living in colombia as an expat

Moving to Colombia

Last updated: March 16, 2023

Colombia Score
Shithole Paradise

What is Colombia?

cost to live in colombia

Colombia is a Spanish-speaking Latin-American republic

Colombia lies between South- and Central America, and shares borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

It’s a big country with a population of roughly 50 million and a diverse range of climate zones. You can find tropical rain forests, deserts, mountain climates, savannas and steppes.

Colombia is pretty well-known across the West for its problems with drug cartels and crime.

In the last century, armed conflict and political violence were indeed running rampant throughout the country and its shabby reputation was well-earned.

However, since the early 2000’s, this country has been getting its shit together, and it has seen significant improvements in its economy, safety, stability and development.

Columbia has been growing rather consistently the past 20 years (COVID-19 notwithstanding) and is expected to keep doing well in the next few decades.

Colombia still sports somewhat elevated crime numbers, but these numbers are mostly inflated because of some specifically dangerous zones.

Purely looking at the murder rate, it’s at about 25 murders per 100.000 inhabitants per year on average.

This is pretty high, compared to the overall United States number of 5 per 100.000 – which takes into account every small town.

Then again, cities like Chicago are more dangerous than Colombia, with roughly 28 per 100.000.

If you aren’t being an idiot and waving your cash around, or going out alone at 3 AM in dangerous neighborhoods, Colombia can be perfectly safe.

This country, like all of its neighbors, is a former colony of Spain, which means Spanish is the official language.

This is great news, because Spanish is easy to learn, and if you master it, you get access to almost all of the other Latin-American countries. 

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Requirements for moving to Colombia

Colombia is amazingly accessible and the requirements for living here are very, very easy to meet.

Let’s start by looking at the visa situation.

Most Westerners can enter this country without the need for a visa, and you can stay there for up to 90 days. This can be extended.

There are plenty of options for longer visas, such as Visitor, Migrant, Retirement, Business Investment or Resident Visa.

In addition to that, Permanent Residence and Citizenship are not only possible, they are also reasonably easy and fast to get.

You do need to learn Spanish, but honestly, this would be required anyway if you plan to live here.

The only real requirement for moving to Colombia is making sure you have a strong source of international, location independent income.

(Or even better, have several different sources, such as selling information, blogging, real estate, consulting, and so on!)

You do not want to rely on a pension from a Western government, a remote job, or a job in Colombia.

These are all horrible options.

Be your own boss, be self-employed and earn money from all over the world, wherever and whenever you want, and you can easily live in Colombia.

What is the cost of living in Colombia?

The cost of living in Colombia is very low.

In South-America, it is one of the best countries to move to if you want to get the most bang for your buck.

In fact, living in Colombia is even cheaper than other countries which are known for an inexpensive lifestyle, such as Thailand and the Philippines!

A single person’s estimated monthly costs are below $400, without rent.

If you add rent, this comes to roughly $600 per month.

This is no money at all, and anyone with some form of location independent income can attain this.

If you want to live a cheap life, it doesn’t get much better than Colombia.

Benefits of living in Colombia

  • Rising nation

    Colombia has seen significant growth in the last few decades, and while this has slowed down lately, it is still expected to keep growing rapidly in the future

  • Decent climate

    Colombia boasts a varied climate. That means that there are hot and cold areas, dry and rainy regions, and so on. The score I gave Colombia for its climate is low, because it takes the average of the entire country. If you move to one specific location which suits your needs, the climate could be much better

  • Low cost of living

    Colombia is a very cheap country to live, especially if you have a Western income

  • Spanish

    Colombia has Spanish as its national language, and Spanish is rather easy to learn. This means that, even though the level of English is subpar, you should be able to communicate with everyone - provided you put in some effort - and rest assured this effort will be appreciated by the locals

  • Beautiful nature

    Interested in a country which has beaches, mountains, jungles, savannas and more? Then Colombia is for you - although I would advise you to stay well-clear of the jungles, for obvious reasons

  • Great visa situation

    Colombia sports a very relaxed visa situation. Most Westerners do not even need to apply for one beforehand, they can just get a visa on arrival for 90 days. This can be extended. Permanent residence and citizenship are also valid options

  • Hot women

    Colombian women are very attractive. Sure, tastes differ, but for most men, big tits and asses are a definite turn-on, and you'll find that a-plenty in this country

living in colombia as an expat

Downsides of living in Colombia

  • Low English proficiency

    The average Colombian scores rather poorly on the English proficiency test, so the language barrier might be a deal-breaker for you - unless you learn Spanish. In addition, keep in mind that this factor will most likely keep improving as the country develops. QED: when I first wrote this article, they were at Very Low Proficiency, but have since gone up to Low. Still not great, but getting better.

  • Corruption and petty crime

    While Colombia has made great strides forward in this regard, corruption is still rampant at all levels of government. The same goes for petty crime - inside and outside the government

  • Developing country

    The nation is doing pretty well economically and developmentally, but it cannot be denied that you'll probably have to lower your standards a bit

  • High murder rate

    Colombia is known for the violent altercations between government and drug cartels, and the latter are largely responsible for a murder rate of about 25 per 100.000 inhabitants. This is pretty high compared to the average of most Western countries, but keep in mind that certain Western cities do even worse

Moving to Colombia - by the numbers

Colombia Score
Shithole Paradise

Climate: 5/10

Hours of sunshine (5/10) Temperature (6/10) Rainy days (4/10) Humidity (5/10)
15 C – 59 F

Colombia’s climate depends heavily on the location – some regions have way better temperatures. The average hours of sunshine is a big surprise here, but apparently it’s often cloudy.

Level of English: 4/10

Low Proficiency

While this may sound like a big problem (and for some people it certainly is), the fact that Colombia has Spanish as its official language means the language barrier will be paper-thin if you learn this easy language.

Cost of Living: 9.5/10

Minimum Annual Wage Average monthly cost single person

Taxes on international income: 7/10

0 - 39%

Foreign non-residents are taxed on their Colombian-sourced income only. You are considered fiscally resident in Colombia if you remain in the country for 183 days within a period of 365 days.

This isn't a great situation if you want to live here permanently, but it's only a question of how the Colombian government will be able to track your international income - if you're not stupid and make sure this is going to several non-affiliated countries.

Economic growth: 7/10

Average GDP growth over the last 10 years: 4%

Safety: 6.3/10

Global Terrorism Index (5/10) Intentional homicide rate (5/10) Rape rate (9/10)

Logistics: 9.7/10

  • Visa (10/10)

    You can often enter Colombia visa-free, and you get 90 days, which can be extended. Visitor Visa, Migrant Visa and Resident Visa are options too. The latter can be as entrepreneur or through engaging in independent activities. You can also invest 100 times the minimum wage in a business in Colombia and get a Business Investment Visa, or 350 times the minimum wage in real estate. Retirement Visa is also possible

  • Permanent Residence (10/10)

    Possible, you need a Migrant Visa for 5 years, or invest 650 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia

  • Citizenship (9/10)

    Dual citizenship is allowed, possible after 5 years. Relatively fast and painless process. You do need to learn Spanish

moving to colombia from uk

How is living in Colombia as an expat?

I’ll be the first to admit that living in Colombia as an expat isn’t for everyone.

The country certainly isn’t perfect, and still has to deal with a lot of problems before it can be one of the best options to escape the West, but it’s getting there.

The weather’s great in most locations (just not on average across the entire country), the cost of living is low, the women are attractive, the economy is booming, you can easily learn the local language, and if you aren’t deterred by the elevated crime rate in some zones (mostly avoidable by not being an idiot), Colombia is a great country in Latin America for expats.

Turning it into one of your Bases is certainly an option, considering the ease of getting Permanent Residence, for example by investing in real estate – that way you also set up an asset abroad.

Investing in this up-and-coming country seems like a smart move, but living here permanently is something I cannot 100% recommend – but it’s very close to it.

Is moving to Colombia for you? Get your location independent income up and running, book a trip, and find out.

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