10 Tips You Need to Know if You’re Moving to Colombia

Colourful Colombia | © gustavo9917 / Pixabay
Colourful Colombia | © gustavo9917 / Pixabay
Photo of Chris Bell
24 November 2017

More and more people are moving to Colombia these days, whether it’s digital nomads heading to Medellín for the good wifi and the warm climate, or entrepreneurs and businesspeople attracted by Colombia’s growing economy. However, there are plenty of things to bear in mind before taking the plunge and moving to Colombia: here are 10 top things you need to know before you do so.

Learn Some Spanish in Advance

You’d be amazed at how many people move to Colombia with barely a word of Spanish. Of course, it’s possible to pick it up once you’ve already moved to the country, but English is not as universally spoken in Colombia as some people think, and it can be tricky to arrive in the country with no Spanish under your belt. Download an app or take some classes in advance and you’ll settle in much more quickly.

Learn some Spanish before you arrive in Colombia | © Mikali / Pixabay

Join Some Facebook Groups Before You Arrive

Arriving in a new country and city can often be a lonely experience, so it’s a good idea to ‘pre-arrange’ some friends and social events before you arrive – there are Facebook groups for everything from general ‘Expat in Colombia’ pages to clubs dedicated to writers, artists, or people who want to play football, cricket, rugby, and even Aussie Rules Football. Join a few groups, arrange a few meetings, and you can start off your Colombian adventure with some friends from the get-go.

Do Some Research on Where You Want to Live

Are you a fan of hot weather or cooler climes? Does the idea of regular rain fill you with dread or not bother you all that much? Is good public transport essential to your quality of life? The answers to these questions really determine which Colombian city or town you’d be happiest living in; there’s no point arranging to move to Bogotá then discovering you can’t stand the weather. Either come and travel for a few weeks first to decide which city is for you, or do some online research before making the leap.

Bogotá is a beautiful city, but it can often be cloudy and rainy | © Pedro Szekely / Flickr

… and Then Pack Appropriately

Following on from the previous point, if you do decide the Colombian capital is the place for you, make sure to pack the right clothes. So many people arrive with no jackets, umbrellas, or colder-weather clothing and are surprised by how chilly Bogotá can be. Equally, even in hot climates such as in Medellín or at the coast, people can dress quite formally for work and social occasions, so don’t just bring shorts and flip-flops.

Take a Salsa Class (or Two)

Colombians do love to dance, and a night out dancing salsa is a great way to meet new people and make friends. You can learn salsa in the country, naturally, but why not come a bit more well prepared? Sign up for a few salsa classes in advance and you won’t have that initial awkwardness when your new colleagues invite you on a night out.

You don’t have to reach this level, but a few dance classes wouldn’t go amiss | © RealCereal / Flickr

Be Prepared for Things to Move Slowly

It’s been called ‘the irritation phase’ – that period of time when you first move to Colombia when the general lack of punctuality and organization gets on your nerves, especially if you come from a culture that values timekeeping. However, if you relax and learn to accept the inevitable differences, you’ll settle in much more quickly and be happier in the long run. Things might move slowly at first: renting an apartment, sorting out a visa, getting your first pay check. But if you’re patient, you’ll get past those first hurdles soon enough.

Bring Some Products With You

Certain products can be either hard to find or surprisingly expensive in Colombia. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking here, think about bringing the technical gear with you, as it can be tricky to find good outdoor wear. Or, for instance, if you use contact lenses, finding the solution that you’re used to can be almost impossible. Think ahead and pick up anything you’re not sure you’ll find in Colombia before you arrive. That especially goes for people with size 11 feet and up; shoes can be a challenge!

If you’re planning on doing some trekking in Colombia, come prepared | © Kevin / Flickr

Be Prepared to Share an Apartment or Rent a Room at First

Many people arrive in Colombia expecting to be able to rent an apartment for a fraction of what they pay at home, but renting can be tough in Colombia. Many landlords require a Colombian co-signer if you want to rent your own apartment (someone who would be responsible for the rent if you are unable to pay), and that person must typically be a homeowner themselves. Unless you know someone like that already, you may have to accept that you’ll need to sublet a room in a shared apartment at first.

Bogotá is not famous for its skyscrappers. In fact, despite to be a large city, it doesn't have high buildings, and it's easy to see far in the horizon. This is a single exposure from the tallest buiding in Bogotá, 'Torre Colpatria', which is about 50 stores high. It was processed entirely in PS. Only the sun was blended from another exposure took the same day a little bit earlier. The blending process was using luminosity masks (it's my first time using this technique! Still so much to learn in order to really get its true potential). I'd love to capture some light trails at the wright road, but using a tripod here is tricky, since the view deck is protected with a fence, not glass. So, unless the tripod thas a vertical column, any shot will show this thick bars, which will be challenging to remove in post. Instead, I had to bump the ISO and use wider aperture (more than I'd normally want for this kind of shots) in order to take it handheld with the lens 'sticked' between the fence's gaps.

Don’t Expect Everything to Be Dirt Cheap

This one often shocks people when they first arrive in Colombia: not everything is as cheap as they imagined it would be. While Colombia isn’t as pricey as many other countries, a lot of products (especially in supermarkets and pharmacies) can be expensive. And, in big cities, meals that aren’t meat, rice, and beans will also set you back a fair bit. Don’t expect to be able to live like a king or queen on your initial monthly salary.

You May Never Be Able to Leave

Perhaps the most important tip of all: understand that, if you do move to Colombia, you might just fall so head over heels in love with this magical country that you never want to go home again.

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