Retire in Colombia

To retire in Colombia is a genuine option and attractiveto North Americans in particular.

What are some of the pros and cons, if considering the move?

Standard of Living

If contemplating whether or not to retire in Colombia, most likely the cost and standard of living are of great importance.

  • Colombia is not as cheap as it used to be but you can find ways to keep costs down.

Having lived in Norway, Colombia and the U.S. over the last 6 years, I've been able to compare the process in detail and would say that it depends on you.

Overall, the food here is cheaper and so are restaurants. That said, cheap chains in the U.S. for example, can compete with those in Colombia. Clothes are more expensive here, but electronics and computers have fallen in price considerably. Apple computers are now priced the same here as in the U.S.

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Colombian real estate is considerably cheaper on a nationwide basis. However, the major cities such as Bogota, Medellin and especially Cartagena, have seen property prices increase considerably over the last 10 years and have not experienced a crash like in the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, prices are still relatively cheap. It's impossible to give an exact percentage given variations in location and lifestyle, so I suggest you research this in detail yourself.

  • Personally, I find rentals are cheaper than buying, on a relative basis and especially if you rent a house outside of the cities.
  • You do pay for infrastructure and safety.

For example a plot of land within a gated community can be up to 15-30 times more expensive per m2 as compared with land just 20 minutes away.

Health

  • Public health is surprisingly good, especially in the wealthier regions through the EPS system.

There is also a large offer of excellent private alternatives ranging from cosmetic surgery to a family doctor. We have a child and use the EPS for essentials and go private when necessary. If you become a resident, you have the right to becoming an EPS member at a very low cost.

Friendly People

Colombians are friendly. It's a fact. They are open and welcoming and will make you feel welcome. If trying to learn Spanish for instance, they will be supportive and helpful as opposed to arrogant and condescending.

Economy on the Rise

In the context of the economic crisis, particularly in Europe and United States, there is a strong sense that the "West" is losing its competitive edge in addition to currencies that are losing their purchasing power.

Colombia on the other hand, is experiencing strong growth and benefitting from being a country rich in natural resources and relatively cheap labor. So far, the economic crisis has not hit Colombia particularly hard and in my opinion, there's a real possibility that over time, this may emerge as one of the richer nations in the "new" world.

This has its' pros and cons of course, because prices are on the rise. It might be wise to secure land or property sooner, rather than later.

Social problems and Equality

  • This is a country of enormous contrasts.

The wealthy are highly privileged whereas the poor, have little and lack possibilities. Being pragmatic, this means that help is affordable.

However, the number of poor people, people begging in the streets and at times, living in poverty can be tough to deal with. There can be a sense of chaos in some parts of the cities and especially the low-income areas.

Within Colombia, to a large extent, you can choose the extent to which you want to expose yourself to the darker realities as is true in many countries.

Bureaucracy & Logistical Challenges

Perhaps the most challenging aspect if wanting to retire in Colombia is that paper work here takes a long time. Much like in Spain, but possibly worse. It can be a challenge to understand the ways things are done and people are often late or give misinformation.

If you need to apply for a visa, plan plenty of extra time. Assume things will go wrong in the process. Just because an "official" with certainty explains that you need to do x,y & z, double check as they are often mistaken. Normally, human judgment and goodwill will get you want you need. Be polite and firm only when needed.

Money transfer to Colombia can be complicated and there are certain restrictions if you wish to avoid paying taxes.

Corruption is rife and therefore, you can not be as blue-eyed as back home. (not that this works anywhere in the world these days...)

Having said all these things, if you're practical and have a spirit for change and adventure, I truly believe that one can seriously consider the option to retire in Colombia.

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