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Colombia’s Comeback: 10 Reasons Expats Are Eyeing This Trending Country

9 min read

Colombia’s Comeback: 10 Reasons Expats Are Eyeing This Trending Country

Lately, there's been a noticeable shift among expats, who are increasingly giving Colombia a second look, defying the understandably bleak perception of Colombia’s past. But this country is not the same nation it was in the days of Pablo Escobar, and many expats are opting for its colourful landscapes, warm culture, and dynamic cities over more traditional expat destinations. This growing trend speaks volumes about the changing preferences and priorities of the global expat community.

In this article, we're diving deep into the heart of Colombia to explore why this beautiful country is capturing the hearts of so many expats. From its improved safety measures to its affordable cost of living, diverse climate, and welcoming locals, we've compiled a list of 10 compelling reasons that are putting Colombia on the map for people seeking out a Plan B destination or just looking for some adventure abroad.

Let’s dive in.

 

Rosario Island in Cartagena, Colombia

Rosario Island in Cartagena, Colombia

10. NATURAL BEAUTY AND BIODIVERSITY

For those dreaming of a coastal paradise, places like Cartagena and Santa Marta on Colombia's Caribbean coast are where life's a beach—literally. Here, life slows down to let you enjoy the sun-soaked beaches, vibrant culture, and laid-back lifestyle. The Afro-Caribbean influence adds a unique zest to the local atmosphere, seen in the lively music, delicious food, and festive celebrations. It's the perfect setting for expats looking to unwind and embrace a more relaxed way of life.

The Lost City is a hidden gem for adventure lovers, tucked away in the lush jungles of Colombia. It's a journey that's as much about the destination as it is about the trek to get there. You'll navigate through thick jungles and Ford rivers and ascend ancient stone steps. Reaching this archaeological marvel nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains is like stepping into a time machine, offering a rare blend of physical challenge and a glimpse into ancient history. It's an unforgettable experience that combines the thrill of exploration with the awe of uncovering a piece of the past.

 

Palenqueras with a fruit basket on their head, Colombia

Palenqueras with a fruit basket on their head, Colombia

9. RICH CULTURE AND HISTORY

Colombia is celebrated for its magical realism, beautifully encapsulated by Juan Manuel Santos, as a land of stunning landscapes, heartwarming music, and genuine human warmth. This country's culture is a vibrant blend of indigenous, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences, beautifully reflected in its colourful festivals like the Carnaval de Barranquilla. 

Colombians themselves are known for their love of life, deep family connections, enthusiasm for music and dance, and a collective passion for football and the natural beauty of their homeland, from the Andes Mountains to the mesmerizing Caño Cristales.

Key highlights of Colombian culture include its rich diversity, stemming from a mixture of Indigenous, European, African, and mestizo heritages, and the significant role of family, with traditions of communal living and respect for elders. Coffee, an emblem of Colombian identity, symbolizes the country's rich history and the quality of its land, while its numerous festivals showcase its deep-rooted traditions. Music and dance are integral, blending various cultural influences and uniting Colombians in celebration. 

The country's approach to life influences its work culture as well, where Colombians are valued for their positive energy, strong work ethic, and the importance of social relationships in business success.

 

Medellin Center Colombia Night-2

Medellin Center Colombia Night

8. SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS

Over the years, Colombia has made remarkable strides in addressing its security challenges through a combination of intelligence operations, international collaborations, and bolstered security initiatives. These efforts have effectively disrupted criminal organizations, contradicting the outdated stereotype of Colombia as besieged by crime. The result has been a noteworthy improvement in the country's security, with crime rates experiencing a significant decline.

Furthermore, Colombia has undertaken substantial reforms to enhance its judicial system, focusing on increasing efficiency, transparency, and independence. A key achievement in this area is the establishment of specialized courts designed to adjudicate drug-related offences and human rights violations, ensuring these critical issues are handled with the necessary expertise and focus. On the social front, Colombia has become an increasingly popular destination for expats and tourists, who largely report positive experiences.

The formation of expat communities in cities like Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellín has not only enriched Colombia's cultural diversity but also fostered a supportive environment for newcomers. The tourism boom has further improved the country's image, contributing to a sense of safety among visitors. While vigilance remains advisable, the perceived risk of violent crimes against tourists in major urban areas is relatively low in actuality, making Colombia a more secure and welcoming place for its residents and visitors alike.

 

Related content: How Safe Is Colombia For Expats?

 

Mikkel in Colombia

Colombia is a fantastic country, and I've been there several times

7. EXPANDING EXPAT COMMUNITY

Numerous expats have discovered Colombia to be an inviting and rewarding place to live, creating lively expat communities in cities such as Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín. These communities not only enrich Colombia's multicultural landscape but also offer a plethora of benefits for those new to the country. 

Having an expat community provides a valuable support network that can help newcomers navigate the challenges of moving to a new country, from finding housing and understanding local customs to learning the language. These communities often organize social events, cultural exchanges, and networking opportunities, which can be crucial for building friendships and professional connections in a new environment.

Moreover, the flourishing tourism sector has helped improve the country's image regarding safety, making it an even more attractive destination for expats. In Medellín, particularly, the ease of navigation and the widespread use of English, especially among professionals like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, make it an accessible city for English-speaking expats. This language accessibility, combined with the benefits of having a supportive expat community, makes living in Colombia an appealing and fulfilling experience for expats from around the world.

 

Panoramic view of Bogota, Colombia

Panoramic view of Bogota, Colombia

6. ECONOMIC GROWTH

In 2023, Colombia demonstrated a notable improvement in its business environment, securing the 67th spot out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 study. This positive shift, driven by enhanced business-starting processes, easier access to credit, streamlined tax payments, and more straightforward bankruptcy handling, makes Colombia an attractive destination for expat entrepreneurs. 

The Colombian government's initiatives, including tax incentives, financial support, and facilitated funding access, coupled with free trade agreements with major economies like the United States, Canada, and the European Union, significantly lower the barriers to entering the Colombian market and broaden opportunities for business growth.

Moreover, Colombia's economy is on an upswing, with a GDP growth forecast of 1.8% in 2024 and inflation expected to decelerate to 5%, which may lead to a reduction in the benchmark interest rate to around 8%. The country's economic rebound is further evidenced by a burgeoning urban development and tourism sector, boosting the demand for real estate and predicting the market's growth to USD 2.12 trillion by 2024

Adding to this economic vibrancy, Colombia saw a 0.9% increase in its financial inclusion indicators in 2023, as reported by the Financial Inclusion Index (FII) of Grupo Credicorp. This rise is largely attributed to fintech companies, which have played a pivotal role in extending online financial services to previously unreachable populations. With financial inclusion scores moving from 44.7 out of 100 in 2022 to 45.6 in 2023, more Colombians are now accessing digital banking services, marking Colombia as a conducive environment not only for entrepreneurship but also for financial innovation.

 

View of a small colombian fishing village and hippie paradise called Taganga

View of a small Colombian fishing village and hippie paradise called Taganga

5. CLIMATE DIVERSITY

Colombia is like a treasure chest of natural wonders, packed with everything from snow-capped mountains and lush tropical forests to beautiful coral reefs and expansive oceans. This variety makes Colombia one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, not to mention its wealth of water resources. Depending on where you are, the climate can change dramatically. Near the coast and in the eastern lowlands, it's mostly tropical, meaning it's warm and humid. But if you venture up into the highlands or the Andes, you'll need to bundle up because it gets cooler.

The country is split into three main climate zones based on elevation. First, there's the tierra fria, or cold land, above 2,000 meters, where temperatures range between 13ºC and 17ºC. Next, the temperate zone, or Tierra templada, sits between 1,000 and 2,000 meters with average temperatures around 18ºC. Lastly, the tierra caliente, or hot land, includes areas below 1,000 meters with temperatures from 24ºC to 27ºC. Rainfall isn't the same everywhere, either.

While the Pacific coast and some Andean areas can get up to 7,000 mm of rain a year, the northern and southwestern steppes might see less than 500 mm. Plus, rain patterns vary too. The Andean regions usually have two rainy seasons, in April–June and October–December. However, the northern Caribbean coast has one long rainy season from May–October, thanks to its equatorial location. And then there's the weather's mood swings, influenced by El Niño and La Niña. El Niño might bring drought and warmer weather, while La Niña can lead to floods and cooler temperatures, especially between June and August.

 

 

4. HEALTHCARE QUALITY

While Colombia has a national healthcare system that ensures coverage for both citizens and legal residents alike, most expats will simply choose to opt for the very affordable private healthcare options available in the country, which offer expats access to affordable and efficient services. Significant investments in healthcare infrastructure have markedly improved overall health outcomes, including a reduction in infant mortality rates.

Expats will find that the cost of high-quality healthcare services in Colombia is considerably lower than what they might expect to pay in other countries. Additionally, Colombia boasts a top-tier private healthcare sector that offers excellent quality care at very affordable rates. 

Health insurance is cost-effective, eliminating concerns about lengthy waiting times associated with the public system. Furthermore, prescription medications are often available at a fraction of the cost compared to other countries, adding to the appeal of Colombia's healthcare offerings for expats looking for quality, specialized care or a higher level of service without the hefty price tag.

 

3. VISA ACCESSIBILITY

Colombia is renowned for its exceptional hospitality and the warmth of its people, making it a favourite destination for many around the world. This welcoming nature is mirrored in its versatile visa offerings, designed to meet the needs of everyone from digital nomads in search of a new workspace to retirees looking for a peaceful haven. The country's visa system is organized into three main categories – Visitor (V), Migrant (M), and Resident (R) – each designed to accommodate different lengths and purposes of stay, ensuring you can find the perfect fit for your life abroad.

 

VISITOR VISAS

For those eager to experience Colombia's dynamic culture and breathtaking landscapes on a shorter visit, the Visitor Visas, categorized under "V," are your starting point. This category provides a variety of subtypes, each crafted to match your specific travel goals, from short explorations to longer stays that allow you to immerse yourself in Colombian life temporarily.

 

MIGRANT VISAS

If your adventure calls for a deeper integration into Colombia without the finality of permanent residency, then the Migrant Visas, or the "M" category, are ideal. These visas offer a longer but not indefinite stay, with several subtypes available to cater to different needs, whether you're coming for work, family, or other reasons.

 

RESIDENT VISAS

For those ready to fully commit to life in Colombia, the Resident Visas, or "R" category, symbolize the final step. These visas offer a permanent stay, allowing you to lay down roots and establish a lasting bond with the country, turning Colombia from a destination into a home.

Colombia’s diverse range of visa options provides a pathway for every expat, regardless of how temporary or permanent their plans are. Each category and its subtypes are designed to facilitate a smooth transition into Colombian life, catering to a broad spectrum of aspirations and ensuring that you can make the most of your time in this vibrant country. Understanding these options is key to planning your move and beginning your Colombian adventure.

 

Related content: Essential Guide On Colombian Visas For Expats

 

Medellin Centro Atardecer Colombia

Medellin Centro, Colombia

2. STRATEGIC LOCATION

Colombia's strategic position at the northern tip of South America provides it with a unique advantage. It serves as a gateway between North, Central, and South America. This geographic placement not only enhances Colombia's accessibility to key markets in the Americas but also positions it as a pivotal hub for travel and trade. With coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Colombia offers direct sea routes to various countries, facilitating international business and tourism.

For remote workers and business professionals, Colombia's time zone (Colombia Standard Time, CST, which is UTC-5) presents several advantages. Being in the same time zone as Eastern Standard Time (EST) for part of the year and only an hour behind for the rest, Colombia aligns closely with major business hubs in the United States and Canada. This synchronicity allows for real-time communication and collaboration with clients and colleagues in North America without the hassle of significant time differences that can delay decision-making and project progress. Additionally, Colombia's working hours overlap with those in Europe for part of the day, enabling easier coordination with European partners and markets. This convenient time zone positioning makes Colombia an attractive location for digital nomads, remote workers, and businesses looking to operate efficiently across continents.

 

1. COST OF LIVING

The cost of living in Colombia in 2024 is relatively affordable, especially when compared to the United States. The average monthly expenses for a family of four are estimated at $1,782.1 USD (6,982,876.6 Colombian Pesos), excluding rent, while a single person's estimated monthly costs are around $512.5 USD (2,008,065.6 Colombian Pesos), also without rent. Overall, the cost of living is about 57.6% lower than in the United States, making Colombia an attractive option for those seeking a more affordable lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at practical examples of how much basic things cost in Colombia:

  • Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment - $85.69 USD/per month;

  • Rent an apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre - $358.26 USD/per month;

  • Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) - $9.03 USD;

  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) - $1.84 USD;

  • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course - $25.80 USD.

 

Note: This data was current as of March 2024.

 

Clock Tower Gate, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Clock Tower Gate, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Colombia offers a diverse and enriching experience for expats, blending natural beauty, cultural vibrancy, and a welcoming atmosphere into a compelling destination for living abroad. Whether you're a digital nomad, a retiree, or someone seeking new adventures and opportunities, Colombia's range of visa options facilitates a smooth transition to this dynamic country.

Interested in making Colombia your new home and diving into its rich culture and stunning landscapes? With plenty of resources, expat insights, and official guides available, transitioning to life in Colombia has never been easier. For exclusive stories, tips, and everything you need to know about embracing the Colombian lifestyle, subscribe to the Expat Money Newsletter today. Don't miss your chance to turn curiosity into your next adventure. Subscribe now and start your journey toward a new beginning in Colombia.

 

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Mikkel Thorup

Written by Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup is the world’s most sought-after expat consultant. He focuses on helping high-net-worth private clients to legally mitigate tax liabilities, obtain a second residency and citizenship, and assemble a portfolio of foreign investments including international real estate, timber plantations, agricultural land and other hard-money tangible assets. Mikkel is the Founder and CEO at Expat Money®, a private consulting firm started in 2017. He hosts the popular weekly podcast, the Expat Money Show, and wrote the definitive #1-Best Selling book Expat Secrets - How To Pay Zero Taxes, Live Overseas And Make Giant Piles Of Money, and his second book: Expats Guide On Moving To Mexico.

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