The word best is often used when retirees and expats talk about life in the South American country of Colombia.

For example, you will likely hear that Colombia produces the best coffee in the world, that the beaches are some of the best in the world and that the bird watching opportunities are better than any other in the world.

The wonderful climate, the vibrant cities and the low cost of living will also be mentioned.

Jacob Bushmaker, an expat from the United States, considers moving to Colombia to be one of his best decisions ever. “Moving here was without a doubt the best decision of my life,” he said. Other expats are similarly excited about their new home.

Colombia, located on the northern tip of the South American continent, enjoys great popularity as a place for expats and retirees alike. As International Living recently added its list of the best places to retire in 2021, Colombia came in fourth, behind Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.

Based on the growing buzz online and the recommendations of several expats already living in Colombia, here are nine reasons the country is so popular with retirees.

1. The cost of living

While affordability depends on your previous location and lifestyle, expats agree that the cost of living in Colombia is significantly lower than in North America.

Expat Alex Davis of Ryan and Alex Duo Life says the cost of living in the city of Medellin, Colombia, is about 20 to 30 percent of what she and her husband experienced at their former home in Fort Worth, Texas.

And some things, like groceries and fresh produce, are even cheaper. Davis says buying groceries from an organic market in Colombia costs about 10 percent of the price in Texas. A full week of organic food for two in their new home costs between $ 10 and $ 15.

Likewise, expat Wesley Jacobs, who moved to Cartagena, Colombia from Tacoma, Washington, reports that his total monthly spending increased from about $ 4,000 in Washington to $ 880 in Colombia. “Rent, food, and transportation are my biggest expenses, and they’re both dramatically cheaper here than in the United States,” he said.

Bushmaker, the traveler behind it The wandering climber, moved to Medellin from Seattle a few years ago and says his spending is 20 percent of what he paid in the U.S. $ 295 a month.

According to International Living, a retired couple can live in many cities across Colombia for $ 2,000 or less per month.

2. The excellent health care

Another thing that expats agree on is that there is no shortage of healthcare in Colombia. In fact, they say, it rivals, and sometimes outperforms, medical care in the United States

Bushmaker recommends going with Colombia’s private SURA plan, which he believes offers world-class healthcare. He pays about $ 85 a month for the basic plan, which covers 10 doctor visits a year.

Davis agrees that Colombia’s health care is excellent. “It’s also easy to navigate, even for someone new to Spanish,” she added. Through research and recommendations, she was able to find many English speaking doctors.

Jacobs, whose professional specialty is health care, found that Colombia’s quality health care prior to the COVID pandemic had attracted thousands of medical tourists each year. And even with the recent restrictions, he said, people continue to travel to Colombia for procedures.

Pro tip: Jacobs founded Apollo medical travel to facilitate access to the best dental and cosmetic surgeons in Colombia for patients from the USA and Canada.

3. The pension visa

A retirement visa is available for those on monthly Social Security income of approximately $ 750 (three times the Colombian minimum monthly wage of $ 262) or $ 2,500 from a private pension or 401 (k).

You can find basic information on the website, and a quick internet search will bring up many private websites of advice. According to online sources, the visa is valid for three years and can be extended. Retirees can apply for a Colombia residency visa after receiving a retirement visa for five years.

While Davis and her husband are “tired” of their previous engineering jobs, they know many retirees between the ages of 50 and 70 who have happily retired in Colombia for more than a decade.

The retirement visa is just one of many visa options in Colombia, and Davis said she and her husband qualified for an investment visa when they bought a home for more than $ 145,000.

Medellin, Colombia (Photo: Antoine Barthelemy /

4. The mild climate

Colombia’s climate, where proximity to the equator maintains mild temperatures all year round, is hard to overstate. In Medellín, the year-round average high is in the 80 to 83 degree range, and the average lows are consistently in the 63 to 64 degree range.

“Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ Medellin has perfect weather all year round, ”said Davis. “It’s lush and green, so that in a city of two million you still feel like you’re in the jungle.”

Cartagena in the coastal region is similarly constant, albeit a little warmer, with average highs in the range of 88 to 89 degrees all year round and average lows in the high 70s.

Pro tip: The dramatic elevation changes throughout mountainous Colombia allow for a range of climate options – from average altitudes in the 70-degree range to 7,090 feet Manizales at average highs in the high 80s of sea level Cartagena.

5. The availability of flights to North America

Major US-based airlines offer non-stop flights to Colombian cities such as Medellin, Bogotá, Cartagena, Cali and Cartagena. And because Colombia is located in the far north of South America, the flights from the USA are usually of manageable duration.

Non-stop flights to Bogotá from airports in the southern United States take between 3 and 5 hours. Non-stop flights from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport take less than 6 hours.

6. The safe communities

Colombia seems long past the dark days of the drug cartels of the 1980s and 1990s, and the expats we spoke to all said they felt safe in their Colombian homes.

“I’ve lived in Medellín for three years and never felt unsafe,” said Bushmaker. “Just like in the United States, you have to be careful in certain parts of the city, especially at night.” But as long as you take reasonable precautions, he said, you can be sure that it is a perfectly safe place to live.

Jacobs suggests paying attention to the local expression No dar papaya (freely translated: do not show your valuables and do not put yourself in a vulnerable position). “Dress modestly, don’t show valuables or drink too much – you won’t have any problems!” He said.

Davis admitted that friends sometimes questioned her move to Medellin as it was the former home of Pablo Escobar, the former head of the Medellin cartel. But the city has changed quite a bit since then. “Locals here are quick to change the way you think about Medellín and shed some light on the changes the city has undergone since the 1990s,” she said.

Davis has lived in 12 countries around the world and said that “Colombia feels no different and, frankly, sometimes safer.” Still, she said it would be naive to think the whole country is safe and it is important Conduct your research.

The State Department notes that while Colombia has “transformed from a fragile state to a vibrant democracy” over the past 20 years, visitors should still be wary of things like civil unrest, crime, terrorism and kidnappings.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Overseas Safety Advisory Board Website reports that Bogotá and other major cities in Colombia share many of the crime problems plaguing major cities around the world, such as robbery, assault, cell phone theft, credit card fraud, and burglary. But it added that Colombia’s tourist areas like Cartagena have significantly lower crime rates and that crime rarely turns violent there.

Cartagena (Photo: Jess Kraft /

7. Proximity to two coasts of the sea

Colombia, like its neighbor Panama, is doubly blessed with the Pacific in the west and the Caribbean in the northeast.

With their different vibes, the two seas offer many opportunities for retirees and expats. Jacobs, who lives in Cartagena on the Caribbean side, notes that there is a small but active community of expats there.

And on the Pacific side – known as Colombia’s best kept secret – lies the city city Potash, Capital of salsa music, gastronomy and festivals.

Colombia’s coastline spans nearly 2,000 miles, and that means the country is home to countless beautiful beaches. The selection includes outstanding products such as Santa Marta, a fascinating city between the mountains and the Caribbean and tropical island gems like island Saint Andrew, Tintipan, and New.

8. The amazing cities

From the mountain backdrop of Medellín to Bogotas bustling capital city atmosphere to Cali’s salsa rhythms and Cartagena’s colorful old town – Colombia’s cities are diverse.

Bogotá, the country’s largest city, is known as the melting pot of Colombia, and Davis describes Medellín, the second largest city, as “a South American Hong Kong – equally mountainous and virgin. Just as chic and hip. ”

While all of the major cities are worth visiting, exploring Cartagena’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the Bucket List Experiences Colombia has to offer.

Or, for a place rich in indigenous culture, visitors are drawn to the small town Guatapé, one of most colorful cities in South America.

9. The varied activities

As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Colombia is not only home to mountains, beaches, waterfalls and rainforests, but also most of the world’s birds, amphibians, butterflies and frogs.

All of these natural wonders are great for stellar ones watching birds, Mountain biking, hike, and Scuba diving.

Pro tip: For all of its natural wonders, Colombia’s greatest fame could only be its coffee culture. With conditions that arguably produce the best coffee beans in the world, Colombia is repeatedly named as one of the places to be best cup of coffee in the world.

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