Colombia Information

Colombia is one of the most popular countries in Latin America for expats and digital nomads. It has a modern infrastructure with a low cost of living.

Working Remotely From Colombia – A Perspective From A New Expat

In this guest post, Daniel Arthur shares his journey from office job to remote worker, which allows him to live his Unconventional Life in Colombia. Here is his story…

My remote work journey began long ago, several years into my career, and shortly after graduating from college. I’ve been working remotely for over twenty years, long before it became popular.

Back then, there were only three options for folks who wanted to work from home. They consisted of people who owned their businesses or were self-employed, freelancers, or W-2 wage-earning employees who worked for companies who valued their employee’s contributions to the company, invested in their success and career trajectory, and were sensitive to their employee’s overall quality of life.

I was very fortunate to convince my employer back in 2007 to agree to this arrangement. My experience could be a model for current and future expats wishing to work abroad.

This article consists of my experiences (and success) in approaching my employer with a solid business and action plan to grant my request to work remotely 100% of the time.

Establish Location Independence Before Moving Abroad

Medellin ParkI have worked remotely since 2007 in the U.S. and now in Medellín.

My professional career has lent itself to “remotability” while not tying me to a particular location, even in the finance and banking profession, where customer relationship management and interaction primarily represent 80% of one’s daily job function and duties.

I never liked going to the office and only did it for the first ten years of my career. I dreaded the Southern California commuter freeway and traffic, the stress associated with getting out of bed three hours before my start time, rushing out the door, the office politics, the “cliques” that were in the office, having my boss or others standing over my shoulder while I worked, etc.

Over a long holiday weekend back at the end of 2006 as I sat on the sofa watching TV – dreading going to work the following Tuesday. I knew I had to begin developing a plan to present to my leadership that would allow me to work from home 100% of the time.

Establishing location independence as early as possible in your tenure with a company is the key for many expats desiring to work remotely abroad.

Furthermore, domestic stateside employees can benefit too from approaching their employer and manager about flexible work arrangements as soon as the right opportunity presents itself (no later than a year into your employment with the company –I waited for nine to do so –but I believe more employers are open to at least entertaining a conversation now about the topic of remote work).

Find or Have Your Employer Support Before You Move

Remote work in a cafeEngaging your employer in an initial discussion before committing to expat life is critical.

If you intend to keep your current job and be successful, you want their support and agreement, and this might involve a difficult discussion with your direct manager, who may or may not be willing to work with you.

Working for finance banking remotely was virtually unheard of, and management’s primary concern was it involved adverse risk to the company, especially in handling and potential exposure of customer information that I had access to.

It took me over a year of planning and creating a proposal with my manager and over nine months later for risk management, legal, and human resources to convince my company to approve my remote work arrangements.

I worked with my manager in drafting my proposal because involving them, in the beginning, was critically important. You want your manager to be your ally and advocate because they will directly evaluate your work and performance off-site.

Suppose you don’t believe your manager will support your desire for permanent remote work arrangements and location independence. In that case, you should strengthen your relationship with your manager and leadership team before moving abroad.

Engage The Assistance of A Legal and Tax Professional

TaxesBefore moving to Medellín late last year, I engaged a competent immigration attorney and tax professional.

While not required, hiring dual-licensed professionals in both your home country and your intended destination country is highly encouraged.

I lived in Florida before moving to Colombia, so running a Google search for local professionals in my area was a relatively simple process.

I shared my long-term goals and plans with the professionals I hired and sought their advice on remote work, nomad life, and the appropriate legal and tax strategies I needed to have in place before boarding the plane.

While my situation was pretty straightforward (being married to a Colombian national), both professionals recommended that I maintain tax residency in the U.S.

My tax advisor, in particular, noted that both countries tax worldwide income, both countries require personal income tax returns filings with the IRS and DIAN, and both allow deductions for foreign income earned abroad; I would still maintain my eligibility to collect Social Security upon retirement in the U.S.

Plan For The Unexpected To Happen At Any Time With Your Remote Job

I don’t have the same remote job as when I moved to Medellín last year. This past April, I became the latest victim of corporate downsizing and was told over a Zoom call that my job was now redundant.

I had anticipated this scenario could happen several years before I decided to move abroad. Given in the last year that many companies were downsizing, this became even more relevant. Despite the current state of the economy, I was confident I had built up my skills and abilities over the years into new possibilities.

The next day after that Zoom call, I immediately began seeking freelance opportunities by contacting my network and offering my service. I pitched several consulting gigs and received two offers, which I immediately accepted.

Years prior, I had implemented a solid savings and investments strategy that was firmly in place. I turned to other ideas to generate income should I ever become unemployed at any point in my career (i.e., backup plan, savings, investments, passive income streams, etc.).

Final Thoughts

I’m blessed beyond measure to be able to work remotely for over ten years. At age 47, I’m proud of my professional accomplishments, and a large part of my success is directly related to the opportunity and confidence of my leader to work remotely many moons ago.

Despite being laid off within a short time of moving abroad, I’m confident that the time I invested in the above long-term strategies has helped me tremendously.

I would encourage anyone who has ever dreamed of moving abroad to forge ahead and turn their dream into a reality. With the proper support in place, anything is possible.

You can read about my transition from Orlando to Medellín, living abroad for the first time, and find out more about me by visiting my Medium page by clicking here.

My Unconventional Marriage In Colombia: Celebrating Marriage Across Borders

In this guest post from Daniel Arthur, he recounts his marriage to a Colombian and the process for a gay couple to get married in Colombia. Here is their story…

In September 2017, I met my lifelong partner in the most unconventional way. We met online through a language-learning mobile app called Tandem.

I suppose it isn’t unconventional to meet someone online, especially in these times! Many successful couples have met online, formed an immediate connection, and subsequently married four years later.

We took the conservative approach to marriage in the beginning. About the three-year mark in our relationship, we contemplated marriage. We decided to delay it to allow us to complete our academic endeavors. I was finishing my Master’s while my partner was completing his Bachelor’s.

What Made Our Marriage “Unconventional”?

View of Medellin Colombia cityscape with blue sky and a few white clouds.Two compelling reasons come to mind. We are a same-sex couple who are married and living together in Medellín, Colombia, and we successfully married during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The uncertainty of the pandemic made us ever more cautious, nervous, and anxious. Our primary concern was how potential notarías would treat us or if they would even perform the marriage.

While we are a confident and loving gay couple, we were mindful that marrying in a predominantly conservative and Catholic country could inevitably present challenges.

Planning, Logistics, and Documents

Colombia has no national standards and guidelines for marriage. The notaría, religious minister, or priest has sole discretion in determining the requirements and what documents they accept. All couples, both same-sex and heterosexual, face this challenge, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parties.

We married in my partner’s hometown of Barranquilla. It wasn’t our first choice (we wanted to marry in Medellín), but having contacted several notarías in Medellín, all of them referred us back to a notaría in my partner’s birthplace.

After researching, calling around, and gathering information, we chose Notaría Primera de Barranquilla. He was the only notaría in the city who met our timeline requirements and was willing to marry a same-sex couple.

We met with his staff in July 2021, where they collected our documents, explained the process, and set our date.

Our notaría required we meet the following requirements and provide the following documents:

  1. Provide a photocopy of my U.S. Passport data page with six months of validity remaining.
  2. Provide a certified copy of my U.S. Birth Certificate from the State of California apostilled within three months of our marriage date, accompanied by a Spanish translation. The translation was required to be done by a Colombian translator residing in Colombia.
  3. Provide a Single Status Affidavit issued from the State of Florida apostilled within three months of our marriage date, accompanied by a Spanish translation. The translation was required to be done by a Colombian translator residing in Colombia.
  4. Provide a notarized copy of my Colombian partner’s Cédula de Ciudadanía (national I.D. card)
  5. Provide a notarized long-form copy of my partner’s Registro de Nacimiento (birth certificate) issued within three months of our marriage date. Note: Colombian Registro de Nacimiento comes in long and short form. Notariás require an extended long-form for marriage.

In addition to submitting the required documents, we had to complete a marriage license application, pay a fee of approximately 200,000 COP, supply our fingerprints, and have our photo taken at the office.

Our Wedding Day

View of Barranquilla Colombia cityscape at sunset.

The day began like any other. We awoke to blue skies and a pleasant day in Barranquilla. The weather was perfect — not too hot, not too cold, no rain, and no humidity.

Notarías in Colombia tend to designate one day a week for marriages & ceremonies. Our ceremony was on a Saturday. We were the first couple on his schedule at 10 a.m. We arrived about ten minutes before the scheduled time.

Due to the pandemic, the notaría limited us to four individuals who could attend. We were told in advance by the notaría of this política (policy). We had two of our attendees crank open their iPhones. They streamed our wedding ceremony live on WhatsApp and FaceTime for the rest of our friends and relatives to watch.

Civil ceremonies in Colombia are very similar to those in the U.S. The notaría introduces the couple to the attendees, the couple takes an oath, and finally, vows taken by the couple. The ceremony was less than an hour in length.

After the ceremony, we went to brunch with our guests at a local cafe near the notaría’s office. We feasted on a wine, cheese, and meat platter as our entrada (appetizer). The main course consisted of eggs, bacon, french toast, pancakes, waffles, and fruit. We were “stuffed” and “satisfied” afterward!

Final Thoughts…

We were glad we decided to get married when we did. It was never our intention to have an extravagant wedding. We promised to keep our budget to within $5,000 or less. The COVID precautions and limitations in place helped us achieve this objective, with both of us having large families.

View of El Poblado Medellin Colombia cityscape.Although we would spend one more year apart (my lease in Orlando expired the following November), the one-year gap gave us plenty of time to plan our relocation to Medellín.

As of November 2022, we reside full-time in Medellín in barrio Laureles and couldn’t be happier.

You can read about my transition from Orlando to Medellín, living abroad for the first time, and find out more about me by visiting my Medium page by clicking here.

The 9 Things We Miss About Colombia

In our previous blog post, we talked about Our Expat Story and how my husband and I ended up in Medellín Colombia. Sadly, we had to leave Colombia after 4 years due to visa issues.

Join us as we take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce about the 9 things we miss the most about our beloved Colombia.

1. The Colombian People

Oh, how we miss the warmth and friendliness of the Colombian people! From the bustling streets of Medellín to the tranquil villages in the coffee region, we were embraced with open arms and always met with genuine kindness and hospitality.

Their willingness to help us and their infectious joy made us feel at home, creating lasting connections and precious friendships.

2. The Culture

Colombia’s vibrant and diverse culture is a treasure trove of traditions and celebrations. We were captivated by the lively music, colorful dances, and the rich history.

Being part of various festivities and celebrations alongside the locals brought us a sense of belonging and an appreciation for the deep-rooted cultural pride that defines Colombia.

3. The Possibility to Live a More Humble Lifestyle

Living in Colombia taught us valuable lessons about what truly matters in life. In a culture that values family, community, and experiences over material possessions, we embraced a simpler and more humble lifestyle.

It was refreshing to focus on personal growth and connection, rather than the relentless pursuit of material wealth.

4. The Weather

Ah, the eternal spring of Medellín! The city’s perfect climate was a dream come true. We reveled in the year-round mild temperatures and the pleasant absence of extreme weather.

Unlike the cold Swiss winters or the sweltering summers in other places we explored, Medellín’s weather offered the perfect balance that we dearly miss.

5. Christmas in Colombia

Colombia takes Christmas celebrations to a whole new level! The festive spirit starts in November, with daily fireworks, parties, and beautiful cribs depicting the story of Jesus scattered all over the place.

The breathtaking lights that illuminated the entire city added a magical touch to the season. Each year, a unique theme brought Christmas to life, creating a festive ambiance that left us in awe.

6. The Slower Pace of Life

Life in Colombia moves at a more relaxed pace. We cherished the leisurely mornings walking our dog in the nearby park, the unhurried conversations with friends, and the moments of simply savoring life’s pleasures.

In a world that often demands constant hustle, Colombia gifted us the luxury of slowing down and appreciating the present.

7. Always Something Going On – Festivals and More

In Colombia, there is never a dull moment. Festivals, carnivals, and cultural events offer a continuous stream of excitement and celebration.

We loved being part of the lively gatherings, soaking in the vibrancy of the locals, and indulging in the colorful festivities.

8. The Flora and Fauna

Colombia’s natural beauty is unparalleled. Witnessing hummingbirds on a daily basis, spotting parrots soaring across the sky, and being surrounded by the breathtaking diversity of flora and fauna made our daily lives extraordinary.

Nature’s wonders in Colombia were a constant source of wonder and appreciation.

9. Low Cost of Living

Living in Colombia allowed us to stretch our budget further. The reasonable cost of living enabled us to enjoy a higher quality of life without breaking the bank. Accessible healthcare, public transportation, affordable services, and budget-friendly dining experiences.

We were even able to save money by eating out instead of cooking at home! A lunch menu comes with soup the main plate with a protein of your choice, rice, plantain, a little salad, and fruit juice for around $2.50!

Conclusion

As we reflect on our time in Colombia, our hearts overflow with gratitude for the profound impact this beautiful country had on us. Though circumstances led us to leave, Colombia will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

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Our Expat Story In Medellin Colombia – Journey Of A Lifetime

Both born and raised in Switzerland, we should be the happiest people on earth, right? Not so much! Our wish to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life led us on a journey to explore alternative options.

Join us on our quest to find a place where we can truly thrive and discover the true meaning of happiness. This is the story of our pursuit of the American Dream and the unexpected twist that took us to a different continent altogether.

The American Dream

From an early age, Sam had a dream of moving to the United States. As a passionate tackle football player in Switzerland, he immersed himself in the English language and culture.

The allure of the American dream fascinated him, and he entered the green card lottery every year, eagerly awaiting his chance to make the move.

When I met Sam at the age of 20, his dream became a part of our shared vision for the future. We embarked on several trips to the United States, exploring cities like New York, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, Maui Hawaii and even indulging in the excitement of Las Vegas.

However, despite our initial excitement, we realized that the United States did not align with the values we held dear.

Switzerland’s unfavorable weather, the pervasive “living to work” mentality, and our desire for a more meaningful and fulfilling life drove us to seek an alternative.

We yearned for a place that embraced a different set of values, where nature thrived, and people focused on the quality of life rather than material abundance. The United States, with its emphasis on wealth accumulation and fast-paced living, felt like a step backward.

The Search

Determined to find our ideal home abroad, we began exploring countries beyond the United States. Our journey led us to Panama, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Each destination had its unique charm, but it was Latin America that truly captured our hearts.

The climate, the vibrant cultures, and the warmth of the people drew us to South America. Among the countries we considered, Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia emerged as the top contenders.

After visiting Panama and immersing ourselves in its cities, we realized it wasn’t the right fit for us. The weather was too hot and humid, and the bustling city life didn’t resonate with our desire for a more peaceful and authentic experience.

With Ecuador and Colombia remaining on our list, we faced a dilemma. We could have visited both countries to make an informed decision, but we decided to trust our instincts instead.

You’ll Get Kidnapped!

In early 2017, we made the bold decision to move away from Switzerland that same year.

Breaking the news to our friends and family was challenging. Their concerns were understandable but rooted in a limited understanding of South America, especially Colombia.

My mom was convinced that we would get kidnapped or worse. The country’s dark past overshadowed its tremendous progress in recent years, and we were determined to challenge those preconceptions.

The Start of Our Journey

In November 2017, we boarded a plane to… Johannesburg, South Africa.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why South Africa?”. Well, there was one condition I had before starting our new lives abroad: I wanted to go on a safari in South Africa. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to see the wildlife in their natural habitat. So, we made it happen.

We embarked on a three-week bus tour with fellow adventurers from around the world. The journey took us from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and it was an incredible experience. Seeing the animals I was accustomed to seeing on television or in zoos up close and personal was breathtaking.

Sleeping in a tent was a new experience for me, and the landscapes we encountered were awe-inspiring. The trip was filled with cultural lessons, amazing people, and unforgettable moments.

Discovering Ecuador

After three weeks of adventure in South Africa, it was time to refocus on our plan to move and live abroad. We flew directly from Cape Town to Quito, Ecuador, and after a grueling 30-hour journey, we were relieved to finally set foot on South American soil.

The country welcomed us with open arms, showcasing its vibrant culture and friendly locals. We immersed ourselves in work-for-accommodation opportunities, which allowed us to explore Ecuador, learn the language, and forge meaningful connections.

Colombia Here We Come

Yet, as enchanting as Ecuador was, we couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. We longed for a deeper connection and a stronger sense of belonging. And that’s when Colombia beckoned.

Our journey led us to Medellín, a city that defied stereotypes and revealed its true essence. The perfect weather, stunning landscapes, and the warmth of its people captivated us instantly.

It was truly love at first sight!

Medellín shattered the negative image we had inherited and ignited our desire to explore more of Colombia.

We ventured to different regions and cities, from the picturesque coffee region of Pereira to the vibrant streets of Santa Marta. Each place offered a unique experience, showcasing Colombia’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.

Eventually, we decided to head back to Medellín, Colombia. The second-largest city in Colombia, it is nestled in a picturesque valley surrounded by lush green mountains. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring”.

One of the most striking features of Medellín is its remarkable transformation from a city plagued by violence and drug cartels to a vibrant, innovative, and culturally rich metropolis.

Making a Living in Colombia

Making a Living in ColombiaInitially, we relied on freelance work to sustain ourselves while exploring Colombia. But as time went on, we realized there was an opportunity to assist fellow expats on their relocation journeys. We noticed that many people shared the doubts and concerns we once had.

Motivated by our own experiences, we founded a relocation company, offering support and guidance to those seeking to make Colombia their new home.

Living in Colombia transformed our lives in ways we never imagined. It taught us resilience, adaptability, and the joy of embracing new cultures. Every morning, we woke up grateful for the opportunity to live in such an extraordinary land, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, vibrant cities, and the warmth of its people.

Happily Ever After?

Colombia GuatapeUnfortunately, we had to leave Colombia after 4 years due to visa issues. Maintaining a long-term visa has been getting harder by the year. If you’re not an ex-military vet, a retiree, or married to a Colombian, obtaining a visa can be quite challenging.

In those 4 years, we were able to explore new regions, deepen our understanding of Colombian traditions, and support others on their own expat journeys.

Colombia still feels like home to us, a place where we found a sense of belonging and fulfillment. It will always remain dear to our hearts.

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Medellín vs Cuenca: Comparing Two Popular Expat Destinations in Latin America

Medellín, Colombia and Cuenca, Ecuador have become increasingly popular destinations for expats, digital nomads, and retirees.

Both cities offer a unique charm, vibrant cultures, and an array of attractions that cater to various lifestyles and preferences.

In this comprehensive blog post, you’ll learn about the many facets of living in these two amazing cities, including the pros and cons of each, comparing aspects such as living conditions, cost of living, infrastructure, and safety.

Hopefully, this will help you make an informed decision about which city might be the ideal destination for your next adventure or new home abroad.

Medellín, Colombia: A Jungle With a City In It

Medellín ColombiaMy first impression of Medellín, Colombia was that it’s a jungle with a city in it.

Medellín is nestled in the Andean mountains, but the elevation is low enough that it has lots of tall trees and tropical greenery, which provides an amazing backdrop for the bustling city life.

Pros of Medellín Colombia

Medellín is a fascinating blend of modern comforts and jungle-like surroundings. It has a lot of great things going for it, such as:

  • Scenic beauty: Surrounded by mountains and lush greenery, Medellín offers a stunning landscape.
  • Pleasant weather: With a year-round spring-like climate, Medellín is known as the “Land of Eternal Spring.”
  • Lower elevation: While still at 4,900 feet / 1,495 meters, it’s much lower than Cuenca so it’s warmer and the air is easier to breathe.
  • Vibrant culture: The city is known for its colorful murals and diverse population of Colombians and other South Americans, plus tourists, digital nomads, and expats from around the world.
  • Cleanliness: In the neighborhoods we visited, streets were well-maintained, and dogs were on leashes.
  • Modern infrastructure: Medellín has drinkable tap water and a wide variety of restaurants catering to all tastes and dietary needs.
  • Transportation: Affordable taxis, buses, and a metro system are available throughout the city, along with Uber.
  • International airport: Direct flights to some locations in the United States and other countries make Medellín easily accessible.
  • Affordability: Housing, food, and restaurant prices are comparable to Ecuador and much lower than the United States or Canada.
  • High-quality healthcare: Colombia is known for its excellent healthcare facilities and is consistently ranked high by CEOWorld Magazine.
  • Housing options: While high-rise living is popular in Medellín, townhomes and single-family homes are available if you’re willing to venture further out. Check out our Medellín Colombia Real Estate Tour for more about housing in Medellín.
  • Kaime Medellin ColombiaExcellent restaurants: We ate at a variety of amazing restaurants in the Zona Rosa tourist area of El Poblado. You’ll find everything from street vendors to high-end gourmet restaurants, and the prices are very affordable compared to the US.
  • Service culture: Compared to Ecuador, Colombia has a high-quality service culture. Restaurant servers, drivers, tour guides, cashiers, etc. are attentive and care about the quality of service you receive.

Cons of Medellín Colombia

We enjoyed our time in Medellín and plan to go back, but a few things make it less than perfect:

  • Crowded city: With a population of more than 2.5 million people, Medellín can feel quite congested.
  • Colombian Peso: Conversion rates may be tricky for those used to the US dollar and the value fluctuates a lot.
  • Heavy traffic: The city has heavy traffic and swarms of motorcycles, which might be concerning for some. After getting moto-robbed in Guadalajara, Mexico, the swarms of motorcycles had us constantly looking over our shoulders.
  • Safety concerns: Moto-robberies, pickpocketing, kidnapping, and other safety issues are a significant concern. It’s important to be cautious and avoid certain areas, especially at night. It’s also common for sex workers and Tinder daters to lure foreigners to a restaurant or hotel room where they are roofied and robbed.
  • Tax residency: Staying in Colombia for more than 183 days per year might make you a tax resident, so consult a tax professional before moving there long-term.
 

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Cuenca, Ecuador: A South American Gem

Cuenca Ecuador View from Mirador Turi

Cuenca, Ecuador is a charming UNESCO World Heritage city with a rich history and stunning architecture. Like Medellín, it is also known as the “Land of Eternal Spring” for its pleasant weather.

While much smaller and about 1,000 miles / 1,600 kilometers south of Medellín, Cuenca shares some similarities with its Colombian counterpart in terms of cost of living, quality of life, and available amenities.

However, they differ in population size, safety levels, and currency (Ecuador uses the US dollar).

Comparing these two cities is a valuable exercise for those considering a move to Latin America.

Pros of Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca offers a slower pace of life, a welcoming expat community, and a unique blend of culture and nature that make it an attractive destination. It’s also much smaller than Medellín with a population of roughly 500,000 people.

Here are a few things we love about Cuenca:

  • Cuenca Ecuador New CathedralUNESCO World Heritage Site: Cuenca is rich in history and architecture, with Inca ruins right in the city.
  • Beautiful rivers and linear parks: The city has 4 rivers running through it, and numerous parks that offer scenic trails and relaxing spots to sit and read a book.
  • Land of Eternal Spring: Known for its mild temperatures, Cuenca offers pleasant weather throughout the year.
  • Walkable city: Most of the city can be explored on foot, with taxis required only occasionally for longer distances or heavy loads.
  • Incredible restaurants: Cuenca boasts a wide array of affordable, delicious, and beautifully plated food options. Check out Popular Expat Restaurants in Cuenca Ecuador for our recommendations.
  • Diverse expat community: The city is popular among retirees, families, and singles of all ages from around the world.
  • English speakers: Cuenca has a larger population of English speakers compared to Medellín, and a large number of Ecuadorians who speak English, making it easier for non-Spanish speakers to settle in.
  • Quality healthcare: Ecuador (especially Cuenca) is known for its excellent and affordable healthcare; CEOWorld Magazine consistently ranks it higher than the US. It’s easy to schedule appointments with high-quality medical professionals, and many speak English. Check out Our Ecuador Healthcare Experience for more details about healthcare in Ecuador, including costs and quality of care.
  • Affordable living: Housing prices in Cuenca are comparable to Medellín, with the overall cost of living being similar and about one-third of the cost in the United States.
  • Drinkable tap water: The tap water in Cuenca is safe to drink and tastes better than in Medellín (it’s not so heavily chlorinated)
  • Ecuador's Unique USD CoinsEcuador is on the US Dollar: The official currency in Ecuador is the US dollar, making it convenient for US American expats. It’s the exact same currency (except for a few special coins minted in 2000 that are not legal tender back in the US). Check out Money and Banking in Ecuador for more on this topic.
  • No tax on foreign income: Foreign residents do not pay tax on their foreign income, although it’s essential to consult a tax professional for accurate and up-to-date advice.
 

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Cons of Cuenca Ecuador

Like any place, Cuenca is not without its challenges:

  • High elevation: Cuenca is located at 8,400 feet / 2,560 meters above sea level (almost twice the elevation as Medellín), which can result in cooler temperatures and thinner air.
  • Limited international flights: While there is a semi-direct flight to Miami, Cuenca’s airport is small, and all international flights require a connection in Quito or Guayaquil.
  • Increased crime rates: Petty theft and robberies have become more common in Cuenca and throughout Ecuador, so it’s essential to be cautious.
  • Laid-back service quality: Ecuadorians have a more relaxed attitude toward service, which can be both a blessing and a challenge for expats adjusting to the local customs. At restaurants, you may need to find your server to take your order or bring the bill. And we often find that they deliver the courses in the reverse order (entree, appetizer and then drinks) so we have learned to order one thing at a time so we get things in the proper order.

Final Thoughts

Both Medellín and Cuenca are beautiful cities with their unique qualities.

Medellín may be better suited if you’re seeking a larger, modern city with great service, lower elevation, and direct flights to the US.

On the other hand, Cuenca might be the right choice if you prefer a smaller city with a slower pace of life, great restaurants, cooler temperatures, a higher safety level, and the convenience of spending in US dollars.

And remember, visiting each city before committing to a move is always the best way to get a true feel for what life there would be like.

Watch Our Video Comparing Medellín Colombia to Cuenca Ecuador

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Buying Real Estate in Colombia: Process & Tips

We had the opportunity to interview Juan Camilo Villegas on our recent trip to Medellín, Colombia.

Juan is an experienced real estate agent and shared some valuable information about buying real estate in Colombia, the unique process, and the essential steps for foreigners looking to invest in the country.

In this blog post, we summarize the main points of our conversation with Juan to help you successfully navigate the Colombian real estate market.

Understanding the Colombian Real Estate Process

The Colombian real estate market operates differently from other countries. There is no MLS and no real estate agent licensing, which means anyone can work as a real estate agent. That makes it even more important that you work with an experienced professional like Juan.

Negotiations can be lengthy, and the transaction process can take anywhere from one to three months.

Watch Our Interview w/ Juan About Buying Property in Colombia

Tips for Foreigners Buying Property in Colombia

Here are a few important tips that Juan shared about buying a home in Colombia:

  1. Rent before buying: Juan recommends that foreigners rent properties in various neighborhoods to get a feel for the area before committing to a purchase.
  2. Open a brokerage account: This is the first step for entering the Colombian financial system and will help keep track of your transactions.
  3. Work with a local lawyer: A lawyer will help you legally bring your money into the country, register your property, and perform due diligence on the property.
  4. Secure a permanent residency visa: If you plan to stay in Colombia for an extended period, you will need to apply for a permanent residency permit.

Homeowners Insurance and Earthquake Safety

Colombia offers homeowners insurance, but it is not yet a widespread practice. Juan recommends purchasing insurance for protection against theft and damages.

Medellin is not prone to earthquakes, but landslides can occur in some areas.

Construction and Building Codes

Colombian construction must adhere to strict building codes that ensure safety and earthquake resistance. Codes are updated regularly, and new constructions must meet higher safety standards.

Homeowners Association (HOA) Dues

In Colombia, HOA dues are called “administration fees.” They cover expenses related to security, common areas, and property management.

On average, the cost is 90 cents per square meter or 12 cents per square foot.

Final Thoughts

Juan Camilo Villegas and Amelia Medellin ColombiaBuying real estate in Colombia can be a complex process, but working with an experienced agent like Juan Camilo Villegas can help ensure a smooth transaction.

By understanding the local market and customs, foreigners can successfully invest in Colombian real estate and enjoy the beautiful country for years to come.

Check out this article next: Medellín Colombia Real Estate Tour: 4 Amazing Properties.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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You'll also get immediate access to our Move Abroad Checklist that will walk you through the process of wrapping up your life at home and moving to a new country.

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Medellín Colombia Real Estate Tour: 4 Amazing Properties

If you’re a real estate enthusiast like us, you’ll definitely enjoy this post about our recent real estate tour in Medellín, Colombia.

We had a blast exploring four amazing properties with a range of prices to fit almost any budget.

As an added bonus, we’ll also compare these Medellín homes to similar properties in Denver, Colorado, where we used to live.

Spoiler alert: Medellín offers some incredible value!

Property 1: Sabaneta Condo with Stunning Views

Sabaneta Condo ExteriorOur first stop is a beautiful 11th-floor condo in Sabaneta, a township on the south end of the Medellín metro area.

The Sabaneta Edificio Living high-rise condo building offers breathtaking views, and the surrounding area is filled with awesome amenities and a picturesque park.

This safe and authentic neighborhood offers a real taste of local living.

Sabaneta Condo Details:

  • 3 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 958 sq ft / 89 m2
  • HOA approx. $77/mo
  • Asking Price: $102,000
  • Price per sq ft: $106
  • Map

Comparable Condo in Littleton, Colorado (Suburb of Denver):

  • 3 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 1,072 sq ft / 100 m2
  • HOA $325/mo
  • Asking Price: $397,500
  • Price per sq ft $371 (3.5x more)
  • Zillow Listing

Watch Our Medellín Colombia Property Tour

Property 2: Terraza Grande – A Spacious Oasis in El Poblado

Plaza Manzanares Condo ExteriorNext up is a roomy first-floor condo in the gorgeous Plaza Manzanares complex, located in El Poblado, walking distance to the popular Zona Rosa tourist district.

This property has a huge terrace, lots of natural light, and is close to various restaurants, bars, and other attractions.

It is move-in ready, but there is potential for updating the kitchen and baths if desired.

Plaza Manzanares Condo Details:

  • 3 bedrooms
  • 3 bathrooms
  • 1,500 sq ft / 153 m2
  • HOA approx. $160/mo
  • Asking Price: $182,000
  • Price per sq ft: $121
  • Map

Comparable Condo in Downtown Denver, Colorado:

  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 998 sq ft / 93 m2
  • HOA $632/mo
  • Asking Price: $385,000
  • Price per sq ft $386 (3x more)
  • Zillow Link
 

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Property 3: Rincón del Aguacatal – Avocado Plantation Corner

Aguacatal Condo Exterior Medellin ColombiaOur third destination is a 14th-floor condo in Rincón del Aguacatal (Corner of the Avocado Plantation).

This condo is also in El Poblado, but it’s closer to Santafé Mall and El Castillo, and not walkable to Zona Rosa.

The views from this property were simply incredible, and the natural light that filled the space was a huge plus.

Aguacatal Condo Details:

  • 3 bedrooms
  • 4 bathrooms
  • 2,206 sq ft / 205 m2
  • HOA approx. $159/mo
  • Asking Price: $243,000
  • Price per sq ft: $110
  • Map

Comparable Condo in Greenwood Village, Colorado (Suburb of Denver):

  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 1,658 sq ft / 154 m2
  • HOA $1,276/mo
  • Asking Price: $1,049,000
  • Price per sq ft $633 (almost 6x more)
  • Zillow Link

Property 4: Casa Blanca – A Dreamy Single-Family Home

Casa Blanca Exterior Medellin ColombiaFinally, the final property is a charming single-family home in Urbanización San Sebastián De La Alameda, on the eastern edge of El Poblado in the El Tesoro neighborhood.

This stand-alone house in a gated community has an incredible garden, high ceilings, and three balconies. The third level features an attic space with an additional bathroom, making it a unique and versatile property.

Casa Blanca House Details:

  • 3 bedrooms + attic
  • 4.5 bathrooms
  • 4,036 sq ft / 375 m2
  • HOA approx. $155/mo
  • Asking Price: $370,000
  • Price per sq ft: $92
  • Map

Comparable House in Wash. Park (Denver, Colorado):

  • 4 bedrooms
  • 3 bathrooms
  • 2,977 sqft / 277 m2
  • No HOA
  • Asking Price: $1,850,000
  • Price per sq ft: $621 (almost 7x more)
  • Zillow Link

A Special Thanks to Juan Camilo Villegas

Juan Camilo Villegas and Amelia Medellin ColombiaWe couldn’t have experienced this real estate tour without the help of Juan Camilo Villegas, who graciously showed us these properties.

Finding homeowners willing to let us film their homes for YouTube isn’t easy, and Juan’s expertise and organization made our tour a success.

Please note that we took this tour in January 2023, so these specific properties might not be available anymore, or the prices may have changed (especially with the currency fluctuations). However, Juan can definitely help you find other amazing homes in Medellín.

You can connect with him through his Facebook Page, and be sure to tell him you saw our post!

The Amazing Value of Medellín Colombia Real Estate

Our tour of these four properties left us in awe of the incredible value that Medellín real estate offers compared to Denver, Colorado!

It’s hard NOT to fall in love with the beautiful homes, vibrant neighborhoods, and stunning views that this Colombian city has to offer.

For a deeper dive into Medellín’s neighborhoods, check out our previous video: Where Expats Live in Medellín Colombia.

And don’t forget to let us know in the comments which property was your favorite. Happy house hunting!

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Best Neighborhoods to Live & Work in Medellín Colombia

Have you ever visited a place and immediately felt like you could live there? That’s how we felt when we visited Medellín for the first time!

We quickly discovered why Medellín is so popular with expats and digital nomads – the transition to living there would be very easy.

From the solid infrastructure to the excellent healthcare, great weather, and awesome people, this city has everything we look for in a place to live.

While we were there, we toured a few of the most popular neighborhoods with Juan Camilo, a local tour guide, and learned what makes each one unique.

Laureles Medellín Colombia

Let’s start with Laureles, the most popular neighborhood among retirees.

This area is safe, walkable, and offers a variety of restaurants. It’s very flat, which makes it accessible if you don’t like walking up hills after dinner or with a load of groceries.

We were also pleasantly surprised to find that condo options are very affordable in this area. You can find really nice condos, fully furnished including all utilities for around $1,000 USD per month.

Laureles Medellín ColombiaThe mercados are one of our favorite places to practice our Spanish, as most people don’t speak English. And Laureles has a great mercado! Our guide taught us how to eat the little mangos by biting off the tip of the mango and squeezing it from the bottom up like a tube of toothpaste until all the juice is drained into your mouth. Or in our case, all over the floor and our shirts!

La Floresta Medellín ColombiaLa Floresta Medellín Colombia

Next to Laureles is La Floresta, a smaller and more affordable neighborhood, but it’s still walkable over to Laureles.

It offers a variety of neighborhood grocery stores and it’s family-friendly, making it a great option for people with small children.

This area is quiet and not a party area, perfect for those who prefer a more relaxed lifestyle.

El Estadio Medellín ColombiaEl Estadio Medellín Colombia

El Estadio is another popular neighborhood in Medellín, but more-so with the locals than foreign residents.

It’s where the professional fútbol (soccer) stadium is located and it’s known for its entertainment options such as bars and nightclubs.

The metro rail system runs through El Estadio, making it easy to get around the city.

Sabaneta Medellín ColombiaSabaneta Medellín Colombia

Sabaneta is located at the far south end of the Medellín metro and it’s the most affordable option, with fully furnished rentals available for as low as $450 per month.

We loved the authentic feel of this neighborhood, seeing the older generation playing chess in the park. Sabaneta is also safe and close to public transportation.

El Poblado Medellín ColombiaEl Poblado Medellín Colombia

Finally, we have El Poblado, the most popular neighborhood in Medellin that made the New York Times list of must-visit places in 2023.

We stayed in a highrise AirBnB condo in the Blux building about a 10 minute walk uphill from Zona Rosa where the restaurants and nightlife are located.

This area is very popular with tourists, digital nomads, and foreign residents from all over the world. El Poblado is known for its gastronomy and nightlife, and we loved the energy and variety of shops and restaurants.

While it’s hilly, it’s still walkable and has a river with lots of big trees and plants. The grocery stores in El Poblado include Carulla and Exito, as well as many other small neighborhood shops.

 

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There are big shopping malls, such as El Tesoro, Oviedo and the Santafé in El Poblado, but you’ll want to catch a ride to them if you’re staying near Zona Rosa.

This neighborhood also has excellent healthcare and some of the clinics are popular for medical tourism.

The major downside of El Poblado is the cost. It’s the most expensive area in Medellín with expensive high-rise condos everywhere. Rents start around $1,000/month and go up considerably depending on the condo, location and amenities.

Final Thoughts

So, what’s our favorite neighborhood in Medellín? While we really enjoyed Laureles for its flatness and authentic feel, we have to say that El Poblado was our favorite.

Despite the hills, we loved the young energy and variety of restaurants, and we can’t wait to go back!

If you’re ever in Medellin and looking for a great neighborhood to visit, be sure to check out one of these five options.

If you’d like to know more about Medellin, make sure to watch the top 10 things that surprised us the most about Medellin.

Watch Our Video About The Best Neighborhoods in Medellín

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Medellín Colombia: Even Better Than We Expected!

Our first trip to Colombia was even MORE surprising than we expected! We spent a week in Medellín in the neighborhood of El Poblado, which the New York Times just listed as a “must-visit place in 2023.” We also visited some of the other neighborhoods, like Laureles, La Floresta and Sabaneta.

So, in this article, we’ll tell you about the top 10 things that surprised us about Medellín, Colombia.

#10 Medellín Is a Modern City

Medellín ColombiaColombia may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of modern cities, but Medellín may just surprise you.

The city is full of high-rises and great places to live, including the AirBnB in the Blux building where we stayed. It was a studio apartment on the 13th floor with incredible views of El Poblado!

The city has reliable utilities and internet with wifi speeds in our AirBnB of 100mb download/30mb upload.

And you can drink the tap water, which is a huge plus! However, it is highly chlorinated so it tastes a bit like pool water straight out of the faucet. Chlorine evaporates at room temperature so I filled our bottles and left them sitting on the counter and the pool flavor dissipated after a few hours.

The city has a great transportation system, including a metro, buses, taxis, and Uber.

#9 Medellín Is Clean

Medellín is a clean city without a lot of graffiti, and street cleaners keep it tidy. You won’t find m

Medellin, Colombia

uch trash on the streets, and the air quality is surprisingly good, especially when compared to other Latin American cities like Guadalajara or Mexico City.

The locals had their dogs on a leash and picked up after them, and we didn’t see any stray dogs, so that means we didn’t see a lot of dog poop on the sidewalks.

#8 Medellín Is Walkable

Medellin is a very walkable city, with nice wide sidewalks without a lot of hazards, although we did see a few open holes.

The city is also pedestrian-friendly, and El Poblado even closes down some of the streets to cars on Sundays so that everyone can enjoy walking, jogging, or bike riding.

Parts of the city are hilly, especially where we stayed in El Poblado. We typically walked downhill to the main restaurant area and then took an Uber back.

Amelia did make me walk back uphill a couple of times after dinner (because it’s good for me) and I was cursing her name the whole way!

#7 Medellín Is a Foodie’s Paradise

Kaime Medellin ColombiaMedellín is known for its gastronomy, and there are lots of restaurants to choose from in the neighborhoods we visited, especially El Poblado.

You can find international cuisine as well as traditional Colombian dishes. Some of our favorite places were Florez Food Garden, Kaime, and AMA Restaurante.

The city also has several mercados and grocery stores, including Carulla, Éxito, Jumbo Santafé, Tienda D1 de Todos, and most neighborhoods have a farmer’s market on the weekend.

#6 There Are Lots of Foreigners in Medellín

Medellín is a popular destination with young and old travelers from all over the world, and we heard lots of languages spoken during our trip. However, you still need to speak Spanish, as it’s the main language used in the city.

The city is particularly popular with digital nomads and retirees, and El Poblado is known for its nightlife and party crowd.

#5 Medellín Is Crowded!

With a population of 4 million, Medellín is bigger than Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The traffic can be bad, and there are lots of people on motorcycles, so beware of moto robbers.

#4 Medellín Has Great Weather

One of the things we loved about Medellín was the perfect weather!

At an elevation of around 5,000 feet, the city has a mix of sun, clouds, and rain. Temperatures are typically in the 70s and 80s F, making it comfortable to explore the city throughout the day.

However, it’s still important to wear sunscreen during the day and bring a light jacket for cooler evenings.

#3 There’s Lots To Do In Medellín

Medellín has a ton of activities and attractions to offer. From shopping to museums to outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone.

Santafe Mall Medellin Colombia Ice SkatingWe enjoyed visiting Santafé Mall. It’s HUGE and has a wide variety of shops and attractions. It’s has an inner and outer ring with 5 levels and a rotating display that changes monthly, featuring dog shows and flower gardens. It had an ice skating rink when we visited.

If you’re interested in exploring the city’s culture and history, you can check out the sculptures of the famous Colombian artist Botero in Plaza Botero.

There are also plenty of parks to enjoy, including the beautiful gardens of the El Castillo Castle, which you can visit for just 17,000 pesos (about $3.50) to walk around the grounds or 20,000 pesos (about $4) for a castle tour.

For those looking for day trips, Medellin offers plenty of options. You can go bird watching, visit the nearby town of Guatape or Santa Fe de Antioquia.

#2 Medellín Is Super Affordable

One of the most surprising things about Medellín was how affordable it is. The cost of living is low, making it a great destination for budget-conscious travelers.

You can find fully furnished rentals for as little as $400 per month, and cell phone plans start at just $10 per month. Internet service is also reasonably priced at around $40 per month.

Getting around the city is also affordable, with bus fares costing less than $1 and taxis costing around $2 for local fares.

Whether you’re a budget traveler or just looking to save some money on your next trip, Medellín is a great destination.

#1 Medellín Is a JUNGLE with a CITY In It!

Medellin ColombiaFinally, the most surprising thing about Medellín is how green it is!

Despite being a bustling city of 4 million people, Medellín is surrounded by mountains and filled with lush greenery, including big trees, flowers, and plenty of birds.

It truly feels like a jungle with a city in it!

Conclusion

Medellín is an amazing city that surprised us in many ways. From its modernity to its affordability to its natural beauty, Medellín has a lot to offer travelers.

Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s culture, enjoy its great weather, or just soak up the greenery, Medellín is a destination that should definitely be on your list.

Plus, with a variety of visa options, including a new digital nomad visa, Medellín is a great place to work and play! We certainly plan to spend more time there in the future!

Watch Our Video About Medellín Colombia

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Enter your email address here to get our Unconventional Newsletter with all sorts of timely information about living abroad, online income and achieving financial independence.
 
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PLUS, there are several other free perks in our Live Abroad Toolkit we think you'll enjoy!