Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 11/26/08
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?
5th expat experience.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
3.5 hours from Miami.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Nice houses, but many are in very poor condition and the landlords don't want to fix them up. And on arrival don't expect to be taken to your home, it is not going to be ready, almost for sure, ours was not and other people had the same problem, nobody is in a rush to get your home ready in time for you. Lots of problems with housing. " QUE PENA."
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are out of control! Sooooo expensive, cleaning supplies as well as the food. American food is available in the grocery stores but for double or triple the price. So Netgrocer is a good idea or a trip to Miami from time to time.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Exercise equipment, bicycle for the Ciklovia, very nice idea but you are riding your bicycle next to a polluting bus! So what is the point?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots I guess, but I really don't know...many restaurants, lots of beef and beans, but don't come here for the beef, it is not good at all! Food is very mild, many of us miss the spices so bring some with you.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have an APO here.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Many, and I think about US$300 a month.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Lots of scams, but we have our own place to get the money. But you can use credit cards in the stores.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Did not see newspapers in English, not too much on TV, Cartoon network is in Spanish, CNN in English, you are lucky if you can find an English channel, it happens from time to time.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Yes, let me tell you, you need Spanish like you need to breathe, if you don't have it life will be extremely difficult and frustrating. So take some classes before coming here other wise don't come.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Lots, the side walk are broken, you don't even see women pushing strollers, they cary their children.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Like in the States, but here everything is possible, people drive through red lights so you really have to be a good driver. Many have their own drivers, not too many people have the nerve to drive here, especially women.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Not safe at all, and not allowed.
3. 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?
SUV, but not too big, mid size is perfect. The roads are soooo broken that you really need a bigger car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but it brakes often.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You can get one here from Comcel.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Vonage or Skype, if you internet is not broken.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
I think good, they love their dogs.
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?
Not sure, but again, if you don't Speak spanish you will get nothing.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Colombians are very dressed up, high hills, big hair, big make up you will not see any sweatpants or sloppiness.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
VERY, VERY UNHEALTHY!!!!!! And not too many people are talking about it. With the high altitude, the air being so thin, and so much smog, you are constantly struggling to get some air into your lungs.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Some, I guess given the history of this country, lots of demonstrations. But I feel safe going around, doing shopping.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are no parasites here, but people don't like to wash hands here, they are not clean here. You will be sick very often, sinus infections are most common here. We are sick here all the time, I'm sick right now. Medical care is good, dental care is good too - if you need braces come here, the cost is about US$1,700 (for 12 year old).
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The same all year round, rain, clouds, rain, clouds sometimes you will see some sun so run out side and soak it up because it will be gone very soon. You forget that there are other weather patterns out there!
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
CNG and CGB and I'm sure other as well, but I will focus on those2. First we went with CNG, we could not even register our children, total chaos in the admissions office so we gave up after 3 months, then we went to CGB, British school, smaller, nicer but far, far away from the city, kids commute an hour each time, sometimes 2 hours on the way back, due to rains. This school has many problems too, lunches cost us $US400 american, for 3 children, school does not give an option for packing own lunches. Parents are fighting but the owner of the school does not care, so before you decide to come here do your research!!! or you will be very disappointed and frustrated. Good teachers, that is a plus.
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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
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, that is all Colombians can do, they are all entertaining in there apartments. Many loud parties are going on, almost every Friday or Saturday you can expect parting. For the expats there is AWC, thanks to them the women can stay busy with some activities, the cost to join is about US$50 per year.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
THIS IS NOT A FAMILY FRIENDLY CITY, at least but my opinion, this is for single people, especially for MEN. We have 3 children here and we are struggling to keep them busy.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Yes, what is it? Socializing at home, having big loud party all night long, restaurants, shopping malls, if you can drive out of Bogota or even better, fly out then you can do much more.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Emeralds, leather goods, art, coffee.
9. Can you save money?
No way! Unless you sacrifice a lot, but then you will be miserable and depressed.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Not in a million years.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Summer clothing, it is cold here and very, very, very rainy. It rains every day, no joke.
3. But don't forget your:
Umbrellas, rain coats, happy lamps, because there is no sun here.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
7. Do you have any other comments?
Life is very hard here, I wish we knew more before coming here. There is a lots of smog, rain, the traffic is horrible. We have been here 5 months and are still struggling with the altitude, you don't get much quality sleep here, getting up in the morning is so hard, especially for the children who must be up at 5:30 am to get ready for school. So before you think you want to come here, please do your research. Good luck.