's tropical forests, deserts, savannahs, steppes and alpine zones each bring their own unique set of conditions. May to November is the wettest time of year throughout the country, while December to April is the dry season.
Relocating to Colombia will be an exciting step full of new opportunities, even for the most seasoned expat. Though certain challenges face expatss in the country, new arrivals should rest assured that the warm hospitality offered by the Colombian people will ensure that they settle in quickly.
Population: Around 49 million
Capital city: Bogotá
Other major cities: Cartagena, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla
Neighbouring countries: Colombia borders 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 urban centres are set in the mountains. There are large coastal areas, deserts along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and vast areas of the 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: 110V, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachment plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with a 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-hailing services are becoming increasingly popular in major cities.
"For advice to new expat arrivals, I would say to have an open mind. I would also immediately get to work on learning Spanish if you don’t know it already, as you’ll be able to have much better interactions with locals with it. Finally, be patient and flexible. You will almost certainly want to pull your hair out at times, but remember the warm weather, take a look at the city, and remember why you were drawn here." Check out the rest of American expat Adam's interview with Expat Arrivals here.
"Put aside all your preconceived notions of Medellín and Colombia! The Medellín of today is a far cry from the narco-terroristic days of the '70s and '80s. The people of Medellín are very proud of the strides this city has made in the past two decades to lower the crime rate, raise the standard of living in the poorest neighbourhoods, create new opportunities for all citizens, and create a culture of peace. The advice we’d give new expats is to open your hearts and minds to a different culture, a different pace, and a different way of doing things than you might be used to back home." Americans John and Susan tell of their Colombian expat experience in their interview with Expat Arrivals.
"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.
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.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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