Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/01/16
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?
No, other South American cities
2. How long have you lived here?
About 2 years
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
All apartment building. Typical commute time to the Embassy is about 30 minutes in the am and depending on the day 45-60+ minutes for the commute home in the evening.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
With our current exchange rate local fresh food is very inexpensive (a bag of 6 hass avocados for slightly over a dollar). Imported and packaged food items are more expensive. There is a PriceSmart that offers many imported products for much cheaper than you'd find it in the regular grocery stores.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Now that PriceSmart is here, my list has greatly decreased. I'd say canned beans if you eat them would be my top priority because they can't be shipped through DPO. They are available locally, just at a premium. Canned tomatoes are pretty expensive as well.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Carls Junior, Starbucks, PF Changs, HardRock Cafe are the American chains that are available. There are many good restaurants around the areas where embassy families live. A Chuck E Cheese recently opened as well.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
In Bogota very little, in the lower altitudes in Colombia, Zika is becoming a huge problem.
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?
Widely available and reasonable cost (about US$600-$900/month including the required benefits) .
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Body Tech is widely available, however, it is pretty expensive in my opinion (over US$100/month). Crossfit gyms are popping up in many neighborhoods. There are several other-slightly more affordable gyms as well. The Embassy has a Body Tech gym on the compound, you can choose to be a member of that gym only and not have access to the other Body Tech gyms for a reasonable price.
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 use my credit card everywhere I go. They bring the swiper to the table, if they don't, then don't give them your card.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's not absolutely mandatory, but life would be most easier and you'd enjoy your time much more if you spoke some Spanish.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber is safe. We aren't permitted to take the local mass transportation and are told not to hail a taxi off of the street. The price for Uber and taxis are very affordable.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
yes, about US$50/month
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Several companies and plans are available. Just bring an unlocked phone.
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?
No, pet care is widely available at a very decent price. Many vets make house visits. Pet food is very expensive if purchased locally.
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 volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The Colombians dress nicer than the average American.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Just like any other big city, don't walk around flaunting your best jewelry or cell phone. Also be careful when you go to bars and to watch your drink at all times.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Some people have issues with the pollution. Medical care is widely available and its quality is decent.
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 do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Yes, seasonal allergies.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
60's-70's F most of the year. Periods of rain, but not all day everyday.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several good private schools to choose from, the vast majority of embassy kids go to CNG due to its close location to housing. Bullying is considered a problem in the higher grades but my kids haven't had a problem in the primary school. Most families who attend CGB are very pleased with the school and experience no bullying; however, it's quite far from our housing which does become an issue for many families. There are also several great private Spanish speaking only schools available to choose from as well, if that is something of interest to your family.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
CNG is able to accommodate kids with special-needs for the most part. I am not too familiar with what accommodations CGB has 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?
Many, many high quality preschools are available. The cost vary greatly but you can expect to pay between 1,000,000-1,500,000 pesos per month (for half day preschool) plus an annual matriculation fee and a supply fee. There is a Gymboree nearby with both Mommy and me type classes and drop off classes for older toddlers/children.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer is widely available. An embassy family recently started a parent run baseball practice on Saturdays. The schools do have several after school sports to choose from.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and generally pretty good morale.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Movies, parks, amusement parks, restaurants with activities for kids
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
In my perspective it's pretty good for all.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think it is becoming more and more friendly for gay and lesbian expats.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I'm sure there are, however, it's not overly apparent. There is a pretty big social class disparity though that is quite noticeable.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Emeralds, mochillas, leather products. Custom made furniture, shoes, and jackets.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
With the current exchange rate food in general is very inexpensive and eating out is generally inexpensive.
8. Can you save money?
Right now, yes... if the peso gets stronger again the cost of living is similar to the US.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Your expectation for good costumer service...anywhere.
3. But don't forget your: