Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 09/11/09

Personal Experiences from Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia 09/11/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

10 months so far.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

7 hour total flying time to DC. Embassy routes you through Miami.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Pretty much all apartments for embassy employees. Some are older, but many are super-modern, and all are located in one of two great neighborhoods.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get pretty much everything in Bogota. Imported items may be about what they cost in Washington, DC.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Natural peanut butter.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I've noticed.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO or pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Excellent help is available, either live-in or daily. The cost for a daily housekeeper is about $350-$400 if you pay benefits (social security).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, many, including yoga and pilates studios.

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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've used both, with no problems. It is best to use ATMS in grocery stores or enclosed booths.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I hear there are English services at least one Protestant and one Catholic church.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You really need some Spanish to get around Bogota. Very few people speak English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Bogota would not be great for those with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They are available and cheap, but the embassy advises employees and family members against using buses. Taxis are cheap and safe if you use radio dispatched companies.

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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?

Smaller cars or SUVs are best for the tight parking spaces.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are plentiful, and monthly service or pre-paid SIM cards are inexpensive.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes. I've never seen so many (well-behaved) dogs in my life.

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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 really, but the CLO office at the embassy may be able to help. English teaching opportunities are available.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Colombian women tend to dress up more than most Americans. Depending on your department, the dress code at the embassy ranges from suits and ties to jeans.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy. The buses are huge contributors to the high pollution.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I've heard about embassy folks being mugged, but I feel extremely safe in the city.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Very good medical care is available, and there are dentists and orthodontists on every street corner.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Probably like Seattle or San Francisco. Every day is overcast for at least part of the day, and it never gets very warm (or very cold).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

The expats I've encountered in Bogota really like it here.

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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?

Tons of great restaurants and bars.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think Bogota would be great for couples and families with small kids. There are a million parks, and daycare and even Gymboree for the very young. Singles (especially males) seem to very much like Bogota.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Weekend trips to warm climates, museums, Usaquen, parks, cyclovia on Sundays.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

shorts and tee shirts for weekend getaways.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Bogota is a very walkable city with a million parks.

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