Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 09/15/10
Personal Experiences from Bogota, Colombia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our 4th expat experience. We have lived in Iceland, Peru and Kenya as well.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Miami. About three and a half hours direct.
3. How long have you lived here?
Over a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My husband is with the US Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartments. They are okay. Most are about a 35-to-45 minute commute from the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find just about everything, but things are pricey.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Games, toys for the children.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A lot of fast food, prices a bit higher than in the the states. There are several delicious Peruvian resturaunts.... again, expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It is easy to get good domestic help, and a very decent price.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Plenty of gyms, and now there is one at the embassy.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I have not had any troubles with my credit cards here. Remember to never turn them over to the person, usually they bring the machine to you so that you can watch them.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is a Catholic church anda non-denominational church that have services in English.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I find it very rare that anyone speaks English. I highly recommend you come here knowing some Spanish.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The city is not equipped for anyone with physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Embassy folk are not allowed to use public transport. There are some taxis we can use.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Do not bring a vehicle. Traffic is crazy, the driving is crazy.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Colombians love dogs! They have excellent pet care.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Lots. There is the obvious threat of the FARC, then you have a lot of street crime. I always feel I have to look over my shoulder here.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is okay.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Poor air quality and lot of pollution, but not as bad as some other places we have lived.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Rain, rain, and oh, did I mention: rain. The days the sun is out it are usually beautiful. It is never hotter than the 80's, but can get quite chilly and windy.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We have our children at a very small Christian school that we have been o.k. with it. CNG. I have never heard good things about it, though it is the school the US Embassy backs. They also have a british school some really like. None of the schools have adequate resources to deal with children who have special needs/ learning disabilities. If you have such a child, think long and hard before coming to this post.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Again, I have seen very few. Not because of a lack of some schools' efforts, it is just that the resources are not available.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are several quite good preschools, but they are very exspensive. Most people here prefer to have nannies.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
I would say generally it is o.k. It depends on who you talk to.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Colombians love to party. They seem like fun people, but they are very closed, and it is very difficult, in my experience, to become friends with them.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For families this is a hardship post. The only people I have heard who seem to really enjoy their time here are single men.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, as far as I have heard.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are racial prejudices against those of African descent.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are parks... lots of them.. but one gets tired of going to parks. There are a few museums. Because of the embassy security restrictions, life here is very limited.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
NO! This has been the worst post we have been at.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Your romantic ideas of touring the country, because with the security concerns, it just isn't going to happen.
3. But don't forget your:
sense of humor, you will need to call upon it daily!
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
If you have a family, think long and hard before coming here. The city is dreary, there is not much to do. Everything is far... and commutes are long. If you are not used to living in an apartment, it can be a big adjustment (no yard, etc.). Schools here are not good. Overall, I have been highly disappointed, and as was said in the previous posting, there are a lot of days when, quite honestly, I feel like a prisoner here.