Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 02/02/21
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?
Nope. This is my 5th overseas experience. I have served in the Middle East, Thailand, and Japan.
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?
I am from Southern California, USA. There are direct flight on Avianca from Los Ángeles (5 hours). Most the American carriers connect through Texas or Miami.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
From 2017 to now (2021).
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Diplomatic mission - State Department.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We are a family of five living in a large 5 bedroom apartment. We live in Chico and love the are for the plentiful parks, restaurants, and things to do. The commute to the USA embassy during normal times can be 30-45 minutes but since COVID it’s usually 15-20 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are generally cheap here- especially the domestic produce. Pricemart (I.e Costco) can be a bit expensive if you want those USA products but it’s nice to have the option. Rappi and Domicillos are great options for grocery delivery (especially during COVID). Buying furniture and other home items can be a bit more expensive...but there are lots of options available.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I buy a lot of Keto food items and American candy when I am back in the States as they can be hard to find here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
I love the upscale restaurant options here in the Chico/Chapinero neighborhood and of course Rappi delivers almost everything. Osk Peru, Cacio y Pepe, La Cevicheria and Cuzco are favorites. For fast food La Lucha de Sangucharia and Dixie chicken are always st the top of my list. Really you can find everything here (except for good Thai food.)
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Nope. The high elevation and the cool temps year round seem to keep the bugs away.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We send mail through the Embassy DPO, but I hear of non embassy expat folks getting Amazon through Colombia mail.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We pay about 100 USD a week for a full time live out nanny/housekeeper. Some people have drivers(although not embassy folks) and cooks.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Bogotanos love to work out. There are lots of gyms available- Body tech is the big chain here. The public parks have lots of exercise areas and you see people working out outdoors a lot (especially since COVID).
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?
Credit cards are safe to use. Never let a person walk away with your card. Almost every shop or restaurant has portable credit card machines that they will bring to you for transactions.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are Catholic and Methodist as well as Mormon English services available in Bogotá.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You NEED Spanish here. You can’t get by with out it. 1 + is recommended just to get by anywhere in Colombia. There are lots of options for classes and tutoring in person or online.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be very difficult to get by in Bogotá with a physical disability.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe if you use an app like Cabify, Mi Águila or Uber. We are not allowed to take 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?
Recommend a small SUV or anything raised up off the ground. The roads are horrible inside the city.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is good. Everyone uses Claro due to limitations of companies like ETB for expats.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Unlocked smart phones work fine here. You can purchase a prepaid sim at many of the mobile services with your passport or sign up for a post paid plan with companies like Claro or Avantel.
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?
Bogotanos love their dogs. Good veterinarians (that make house calls!) Dog trainers and dog walkers are all plentiful here. I have cats - but many friends have dogs and the care is inexpensive here.
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?
The embassy is competitive for jobs. A few EFMs work at the different international schools. Other then that, there are not many options.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of volunteers options from pets to homeless shelters and orphanages. Lots of folks help with the large Venezuelan refugee population.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It’s seems pretty casual to me. Depending on which office in the Embassy you work in. Colombianas tend to dress in proper uniform or in more formal dress then USA folks.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Muggings for wallets and cell phones is really common here. Also I've heard of scopolamine attacks in clubs and bars (where you get robbed at home.)
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Elevation sickness can be tough for some people when they first arrive. Medical care here is really good. Doctors/nurses do house calls which is great for families with young children. Care is inexpensive.
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?
The air pollution can get pretty bad in Bogotá but since COVID the air has been 70% better then it was before. We keep 3 air purifiers running in our apartment.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
See above. Not sure n food allergies. I think you can find options at the specialty food stores.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It’s cool year round in Bogotá. “Summer” is Dec- Feb. but it does not get that warm. Luckily you can escape to the lower elevation country side or fly to the coast for warm weather.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Medellin is called the city of eternal Spring then Bogotá should be called the city of eternal fall. It can be rainy a lot of the year- but the sun can be intense when it come out due to the high elevation. Luckily it’s easy to escape to warmer temperatures.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My kids attend CNG - Colegio Nueva Granada - the American school. Lots of kids also attend the British option CGB North of town. Some kids attend the French school or Gimnasio moderno (boys school in Chico.) There are lots of options but most Embassy kids attend the either CNG or CGB.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
CNG and CGB both have options 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?
Lots of 2-4 year olds attend Jardins like Sesamo and Clap clap.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
From horse back riding, to karate to swimming- Bogotá has everything but it might only be in Spanish.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat presence but I have not made many friends outside the USA mission.
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?
There is an American Women’s Club that I know of, not sure otherwise.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think singles have a tougher time. Bogotá is great for couples and families.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I think it can be easy if you are introduced. I have not found CNG Colombian parents to be that friendly. It helps if you speak Spanish fluently.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think my LGBT co workers have had a good tour in Bogotá and it relatively LGBT friendly in Colombia.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I think the Bogotás are somewhat racist against black people and Afro-colombianos.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The travel to Zona cafeteria, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Medellín is amazing! The country side outside of Bogotá and the camping is pretty plentiful and impressive as well.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Take advantage of the country side and air b&bs in La Vega, Anapoema, and Villa De Leyva.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
I have not found anything amazing here yet. Usaquen Sunday market is pretty cool for handicrafts.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Bring electric blankets and space heaters. No central heat in apartments here.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. I love Colombia. It’s my second favorite after tour after Bangkok Thailand.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Large rugs for your wood floor apartments. Helps keep the space warm and insulate sound.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Narcos is a good show to watch as well as Distro Salvaje. Any book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.