Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 10/17/12
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?
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?
Toronto - direct flight 6 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
(The contributor worked for a gevernment and lived in Bogotá for one year, not a first expat experience.)
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Pretty well everyone in Bogota lives in apartments, which can be quite beautiful. The commute time really depends. Distances that sometimes can take 10 minutes, can easily extend to over an hour depending on traffic. I walk to work. US Embassy staff get shuttled, as the Embassy is on the other side of the city.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost everything is available for a cost, if you are willing to look for it. Any dried fruits and nuts, baking supplies, canned tomatoes, and detergents should be brought from home.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Canned tomatoes; olive oils; non-white vinegars; toilet paper; detergent; nuts; dried fruits; pasta sauce; maple syrup.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Most fast major fast food restaurants are available at more or less similar prices to North America.
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?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They are readily available and at varying costs. Chains like Bodytech are very expensive.
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?
ATMs are everywhere and I have had no problems. All Colombian credit card terminals are equipped with chip and PIN technology which reduces chances of fraud.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
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?
Depends on who you integrate with. Try to have at least enough to order at a restaurant.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be significantly difficult, considering the uneven pavement. Add in the high altitude, and it is not a good mix.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Radio taxis are safe and license plates are sent to you via SMS. Transportation is safe. Don't bother with the buses.
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?
A small SUV is the most ideal. But focus on small as parking spaces are extremely tight. You can leave your 911 at home, but a car with average clearance gets by okay.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, for approximately $50 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
If not provided by the office, I would say get an UFF mobile data plan for approx $15USD/month and use free services for iPhones and Androids like Whattsapp and Viber.
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)?
Bogotanos love their dogs. There are vets, kennels, dog walkers, and mobile spas available.
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.
The country has various security challenges. In the north of Bogota where most expats live, there is some petty crime, but for the most part there are no significant issues.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
3 weeks of sun and then 3 months of rain. Lather, rinse, repeat. Bogota is relatively crisp with the average temp of 14C. Jackets are necessary for the evenings. And a lack of central heating makes you often feel chilled.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most people I know with children use Colegio Gran Bretana and are incredibly happy with it. It is relatively new and more expats than Colombians. The director is from the UK.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
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?
Fairly large and growing quickly.
2. Morale among expats:
When it is not raining: fairly high. After a month of not leaving the city, you start to get cabin fever. And then, after a trip, you perk right back up.
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?
Lots of restaurants and clubs to choose from. There is a lack of cocktail lounges.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is hardest for single women and generally good for everyone else. Expat spouses seem to have an active social calendar.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It is really good. While selection of places to go out is not that great, the city is very gay friendly and a lot of bars are mixed.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Afro-colombians are often discriminated against.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Medellin; Tayrona National Park; weekends away down the mountains.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Given the country's and the city's history, Bogota is just starting to develop an infrastructure for tourism. All sites can be seen in a weekend. But there are great restaurants and bars and opportunities to leave the city. Neusa, just north of the city, offers a great place to hang out and have a picnic on the banks of a lake.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Cow hides and leather
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Fantastic fresh fruits; trips to the coast and outside of Bogota; easy flight connections throughout South America, North America and Europe.
11. Can you save money?
A little, but you're not going to get rich.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?