Cost of Living in Colombia – The BEST Guide
Exploring the allure of Colombia, a nation embraced by expats for its vibrant culture, pleasant climate, and friendly locals, unveils an enticing journey into the heart of South America. The “cost of living in Colombia” becomes a key factor, offering a budget-friendly lifestyle coupled with delicious cuisine and a rich cultural tapestry. This country, once overshadowed by historical stereotypes, has transformed into an expat haven, attracting those seeking an affordable yet fulfilling lifestyle.
With an average monthly cost ranging from $950 to $1200 USD, Colombia provides an economical haven for expatriates. The visa landscape unfolds various options, including a favorable “Golden Visa” program for investors and retirement visas. Colombia’s healthcare system stands out for its quality and affordability, making it a draw for those prioritizing excellent medical services.
Communication takes a delightful twist as English speakers are limited, emphasizing the necessity to embrace the local language, Spanish. While safety has vastly improved, recent challenges, including unemployment-related incidents, highlight the importance of staying vigilant. Colombia, once associated with drug wars, has emerged as a safe, chic, and vibrant destination for those seeking a life filled with cultural richness, community, and affordability.
Why Live in Colombia?
Located in the northern part of South America, Colombia offers a captivating blend of natural wonders and cultural richness. Imagine waking up to the sight of lush, green coffee plantations stretching along the Andes Mountains, or basking on crystal beaches that line both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Picture the awe-inspiring Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a snow-capped mountain soaring 18,700 feet into the sky, a mere 26 miles from the Caribbean Coast.
Colombia stands as the world’s second most bio-diverse country, boasting 1,889 species of birds, contributing to a remarkable 20% of all species on Earth. Within its borders, the Darien jungle to the west and the Amazon to the east provide an ecological tapestry that is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The eastern part of the country reveals Caño Cristales, a river often referred to as a “liquid rainbow” due to its stunning display of five colors—a testament to Colombia’s natural treasures.
Beyond its picturesque landscapes, what truly sets Colombia apart is its warm and welcoming people. Colombians take pride in sharing their culture with open arms, inviting you into their communities with vibrant music, dance, and a rich array of local delicacies. Festivals, a cornerstone of Colombian life, are scattered throughout every city and town, each celebrating a unique aspect of the country’s diverse heritage.
Colombia’s allure extends beyond the visual spectacle; it’s an invitation to immerse yourself in a culture that cherishes its roots and embraces visitors as part of its extended family. The combination of breathtaking scenery and the genuine hospitality of its people makes Colombia a compelling destination for those seeking not just a place to live but a vibrant tapestry of experiences.
Cost of Living in Colombia Summary
Accommodation (Dorm Bed)
$8 – $15 per night
Accommodation (Private Room)
$25 – $50 per night
Accommodation (Apartment Rental)
$400 – $800 per month (depending on location)
Utilities (Electricity, Water, Gas)
$50 – $100 per month
$15 – $30 per month (prepaid plan)
$20 – $40 per month
$5 – $20 per meal (depending on the restaurant)
$150 – $250 per month (for basic items)
$10 – $15 per hour
$0.70 – $1.50 per ride
$30 – $50 per day
$1.20 – $1.50 per liter
$20 – $40 per month
$10 – $30 per outing
$50 – $100 per month (depending on lifestyle)
Please note that these are approximate costs and can vary based on the specific city or region within Colombia. Prices are given in U.S. dollars and are subject to change based on economic conditions and personal preferences. It’s advisable to check with local sources for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing.
Costs to Live in Colombia Details
Rent in Colombia
Rent in Colombia varies significantly based on the neighborhood and the city’s tourism prominence. Gentrified areas like Cartagena’s Bocagrande and Medellin’s El Poblado tend to have higher living costs, including rent and dining out. Cities thriving on tourism generally exhibit higher overall living expenses, especially along beachfront locations.
Colombia’s renting market, with an estimated 51.8 million inhabitants, commands a substantial 39% share of the housing market. Notably, even expat-popular areas in Bogota offer surprisingly affordable rents. In Usaquen, for instance, you can secure a one-bedroom apartment for an average of $300 to $630 (1.2 to 2.5 million COP) or opt for a two-bedroom unit ranging from $630 to $760 (2.5 to 3 million COP). This affordability makes Colombia an attractive destination for both locals and expatriates seeking reasonably priced living arrangements.
Transport in Colombia
Transport in Colombia is a breeze, offering a variety of options to explore this diverse country conveniently. Among the popular choices are buses, taxis, and planes, each providing competitive rates and reliability.
Given Colombia’s size, flying can be a practical option. Surprisingly budget-friendly, a one-way flight from Cartagena to Medellin, covering approximately two hours, costs around $50 USD.
For those seeking a unique adventure, buses are the go-to mode of transportation. From luxurious overnight buses on highways to lively chiva buses navigating mountainous backroads, buses can take you almost anywhere in the country. Although generally cheaper than flights, the trade-off is a longer travel time. For example, a bus journey from Bogota to Medellin takes around 10 hours and costs approximately $20-$30 USD. This allows for stops along the way to explore Colombia’s unique cities and towns.
For city commuting, taxis, including Uber (technically illegal but widely used), are prevalent. Negotiating with taxi drivers is common, and a 10–15-minute ride shouldn’t cost more than $5. Colectivos, shared taxis with fixed rates per ride, are a cost-effective option, especially in remote areas.
Colombia’s pride, the Metro de Medellin, is a clean and safe train system, offering a unique perspective of the city for a minimal cost of 2,650 COP ($0.70 USD) per ride.
Safety is paramount, and whether exploring the Gringo Trail – a popular route hitting Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Tayrona National Park – or using services like Colombia Hop, travelers can find transportation options fitting both budget and needs. The average daily cost for transportation is $15, ensuring affordability and accessibility for a diverse range of travelers.
Food in Colombia
Food in Colombia offers a mix of flavors, though some may find it slightly milder than other cuisines. Prices range from budget-friendly to higher-end, with an average meal costing around $10 per person.
Colombian cuisine often features staples like rice and beans, accompanied by fish, beef, or chicken. Sides such as yuca, plátano, and patacón add variety to the meals. Traditional dishes include empanadas, tamales, sancocho de gallina, and ajiaco, reflecting influences from neighboring countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.
For an authentic experience, exploring street markets or stands is a must. Empanadas, delicious fried pastries filled with cheese or meat, are a local favorite priced at only $1.50 each. Food stalls offer hearty meals like grilled meats and rice for less than $5 USD per plate. Menu del dia, including soup, a meat dish with rice and salad, and a juice, is a popular choice costing around $2.50.
Those seeking a more upscale dining experience can expect to pay $15-20 per person at traditional restaurants, while fancier establishments may range from $40-50 per person.
Colombia’s beverage scene is marked by renowned coffee and aguardiente, a unique sugarcane-based alcoholic drink. While aguardiente may not suit all tastes, a cup of espresso in a café costs around $2, and aguardiente typically ranges between $2-$3. For a beer alternative, local brews can be enjoyed at approximately $1.50.
Despite variations in preferences and dining styles, the overall cost of food and drinks in Colombia remains quite affordable, making it a favorable destination for diverse culinary experiences. The average daily cost for food in Colombia is $10.
Drinking in Colombia
Drinking in Colombia offers a range of options with varying prices. A beer at a local bar can be as low as 4,500 COP, but expect to pay around double that at backpacker bars. Cocktails, gaining popularity, generally range from 28,000 to 39,000 COP.
One cost-effective tip is to enjoy tap water, which is safe in most Colombian regions. However, caution is advised in some areas, especially along the Caribbean Coast and in smaller rural communities where water sources might be less reliable. Bottled water is readily available, costing approximately 2,500 COP.
Whether you’re sipping on an affordable beer or indulging in the growing cocktail culture, Colombia offers a diverse and enjoyable drinking scene. Prices may vary based on the venue and location, but with a bit of local knowledge, you can navigate the options without breaking the bank.
Fitness & Activities in Colombia
Fitness and activities in Colombia cater to a diverse range of preferences and budgets. Gyms, like other amenities, vary in cost based on the neighborhood. For instance, Bogotá offers gyms at around $300 USD per year, while in Sopó, you may pay only $10 USD per month.
Colombia boasts an abundance of activities, ensuring there’s something for every type of traveler. From beach hopping in Tayrona National Park to trekking the Sierra Nevada Mountains, or exploring colonial cities like Cartagena, the options are plentiful. Many activities are budget-friendly, with entry fees ranging from free to $15 USD, sometimes more for special experiences.
Bogotá’s La Candelaria, the old town, showcases colonial-style buildings, street art, and a bohemian vibe. While entry to La Candelaria is free, specific sites like El Museo de Oro ($1.50) or the Botero Museum ($2) have nominal fees.
For the adventurous, the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, an underground marvel built into a salt mine, charges less than $10 for entry. In Salento, tours to places like the Cocora Valley may cost $10-$30 per person, offering breathtaking views of wax palms.
The Comuna 13 Tour in Medellin, a graffiti and urban art tour through once-deemed dangerous streets, is a unique experience. The tour is free, and tipping the guide around $5 is customary.
While some attractions like Tayrona National Park may cost $14 USD for a day, and higher-end tours like the Guatape day trip could be around $30, the overall average cost of activities in Colombia is $15 per day. With a mix of affordable and slightly pricier options, Colombia caters to a variety of interests and budgets, ensuring a fulfilling and memorable experience for every traveler.
School in Colombia
In Colombia, the education system offers both public and private options. For the less privileged, public or low-cost private elementary schools become the norm, followed by access to affordable universities. However, those seeking a higher quality education often turn to expensive private institutions.
While the education at these schools is excellent, it comes at a significant cost, ranging from a minimum of 450 US dollars per child per month, with some institutions charging even more. If aiming for admission to a prestigious university, parents should budget around 6,000 to 8,000 US dollars per semester. Despite the financial commitment, attending a respected private institution can enhance a student’s resume.
Medical Costs in Colombia
Colombia’s healthcare, ranking 36th globally in 2023, barely misses Canada (#32) and surpasses the U.S. (#69), according to the World Health Organization. The country offers affordable private and public healthcare options, with four Colombian hospitals featured in Latin America’s top 10 by America Economia magazine.
Leading hospitals like Fundación Cardioinfantil, Hospital Universitario Fundacion Santa Fe, Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, and Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia provide a range of services, from routine visits to complex procedures like joint replacements and cancer treatment.
Permanent residents can access coverage from public and private plans, with premiums varying based on carriers, coverage levels, age, and medical history. Private hospitals, while pricier, consistently receive top ratings. The public option, EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud), run by companies like SURA and Coomeva, costs 12.5% of declared income for a premium plan. Rates in 2021 were $1, $3.75, and $9.80, with a three-tiered system based on income.
Colombia’s pharmacies offer affordable over-the-counter medication, such as a $1 antibiotic cream or a $3 supply of ciprofloxacin. While readily available, larger quantities may require a special order. Colombia’s healthcare system presents a compelling and cost-effective option for both routine and complex medical needs.
Visas in Colombia
For stays in Colombia exceeding 180 days, a visitor (V) visa is required. The application fee for the Colombia tourist or visitor visa is $52, with an additional $82 for the visa itself.
It’s crucial to be aware of the 180-day limit to avoid fines upon departure. Exceeding this period necessitates settling fines before leaving the country.
Applying for the visitor visa involves a straightforward process, with the application fee covering the initial steps. Once approved, the visa fee is then paid to secure the visa for an extended stay.
Banking in Colombia
Banking in Colombia provides various options catering to foreigners, with prominent banks including Bancolombia, Davivienda, Banco de Bogotá, Banco Agrario de Colombia, Banco de Occidente, Scotiabank Colpatria, and Banco Popular. Among these, Bancolombia stands out as the most popular and widely used bank in Colombia.
Foreigners can easily open bank accounts, with many banks offering services in English and providing online banking options. Bancolombia, with its extensive network of ATMs and branches, is particularly convenient for both locals and expatriates.
Banks in Colombia typically offer a range of accounts, including savings and checking, and provide various financial services. It’s advisable to compare account types, fees, and services offered by different banks to choose the one that best suits individual needs.
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Taxes in Colombia
In Colombia, residents are obligated to pay taxes on their global income. This implies that if you are deemed a resident for tax purposes, you must declare and may be required to pay taxes on income earned both within and outside Colombia. Conversely, non-residents are only taxed on income sourced within Colombia. Understanding this distinction is crucial for expatriates and individuals considering a move to Colombia, as it directly impacts their tax obligations based on residency status.
Insurance in Colombia
Expats in Colombia typically pay a monthly fee ranging from $100 to $200 for public health insurance. Notably, EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud) is a health insurance option in Colombia that determines charges based on the individual’s ability to pay, not age or medical condition. In essence, the cost of EPS is determined by the income calculation of the individual. This unique approach ensures that healthcare access is affordable and takes into account the financial circumstances of the insured.
Where to Live in Colombia
Medellín, often associated with its dark past involving Pablo Escobar and violence, has transformed into a vibrant and innovative city. Named one of the most innovative cities globally, Medellín boasts superior infrastructure despite its smaller size compared to Bogotá. Expatriates often gravitate toward the expat-friendly neighborhoods of El Poblado and Laureles, known for their clean and easily walkable streets.
The city’s European-level metro system further enhances its accessibility. Medellín, referred to as the “Eternal Spring” due to its exceptional weather, attracts retirees, tourists, and entrepreneurs seeking an electric cosmopolitan lifestyle. The streets buzz with energy, offering impromptu concerts, local microbrew bars, a burgeoning gastronomy scene, salsa classes, and captivating street art murals. Medellín has successfully shed its infamous past, emerging as a thriving and dynamic metropolis.
Where to Stay in Medellin
Los Patios Hostel, awarded the Best Large Hostel Worldwide in 2020, offers a true immersion into Colombian culture in El Poblado’s Manila neighborhood, featuring modern accommodations, multicultural experiences, proximity to local attractions, and a commitment to social impact, providing a unique and enriching stay.
Bogotá, the mountainous capital of Colombia, beckons with its dynamic urban landscape and a population exceeding 7 million. As the main international gateway, it hosts the country’s primary airport. If you’re drawn to vibrant big cities, Latin culture, salsa music, lively nightlife, and a touch of chaos, Bogotá might be your ideal Colombian home.
For those seeking chic and sophistication, the Zona Rosa and Chapinero neighborhoods offer an array of rooftop bars, trendy shopping, and international culinary delights. La Candelaria, the city’s cultural epicenter, presents a captivating blend of old and new, featuring cobble-stoned streets leading to museums, art galleries, ornate churches, and historic plazas.
Where to Stay in Bogotá
Immerse yourself in Colombian culture at Masaya Hostel Bogotá, located in the historic Candelaria district, offering a grand colonial house with typical decor, vibrant local experiences including salsa classes, live music, and art exhibitions, along with three charming patios for relaxation, while catering to digital nomads with fast Wifi, well-equipped workspaces, and a central location near key attractions.
Escape to the captivating Caribbean city of Cartagena, a vibrant oasis with sun-kissed buildings and centuries-old architecture. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ciudad Amurallada, the walled city, boasting cobblestone streets and a kaleidoscope of carnival-colored buildings—a travel photographer’s delight.
Cartagena’s pristine golden beaches on nearby islands offer a perfect retreat. Despite being pricier than some Colombian cities, it remains more affordable than many other Caribbean destinations. The city’s unique Caribbean culture adds to its allure, making it stand out in Colombia.
While summers bring undeniable heat, Cartagena lies safely beyond the Caribbean hurricane zones. The city’s charm lies in its preserved historic beauty, making every corner Instagram-worthy.
Where to Stay in Cartagena
Experience the charm of Cartagena at Viajero Cartagena Hostel, a top pick located in a colonial house on a flower-lined street with a perfect location near picturesque plazas, offering superb staff, comfortable accommodations, Colombian traditions, and unique features such as fantastic cleanliness, a bar opening at four, and free daily activities including salsa lessons and live music.
Located just 200 miles from the renowned Cartagena, Santa Marta offers a more authentic Colombian experience. While Cartagena draws hordes of tourists, Santa Marta remains a local vacation gem. With a smaller size, lower temperatures, and a more reasonable cost of living, Santa Marta reveals stunning natural beauty.
Surrounding Santa Marta are pristine white sand beaches, national parks, and affordable scuba diving opportunities. In Taganga, you can embark on one of the world’s most economical PADI certification journeys, costing around $200 with accommodation included. Both Minca and Tayrona, famous Colombian destinations, are convenient day trips from Santa Marta.
This coastal city serves as the gateway to the challenging “Lost City Hike,” a four-day expedition through dense jungles, river crossings, and waterfalls, leading to the ancient pre-Inca archaeological site of Ciudad Perdida. With its unique charm and access to unparalleled natural wonders, Santa Marta offers an enticing escape from the tourist-heavy destinations.
Where to Stay in Santa Marta
The Dreamer Santa Marta stands out as the preferred hostel, offering immediate access to downtown, Caribbean beaches, and the Sierra Nevada, featuring a spacious pool, lively bar, comfortable rooms, high-speed internet, and a central location making it the ultimate base camp for various activities and trips.
Cali, the third-largest city in Colombia, remains a hidden gem cherished by locals for its vibrant culture. Unlike its more famous counterparts, Cali’s allure lies in its undiscovered charm, drawing visitors for an unrivaled nightlife experience. While Medellin boasts the title of the City of Eternal Spring, Cali earns its moniker as the City of Eternal Summer, offering a consistently pleasant climate around 80°F.
What truly sets Cali apart is its reputation as the Salsa Capital. The city pulsates with the rhythm of Salsa Caleña, its unique salsa style. With the highest concentration of salsa schools and teams globally, Cali beckons those eager to learn the art of salsa.
Where to Stay in Cali
La Sucursal Hostel, located in the vibrant barrio Granada, offers a familial atmosphere and spacious, comfortable facilities with features such as a rooftop bar, open kitchen, salsa salon, quiet terrace, and various daily activities, making it an ideal base to explore the city, with discounts at neighboring shops and a focus on interaction with the local culture.
Cost of Living in Colombia FAQ’s
What are the living conditions in Colombia like?
Colombia offers a vastly improved quality of life, free from the turmoil of past decades. It’s now a safe tourist destination, though caution is advised. Plan activities to navigate rush-hour traffic, especially in major cities, and avoid venturing alone into questionable areas after dark.
Do they speak English in Colombia?
English is not widely spoken in Colombia, with only 4% of the population fluent. While some expats may know English, learning basic Spanish is recommended, as the majority of locals may not be proficient.
What is the minimum salary in Colombia?
As of 2024, the minimum wage in Colombia is 1.3 million COP per month, approximately $330 USD. Additionally, employees earning up to two times the minimum wage receive a transportation subsidy of 140,000 COP per month, or $35 USD, helping cover public transportation costs.
How long can an American live in Colombia without a visa?
Americans can stay in Colombia for up to 90 days without a formal visa. An additional 90-day extension is possible, totaling 180 days in a calendar year. After January 1st of the following year, they get another 180 days. However, there’s a hard limit of 180 consecutive days without a formal visa. To reset, one must leave for at least 24 hours.
Is Colombia a safe place to live for an expat?
Most of Colombia is safe for expats, with some areas prone to crimes of opportunity. Popular cities like Medellin and Bogota face increased incidents, especially in neighborhoods with foreigner-friendly nightlife. Daytime is safer, but caution is advised – avoid walking alone, use ride-sharing apps, and be discreet with valuables to enhance safety.
Is $100 A Lot Of Money In Colombia?
Absolutely, $100 is considered a substantial amount in Colombia. It can cover general daily expenses, including food, drinks, and travel, making it a significant sum for day-to-day activities in the country.
How much money do you need for 2 weeks in Colombia?
For a two-week trip to Colombia, budget travelers should plan around $30 to $50 USD per day, covering accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. Mid-range travelers can allocate approximately $60 to $100 USD per day for a more comfortable experience with added flexibility.
How much money do you need to retire in Colombia?
Retiring in Colombia offers a comfortable lifestyle for individuals with costs ranging from $950 to $1,200 USD per month, depending on preferences and lifestyle choices. The country provides affordable living, friendly locals, world-class healthcare, and delightful cuisine, making it an attractive retirement destination.
Why are things so cheap in Colombia?
Colombia’s affordability is attributed to the favorable exchange rate, with one Colombian Peso being approximately equal to 0.00025 American dollars. This exchange rate allows travelers to convert their local currencies, providing ample funds for an enjoyable and cost-effective experience in the country.
Finishing Thoughts on Cost of Living in Colombia
In conclusion, the enchantment of Colombia extends beyond its affordability, offering a diverse array of experiences for those venturing to call it home. While major cities like Bogota may incur more significant expenses, hidden treasures like Medellin entice with a blend of history, natural marvels, and culinary pleasures.
Certainly, grappling with language disparities and healthcare nuances may initially pose challenges. However, Colombia, with its welcoming spirit, generously rewards the curious and the adventurous. Embrace the transformations, overcome the obstacles, and set forth on your enriching journey to Colombia. Your next chapter in this vibrant nation awaits—filled with smiles, cost-effective living, and indelible moments.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to share any specific queries about the cost of living in the comments below!