Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia 07/05/20

Background:

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

Is far from my first. Have lived in many other cities. Bogota is far from my favorite city as an expat; it's overrated.

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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?

Moderately easy to fly to Bogota; has flights from LA, Atlanta, Houston, NY, DC, and Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Modern, spacious housing. Awful commute, though. It's a diagonal 10km across town and zero public transportation options exist per security rules. Commute time in cars range from 30-90 minutes depending on traffic.

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

Nearly full selection; conveniently delivered to home via apps also. Cheaper than in the U.S.

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

Spices, salsa.

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

Plenty of mainstream cuisine available in expat neighborhoods, albeit most restaurants are oddly closed on Sunday nights--which is when you want to eat out the most if one has a housekeeper. One wishes Bogota's cuisine had more creativity and flair.

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

It gets cold at nights, especially between May-November, and many housing units don't have internal heating. External heating units are half decent yet also give the fear to the owners if they're left turned on too long.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic 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?

Plentiful.

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

Abundant facilities at accessible prices. Bodytech is the best gym chain albeit gymgoers there can be snooty.

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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?

ATMs are hit or miss for foreign cards. Many charge obnoxiously large transaction fees and use unfavorable exchange rates.

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

Spanish definitely helps.

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

Sidewalks range from beautiful to pitiful. Really depends on the neighborhood.

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Transportation:

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

Ubers are safe; yellow street taxis are not. Not sure about buses. No train service available unfortunately.

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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?

Bring any car. SUV for those wishing to explore the mountains.

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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. Installed within one week.

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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?

Claro or Avantel.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Seem to be abundant.

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

More on the formal side.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pickpocketing can be bad, especially in central Bogota.

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

Not really. Good enough health care.

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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?

Air is fresh.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Nah.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

First few days can be tough because of the altitude.

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

Temps between 40-70 degrees. It gets cold at night.

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Expat Life:

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

It seems small for the size of Bogota. Morale higher among married expats than single expats. Bogota society is quite closed and already formed by college age, so those who are single have a hard time making friends or finding partners organically. The social life in Bogota is overrated based on a glowing reputation that didn't turn out true after living here. Expats seem much happier in Medellin.

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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?

It's tough. The society doesn't allow a lot of access for foreigners despite its undeserved reputation for being welcoming. Locals act in a rigid way in public; if you try to say hi to strangers on the street, you might get a response back some 10% of the time. The Bogotanos can be delightful if you have an introduction from a trusted third party, though.

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

It's decent for singles but it's challenging to meet a local single who is intellectually vibrant and thinks about anything outside of Colombia's borders. The cultural gaps are bigger than they appear, especially the Colombians' extreme closeness with their families that leads to sheltered, banal young adults. Couples seem to enjoy it more here. Families appear happy too.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

If one has an introduction from an American or old friend, it's possible to make friends. Organically in public, forget about making friends. Bogotanos tend to be EXTREMELY guarded to those they don't know. I've heard those of African descent having a hard time, and it seems some Colombians can also be racist against those of Asian descent, too.

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

See above.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Cool trips to small towns in the mountains. Dance floors can be fun.

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

Medellin and Bucaramanga can offer cool escapes. People like going to the ocean. The country is a bit ungoverned in rural areas, though, which makes exploring more dicey than it should be.

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

Woven handbags are a standout.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Quite a walkable city within the residential neighborhood. Best music scene in the Spanish-speaking world. Affordable prices. Cool mountain views.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

In my opinion, it's a socially unwelcoming city. Without introductions from trusted third parties when they can be hospitable, Bogotanos tend to be content to stay in their own longstanding social circles. They can be guarded, classist, racist, and unwilling to move out of their comfort zones. Northern Bogota (Chico/Rosales neighborhoods) empty out on weekends and holidays when the upper class flees to their rural villas/farms. It can be a ghost town when everything is closed down. The city often can seem bland, vapid, cold.

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

No. The Bogota society is too rigid to be a place where one can flourish socially or develop deep friendships. Customer service (outside of luxury hotels/restaurants) tends to lack integrity; a tailor/shop will promise one thing and then not comply with the promise. The closed-mindedness, the bias against most things non-latino, the stay-in-the-family-nest syndrome, the lack of intellectual curiosity--it soon becomes a downer. Colombians tend to be extremely smug and remain in their comfort zone. Neighbors in my building, for example, have never said hi or offered any hospitality in the year of living in my building. Why expand their perfectly cozy lives??

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

Curiosity for the outside world. Creativity. Optimism for making friends organically.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bike (great bike trails/biking culture in town).
Snooty attitude (to blend in socially).

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

Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Colombia has changed greatly in the last ten years. While it has developed its infrastructure and grown its economy, it seems less and less friendly, open-minded, or welcoming.

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Bogota, Colombia 02/03/20

Background:

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

No, I have lived in five other countries from the Caribbean, Middle East, Asia, the Caucuses, and Eastern Europe.

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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?

United States. On US carriers it's a four hour flight to Houston and five to Miami. From there you can easily connect. Avianca has a direct flight to DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One and a half years.

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

USG.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most people live in apartments. There are some single family dwellings in Bogota, but those are rare. Apartments are good size, some have maid quarters. There is no central heating or cooling here, so people who live in apartments with lots of stone and tile complain about the cold. Neighborhoods for USG staff are primarily in Chico and Rosales. Chico is closer to shopping and restaurants and flatter. Rosales is in the hills and a bit cooler in temperature. It's closer to CNG (school).

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

Food is reasonably-priced here. The variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is good. There are supermarkets that cater to expats with imported products. You will pay a bit more for those things. There is a Price Smart for those who like warehouse shopping, they also carry a lot of exports from the US. I get cottage cheese there.

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

Fragrance free laundry detergent and fabric softener.

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

There are good restaurants, some American chains. Lots of coffee options, Starbucks, Juan Valdez, Oma and more. Crepes and Waffles is a nice local restaurant chain that employs only single mothers. Rappi is the delivery service which will deliver food and almost anything else.

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

Very few at an altitude of 8,600 feet. Some folks have had mold from leaks.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Colombia does not have a postal system.

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

Domestic staff are well-protected by the government here. Maids have employer paid insurance, pension, and "prima" which is a 13th and 14th month paid every six months. They will sue you if they are unhappy. Most folks use a legal representative to set up contracts and fire employees if necessary. I think nannies and maids are most common, but some folks have drivers, car washers, etc.

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

Lot's of gyms. Body tech seems to have locations all over town including on the Embassy compound. Some folks have personal trainers at home.

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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?

Many ATMs, just watch the environment for those who wish to separate you and your money. US credit cards are not always accepted, but they are in many places.

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

None that I know of.

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

Spanish is very helpful. I don't speak Spanish, but get by with my few phrases. Lots of language schools and tutors are available.

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

The sidewalks are bad -- uneven, big holes, etc. Having said that, the Embassy employs three or four people in wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

Don't take the bus. There are robbery schemes with taxis hailed off the street. The RSO strongly advises that you use an app to call a taxi or ride share. Uber just got halted here. So, we are all scrambling to find a new ride share. Prices are very affordable.

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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?

Bring what you like to drive. You don't really need a car here. The Embassy offers shuttle service to and from work for a fee as there are limited parking spaces. You can bike to work.

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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, I got mine installed in less than a week. I primarily stream television.

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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?

There are several options for local mobile phone service.

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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?

Yes. I have two wonderful vets who makes house calls. One does acupuncture for my elderly dog. No quarantine, but if they come via a pet shipper, the process to get them released is LONG! This is a very dog-friendly city. It's easy to get a dog walker or trainer. Some dogs go to day camps with pick up and drop off at home. Bring your dog to public places. Dogs here are generally well-behaved.

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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?

The same as everywhere else. Most spouses work at the Embassy or as International teachers. Some freelance or have internet based careers. There is a new Global Employment Advisor at post.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Dog shelters. I'm not too familiar.

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

Colombians generally dress well. Business attire at work. Formal dress for formal events.

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Health & Safety:

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

Be aware of being drugged at parties or in your home. Scopolamine is used to drug people and rob them. Perpetrators typically befriend the victim and drug and rob them in their home. There are also ruses to rob people in taxis. If the taxi suddenly has mechanical problems and pulls over and the thieves jump in. Also thieves hide in the trunks of taxis.

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

Medical care is generally good. Some hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission. The Embassy recommends a few hospitals. There are also urgent care centers at some malls. Some doctors make house calls. 24 hour pharmacies will deliver medicine via Rappi. Many pregnant women deliver babies at local hospitals. The altitude affects some folks health. It take about a week or two to adjust for most.

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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?

Air quality is good to moderate. Generally worse during business hours. You can follow pM 2.5 levels online.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Epinephrine auto injectors are not available locally.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Nothing specific to Colombia.

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

The temps are in the 60's during the day and 40's overnight. No snow. It rains frequently and is often cloudy.

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Schools & Children:

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

Many options for schools. The most frequently used school does not guarantee admission of Embassy kids. You need to apply early. The commute to CGB is long. Some children attend the French Lycee.

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

CNG does offer accommodations for some 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?

Yes, many pre-schools.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Large. Morale is good.

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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?

Clubs, bars, sports.

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

Yes, lots of dating here. Families seem to like it here too.

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

There are several same sex couples here, both male and female.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

I have found it easy to make friends with the locals.

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

Isn't gender equality a problem everywhere?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Ciclovia. On Sundays and local holidays they close some major streets for biking, running and walking. Bring your bike!

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

In November/December there is a huge craft show at the convention center with artisans from all over the country and some other countries too. It's not to be missed. Hand made baskets, natural fiber rugs, pottery....

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's close to the US, fairly cosmopolitan, friendly people, nice temperatures.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The altitude affects people. Blood pressure, sunburn, breathing problems. There is malaria and dengue outside of Bogota.

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

Absolutely.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bring your umbrella, sunscreen and your bike.

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Bogota, Colombia 11/02/18

Background:

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

No, I have also lived abroad in West Africa, North Africa, and Europe. I have lived overseas for nearly 20 years.

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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?

Washington, DC. There are 6-hour direct flights from Washington although most of the USG fares go through Miami, Atlanta, or Houston. Bogota El Dorado is generally an easy airport with good services. Diplomatic immigration line is quick, but there can be a long wait for baggage.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two plus years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All embassy housing is in apartments. Apartments are all located in good neighborhoods, most of them an easy walk to shopping, parks and restaurants. Some of the apartments in Rosales are not as walkable due to the hills, but they tend to have amazing views. Buildings have a mix of amenities: some have pools, playgrounds, party rooms, and gyms, while others have fewer amenities. All of the buildings have doormen/security.



As far as I know, all have some parking but garages can be tight, and most seem to have some kind of storage room for residents although those storage rooms are sometimes small and damp. Most apartments include a small maids quarters that can also be used for storage if you do not have live-in household help. The housing is not far but commute times to the U.S. Embassy run 30-75 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

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

Nearly everything is available here except for some specialty products and some baking products. Cuts of meat are not always the same and finding meats like lamb can be difficult. PriceSmart, the Costco membership club equivalent, has a lot of U.S. products, including Kirkland brand, in bulk quantities. Some specialty ingredients and spices are only available in smaller stores, not big supermarkets. There is not a huge variety in beer the way there is in the U.S; just local brands and a few microbrewery options. Wine is usually South American wine, as European wine is more expensive.

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

None. The only household or grocery items that I order are items that we are brand-specific too (and could live with out).

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

Many, many U.S. chains are here, including ones that you don't see as much in the U.S. anymore: fast food, pizza, Hooters, Fuddruckers, Vapianos, Hard Rock, Johnny Rockets, PF Chang's, etc. Everything can be delivered, and almost everything can be ordered online without even having to talk to a person. There are great restaurants although there's not a huge variety in international options. Most sushi has cream cheese in it, there's only one or two Indian places, one or two Middle Eastern places, a few decent Thai places, and one or two good Mexican places. It depends how picky you are how happy you will be with the international options. Colombian food tends to be bland, so finding spicy cuisine can be hard.

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

No, there are almost no mosquitoes due to the altitude. I have not seen ants, roaches, or anything else in my housing.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO comes very quickly. Local postal facilities are not adequate.

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

Most individuals have at least a part-time housekeeper, while families with children often have full-time employees. A smaller percentage of the embassy company has live-in employees, either hired locally or who accompanied them from a previous assignment. Some employees are only nannies, while others will do both cleaning and childcare. Household help is generally affordable, and even paying a slightly inflated embassy rate, I pay about $500/month for a full-time employee. Colombia has strict laws on overtime, uniforms, insurance, bonuses, and severance. There are companies that will do the paperwork for you, and in restrospect, I wish I had used one to make 100% sure my payments were all correct. Most household employees do not speak English.

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

Gyms are widely available including one in the embassy. There are Crossfit studios, pilates, yoga, weightlifting, boxing, all kinds of specialized gyms. Many people have personal trainers. Some families belong to country clubs with pools, golf, and other sports. Biking is very common.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted and safe to use locally; most places will bring the card reader to your table in restaurants. ATMs are common and safe, although you have to be careful about where you use them to avoid being robbed. I have heard of a few problems with credit cards, usually after using a credit card in a taxi. International credit cards are not always accepted online, so things like buying movie tickets or show tickets online can be difficult.

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

Minima. International Church of Bogota and one Catholic service that I know of.

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

You really need Spanish. Unlike other U.S. embassies I have worked at, Spanish is the working language for most offices even inside the embassy. You'll want some level of Spanish for nearly all interactions, and the people who have the hardest time here are the ones who came without any Spanish.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are permitted from taking public transportation in Bogota. Taxis are affordable, although we are required to call or request dispatch online, or take them from an authorized taxi line at the airport. Taxi drivers tend to know the city and to navigate better than Uber drivers, but cars are small of often unsafe or uncomfortable. Most people use Uber or other similar services, although there are some problems with Uber's legal status and you often have to sit in the front with Uber drivers.

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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?

People bring everything from giant Suburbans to compact cars. I appreciate having a smaller car for tight parking garages, but wish that I had a larger car for road trips and camping. If you are going to camp/hike a lot you may find yourself on rough dirt roads, and want all wheel drive or higher clearance. We honestly don't drive much at all in the city because of the availability of taxis and Uber, so I mainly use my car for trips outside the city. All parking is reverse-in.

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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?

High-speed Internet access is available. Depending on your apartment building, you may not have a choice of company. We have a large apartment and thick walls and had to have two lines installed to have decent speed in both the front and back of the apartment, and it is still glitchy from time to time. Customer service for the internet providers is not great. Some people manage to get it installed before the arrive, but for most people it can be done within a week or two.

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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?

I believe everyone uses a local provider, although some people keep their U.S. WhatsApp numbers or use Google Voice or similar services. You can get prepaid or pay-as-you-go services with data that are affordable.

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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?

Veterinarians, kennel services, and dog training are all available. You'll see all breeds of dogs in Bogota, even dogs that seem way too big for apartment life. There are dog buses that go around in the morning and pick up dogs for that day at doggy care, and you'll often see dog walkers with 10 or more dogs.

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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?

Spouses with professional telecommuting jobs seem happiest, although it can be problematic when there are Internet problems. There are a lot of EFM jobs in the embassy, but many of them require at least a two in Spanish. There are some teaching jobs at the international schools, but not much else available on the economy because all jobs will require fluent Spanish and local salary scales are very low.

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

Colombians tend to dress well and more formally than in the U.S. Business and business-casual are common in the embassy. Formal dress is required for the Marine Corps Ball, American Society ball, and other galas that some people attend.

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Health & Safety:

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

Bogota is a high-crime city and you need to be very alert to the risk of pick-pocketing, mugging, and scams. You need to be alert and aware of your surroundings, know where you are going, be cautious about using your phone on the street, and be cautious about walking at night.

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

Medical care is generally good and affordable. An increasing number of embassy families are opting to have babies at post. Medical providers, including lab services, will come to your house. The main health concerns seem to be respiratory; people tend to get coughs and sniffles that just won't go away. Bogota is a high-altitude post and some people have more trouble adjusting to the altitude than others. The altitude can cause headaches and shortness of breath.

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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?

Air quality is moderate to bad. It rains a lot so that helps with the pollution but after a few days of no rain it is obvious. Traffic is heavy and the buses spew out clouds of noxious smoke. Many bikers wear masks, especially if commuting by bike. The air quality tends to contribute to the respiratory crud that won't go away.

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

Overall cold and chilly. Daily highs in the 60s, daily lows around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains almost every day, although not all day. Driest months are January and June, with heavy rain in spring and fall. There are frequent landslides and flooding, although mostly outside of Bogota. When it is sunny, the sun is intense and you can get burned quickly. No seasons. I love the weather but once in a while want to be warm, so we go to the coast.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are a variety of schools available, none of them perfect. Our kids attend the DOS-supported school, Colegio Nueva Granada, and we have been generally very happy with the large campus, academics, transportation, and after-school activities. Communication is kind of hit-or-miss and seems to depend mostly on the teacher. CNG does the best with accommodating special needs. Other families choose Colegio Gran Bretana (British), Gimnasio Moderno (boys only, and on the South American calendar), British Montessori, French school. Your choice of school will depend on your preferences in terms of language, commute time, calendar, and/or special needs.

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2. 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?

Preschools are widely available. Some are more competitive and are geared at preparing kids for admission to the bilingual schools. Others are more play-based. Some are full-time, others part time. Colombian kids start school at age four, so not all preschools go to age five. We considered a variety of preschools and chose one that was within walking distance, and that was more play-based and less curriculum-focused.

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

Yes, tons of activities including at school, at home, and out of school, including music, horseback riding, gymnastics, dance, arts and crafts.

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Expat Life:

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

Very large U.S. embassy community, lots of other embassies but they are all smaller. Moderate-sized expat business community. Generally good morale and most people people that Bogota is a great posting, and many extend for several years here.

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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 are all kinds of groups and clubs, and more available if you are comfortable in Spanish. American Women's Club, parent's groups, country clubs, running groups, hiking groups.

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

I think the city is good for all demographics; there is a lot to do for everyone. There are restaurants, clubs, movies, playground/parks, and lots of great travel outside of the city.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The mountains and landscape are absolutely beautiful; I've loved living surrounded by mountains. There's great travel although most travel requires flying - our favorites have been Cartagena, Tayrona National Park, coffee country, and the Amazon. We've also done some amazing camping and hiking. There are fantastic restaurants, and prices are very affordable so we can go to 5-star restaurants every weekend. On Sunday and holidays, they close the roads for ciclovia and everyone is out on bikes or skates.

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

Not really, although there's an annual artisan fair in December that has a lot of great products, and many people get furniture made here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. I've loved Bogota although the traffic and sometimes the lack of customer service are frustrating. We extended from two to three years and haven't regretted it at all.

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

Shorts and sandals, cake pans (I have found it impossible to bake at 8600 feet).

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, sunscreen, rain boots, hiking boots, bicycle, artificial Christmas tree (there are no real ones), and international ingredients.

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

Narcos (Colombians hate it, but watch it anyway), Embrace of the Serpent, and everything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Bogota, Colombia 09/10/18

Background:

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

This is my second Department of State experience; previously I was in Dhaka.

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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?

"Home" is Northern Illinois. I believe there are direct flights, but we generally go through Newark or Houston thanks to Fly America. You can fly direct to Florida in fewer than four hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One and a half years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

(this is about US Embassy housing) All housing is apartment living. From what I've seen, everyone has plenty of space. There are two main neighborhoods: Chico and Rosales. We're in Chico and I love it. I walk everywhere, to the grocery store, to malls, to park, to restaurants and cafes. I had heard that it was noisier, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. I don't hear traffic noise, just construction, but you can get that anywhere.



Rosales is also close to great restaurants and a grocery store, but it's hillier and you'll feel those walks much more than you'll feel it after walking around Chico. In both neighborhoods the amenities in the apartments can vary GREATLY. For instance, our building has no extras. Others can have play structures, pools, movie rooms, and community rooms. Some are even setup like complexes of towers, where the kids can run outside and to other buildings, without leaving your guarded gate. You may also have no American neighbors, few or many. It just depends. Most apartments will end up with a water leak or two each year, but the buildings feel safe and well-constructed.

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

There is very little that you can't find here. I do miss good cheeses, but you can find some. In general most groceries seem to cost less than at home (though that can vary with the exchange rate), but specialty items are definitely more expensive. Even cereal can be expensive. We have a Pricesmart (Costo), and there's a commissary at the embassy. We order a few items from the states, but very little.

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

I can't think of anything that I've craved that I couldn't find.

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

Dining out is a highlight of this post for us. A family of five can eat out often because it's inexpensive. A fancy date night with drinks and the works, might cost US $100. The cocktails will cost almost as much as the main course. It's rare to see a main course item over US $20. It's also very easy and convenient to order food to be delivered at your home via Uber Eats, Rappi and Domicilios. In fact, you can order ANYTHING to be delivered to your home via the apps: groceries, gifts, car wash, manicure, CASH.

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

NONE! I did see a fly today, but even they are rare.

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Daily Life:

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

We have DPO and pouch through the embassy.

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

Lots of families hire empleadas. Some cook and clean. Some just clean. Some watch kids. I believe families pay around COP $50k-$60k per day (US$17-$20). There are a lot of legalities around it too, as far as bonuses, time off, uniforms, etc. and I've heard that if you mess up with any of it, you'll get sued. I've also heard about petty theft.



We don't have help, so all of this is hearsay. A friend used a home cleaning service called Casa Express and it seemed like even with the fee, she was paying about the same daily rate as people who hired their empleadas directly, but then she didn't have to worry about any of the benefits. If I were to have help, it's the route I would take. Others have liked having an empleada who has worked for other embassy families.

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

There are Bodytechs around, including one at the embassy. I don't know about the cost. I see MANY people working with personal trainers in the parks. A friend was working out with one and I believe he charged her about COP $45k-50k/hr.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted, but some doctors offices require cash. Check before you go. ATMs in malls and grocery stores are safe. Note that if you have SDFCU, they charge you 1% every time you take out cash, and many of the local banks will charge you around US $4-$5. I've learned which banks don't charge me that fee, so that I'm just paying the SDFCU 1%.



USAA will refund the bank fees, so use them if you can. Also, many banks have a limit of COP $300k to $400K per transaction. You can pull out cash a bunch of times, but you don't want to do that, if you're paying a fee. Also, when asked if you want to make a charge in Pesos or Dollars, always choose Pesos, as many local banks hit you with a 3.5% fee when you charge in dollars. There is a bank at the embassy, and it's easy and convenient to cash checks there, but I generally get a little bit of a better rate from ATMs, even after my 1% fee from SDFCU.

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

I know of a non-denominational church that many embassy families attend. There is also an English-language Anglican (Episcopal) service and a Catholic Mass. There may be more, for instance, not sure about LDS.

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

You really have to have Spanish and the more the better. You can get a private tutor for about COP $50k/hour. I've taken classes at Universidad Sergio Arboleta that cost about US$220 for a month of classes that run two hours a day. There are many other options that I see posted on Facebook groups.

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

Yes. It's possible, but definitely not easy. Sidewalks will suddenly end or have big chunks of concrete knocked out. Most multi-story buildings have elevators.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis and Ubers are plentiful and cheap. They're safe if you use an app to call them. We aren't allowed to hail them off the street. I'll spend an hour in a taxi and then find that I only spent about $7. Short quick rides are often $2-$3. If you don't like driving, you could easily live here with no car.

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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?

People bring everything. I suggest something small and easy to park and drive. High-clearance is nice for pot holes (they're everywhere) and when you're out of town on dirt roads. You see mostly Toyotas, Nissans and Hondas, but I haven't heard of anyone not being able to get cars serviced. I haven't checked prices of tires or parts, to see if it's worth shipping them.

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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?

High-speed internet is available and it's cheap. The amount of time it takes varies as the rules around what paperwork you need seems to change. I think it took about a month for us, but recently a family we sponsored had it setup in about a week. We use Claro and have three phone plans with data, internet, cable and a landline and pay about US$140-150 a month in total.

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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?

I rolled my US # over to Google Voice years ago, and it sort-of comes around the world with me. I have it ringing at my desk phone right now, but I can also get voice mails and texts through it on my cell phone. I work from home, so I also have a US # via Skype, so that work can call me and it rings through to my phone or the computer, wherever I want to answer it.

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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?

PET HEAVEN. Vets are plentiful and good and will even come to your home. Most dogs seem to go to doggy day camps. Our dogs just goes away when we're out of town and we pay COP $25k/night - a little over $8. You'll also see dog walkers all over, taking dogs out for morning and afternoon walks. No quarantine. There are pets stores all over and specialty shops selling pet baked goods and ice creams.

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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?

Spouses vie for eligible family members (EFMs) jobs at the embassy. Now that the most recent hiring freeze has been lifted, there are more jobs being listed. Some teach. Some telecommute. Some offer home-based business, like yoga. If you get hired locally, the salary will vary GREATLY depending on whether you're hired at the local rate or an expat rate.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I know a number of people who volunteer at orphanages. I'm sure there are plenty of other options.

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

Formal at work (suits). In public, Colombians are more likely to be dressed up, where even casual looks well thought out and put together. You can tell someone is a foreigner if he's wearing shorts in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

No dar papaya! (Don't let yourself be a victim.) Don't carry your phone in your back pocket or it will get swiped. I had one swiped from a front pocket. I carry it in a bag or in an inside pocket now. If you're on your phone outside, pay attention to your surroundings. Colombians have warned me when I've been typing something into my phone out in a park.



It seems pickpockets and some knifepoint robberies seem to pick up around Christmas time. I was more cautious walking my dog at night this past December, but in general I don't ever feel unsafe. Use any big city rules. Avoid bad neighborhoods, but the nice neighborhoods will get the petty thieves looking for opportunities to swipe something. Security seems quite competent and is everywhere.

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

People seem to get cold viruses their first few months here. It surprised me because my kids are generally never sick, but it seemed like we caught everything at first. One of the nurses at the Embassy told me that he finds many families seem to catch everything their first 6 months and then he doesn't see them again for the rest of their tour. The local care is good, too. It has to be very severe for a med evac.

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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?

Bogotá is in a bit of bowl. The lower down in that bowl you are, the worst the air will be, but bad days are "yellow" or maybe "orange." There's a monitor near housing, where we're higher up, and it's generally "green." The embassy itself is lower. You'll often see bike commuters wearing masks. Coming from a post with really bad air, I have no complaints

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I don't think there's anything different from living in a city in the states. The climate really doesn't change year round. There are flowering trees near my apartment that seem to flower every few months.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

I think there can be a little frustration with living in basically perpetual fall as the sunrise and sunset times only change by a few minutes over the course of the year. The weather doesn't change much either, though within a day, it can feel chilly or hot, depending on sunshine, shade and breezes. It rains often, but usually not for long.

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

Fall or spring, all in one day. Wear layers. I'll put a coat on at night to walk the dog. It doesn't change much, but it's pretty mild all year long. Never actually hot and never really 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?

There are actually many, I've found. The two that the embassy families use the most are Colegio Nueva Grenada (CNG) and Colegio Gran Bretaña (CGB), but I know families who send their kids to the French school and some of the others. I've heard some complaints that people came in and didn't realize that there were options other than CNG (the "American" School). Do your research.



My kids attend CGB and I love it! I'm so pleased we chose it. It's farther out than CNG, but because of the small buses they use, the kids get picked up at the same time as the CNG kids in our building. I hear people complain about the commute up to CGB, but it's families who DON'T attend who are complaining that it's too far or that their kids are on the bus for too long. My kids haven't complained about it. (I'll write a School Report soon.) I would say that most of the embassy kids do go to CNG, but embassy kids make up 5% at CGB right now. CGB is a much more international school, and it's much smaller. If your kids have been in in French schools, the French school seems like a great option, and is walking distance from most housing in Chico.

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

Both of the main schools seem to have a good mix of what they offer. I believe that CNG has the ability to offer a wider range of needs, but I would ask both schools. I have learned that CGB offers more than I had originally realized. They do offer plenty for GT kids, too, as does CNG, with their AP classes.

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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?

No experience, but they are plentiful and I believe relatively inexpensive (as opposed to in the US). Many families seem very happy with them.

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

There are lots of opportunities, if you dig and ask around. The schools offer some sports, too. CGB works their extra curricular activities into the regular school day (some at a cost, some not, depending on what your kids signs up for). This keeps all kids on their same buses every day. They have all sorts of sports, wall-climbing, fencing, robotics, cooking, drama, to name a few. I know kids who take tennis, horseback riding, gymnastics, cooking classes and ballet outside of their schools.

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Expat Life:

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

The community is large. And I would say the morale is good, but I find with the US Embassy expats it seems to depend on where they're coming from, if they're from a domestic department and just have this one shot to bring their families overseas. The US Embassy here is HUGE, so experiences seem to vary greatly. As a DoS family, we think we're in heaven. It's super easy living. When asked about living here, my husband likes to say, "It's great! I can drink the tap water," but it's more than that.



It really is easy living, with cheap English language movies, great produce, lots of concerts and events, weekly Ciclovia (roads closed for bikes and pedestrians), parks, markets and festivals. Enough tourism to have walking tours in English. It's a great life! Again, I find some people do complain, but I think there isn't a post in the world where they wouldn't complain, if they complain here. Traffic can be slow and some of the driving habits seem insane (right turns from the far left lane...). People will complain about the traffic a lot, but I think in the big scheme of the world, it's fine. I drive all over, and I'm the person who didn't get behind the wheel of a car once at our last post.

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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?

The American Woman's Club is HUGE and seems to have TONS of activities, depending on your interest level. People go out to restaurants together, host each other in their homes, or rent "fincas" (weekend homes) with each other. Some go out to salsa clubs. Others go out to play Tejo. Some people make close Colombian friends and will do these things with them. Others may never meet Colombains outside of work, but might socialize with those colleagues. You can be as social as you'd like, it seems to me.

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

I believe it's good for everyone. As in every other country in the world, the single men seem to date more than the single women. Couples can travel more frequently, as it can be spendy to travel with a family. Families have schools, parks, movies, etc.

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

It appears to be. I have met same sex Colombian couples when I'm out and about and they openly refer to their boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife. I'll see same sex couples hand and hand out around town. I do know that same sex marriage is legal, so they have rights as couples, too.

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

I believe so. I had heard that the darker your skin, the less well you're treated. I haven't seen it in action.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I loved getting out to Villa de Leyva, Cartagena and Nemocon (check out the salt mine and museum there). We've done camping trips with girl scouts. There's hiking. Relaxing fancy homes for rent in Anapoima or simple homes for rent out of Bogotá. I think for me the main highlight, though, has just been living here. I get out a lot with my dog and so I feel like I really live in my neighborhood, in a way that lets me engage with a wide variety of people.

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

I don't know about hidden gems, per se, other than the museum in Nemocon. I enjoyed it more than the Salt Cathedral that every tourist goes to. My kids have been able to get out and see more than I have, thanks to their school camps. My son loved his trip to the amazon.

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

You can find many handicrafts and artwork around Bogotá. There's a great art expo in December.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Lots of parks, cheap restaurants, cheap movies, and it's very pet and kid-friendly.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How little Spanish I actually knew!

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

Absolutely. I will be ready to go when it's time, but that's because I love adventure and am always looking for the next one. I don't like living too long in any one place, but I would come back.

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

Preconceived notions of Narco Colombia.

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4. But don't forget your:

Spanish. Patience when driving.

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Bogota, Colombia 08/31/18

Background:

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

First long-term expat experience.

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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?

United States, some direct flights to DC, none to Pittsburgh. Usually we have a three and a half hour flight and another two hour with a short layover in Florida/Atlanta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments. No houses in the US Embassy community, but I know of some other expats who live in the far north in houses. The housing is beautiful; usually modern and very nice sizes. Everyone I know has space for a live-in nanny as well. Embassy families live in different zones and it's about 30-45 minutes to the embassy depending on traffic. We had a three bedroom apartment with a living room, family room, office, dining room, and two balconies.

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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 just about anything here, especially American imports at PriceSmart (Latin American Costco). Carulla, Exito, and Olympica are the main grocery stores and you can get just about anything. There are some limitations on things like exotic spices, etc, but there is no shortage of specialty stores; you just might have to go out of your way to find them. Lots of markets with much more inexpensive produce and meats, but not necessarily in expat areas and not as convenient.

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

We did ship several cases of black beans and garbanzo beans because we heard they were hard to find here, and we are glad we did! We also shipped a lot of other food things like spices, almond milk, salsa, and peanut butter. You can find all of those here but they are more expensive and we had the weight allowance to do it. We don't drink much, but many people complain about how expensive alcohol can be.

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

I don't know a single expat who doesn't use Rappi, a delivery app. It's very inexpensive to have things delivered and I use it constantly. For restaurants, you can find a lot of things here: there are good "fast casual" places like Home Burger, Wok, Sipote, Freshii, lots of pizza places etc. Lots of US chains like KFC, Dunkin, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, etc. You can also go to super nice restaurants for a fraction of the cost it would be in the US.

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

Zero. With altitude of 8600 feet I almost never see a bug.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO through the embassy.

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

Lots of very qualified empleadas (housekeepers) and nannies (nineras), and some people employ drivers. Cost is around US$20/day for a housekeeper, but it totally depends on whether they are live in/out, their experience, their schedule, etc.

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

Lots of stuff available. In our neighborhood alone we have a regular gym, spinning (cycling) classes, boxing, yoga (multiple), and even Barre.

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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?

Yes, yes, and yes.

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

Yes, one English-language non-denominational church in Rosales, at least one Catholic church has an English mass. I know of some community members who attend a Mormon service and a Jewish synagogue, but I am not sure if they are in English. There is also an Episcopal priest that does an English language service.

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

Not a whole lot of English is spoken, definitely not in grocery stores, pharmacies or most restaurants. You can, of course, find professionals (doctors, etc) who speak English. I know very very few expats who don't know any Spanish at all. Lots of great schools and tutors available at very low prices. I did a full-time program for two months when we arrived and it helped me acclimate much faster.

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

If you were in a wheelchair, you could definitely have issues because the sidewalks are not great, even in the richest neighborhoods. Ramps are often missing and some stores/restaurants have steps (no ramps) to get into. I get frustrated just with a stroller, so I can't imagine a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

We cannot use the Transmilenio (bus) system, but Uber is here and taxis can be used with an appropriate app. We are advised not to hail them on the street for safety reasons and to avoid price gouging.

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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?

There are all kinds of cars here. We have a Honda Civic, which works well for tiny parking spaces, but lots of people have smaller SUVs and all the Marines have massive SUVs. High clearance is nice if you want to go to some hiking locations outside the city, but we have also driven all over in our Civic and been fine. There is a Honda dealership that replaced my airbag when it was recalled.

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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. Ours was installed within a week or so, but many people have frustrating experiences with Claro and require repeat visits.

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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?

Claro is the main one. We brought our phones from the US and swapped sim cards.

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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?

Locally-based jobs are going to pay practically nothing. I telecommute and have other expat spouse friends that do the same. Some teach, some are tutors, some have jobs at the embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots. Some skilled and many unskilled.

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

The embassy is business dress. My spouse wears a suit and tie every day. We haven't had to wear formal dress for anything yet.

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Health & Safety:

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

The same as any big Latin American city which includes some muggings, and harassment. I have heard that some people have their wallets or phones stolen. The general rule is common sense: be aware of your surroundings, don't walk alone at night, don't go to seedy neighborhoods, don't use your phone or pull out your wallet on the street.

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

Air pollution is pretty bad. Medical care is excellent. The main hospital expats use is Fundacion Santa Fe, which is one of the top hospitals in South America. We have been there a few times and the care is very good. English-speaking doctors are also easy to find. I had an excellent obstetrician. Dental/orthodontia is a fraction of the cost of the US and good quality.

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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?

Moderate. It can be unpleasant walking down certain streets and breathing the exhaust from the buses, but, in many neighborhoods, it's totally fine.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

It's easy to manage food allergies here.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

It rains a lot in Bogota, but when it is nice weather, it's amazing. :)

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

It's about 55 degrees all year round. Dry season is December through February and then June through August. Wet season is the other months. It's a very comfortable temperature; the kind you never really think about.

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Schools & Children:

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

Lots of international schools. Lots of kids go to Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG) and Colegio Gran Britanica (CGB), but there are other options, too. No personal experience with either, but people seem happy with the school options here.

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2. 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?

Yes, in expat areas they tend to be more expensive, but traffic makes it prohibitive to drive a little farther for a less expensive option. We pay about $350 USD/month for my toddler to go to jardin (daycare/preschool) for 4 mornings a week. Obviously much cheaper than the US, but I have non-embassy friends who live in other areas that can pay a lot less.



I love our jardin. My toddler started going at 18 months and before that when she was home with me, Colombians thought it was very strange that she wasn't already in a jardin. It's just a cultural thing to send very very young children to school as soon as possible and it's not just the upper class that does this.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large. Bogota has one of the biggest US Embassies in the world, and there is also a very large French population here (I've heard this is due to the large presence of Renault) as well as many other European expats. I think most expats are happy, although many feel very ambivalent about Bogota.

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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 are a few expat groups/clubs that are pretty popular, e.g., the American Women's Club and the American Society of Bogota.

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

We were here with little kids. The low cost of childcare and household help is really nice. You can get just about anything you need here, and there are lots of things to do for families and kids. Lots of things to do within a few hours of the city if you need to get away. Colombia is not a super easy country to travel around with little kids just due to the level of development. It is getting better with the peace process and it's much better/safer than it was even a few years ago.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The hiking! Colombia is a gorgeous country, and no one should stick to just Bogota! We hiked to La Chorrera, which is a waterfall about an hour from Bogota and it was amazing. We haven't been yet, but everyone loves Coffee Country and Cartagena.

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

We really love the hiking trails in the eastern hills. Unfortunately, they are often closed due to rain or repairs, but when they are open they are amazing. I recommend that you only go when the police are there (usually weekend mornings, but some trails are staffed every morning) because I understand there has been muggings and violence on the trails.

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

You can get beautiful handmade things here, e.g., furniture, leather goods (shoes/bags, etc), handmade woven bags or things for the home, etc. Lots of local artists: the market in Usaquen is a good place to find things.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known that we wouldn't be able to travel as much as we thought. South America is way bigger/spread out and flights to neighboring countries are much more expensive than we realized. In country flights are usually under US$100, but lack of development in some areas makes it difficult to get to some of the best places if you only have a three day weekend to travel.

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

Yes.

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

Impatience. Everything takes way longer than you expect it will.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, boots, and rain jacket.

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Bogota, Colombia 05/13/18

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Africa, South America and UK before.

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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?

United States. Direct flights to LA (7 hours), Houston, Miami (3 hours) and other cities. Travel to other South American cities can be expensive. You can find good deals for in-country travel to Cartagena, etc.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over a year

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All apartments. Sizes vary depending on location and building age. Most expat housing is in the north of the city with commute times running closer to an hour.

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

Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables available for cheap. Imported products will run a little bit higher but still cheaper than the US. Many people shop at PriceMart (equivalent to Costco) for American products. In general, the cost of living is very low.

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

Baking supplies, spices, wine, clothing for big/tall, electronics

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

Everything is available for delivery here, from food to dry cleaning to money from the ATM. Plentiful American fast food chains. Colombian food tends to be fried, not spicy. Food is generally better in other South American countries.

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

No, minimal bugs due to the altitude.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. There is no national mail system in Colombia. Locals use DHL

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

Very inexpensive. Minimum wage here is $1 US dollar per hour

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

Many gyms are found throughout the city, including CrossFit. Memberships can be higher or equal to US prices

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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?

Credit cards are safe and widely accepted. Use the machine that they bring to your table at a restaurant. ATMs are common, but skimming and personal security are concerns.

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

Native Spanish speakers (and their spouses) will have a different experience and quality of life here than those of us who are still learning Spanish. Very little English is spoken, since there has not been a lot of tourism here historically. The 3/3 Spanish level is really essential for quality of life here. Most of the service industry (restaurants, shops, telephone/internet providers) does not speak English, so Spanish is essential for getting basic services. There are local language schools and classes available (with varying prices). Lots of personal tutors are also available.

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

Yes, sidewalks are uneven and many buildings are inaccessible to wheelchair users.

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Transportation:

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

Public transport is crowded and petty crime is common. Government staff are advised to not take buses or hail taxis. Uber is illegal for drivers but okay for passengers to use. Some use smartphone apps to call a legitimate taxi. There is no metro system, so traffic is some of the worst in the world.

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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?

For trips outside the city, bring a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

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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?

We have 100 mb cable and tv for $100 per month. Installation takes two weeks or less. The best ISP, ETB, no longer provides service to diplomats.

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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?

Local providers are plentiful and affordable. Paying your bill requires going to a local store in person since international cards are not accepted online.

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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?

Most spouses here do not work. Spanish fluency is a must for working on the local economy, even as an English teacher. Many jobs at embassies also require Spanish fluency. There is a work agreement between the US and Colombia, but I don't know anyone personally who has been able to find a job. Local salaries are very low and some companies/contracting agencies attempt to scam foreigners without diplomatic status.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Very few if you don't speak Spanish.

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

Professional. More formal than in the US.

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Health & Safety:

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

Muggings are increasingly common, especially cell phone theft. It's become so common, that the government decriminalized the theft of cell phones, so there's nothing the police will do. Gringos should watch their purses and drinks at bars. Recommend bringing cross-body purses and leaving all jewelry at home. In general, Brazil felt more safe than here.

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

Bogota is at 9,000 feet so many people experience altitude sickness. This can last for several months and drain your energy. Very few mosquitos or bugs, so low risk of malaria and zika (unlike the coast). Doctors are well educated and provide good quality of care. Navigating the bureaucracy and service inconsistencies can be frustrating. Facilities are not well maintained in comparison to the US.

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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?

Air pollution is also high here due to the traffic, especially in the dry season.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Allergies can occur practically year round from pollen.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Road rage.

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

Very mild climate, 60s year round. Rainy like Seattle and London, but lots of greenery here. Due to climate change, it is becoming more rainy here. Often there are periods when it rains every day. The line between dry and wet seasons is becoming more blurred.

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Schools & Children:

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

Commute times can be over an hour.

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Expat Life:

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

US expat government community is large. Private US companies also have a large presence here. Due to current low employment opportunities, spouse morale is low. The community is click-ish, based on what agency one works for and too big to be close knit. There are few embassy events for family members who do not work at the mission and for those without children.

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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?

American Women's Club (open to all English speakers) has been a life saver here with lots of fun events to meet other expats and Colombians and to explore the city's restaurants and culture. Otherwise, people go out to movies, restaurants and fincas (country houses) on the weekends.

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

Good city for couples with lots to do. Families may find apartment living a bit cramped.

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

African Americans are more frequently stopped by police for questioning and may experience more problems with stereotypes.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Parque Tayrona in Santa Marta, Cartagena.

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

Tejo (throwing lead balls at gunpowder targets), El Cielo restaurant, ciclovia (roads closed to cars on Sundays and holidays)

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

Yes, lots of artwork, furniture and handicrafts are available.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Everything available for delivery to your house.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Colombian society in general is very classist and due to the 50-year civil war, the people are very closed off to foreigners. This means making friends is difficult, and you need to know someone to get a job here. As a foreigner without any pre-existing friends in the right places, you may find it difficult to have an "in" with a company to even find out about a job opening.

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

Probably not due to the difficulty of local employment.

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3. But don't forget your:

Rain jacket, Whatsapp.

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

Narcos *just don't mention it to any Colombians :-)

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Bogota, Colombia 04/01/16

Background:

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

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2. How long have you lived here?

About 2 years

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

Government

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO

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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) .

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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

Yes

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Transportation:

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.

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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, about US$50/month

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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?

Several companies and plans are available. Just bring an unlocked phone.

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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, pet care is widely available at a very decent price. Many vets make house visits. Pet food is very expensive if purchased locally.

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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?

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not many

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Moderate

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Yes, seasonal allergies.

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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?

60's-70's F most of the year. Periods of rain, but not all day everyday.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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.

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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.

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Expat Life:

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

Large and generally pretty good morale.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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8. Can you save money?

Right now, yes... if the peso gets stronger again the cost of living is similar to the US.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes

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

Your expectation for good costumer service...anywhere.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience

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Bogota, Colombia 08/21/15

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. 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?

Northwest USA. Not a bad trip, about 8 or so hours with a layover in either Houston or Miami or Atlanta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

~3 years.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice apartments, no houses. You can live either up in the hills and get a relatively larger apartment with limited walkability, or down in the "planos" with slightly smaller apartments and excellent walkability to parks, shopping, restaurants and nightlife.

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

Produce is cheap, but imported household goods and non-food groceries, like shaving cream, can be ridiculously expensive. For example, a lint roller that costs about a dollar at home will cost you about fifteen dollars here.

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

The household goods that are expensive here --- but if you need them they are available, or you can order them via DPO.

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

Everything is here and relatively pricey.

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

Given that Bogota is at about 8,000 feet, there are no insect problems whatsoever.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Cost is okay. We pay our nanny/housekeeper about US$500/month for M-F.

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

There is a gym at the embassy and a chain called Bodytech, which also has gyms in our neighborhoods. The embassy Bodytech is subsidized and cheap, but the Bodytech chains outside the embassy can be extremely overpriced and have terrible customer service.

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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?

Restaurants and supermarkets almost always accept credit cards. Most basic services, like dry cleaning and haircuts do not, and this can be frustrating

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

English is not too common, but a working level of Spanish help you get get along.

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

Yes. The sidewalks are treacherous.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, very affordable. And Uber is here.

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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?

Any car will work, but an SUV helps, since Bogota's streets are absolutely terrible with crater-size potholes.

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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?

We pay about US$80/month for our cable/TV/telephone package.

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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?

Claro has somewhat of a monopoly on US Embassy people. The service is functional for smartphones.

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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?

Its a big embassy with plenty of EFM opportunities, but finding a job on the local economy can be a challenge. Colombians are mostly highly educated, so competition can be tough on the outside market.

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

Bogota has a well dressed society.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Petty theft is not uncommon, and even the occasional mugging at knifepoint occurs. That said, nothing has happened to me or my family. If the government can finalize a peace agreement with the guerrilla groups, that will eliminate an element of insecurity.

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

There is good medical care. Decent doctors, dentists and facilities are available at very reasonable prices.

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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?

Moderate to unhealthy. It isn't China, but diesel fuel is prevalent with plenty of air pollution. Our curtains have turned a shade of greyish black. An in-home air filter helps.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Do bring your medications. Allergies aren't a nuisance, but certain times of year, usually March-ish, can cause some minor issues.

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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?

Forget the luxury of seasons, but it is ideal for someone from the Northwest. The weather is "partly cloudy with a chance of rain"...every day. That said, the temperature stays cool in the 60s to low 70s. Never too hot, never too 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?

No experience, although I've heard so-so reports about the Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG), where most of the US Embassy kids go. I've heard better things about the French and British schools.

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2. 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?

Yes. Plenty. Our toddler attends one that costs about US$500/month. It is expensive but, with the devalued peso, not so bad at the moment. Colombians send their children to preschool when they are as young as 18 months.

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Expat Life:

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

This is a large embassy with a sizeable expat community. Morale is decent, but life in Bogota can wear you down, as it is a big city with terrible traffic and no road or pedestrian courtesy.

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

Good for all: families, couples, and singles.

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

Since this is a Latin American country, indigenous people and those with African origins are more regularly celebrated and appreciated in public, but racism exists, and it can be subtly pernicious or overtly cruel. Some of my African-American friends have been shouted at and degraded in public, in addition to denied entry into clubs/restaurants.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

You can have anything delivered and/or done in your home. You almost never have to leave your home to get a haircut, waxing, receive your dry cleaning, massage therapist, grocery and pharmacy home delivery, etc. I even have a mechanic that will come and pick up my car to get it serviced and then return it at the end of the day.

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

Ciclovia, when the city blocks-off about 100 kilometers of road on Sundays and holidays for only bike and pedestrian traffic.

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

You can find good arts and crafts that are uniquely Colombian.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The Caribbean coast cities (Cartagena, Santa Marta) are worth a visit. Although domestic tourism isn't great or up to most int'l standards (e.g. a five star Colombian hotel = three stars at best), the external escapes are easy, with short flights to Aruba, Punta Cana, Panama City, etc. The Colombian peso has devalued significantly, so you can save some money, even though Bogota is relatively expensive, given our isolation in the mountains and the high costs to transport things here.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes, when the exchange rate is good.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but I probably wouldn't have extended my tour.

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

Nothing. Bogota is comfortable, and if you want a beach or tropical climate, it's nearby via short flight or drive.

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Bogota, Colombia 08/20/14

Background:

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

No. I have lived in multiple posts.

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2. How long have you lived here?

I left in 2014.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Groceries are expensive.

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

Restaurants are very good and plentiful. The price is cheaper than Washington D.C. but more expensive than many parts of Latin America.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the embassy. The mail system is good.

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

Domestic help is affordable, although it is extremely unusual to find anyone who speaks English. I had someone who was wonderful and dependable, although many people have a different experience and complained small items went missing from their homes.

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

There is a nice gym at the Embassy and some around the city.

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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?

Credit cards are used rarely and many have large fees if you use them. This is a cash based society but there is a bank at the embassy.

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

There are some English language church services.

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

You absolutely need Spanish to function.

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

It would be almost impossible to get around on the streets or sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

No. The American Embassy community is prohibited from taking the bus, and there are restrictions related to taxis.

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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?

A four-wheel drive is very useful due to road conditions.

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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. The cost seems reasonable, but service is not great. You may or may not get your internet and cell phone bills.

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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?

There is no quarantine. Good vets will come to your house for whatever your pets need and the care is quite good.

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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?

No, but sometimes they are employed through the embassy part time.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A number of spouses volunteered at the local animal shelter and did amazing work!

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

Professional at work. Less casual in public that the U.S. No one wears shorts or flip flops.

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Health & Safety:

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

Security is a huge concern. People stay in their neighborhoods and are inside by dark.

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

The air quality is quite poor. The medical care is very, very spotty even though particular hospitals are recommended for the American community. A number of people who were hospitalized while I was at post had very bad and somewhat scary experiences.

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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 quality is very, very poor.

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Schools & Children:

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

The international schools present serious issues for the American kids. I have extensive experience with Colegio Gran Bretana (CGB - The British School). Please know your children will hear regular anti-American comments and criticisms by the teachers on a regular basis and in front of the classroom. They will be questioned in front of the class about why the Americans do this or that or why American policy is what it is. They will be taught America did not really participate in World War II or World War I. The children will be taught many "conspiracy theories" about how the American Government may have known about the attack on Pearl Harbor before it took place but chose to do nothing. These are just a couple of examples. The kids are taught to be ashamed of being American. The regular anti-American comments leave the door wide open for the Americans to be bullied by the Colombian kids who are absolutely favored at the school.

There is a great deal of prejudice against children who are not Caucasian or who are not Hispanic with light colored skin. This is coming from a parent of caucasian children who was regularly shocked by comments made to fellow American classmates such as "don't touch me or your black may rub off" or "you'd better get out of the sun you are already so black." These comments are common and no actions are taken to prevent or correct them. Institutional racism is taught in the classroom through the presentation of the "social pyramid." This pyramid shows the white skinned Colombians at the top, and moves all the way down to the black-skinned Colombians who are at the bottom of the pyramid. There are comments made to the class about how it is wrong to mix the races. The 2013-2014 yearbook makes it clear through comments made by the administration that state the idea of the melting pot reminds the administration of -and I quote- "sludge." This can be easily read - just get a copy of the 2013-2014 yearbook and read comments made by school leadership.

The British teachers regularly humiliate the children by announcing grades to the class, with an emphasis on those who did the best and those who did the worst. Children hear comments such as "you don't seem to have 2 brain cells." This is coming from a parent whose children were very successful academically.

Some teachers will comment on the appearance of your children in negative ways in front of the class to include comments about hairstyles. For example "What did you do to your hair? That seems like a bad choice."

The Colombian kids will not/not accept the American kids as friends. It doesn't matter if your children are outgoing or have been socially successful in other posts or in the U.S. Your children will not succeed socially in this environment. Many American kids ended up in private counseling due to the stress of bullying and the overall environment. Children at the age of twelve are permitted by Colombian parents to drink hard liquor. The parents provide the liquor and allow the children to "party" as they are "just having fun." The American parents are just considered uptight as they do not allow the children to party with hard liquor at such young ages.

The yearly school trips are very dangerous. For example, kids travel to the Amazon and walk through flooded forests with water up to their chests. They are told to stay together so they don't get bitten by animals in the water. They go on very long hikes in extremely hot temperatures and the guides run out of water halfway through difficult hikes. The kids are not informed to take malaria medication even though malaria is a prevalent in the Amazon.

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

The schools are not open minded about issues such as ADD and ADHD and do not deal well at all with the children who have these issues.

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

There is soccer.

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Expat Life:

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

Morale is low. The size of the community is large, but many people are there temporarily and are not there with families.

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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?

Restaurants and night clubs.

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

Living in Bogota is a difficult environment with very little to do. The boredom is the biggest challenge.

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

No. Colombian society is in no way accepting of people who are gay.

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

There are serious issues with race. Those with white skin are obviously treated much, much better than people of color.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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2. But don't forget your:

Don't forget your electronics!!! You will be inside a lot and need to be able to entertain yourself.

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Bogota, Colombia 06/17/14

Background:

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

No, I've been to another Central American post.

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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?

Washington D.C. - 1 direct flight on Avianca or through Miami connection (7 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is very expensive. Almost all embassy personnel and private sector employees live in nice modern 2-3 bedroom apartments. Sizes vary. Most apartments come with small maid quarters and usually a small storage unit in the parking garage. Some apartment buildings have small gyms and playgrounds. Best places to live are near the popular areas of Parque 93 and Zona T. Commuting is difficult most of the year due to traffic and lax laws. It can take you 20 minutes without traffic or 90 minutes during a rainy rush hour. If you do not have a diplomatic plate, you may be restricted to drive only on certain days/hours.

Public transportation is not allowed for U.S. Embassy personnel. There have been a few incidents of kidnappings, muggings, and murders in taxis. Try to always call a taxi by phone or through the app Tapsi or Uber. Taxis can be impossible to find during rush hour or when it's raining. Plan your outings accordingly to avoid being stranded. There are parking garages but drunk driving laws are so strict that it is better to take a taxi if you plan on having even one glass of wine.

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

Almost everything is available if you are willing to go to a specialty store. Some grocery stores cater to higher end imported products and are more expensive. A weekend trip to the large food market is very cheap and you can find your heart's content of fresh produce, fruit, flowers, and meats.

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

Wine (available but expensive). Bikes for ciclovia.

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

Many options. Almost all restaurants from low to high end deliver. Just google domicilios bogota.

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

None at altitude in Bogota. You hardly ever see any. There is malaria, dengue, and yellow fever in other parts of the country.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO/Pouch through the Embassy. FedEx and DHL are all over.

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

Resonable as noted above for nannies. You can also hire maids on a daily basis for around US$15-$25/day. Have a good contract with your domestic help and follow the Embassy's liturature on local staff labor laws.

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

There are many gyms. Cost varies dramatically from your local mom and pop gym to BodyTech at the highest end. Pool use is very expensive are hard to find. Personal trainers are reasonable. Crossfit is becoming popular and boxes are opening througout the city.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted. There are ATMs througout the city. There is some fraud.

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

A few but I have no personal experience.

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

English is found in the more touristy areas but a small level of Spanish is needed for daily living. Spouses and family members can get by with limited vocabulary for shopping, transporation, and numbers.

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

It's not impossible but it is difficult. Only half of the sidewalks have ramps to cross the street. There are elevators in almost all buildings but some restaurants only have stair entry.

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Transportation:

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

Not safe, very affordable. I recommend using the apps Tapsi and Uber for taxis.

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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?

Bring a car that can handle potholes in the middle of the highway. You can sell your car for what you bought it for in the U.S. at the end of your tour. Parts are generally available or easy to import (at a cost). We did well with a mid-range SUV. There is a wide variety from small sedans to Landcruisers and Prados. It depends on your family size and personal preference. You can also get by without a car if you are flexible.

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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. A triple-play package is available for U.S. prices. There are many options for internet speed.

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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?

Claro and Movistar are all over. Getting a contract can be difficult but "pay as you go" is easy to recharge.

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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. Pet care is amazing. This is the most pet friendly place I've ever lived. We have our dog picked up in the morning and driven out to a farm to play for the day. There are many excellent boarding options along with dog walking and training for puppies. You can bring your dog to some restaurants if they have an outdoor patio or eating area. We loved bringing our dog to the Irish pub. They would bring him a bowl of water and let him sit on the bench with us. There are also some doggie bakeries for treats. Many grooming places (mobile and shops) and lots of stores to buy clothes for smaller dogs.

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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?

Some if you speak fluent Spanish but pay is lower than in the U.S.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are some volunteer opportunities with an orphanage and pet shelters. If you speak Spanish, many more opportunities are available.

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

More formal than in the U.S. Women and men alike dress up with jackets and nice shoes/boots.

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Health & Safety:

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

Tons. Many diplomats and private sector energy employees require body guards and armoured cars in many areas of the country. The U.S. Embassy severely limits travel for personal reasons. Certain major highways still have FARC checkpoints. While most urban areas are significantly safer, rural areas are still dangerous in much of the country. There are concerns of kidnapping, land mines; more so in areas where illegal armed groups remain. This affects your ability to travel to many of the rural tourism opportunities. Driving is also limited because certain highways pass through dangerous areas. You must fly to many locations driving up the costs of your weekend trip.

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

Excellent medical care available. Altitude may be a health concern for some.

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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?

Bogota air quality is moderate. The buses let off a lot of pollution but there tends to be decent wind bringing in fresh air.

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

Bogota weather changes frequently but averages the same temperatures year round. It can be slightly chilly with light rain most days. December and January are usually the nicest time of the year with more sun and warmer weather. Bogota is at altitude and takes some getting used to if you are a biker or runner. Two hours away from Bogota is a much warmer climate at lower altitude.

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Schools & Children:

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

I do not have experience with them but there are many options for schooling from pre-school up through high school. Parents seem to be happy with the available options.

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

Many families come here with special-needs children but I don't know if the schooling system lives up to expectations.

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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?

Preschools are in every neighborhood. Many have small vans that provide transportation for the children although none are in car seats. The cost of an experienced nanny for babies is reasonable and average around US$400-$600/month for an expat. Colombians often employ a day nanny and a night nurse for children although night nurses are rare in the embassy community. Colombians love children and they are welcome in most restaurants and shopping areas. There are many parks although it might be a bit of a walk or drive to get to bigger ones. Playground equipment varies. The rain can make getting out of the apartment difficult.

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

Many. Soccer is the most popular. Kids are always out riding bikes with their parents on Sunday mornings.

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Expat Life:

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

U.S. Embassy staff is enormous. There is not a strong community with other diplomats. Other expats are easy to spot out and become friends with. Morale varies. Many feel lost in such a big embassy community. Others feel trapped due to the difficulty in finding taxis, the rain, and security restrictions.

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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?

Dinner and drinks. Weekend lunches near La Calera. Running. Going to the parks with kids.

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

Yes for all. Single males will enjoy meeting Colombian women and many find their future spouse here. Women have a harder time dating. Couples enjoy the night scene and the many restaurant and bar options in the city. Families do well with parks and weekend getaways.

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

There is a general acceptance of LGBT individuals but not a large open dating scene. Much like the U.S., the younger generation is very accepting but there is still discrimiation. This is a much better post than most conservative Latin American countries for LGBT.

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

Colombians will deny prejudice but it exists.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Cartagena is a beautiful historic town and a great 3-4 day trip to take when you tire of the cold rainy Bogota weather. Day trips to the countryside outside of Bogota - parrilla lunches. Paragliding in Sopo and Bucaramanga. Stays at idylic coffee plantations. Biking and running during Bogota's ciclovia when many roads are closed on Sunday mornings and holidays for exercise.

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

Running and road biking are popular activities. There are many running races and a strong community of runners at the U.S. Embassy. There is also an okay music scene with many concerts coming to Bogota and Medellin.

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

Emeralds. Purses. There is an artisan fair every December at Corferias which is amazing.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Tourism opportunities - coffee country - coastal towns/beaches - rural mountain scenery. Fantastic restaurant scene in Bogota and Medellin. You can purchase just about anything you may want here but at a premium. Food and flower markets are inexpensive. Coffee shops are all over the place. Excellent medical care available making it a destination for plastic surgery.

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10. Can you save money?

If you don't go out to eat at the many nice restaurants all the time.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Housing is spread out and commuting can be difficult. I didn't know how hard it would be to find taxis at times. I thought there would be more opportunities for mountain biking and camping.

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

Yes, but I won't come back for another tour unless road infrastructure and security improves.

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

Baking equipment - altitude is difficult for most bakers.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bike, umbrella, and dog.

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

Anything about the conflict, on Pablo Escobar, or by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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Bogota, Colombia 05/01/13

Background:

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

Dakar, Senegal.

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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?

Orlando, Florida. 4 hours (there are direct flights through JetBlue). There are numerous flights to cities in FL and the US in general on both US and Latin American carriers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

27 months.

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

Employed at the US Embassy, third-tour foreign service officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

U.S. Embassy people live in what's called the Gringo Bubble - an area of about 30 blocks in the Chica/Rosales section. We all live in apartments that tend to be spacious and modern. However, ovens are much smaller than US ones, so cooking sheets, large baking pans, etc., may not fit in them. Power outages are not uncommon. Closet space is luxurious in most of the apartments. As stated above, they can be cold - so bring space heaters and quilts. Commute times are usually 30-60 minutes depending on rain and traffic.

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

Most things available but are 20% higher in cost than in the US.

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

Toilet paper (actually all paper products), peanut butter, wine (it's expensive here), baking goods (chocolate chips, nuts - very expensive here, baking soda). Maybe an ice-cream maker (local ice cream very expensive). Most things are available here or through Amazon/Net grocer. The recent US-Colombia trade agreement is resulting in a new wave of US products showing up on grocery shelves.

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

Pretty much everything you could want. Prices are generally in the US range, but there are bargains, too. My favorite local chain was Wok, which has a super-tasty pan-Asian menu with noodles, sushi, dumplings, etc. at reasonable prices. McDonald's is here, too, as are Subway, BK, KFC, etc. But the local chicken joints are cheaper and better.

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

None! You don't even need screens on the windows! They can't take the altitude.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Help is very available and cheap - $20/day - but it varies up or down. However, Colombian labor laws are tricky and require large severance payouts at the end. It's very hard to fire anyone you hire, so choose carefully---especially if they are taking care of your kids. Research the logistics before you jump in. Many of our friends have had headaches related to empleadas.

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

Yes, all over the place, but they are quite expensive. Bogotanos are VERY fitness-conscious, and you can see them exercising indoors and out all over the city.

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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?

ATM machines are available all over, but they charge high fees. Credit cards are swiped at your table on portable machines - so the card never goes out of your site. We have never had a problem. Use a Capitol One card - they don't charge you a conversion fee (many others do and they can be high).

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

Not much, but some.

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

We use a slingbox to get all US TV. Many people get Direct TV Puerto Rico, which has Spanish and English shows. Most people seem to have no problem getting what they need. There are virtually no English-language newspapers or magazines available locally.

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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?

The more the better. Many Bogotanos, especially younger ones, have some English. Cab drivers generally have none, so it's good idea to write down the address that you want.

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

A lot. There are few if any accommodations, and the sidewalks can be difficult due to poor repair, steepness, and being wet and slippery. One rarely sees people in wheelchairs here. Traversing Bogota is not for the faint of heart or the physically impaired. Traffic is heavy and fast and often does not respect crosswalks.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are very affordable and usually clean and friendly. However, they can be nearly impossible to get during busy periods (Friday nights especially) or if it's raining. So don't get too dependent on them, and have a plan B. Buses tend to be super crowded and not very user friendly.

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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?

A small SUV is best - but bring a used one if possible. Your car will get dinged up no matter what you do. Drivers here are aggressive and often do not follow basic rules of the road. And traffic citations are rare. Carjackings have decreased significantly in the city, but always keep doors locked and windows rolled up (people will reach in from motorcycles and take your property off the seat if they can).

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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, at about $80/month.

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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?

Buy a cheap one with a pay-as-you-go plan. It's the easiest way, and if it gets stolen you don't care.

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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, they LOVE dogs here and pamper them endlessly. Anything you could want for them is here.

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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?

No.

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

Bogotanos tend to dress up, and the climate requires long pants and sweaters/jackets. At the workplace it is ties and jackets.

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Health & Safety:

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

Colombia still has a very high murder rate, but Bogota itself has become increasingly safe. While robberies and muggings still happen, you can avoid most of that by using common sense (travel with a buddy, walk purposefully, don't wear ostentatious jewelery, and do NOT pull your Iphone 4 out in public if you don't have to.

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

Medical care is pretty good, but not quite at a US level. It is very difficult to navigate without Spanish, and payment is always required at the point of service.

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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?

Although some people complain of pollution/allergy/asthma problems - we have found the air to be generally fresh and often rain-washed (see below). Our biggest issue has been the altitude, which can take a long time to adjust to --- and some people never do. It makes stairs harder to climb, impacts sleep, and in general makes you feel more tired.

Another related issue is the noise. There is construction going on everywhere --- and they often work at night or early in the mornings. Dogs are allowed to bark at will, and car alarms go off 2-3 times/night. The result is a very noisy city --- so bad in some areas that people have used it as a justification to move their residences.

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

This is probably the biggest negative. Bogota is always rainy and cool - much like Seattle. The rain can come quickly and hard --- even with an umbrella you can be soaked in minutes. And it's cold, so you feel worse. Another poster said in his review, "Did I mention the rain" - several times. This has become our mantra as we always seem to be dealing with it. Granted, there are intermittent sunny days - but you can go 2-3 weeks at stretch where it is gray and rainy every day. Also there is no central heating (you are dependent on small heaters), so the apartments often are cold and damp.

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Schools & Children:

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

The two main expat schools are CNG and CGB, although kids also go to the British Montessori and a smattering of other international schools. CNG is big: 2000 kids, but it has no cap on the number of locals. So there are a lot of Colombians. CGB caps this at 60%, so there are more expat kids from various countries. Both schools have Special-Needs services, but they are NOT at the level of the US. The other schools (El Camino, etc.) have little-to-no SN services. Despite Bogota's rep as an SN mecca, the services are often not at the depth or or degree of specialization that a US school system might have. So research carefully before bringing a special needs child here. Both campuses are beautiful. Google either school and you'll that see they have extensive web sites with pictures, videos, etc.

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

Very limited, if they have anything at all. CNG is built into the side of a mountain and has many steep walkways and staircases with minimal accommodations. Again, research this question carefully if your child has problems with ambulation.

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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?

Widely available, often close to apartments and affordable.

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

Yes, mostly connected with the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Large and growing. The American Women's Club (AWC) is a robust group that has multiple opportunities to meet expats from various countries. Membership costs $50/year. Many American companies are expanding their footprint in Bogota, so there are new people coming in all the time.

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2. Morale among expats:

Not as good as you would think. It's a big,, impersonal city and many people feel lonely here. The rain keeps you indoors a lot, and for those without Spanish, it can be especially difficult. Still, many find the city and country to be vibrant and alive and enjoy it here very much.

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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?

See above. There are many restaurants, bars, and local celebrations. You can do as much as you want. But it's an early-rising city, and people often just want to go home and go to sleep!

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

Yes. Single men seem to have no problem finding company to keep. But you should be aware that this is a 98% Catholic country, and many women take relationships very seriously. In other words, nothing is ever as free as it may appear. There are parks for families with small children, but in general there is not a lot for them to do outside of Ciclovia. Kids have very long days. They are picked up as early as 5:30 for some schools and don't get home till 4. They often have to be carried off the bus because they are asleep. And remember: it's a city, so they can't play in the street, ride bikes around the neighborhood, etc.

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

The ones we have seen in town appear unmolested.

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

Bogotanos see themselves as the elite of Colombia and are openly prejudicial to darker-skinned Colombians from the coastal areas.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We loved Andres DC. It is a fun and unique place that is both restaurant and floor show. The green spaces all around were well cared for and really made many of the neighborhoods prettier, allowing for dog walking, kids playing, etc. Hiking is great here, but make sure you're in shape if you're going to try Montersatte. The view from the top is one of the best you'll ever see anywhere in the world. The local microbrew (Bogota Beer company) provides great local beer in a friendly, warm setting. The fresh flowers are incredibly cheap and so beautiful - we always had vases of them around - something we had never done previously. Christmas here is spectacular. And don't forget Ciclovia - when they shut down traffic on up to 70 miles of local streets and highways on Sundays (and holidays - of which there are many) for biking, running, walking, or people watching.

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

Botero Museum, Gold Museum, Salt Cathedral, Montseratte, Cyclovia, holiday celebrations, and many warm and comfortable places to visit down the mountain.

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

Flowers, leather goods, glassware, grilled meats, pottery, furniture, and custom-made boots!

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Bogota is a thriving metropolis that struggles with an affluent modern population juxtaposed with a poor (and sometimes violent) one. There are many very good restaurants that range from friendly pubs (BBC is a must) to 5-star quality. Although there is no Colombian cuisine, per se, many other types are available here, including Peruvian, Japanese, and Middle Eastern. There is an emerging interest in attracting tourists, but there are only a few real attractions in the city (Gold Museum, Bottero Museum, etc.). If possible, it's good to get to other parts of the country which tend to be warmer and more laid back.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, but it's not super cheap here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I guess so. It's better than many other places. But the altitude, rain, ever-present security issues, and commute time can make daily life a struggle here in many ways.

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

shorts, craft beer, and steak.

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrellas, boots, vases, space heaters, sweaters, and sturdy shoes.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

Bogota is a place of many contrasts. It can be so beautiful at times, and so alive and friendly. But it can be unfriendly, too. Traffic is difficult on the sidewalks and in the street, and many expats struggle with the "death of a thousand cuts" dynamic. Nothing is worse than standing on a sidewalk on a Friday night in pouring rain watching (literally) a hundred cabs go by without one stopping for you. So come here with a healthy sense that while many things will go well, others will not.

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Bogota, Colombia 10/17/12

Background:

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

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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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.)

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

Dip bag.

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

$15-25/day

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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.

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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?

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.

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

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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?

Depends on who you integrate with. Try to have at least enough to order at a restaurant.

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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.

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Transportation:

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.

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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?

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.

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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, for approximately $50 a month.

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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?

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.

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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)?

Bogotanos love their dogs. There are vets, kennels, dog walkers, and mobile spas available.

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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?

Very few.

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

Fairly formal.

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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.

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

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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?

Good.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Fairly large and growing quickly.

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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.

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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?

Lots of restaurants and clubs to choose from. There is a lack of cocktail lounges.

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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.

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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.

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

Afro-colombians are often discriminated against.

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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.

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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.

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

Cow hides and leather

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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.

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11. Can you save money?

A little, but you're not going to get rich.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Bogota, Colombia 07/11/12

Background:

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

I have lived in Guadalajara, Maputo, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, and Afghanistan.

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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?

East Coast, 8-12 hours depending on layovers in MIA or ATL.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Everyone lives in apartments that range from older, but typically larger apartments with no amenities in the building, to very new complexes with generally smaller apartments but with gyms and other amenities onsite. Commute time ranges from 30 minutes up to an hour or more if raining. At this point, the embassy still offers shuttle service in the mornings and afternoons so you don't have to drive.

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

I have never been one to ship in food and have always lived with whatever my options are locally. Bogota is an incredibly easy place to grocery shop. You can usually find whatever you need, even if you have to pay a little more than US prices to have it. The grocery stores are big and modern and pleasant. The embassy also has a commissary.

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

Nothing that I don't ship to any post we've ever been - peanut butter (although you can buy that locally at a price), paper products, Reynolds Wrap, kids' birthday presents for last-minute party invitations, etc.

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

You can eat all sorts of American fast food chains here for probably slightly more than US prices. There are amazing, world-class restaurants in Bogota at prices much lower than you'd pay for similar food/quality in NYC or San Francisco. We LOVE the restaurant choices here.

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

At 8600 feet above sea level, there is a wonderful lack of bugs!

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Plentiful and less than $20 a day (or more if you hire full-time and are required to pay benefits).

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

There are gyms everywhere, plus the city is famous for its "ciclovia" on Sundays and holidays. The embassy also has a gym.

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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?

We use our credit card frequently and have had one issue early on with cloning. We also use our ATM card but only in one of two ATM machines in the city. There are certainly issues with using either of these, but we've been very lucky.

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

Catholic and Protestant services are available in English.

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

We have Direct TV out of Puerto Rico (available to embassy officers). so we watch American TV. We pay about $60 per month.

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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?

This is a post where knowing Spanish will definitely help you.

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

Sidewalks are a disaster here, and I imagine it would be very difficult for someone with physical disabilities to navigate them easily.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are not allowed to take buses, but we can take taxis, which are VERY affordable.

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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?

I drive an old Toyota Corolla around the city and I love it. Even with the blue plates, I feel very inconspicuous and have never had any issues. We have been able to have it serviced without problems and it is the perfect size for zipping in and out of traffic. Drivers are VERY aggressive here and I'm happy to not have a big car in which to fight the traffic.

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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?

We have high-speed internet and it's the best we've ever had overseas. In two years, it's been down less than 5 times and has always come back up quickly. We pay by the year but I think it works out to about $70 per month.

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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?

Everybody has them and there are several service providers in the country. You can get anything from a cheap no-bells-or-whistles phone to an iPhone.

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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)?

I hear it's good.

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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?

I'm not sure of this. For an embassy of this size, there are relatively few EFM jobs, which is disappointing. There are teaching jobs available and I occasionally see opportunities for local-economy jobs announced in the embassy newsletter.

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

Bogotanos are typically very formal, so the dress for work (especially if you have meetings outside the embassy) is business attire. With that said, you can wear dressy jeans to nice restaurants and nobody looks twice at you.

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Health & Safety:

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

Bogota is a danger-pay post, and there are definitely security concerns on a larger, narco-terrorist level. On a day-to-day basis, there is normal, big-city street crime, so you just have to be aware all the time and use common sense.

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

The embassy has a full-service health unit with staff including MDs, PAs, RNs, etc., as well as a lab for any testing. The local medical care is fabulous with many doctors who speak excellent English after training in the US. I've had very successful eye laser surgery and we've had one very quick and painless visit to the ER for our son. We've also had great dental care. The cost of treatment is much lower than in the US.

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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?

Moderate. There is definitely air pollution from vehicles. Our son has had some issues with asthma here because of it.

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

Nights in the 50s and on the very best day, highs in the mid-80s. A more typical day is mid-60s. When the sun shines here, there is no more beautiful place to be than Bogota, but for the two years we've lived here, the weather patterns have been off, with more rain than normal.

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Schools & Children:

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

Colegio Nueva Granada (American School) and Colegio Gran Bretana (British School) are the two that seem to be used the most by embassy staff. Our son goes to CGB (British) and we all LOVE it. The school is smaller and incredibly diverse and international, the curriculum has been fantastic, and opportunity for sports and extracurricular activities has been great. We have not regretted this decision for one second.

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

There are a number of special-needs kids at post right now, and they all seem to do very well. CGB has a great special needs program and preaches "inclusion" to all students.

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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?

No personal experience here, but I hear wonderful stories of amazing preschool options.

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

Our son has two days per week of extracurricular sports at school, plus he takes tennis lessons and plays baseball on the weekends. There's no backyard to go out and throw the ball around, but there are definitely organized sports programs/classes available.

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Expat Life:

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

This embassy is HUGE - one of the top three US Embassies in the world right now. So there are plenty of Americans to socialize with and there are opportunities to meet non-US expats as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

I think it's very good, or at least it is among the people we socialize with. The complaints that I hear are typically from first-tour folks who have nothing to compare this experience with. Bogota really is as good as it gets, in terms of quality of life, ease of travel to the US, things to do, etc.

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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?

There are great opportunities for entertaining and an active social life, whether in your home or out.

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

I think it's a great city for all, as there are so many amazing opportunities for everybody, no matter your stage in life.

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

I have not seen this firsthand, but my Spanish teacher told me when I first arrived that Colombians have prejudices against anything other than heterosexual relationships. I've not seen or heard anything to confirm or deny this claim, but Bogota definitely does not have the same "acceptance vibe" as Brazil, for instance.

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

I've never heard it discussed on the social circuit, but there are definite racial issues. You only need to look at the editorial cartoons in the major newspaper to see things that would never be permitted in the US.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We've loved exploring Bogota as well as visiting all the other places that Colombia has to offer. Cartagena, Medellin, Tayrona, Coffee Country - this country is rich is natural beauty.

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

Where to start? There are all the cultural activities that you'd expect of a huge city (museums, churches, concerts, theater), plus there are amazing restaurants here. If you want outdoorsy activities, there's the "ciclovia" every Sunday and holiday where you can bike or walk/jog for miles on closed city streets, plus there are great hikes in the city.

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

We haven't bought much. Our biggest splurges here have been on in-country travel.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Bogota is a great city, full of all the opportunities a big city can offer. It's very certainly the easiest expat experience we've ever had in 14+ years of doing this. After tours that require very long flights, we are happy to be closer to the east coast for quicker trips home.

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11. Can you save money?

We've saved a little.

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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:

Flip-flops for living in Bogota (but do bring them for your trips to the coast!).

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3. But don't forget your:

bicycle for the "ciclovia!"

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Bogota, Colombia 04/05/12

Background:

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

First expat experience.

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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?

Houston, TX, approximately 4 hours (direct flight).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Four years.

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

Government employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large spacious apartments, generally with good views. Hard for kids or pets.

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

Expensive, probably 5-10% above D.C. prices. Selections can be fairly limited.

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

Peanut butter and a fake smile.

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

Almost anything you are looking for is available, with most of the flavor removed. Colombians have great food, but bland tastes so if you like pot roast and boiled potatoes, you got it, but if your tastes are more discerning, you may be a little disappointed.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Limited soy products, no rice milk or almond milk and there is produce that is labeled organic.

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

No bugs or insects at this altitude. One of the great things about living here. No spiders, no mosquitoes, and few flies.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

US$20/day.

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

Again, imagine New York City but with much more expensive memberships.

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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?

Credit cards are routinely cloned. Stick to using cash whenever possible.

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

Yes.

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

The television service is typical of a developing country - the programming is not quite accurate. TV programs scheduled to start at 9:08 may not start until 9:20, or maybe they'll start at 8:57. Commercial breaks may last 30 seconds or 8 minutes. Seasons start like normal and then halfway through the season, the show just doesn't air anymore or goes to reruns. TV basically reflects the overall disorganization of the entire country; it is a subtle commentary on their political, economic and social structure.

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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?

It's essential to have a good grasp of Spanish, although, unless you are a Native speaker they will peg you as a foreigner anyway and you will pay double for anything that is negotiable.

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

It's a developing country. It's also hard to rollerblade here.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis yes. USG employees are not allowed to use other public transport.

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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?

Any city car that you don't mind getting beat up. There are craters instead of potholes and half of the vehicles on the (very crowded) roads are buses, taxis, and motorcycles that will not hesitate to be aggressive to the point of physically bumping you out of the way, so expect dings, scratches, and fender benders.

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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?

Same company as the TV, so you can expect inconsistency in everything but the billing (about $80-$100/mo with TV cable). Sometimes the Internet works, sometimes it doesn't. You'll get the advertised speeds only between about 3 and 5 a.m. At all other times, their infrastructure is, by their own admission, insufficient to support their customer base.

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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?

Most phones are unlocked and you buy a sim card with rechargeable minutes.

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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)?

You will be nickel and dimed to death. Because you live in an apartment, you will need to have a dog walker, a kennel, a groomer, etc.

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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?

Most jobs are low paying in comparison to US wages.

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

Dressy. Lots of high heels and suits. Imagine NYC business world and everyone taking note.

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Health & Safety:

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

For government folks, the danger pay of 15% is nowhere near sufficient. The danger is not from without, but from within. The foreign nationals (even Colombians generally recognize this)are incredibly non-direct in their personal dealings. They are, without exception, friendly in social and work settings, but can be dangerously spiteful and devious. Imagine an entity run by the foreign national mafia where the current management kowtows to their every demand. It is a viper's nest.

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

The doctors are generally good, and although the prevailing perception is that it is less expensive than the US, if you are a foreigner, the cost will be more than, or the same as if you were in the States. (Does not apply to hospital costs.) Nursing care is abysmal.

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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?

Good. It rains a lot. There are pockets of smog, but nothing unbearable.

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

63 degrees most of the time. Cloudy and rainy most of the year, but you do get a few months of excellent, sunny weather.

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Schools & Children:

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

CGB is a private school. Although our kids were happy there and did well, it is an environment where money and status rules. Especially in the upper grades, the school rivalry is rampant and dangerous and the allure of money, power, drugs etc. can not be overstated. It is a great social study on the effects of entitlement on youth of all cultures and the training for the viper's nest referred to above.

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

Not sure. I would hate to be a special-needs kid in this social environment

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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?

Yes, but again, you will be dealing with a lot of class issues.

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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:

It depends how long they've been here. Most of the men are eventually snared by Colombian women and it's a tangled web. Most expats dream of returning to their homes, or getting out of Colombia, but hate to leave the easy life of unending coffee breaks, all-night clubs, and attractive and 'giving' women.

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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?

Constant. It is easy to entertain especially when you can easily hire a maid to clean up and a butler and catering company to help you keep up with the Joneses.

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

Yes.

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

Very accepting of alternate lifestyles, although the acceptance may only be superficial as all other social skills are.

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

No problems as long as you have money, fair skin, and high status. Otherwise, you will get the plastic smile and the deference afforded to 'those people'

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Good dining opportunities, lots of theater and art, all the amenities that you would expect in a large city - imagine being in New York.

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

It's a beautiful and varied country, with lots to do and see if you are allowed to travel. Government employees have very limiting restrictions, so you'll have to live vicariously through those lucky enough to see what's at your doorstep, but inaccessible to you.

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

Lots of personal services.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is a very dynamic, big city that is easy to navigate using taxis (which are not expensive) and/or private drivers.

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11. Can you save money?

Not a chance.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Sincerity.

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3. But don't forget your:

Walking shoes, raincoat and a plastic smile

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Bogota, Colombia 12/29/11

Background:

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

I have lived previously in France, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. This is my first post in Latin America.

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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?

Washington D.C.Around 12 hours, usually through Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been living in Bogota for one year.

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

I work in the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All official Americans live in apartments in the northern part of the city. Commute times can be up to an hour each way (more if it's raining or traffic is otherwise hectic) in a lightly armored vehicle. People complain about the commute fairly often. But the Embassy is having trouble finding housing in other parts of the city that would fit both security and size requirements.

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

Groceries in the Carulla are generally more expensive than what I pay in the U.S.They stock a lot of American and European products, but at import prices. For example, a small can of Hunt's canned tomatoes costs $5. In terms of household supplies, the thing that makes me cringe is dishwasher detergent which cost nearly $10 for a small box.

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

Speciality stuff.

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

Tons of great restaurants from most places in the world. Lots of American fast food, including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, etc. The types of food I find lacking:The two Indian restaurants I know of are overpriced and not stellar. There are a limited number of decent Mexican places.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Bogota has a great selection of fruits and vegetables, including at a place called Surtifruver--even if the quality of tomatoes and mangoes isn't always what I want it to be. I've seen organic and some gluten-free stuff in the grocery story but it's expensive.

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6. 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?

I used the Embassy DPO.

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

I pay nearly $20/day for my maid.

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

The Embassy has a Body Tech and there's are lots of other Body Techs around town--so that's the gym most Embassy folks use. Many of the residential buildings also have small gyms with at least a few treadmills.

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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?

In the upscale northern part of Bogota, it's pretty common to use credit cards and ATMs--although some people do get their pin numbers copied and used illegally on occasion.

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

I don't know.

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

Some of the major print media chains do English translations online. Many TV shows in local cable are in English with Spanish sub-titles.

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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?

Knowing Spanish makes a big difference in your ability to connect with locals and explore the local culture.

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

Many sidewalks are equipped to help blind and deaf. Most residential buildings have elevators. The old city is of course hopeless for disabled access.

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Transportation:

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

There's a good public transport network here, which is affordable--but it's off limits to Embassy staff. Taxis are affordable/cheap.

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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?

The roads in Bogota aren't great, but they're not bad either. Most cars in the city are compact, minis. People told me I would need a car, so I brought mine--but I regret it. I find driving here very stressful, mostly because it's such a big place with lots of highways and byways that I still am not comfortable with. Also, taxis are cheap. If you don't have a car and feel comfortable walking and using taxis, you def shouldn't let anyone convince you that a car is a necessity. If you do bring a car, consider buying a local GPS to help you get around.

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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. I pay almost $100/month for the combination of cable and wireless internet.

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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?

No.

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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?

I don't know.

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

I've heard so.

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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?

I don't know for sure, but would imagine.

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

Colombians are fairly formal, and the State Dept folks don't come to work if they don't have a suit on.

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Health & Safety:

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

It's a big city with a certain level of crime. The Millionaire's Run is not unheard of, where a taxi locks you in and takes you around the city to take money out of cash machines. Robberies at knifepoint are becoming increasingly common in the north of Bogota where most official Americans live. I generally don't leave the house with anything that I couldn't stand to lose. That being said, I've lived in lots of big cities (NY, Paris, Washington DC) and don't feel any more insecure in Bogota than in those places. You just have to use your street smarts.

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

Altitude bothers some people. Quality of medical care both inside the Embassy and on the local market is great.

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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?

Moderate.

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

In Bogota, the temperatures range from the 50s to low 70s F.In other words, it feels like fall most of the time. You do get a few nice months with lots of sunshine. But even then, it's rarely warm enough for a sundress. In Nov/Dec, the rains fall most days and it can be pretty overcast at other times throughout the year. Houses/apts don't generally have central heating, so it can be chilly inside and out when the sun goes down. Don't come without a fleece jacket or something of similar weight. Especially in the evenings, I also wear a scarf most of the time.

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Schools & Children:

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

No experience.

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

No experience.

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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?

No experience.

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

No experience.

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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:

Decent.

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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?

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

Bogota is a great place for all. It's a big city, which means its got niche opportunities for a wide variety of tastes and lifestyles. There's art and theatre, there's outdoorsy stuff, there's lots of stuff for kids, etc etc.

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

Yes, especially when compared to other developing world cities.

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

There is certainly latent racism, but it's not noticeable on the streets on a daily basis.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The music and salsa dancing culture are great. Most Western goods and activities are available.

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

Movies are released early here and are mostly in English with Spanish subtitles. It's a nice city to walk around in.

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

I've found a few unique little things, but nothing to write home about.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Colombia is a fantastic country for culture and tourism. It's truly a beautiful place. Some people still have the image of Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels running the major cities. But that's an outdated image. While violence still exists in parts of the country, the major cities have been cleaned up enormously and the tourists are starting to move in. My favorite cities are Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin. You've got everything from mountains to the sea/beaches. Fancy parts of the country/cities feel like you're in Europe or the U.S.Poorer parts of the country/cities can feel like you're in Africa.

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11. 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?

Yes.

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

Summer clothes (unless you plan to travel to the beach/coast).

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3. But don't forget your:

Dancing shoes.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bogota is a wonderfully modern place with all the creature comforts. But like any big city, it can be isolating. Be sure to come ready to go out and make new friends. The Colombians are great and if you open yourself to them, you will have a wonderful time.

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Bogota, Colombia 07/01/11

Background:

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

No. Buenos Aires, Argentina

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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?

CA - direct overnight flight or long daytime flight with connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years 2008-2011

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

Spouse of diplomat

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

It is mainly apartment living. There are some houses the further north you go from the city.

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

Groceries are a bit more expensive, especially if you want imported items. English muffins can cost 10$/pack, but if you eat local stuff the cost is not too bad.

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

You can get everything here, but clothes are very expensive. So maybe I'd stock up before coming.

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

You will find all types of fast food, even a chipotle rip-off. Papa John's, McD's, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, etc.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

If you look for it, you can find it, but it isn't everywhere.

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

None because of the altitude.

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Daily Life:

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

I was able to use APO at the embassy.

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

Everyone here has a nanny (or two) and a driver, and often a body guard! We had mixed luck with nannies, but even paying them very well, it is about half the cost of a part-time nanny in DC. Most also cook and clean in addition to watching kids, walking the dog, managing the household, etc. A true luxury when you find the right person!

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

Yes -- all over the city. They can be expensive, but they are plentiful.

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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?

They are easy to use. Some folks have had trouble, so be cautious. But they are the easiest way to pay for things.

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

Yes.

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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?

Lots of folks speak english, but I think it helps to have a basic level of spanish here. It is hard to get anything done with out it.

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

This city is not well equipped for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and cheap. I didn't use any buses or trains.

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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?

Any car is fine. We had SUV which served us well on the poorly-paved roads and outside the city. But you don't need one.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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

Yes, pets are well cared for and it is cheap.

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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?

no, no, no.

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

Fairly dressy and proper. Ladies are always in high-heel boots and are made up (even at the park/gym). Men in suits. Folks look good!

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Health & Safety:

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

Of course there have been issues since we've been here, but daily life rolls along without much fear for personal safety. There are some big-city petty crime problems with an underlying sense of "we hope there isn't anything bigger to worry about". (FARC, etc.)

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

Great medical care is available at very reasonable costs. Many adults get braces and lasik surgery!

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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?

Unhealthy. Lots of black smoke spewing from buses. but even so, likely one of the better cities in Latin America in this regard - others are much worse.

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

Rainy, and cold(ish). It's Fall all year long in Bogota. Just outside (a 2-hour car drive) it is tropical!

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Schools & Children:

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

We have one child at CNG (colegio nueva granada) which says it is an American-affiliated school (it is - but that does not mean it is an American/int'l school). It has mainly Colombians from families going there for generations. Nice folks, but settled in their communities and not especially inclusive. We had a good experience overall. We have heard that in the older grades there is a bullying problem, but we know many families there with older kids who haven't experienced that.

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

There is a learning center at CNG that accommodates a broad range of special needs. Other schools seem to handle it on a case-by-case basis, as resources are available. You definitely need to research beforehand if you are coming with a special-needs child, but likely you can put something together to address the child's needs if you look hard enough and make the right connections at schools.

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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?

There are lots of 'jardins' all over the city. Very high quality and less expensive than the in the States, but not cheap. All in spanish. Most have staff that speak English if your child doesn't speak Spanish.

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

Older kids don't have the organized competitive sports that you'd be used to in the States, but younger kids have every sporting opportunity available. Lots of folks join swim/tennis clubs, but even if you don't, there are lessons available and schools offer most sports.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large -- it is a big city!

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2. Morale among expats:

varies ENORMOUSLY! First, due to the rain. That gets some people really down on the place. But after a few sunny weeks they are ok again! Colombian drivers are insane, and that also tweaks people. Lastly, there is a phrase "que pena" that people use when they are being pushy or aggressive and you lose out on something. This gets people all riled up - and it is rude and annoying but acceptable. These are likely the 3 biggest morale busters (rain, traffic/driving, que pena) BUT it is such a livable city with so much to do -- and relatively inexpensive compared to other places we've been. I've loved it here and just try to ignore the rain as much as possible. It helped that one year there was a drought, so it wasn't always raining!

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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?

yes, yes, yes!

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

I am part of a family with young kids, so I can only speak to that. I think it is great and had a wonderful 3 years here. I would stay here if I could. Singles seem to have a harder time.

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

It seems like it is. I haven't heard that it isn't.

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

I think there is a fair amount of prejudice between socio-economic groups, as well as between city and coastal groups.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel.

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

So much to do! Parks, easy driving trips outside the city, museums, tours, shopping, great restaurants (really great restaurants!), galleries, ciclovia on sundays/holidays, fairs all over the city, flea markets, farmer's markets, and the old standbys: movies and malls.

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

Artwork, furniture (rustic), molas, mochillas and more!

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Bogota is booming! people are lovely.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, but not tons.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

winter jacket

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrella

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

As with any place, it is what you make of it! Here you have the freedom and resources to have a great time if you can get past the rain.

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Bogota, Colombia 11/06/10

Background:

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

Mexico and Costa Rica.

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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?

About 3 hours to Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year 6 months

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

U.S. State Department

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Rosales and El Chico, They are all aprtments, The housing department in the embassy is managed by a colombian lady who doesn't like her job, so you will be in a temporary housing and you will have to beg her on your knees to change you, but at list you will be there for more than one month, if you have babies and there are constructions beside the housingsays that is not a reason for ask for a change the noise the all day long, We have a new born and a construction about 6 ft from his crib, and we ask for an other apartment and they said construction is not a reason, I have a friend who can't park her car in her parking because is too small for her car, so she has to park her car in a public parking 3 bloks ahead from her apartment, She has 2 small kids and is raining all the time, They have make damages on her car, She asked for a change and They said no,I have an other friend who is pregnant and She will need an extra room for the new baby, She asked for a change 6 months ago, The autorized the change but the housing lady hasn't do anything, the baby is going to be there in one month and they don't have a room for him.

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

Expensive, more than in Washington. Meats, fruits and vegetables are cheaper, but cleaning suplies, toys and clothes are extremely expensive. We have 3 kids, and we pay 300 USD every time we go to the grocery store.

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

A small and old car, umbrellas, toys, raincoats.

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

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

APO and 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?

About 450 USD per month. It is easy to get one from the embassy, but they are divas.

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

There is one at the U.S. Embassy. You pay about 50 USD per month. But with the expensive life here, sometimes it is difficult to pay even that.

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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?

It is very expensive use an ATM here. The best option is using checks and cash them at the embassy.

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

They are.

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

Cable TV plus internet. We pay about 800 USD per month.

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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 need to speak fluent spanish to survive. Not even the preschool teachers speak english.

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

I can't imagine. If We have problems with the stroller, a person with a wheelchair would be in big trouble here.

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Transportation:

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

We can't use buses. Taxis are OK, but in the rush hour with rain it is impossible to get one. Really, you can't get one taxi during the rush hour or when it is raining.

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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?

Small! There are lots of issues with the parking spots -- they are so narrow. I've been driving in lots of places in the world, and I thought Mexico city was the worst. Bit that was before I knew Bogota! There are no rules here.

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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?

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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?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

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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?

No way, not even in the embassy. It is really difficult. I know people with master's degrees who have applied for 5 jobs at the embassy with no succes at all. To get a job in the embassy you don't need to be prepared, you need lots of contacts. It is so sad, but it hapens.

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

Fancy: high heels, makeup, tag clothes, jewelry, expensive purses and watches.

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Health & Safety:

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

The same as in all the big cities, but We live in secure areas.

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

We didn't have a good experience, The doctors here are not very well prepared. But in the embassy the health unit makes you believe that you are in a 1st world country, so they don't have to pay for the medevac.

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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?

unhealthy

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

rain, rain, rain, all day long ... all year

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Schools & Children:

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

CNG and Gran bretana, people in Gran bretana seems to be happier than CNG, I've hear that in the CNG The kids are the rich colombian kids, and all the time are talking about how much coast the vacations, wich car do they have, tags , if your kid doesn't have driver and body guardsHe will not be at their level, and They will not treat him the same, Gran bretana has 15 kids per class, They are lots of diplomats, they have horse ridding and sports, people like it more, the problem is that the kids leave home at 6:00 AM and they come home at 4:00 PM, They are a long time in the school bus.

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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?

Lots, but having preschool kids in Bogota is a bad idea; it is so expensive, They go just from 8 to 12 and you pay about 450 USD per month, and every year you pay about 1100 USD for inscription, The kids in preschool don't have any sports, so you have to pay extra. I know someone who has twins in preschool, and their economy is really bad now. The embassy doesn't help you at all with kids under 5.

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

Lots, even for babies, but again very expensive.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

Bars, happy hour at the embassy. There is a big American Women's group here and they have lots of activities.

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

It is good for single men. I don't think it is good for families with small kids. For the babies it is so noisy, for the toddlers it is difficult. They get out of school at 12, and after that they have to be at home the all day because it is raining, or you have to pay for extra activities. There are plenty, but they are so expensive. Couples who work have to leave the poor kids the all day at home with the nanny. And the kids are sick all the time because of the weather.

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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?

As in all of the Latino American countries, the rich Colombians have problems with dark-skinned people.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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

Not too much. Go to restaurants, there are some of them with playgrounds for the kids. But most of the time it is raining, so they can't use them.

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

Emeralds (if youhave money) and cofee.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

For a single man, dating with Colombian girls with families is really difficult. Living here is very expencive and the weather is horrible.

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11. Can you save money?

Not at all. Actually, people with more than one kid in preschool can have problems with their budget.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

summer clothes and winter clothes, there are no seasons here, it is raining all year.

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3. But don't forget your:

rain clothes.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bogota can be nice but some people, but it depends what do you want for your kids. If you want active kids, running, breathing fresh air, playing outdoors, this is not the place. If you don't mind your kid being all day long at home with the nanny -- or even with you (if you don't drive yourself crazy) it is OK. The kids can't be outdoors because of the weather, so forget about your kid riding his bicycle or running outside with his friends. Here they can't do that.

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Bogota, Colombia 09/15/10

Background:

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

This is our 4th expat experience. We have lived in Iceland, Peru and Kenya as well.

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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?

Miami. About three and a half hours direct.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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

My husband is with the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments. They are okay. Most are about a 35-to-45 minute commute from the embassy.

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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 find just about everything, but things are pricey.

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

Games, toys for the children.

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

A lot of fast food, prices a bit higher than in the the states. There are several delicious Peruvian resturaunts.... again, expensive.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

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

It is easy to get good domestic help, and a very decent price.

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

Plenty of gyms, and now there is one at the embassy.

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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 have not had any troubles with my credit cards here. Remember to never turn them over to the person, usually they bring the machine to you so that you can watch them.

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

There is a Catholic church anda non-denominational church that have services in English.

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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?

I find it very rare that anyone speaks English. I highly recommend you come here knowing some Spanish.

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

The city is not equipped for anyone with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy folk are not allowed to use public transport. There are some taxis we can use.

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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?

Do not bring a vehicle. Traffic is crazy, the driving is crazy.

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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?

View All Answers


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)?

Colombians love dogs! They have excellent pet care.

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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?

No.

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

Dressy.

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Health & Safety:

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

Lots. There is the obvious threat of the FARC, then you have a lot of street crime. I always feel I have to look over my shoulder here.

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

Medical care is okay.

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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?

Poor air quality and lot of pollution, but not as bad as some other places we have lived.

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

Rain, rain, and oh, did I mention: rain. The days the sun is out it are usually beautiful. It is never hotter than the 80's, but can get quite chilly and windy.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have our children at a very small Christian school that we have been o.k. with it. CNG. I have never heard good things about it, though it is the school the US Embassy backs. They also have a british school some really like. None of the schools have adequate resources to deal with children who have special needs/ learning disabilities. If you have such a child, think long and hard before coming to this post.

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

Again, I have seen very few. Not because of a lack of some schools' efforts, it is just that the resources are not available.

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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?

There are several quite good preschools, but they are very exspensive. Most people here prefer to have nannies.

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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?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

I would say generally it is o.k. It depends on who you talk to.

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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?

Colombians love to party. They seem like fun people, but they are very closed, and it is very difficult, in my experience, to become friends with them.

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

For families this is a hardship post. The only people I have heard who seem to really enjoy their time here are single men.

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

Yes, as far as I have heard.

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

There are racial prejudices against those of African descent.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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

There are parks... lots of them.. but one gets tired of going to parks. There are a few museums. Because of the embassy security restrictions, life here is very limited.

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

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

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11. 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?

NO! This has been the worst post we have been at.

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

Your romantic ideas of touring the country, because with the security concerns, it just isn't going to happen.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of humor, you will need to call upon it daily!

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you have a family, think long and hard before coming here. The city is dreary, there is not much to do. Everything is far... and commutes are long. If you are not used to living in an apartment, it can be a big adjustment (no yard, etc.). Schools here are not good. Overall, I have been highly disappointed, and as was said in the previous posting, there are a lot of days when, quite honestly, I feel like a prisoner here.

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Bogota, Colombia 08/26/10

Background:

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

No. Juarez, Mex; Mexico, DF; and Madrid.

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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?

Dallas, Texas area, 5.5 hours in the air. Continental is the only airline with a direct flight to Texas (Houston), and they charge extra for it. American and Delta go through Miami and Atlanta, but look to add 2 hours to overall flight time. With connections the flight time through Houston is 7-8 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

13 months.

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

U.S. State Dept.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is adequate but poorly constructed with drafty windows. Because of the temperate weather, there are no air vents! Also no central air or heat, so the apartments are often uncomfortably cold. Space heaters are generally provided, but using them is a drag. Several folks have had to be moved because they lost hot water.

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

Groceries here are more expensive than in the States, and staples are lower in quality. There are very few high-quality locally-produced items. Fruits that they should have here are of poor quality or are expensive imports. No lemons; peaches are hard as a rock or imported, locally produced oranges are not good. Vegetables are awful and there is no variety. Meats: poor-quality beef and pork, but chicken is OK. If you pay upper-end prices, you can get OK- to-good seafood.

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

Mountain bike. More books. Better and warmer bedding, more decorative items for the house. Local artesania is shoddy.

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

Almost all USA fast foods are here somewhere. Local Colombian food is terrible. Restaurants are far too expensive for what they are. About the same prices as in the States. Steak here is bad. Even the Argentine steakhouses are subpar. Some cuisines they do OK, especially Italian. Mexican food here is bad. Other than ceviche, seafood is surprisingly awful and expensive.

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

None.

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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 DPO. Larger items come in the 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?

Cheap and plentiful. I pay about 60 USD per week for halftime help and about 90 USD additional per month for her social security.

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

Yes. The embassy has a franchise of the local gym onsite as of July, 2010.

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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?

Just like USA. However, because of fraud, VISA stopped doing Colombian transactions for a time. I had to get my card reactivated.

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

Yes.

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

Newspapers, no. TV, yes. Buy a box for 150 USD and pay for Direct TV Puerto Rico for sports and English programming. About 60 USD per month.

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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 should expect no one to speak English to you.

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

It would be impossible to get very far in a wheelchair because of broken pavement, no curb cuts, cars running through crosswalks, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis, yes, but we are barred from everything else.

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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?

None. You can't drive to very many places. There is an armored van to work in the morning, and taxis are cheap. I have driven all over the world, but once I saw these fools, I decided not to ship a car.

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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. TelMex is about 40 USD per month.

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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?

Do the embassy plan and get a pay-as-you-go cellphone for kids.

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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. Colombians love dogs.

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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?

No.

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

Suit or sportcoat/slacks.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Security concerns include sometimes-violent street crime, home invasions, FARC-inspired terrorism, and the inability to use public transport. All trips out of town have to be approved by the RSO. Currently the third-biggest city in Colombia, Cali, is simply off limits.

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

Altitude is a factor for some people. Housing is at 9000 feet.

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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?

Moderate. On feast days and Semana Santa, when people are off the roads, it is good.

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

Weather is cool and overcast with highs never above about 80F on the sunniest days. Lows at night get into the high 40s. Rain, rain, rain! It gets dreary and monotonous a lot. Because we are close to the equator, the sun goes down at about 6 PM each evening, and it is not possible to do things like go to the park after work.

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Schools & Children:

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

Colegia Nueva Granada is the USG-supported school. It's administration has been bitchy about letting U.S. Embassy families in automatically. The present situation is adequate but problematic. There are many issues, including: poor teachers who speak Spanish, not English, in the classroom; and clannish/bullying Colombian kids make up over 80% of the student body. At the beginning of the semester, students do not yet have their schedules, and counselors and administrators seem lost on this point. My son waited two months, and they still could not get him scheduled in the right level of Spanish, AP English, etc. This is a core thing that should be automatic, but it seems to escape them. The school is thin on non-core programs: no music and no athletics to speak of. Drinking and drugs are an issue at the high school, with many Colombian parents hosting teen parties with alcohol. It is much better at the lower levels. It simply is not a good high school. It would be a joke in the States.

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

Not adequate at schools. Parents need to look elsewhere.

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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?

Most people have cheap nannies.

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

No. Colegia Nueva Granada says that it has sports programs, but they mostly do not exist.

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Expat Life:

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

Big.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies from high to extremely low, depending on family situation. Single women do not seem to 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?

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

Families and couples need to hang together. Singles seem to have more fun. You will find lots of bars and a good club scene. Colombian women seem to have no problem attaching themselves to American men for mercenary reasons, with no hard feelings -- or really any feelings at all. I talk to lots of guys, though, who are using the women, in return. They all seem OK with this arrangement, but it's not my cup of tea.

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

Yes. People are tolerant.

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

Bogotanos are mostly white, and they disparage Afro-Colombians who mostly live on the coasts. They call them costeños, which they use as a pejorative term, but they also call them monkeys, etc.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I am a single dad in my 40s, and for me Bogota is boring! It is not a pretty city, nor is it well run. There are one or two good museums. Bullfights are fun, but the season is just 6 weeks. For a person like me, or any family probably, you will have to leave the city to find much to do. Because of security restrictions, though, that is not always easy to do.

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

Although they are hard to get to, there are two good museums. Also some sporting events and a few hiking spots that are not too dangerous.

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

NOTHING. IT'S ALL CRAP.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is not cheap to be here. Dining and movies are about the same, clothes are lower in quality and more expensive. Although there is a lot of money here, most Bogotanos are poor. As a result, personal services are cheap. Domestics, massages, haircuts, etc. are all bargains.

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11. 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?

NO!

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

car.

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3. But don't forget your:

computer with internet and camera for Skyping.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The poor travel/tourist infrastructure in most of the country keeps Colombia locked away from most people at Post. At times I felt like a prisoner here.

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Bogota, Colombia 08/06/10

Background:

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

No - Singapore and Edinburgh.

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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?

Our home base is Seattle. It takes about twelve hours to get home through Houston (Continental).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since November 2008.

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

With the US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is fantastic - we love our apartment. All US Embassy housing is in the north of the city, about a thirty-minute drive from the embassy when traffic is good, but more than an hour when it's bad. Everyone is in apartments, even the DCM.

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

Surprisingly expensive for a lot of things. Locally grown produce is cheap, especially at the open-air markets, but anything imported has a high mark-up. And for whatever reason, cheese is like gold.

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

Spices, olive oil, warm blankets, more kids' toys and supplies -- crayons, paper, etc.

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

Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Subway. A couple of Burger Kings. More expensive or about the same as in the US.

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

None, except for those with pets -- fleas thrive here.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO

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

Plentiful and relatively cheap.

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

Yes, but they're expensive, even by US standards.

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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?

Dips get tax back if they use credit cards (you can also ask for a stamp, but that's a hassle). Haven't had any problems using normal common sense about where to use the credit card. ATMs are safe in grocery stores and malls, but they charge a $3-$5 fee for withdrawals.

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

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

Yes, DirecTV Puerto Rico. It's too expensive - so we don't have it. English-language magazines are available at some bookstores, but at a 200% markup.

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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?

I don't see how anyone gets along here without Spanish. It would be really hard, although some people do it.

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

It would be hard to get around. Sidewalks are broken up, and there aren't a lot of ramps or accessible buses.

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Transportation:

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

US Embassy employees cannot take public transportation. Taxis are fine if you call ahead, and they are relatively cheap.

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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?

SUVs are best. Colombians are crazy drivers. It's good to have size on your side.

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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, we pay about $50/mo through Telmex.

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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?

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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?

Don't know, but don't think so.

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

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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. Maybe if you can teach.

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

Formal. I would never wear jeans to work, and I often feel underdressed at the grocery store in jeans.

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Health & Safety:

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

All of the big-city security issues you would find anywhere, plus the diminishing threat of kidnapping.

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

Health care is GREAT. My son had an emergency appendectomy, and all went incredibly well. Lots of women choose to give birth here.

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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?

It's not great, especially if we haven't had rain for a while. The city is surrounded by hills, and stagnant air tends to get stuck above us. But it's not terrible. That said, we got a ton of head colds when we first got here, and I think that was due to the combination of the altitude (8600 feet) and the air quality.

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

Very much like Seattle's. A lot of rain, but it never gets too hot or too cold. Some people insist there's a rainy season, but I don't see any pattern at all to it.

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have any first-hand experience, but people seem to love the preschools.

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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?

We have a nanny and we adore her. The hardest part about leaving will be leaving her. We pay her about $400/mo, ten hours a day, five days a week, and she also does nights and weekends when we ask her to, for a bit extra.

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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:

Fairly good. I think a lot depends on how much you can make friends with locals.

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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?

Colombians throw a lot of parties at their houses. Americans in the embassy tend to go out.

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

I think it's great for our family because of the availability of domestic help and because there's a lot of entertainment for little kids (parks, amusement parks, etc.). Older kids might be more of a problem, because I wouldn't feel comfortable letting them out on their own as much as I would in the US. Single men love it here; single women hate it here. Couples seem to do all right, and lots of people have babies here.

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

My brother is gay and loves it here - visits every chance he gets. There is a thriving gay club scene.

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

It's not pervasive, but there is certainly racism towards those who look to be of African descent and towards indigenous people.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Cartagena is amazing - I'd like to retire there. And I really enjoy living in Bogota because everything is so accessible and easy: great restaurants, good shopping, fun stuff for kids (we have one young child).

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

Day trips to Zipaquira, Villa de Leyva, Guatavita. Weekends in Paipa and Anapoima. Take the cable car up to Monserrate for the best view of the city. Amusement parks/zoos for kids: Multiparque, Parque Jaime Duque, Panaca.

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

Great handicrafts, textiles, etc. - especially at the yearly craft fair at Corferias in December. Also trips around Colombia; air tickets are expensive within the country.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Colombians are seriously nice people with a terrific appreciation for good food and a good time. It's not possible to save money here, though - it's like living in a moderately expensive American city. Weather is okay, but some people get pretty sick of it; it rains a lot, but never gets too cold or too hot. Sort of like Seattle, actually.

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11. Can you save money?

Nope

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat.

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

summer clothes, except when you go to the coast. It never gets that warm here. That opening scene of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"? That was DEFINITELY not Bogota.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sudafed, for all the head colds.

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

Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (specifically News of a Kidnapping, for a sense of how it was here just fifteen years ago). Also the books by the released hostages.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Maria Full of Grace

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Bogota, Colombia 08/04/10

Background:

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

This is my fifth overseas experience. Previous cities include, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, Kolkata, and Santiago, Chile.

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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?

Homebase is Atlanta. It takes about 5 hours to fly non-stop from Atlanta to Bogota.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All US Embassy employees live in apartments. Most tend to be very nice and spacious. The embassy housing is very close to lots of great restaurants and three malls. Currently, the US Embassy offers shuttle service to and from the embassy. The commute times average about 30 minutes.

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

Fruits and vegetables tend to be a lot cheaper than in the USA. Pasta and pasta sauces are more expensive. Dried beans are readily available, but they don't come in cans, so you have to prepare them in advance. Due to the elevation, it can take days to cook them, so be sure to bring a pressure cooker. Meats and dairy items are readily available, but cheeses tend to be very expensive or of poor quality.

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

More canned beans, laundry detergent, pasta sauce, TP, peanut butter, special seasonings, baby supplies (baby clothes and supplies are much more expensive here and are not of good quality).

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

Most fast food restaurants that you find in the US are availalbe here at prices similar to what you'd pay in the US. You can find some knock-off places for a little less. And there are always the Colombian favorites of "arepas" and street snacks, ranging in price from about 50 cents to a dollar or two.

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

No insect problems.

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Daily Life:

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

The embassy has DPO and pouch. The Colombian mail system is slow and unreliable.

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

Day-time maids cost between $15 and $30 a day. Full-time maids cost about $300-$400 a month. You should be careful to have them screened and approved by the embassy if you can.

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

Lots of gyms and work-out facilities. And a brand-new facility (Body Tech) just opened up at the US Embassy.

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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?

We have found that our ATM card only works in a few select machines around the city. Our card does not work at the US Embassy. It is often easier to use a credit card than paying cash. If you pay cash and want your tax back, you have to fight to get a special stamp placed on your receipt, and many places won't give this stamp. If you pay with a credit card you don't need this special stamp, and the process is much simpler.

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

There are one or two English-speaking non-denominationl churches.

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

Almost everything is in Spanish. I'm not sure just what is available in English.

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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?

Spanish is essential for survival. The more you know, the easier it gets.

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

Sidewalks are very uneven and difficult -- even to use strollers on them. There are lots of crowds, and people have little concept of space, which means that they often bump into you, even if you are standing still. A blind person or someone with difficulty walking could have a lot of challenges with mobility.

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Transportation:

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

US Embassy employees are not allowed to take public transportation. It is recommended that if you need a taxi you always call for one ahead of time and do not flag one on the street. Taxis are fairly cheap, but driving your own vehicle is still cheaper.

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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?

The smaller the better. Parking spaces are very tight. We have a small car, and it's still hard parking in tight spaces. Often times you'll only have a few inches to spare on either side of your vehicle. Roads are fairly decent, and as long as you are careful there is no need for a large vehicle.

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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?

For just high speed internet you'll pay about $40-$50 a month.

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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 and sim cards are readily available. It's easy to get set up with a plan.

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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?

I don't think so, but we got our animals here.

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

There are lots of options, ranging from vets to kennels to dog walkers and special doggie parks and rides.

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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?

I think so.

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

Nice to formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Bogota is considered a high threat post. Crime is high--like in many big cities--and there is minimal risk of kidnapping. This said, I feel quite safe here and think that with a little precaution you'll have no troubles.

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

Medical care here is excellent and few people ever get medevac'd.

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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 is much better than in most big cities. I normally have terrible allergies, but haven't suffered near as much from them since we've lived here.

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

Perpetual spring. The temperatures average about 40-70F year round. Rainy seasons can have an overwhelming amount of rain, just learn to plan your schedule around the weather and you'll be fine.

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Schools & Children:

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

I do not have children, but I have taught at the English-speaking schools. Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG) and Colegio Gran Britania (CGB) are the two main schools that US Embassy families send their children to. CNG is very close to embassy housing, and most children go there. There is a high percentage of Colombian children that attend CNG, so some expat children have a harder time breaking into friend groups. CGB is located about 40-60 minutes (or more, depending on traffic) from US Embassy housing. The school has lots of kids from all cultures, and the Colombian-to-foreigner ratio is a little lower. It seems as though most embassy children who attend this school love it and adapt well.

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

I'm not really sure, but I do know that the schools sometimes have special programs for an adult to attend classes with special-needs children and help them with their work within the normal class.

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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?

There are lots of preschools and daycare programs available, and many families hire full-time nannies to help care for their children.

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

I think so, but I'm not sure.

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Expat Life:

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

This is one of the biggest expat communities in the world.

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2. Morale among expats:

Normally very high.

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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?

Lots of options.

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

Absolutely! There are always plenty of things to do and experience. There is a plethora of restaurants and night clubs and lots of interesting activities just outside of the city.

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

It seems to be, but I don't know any details.

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

No.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people, new fruits, cool temperatures, nice housing, excellent medical care....

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

Lots of fun restaurants, national parks, and outdoor activities -- such as rafting, canoeing, rappelling and hiking. There are also nice hot springs and spas not too far from Bogota.

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

Local handicrafts.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The weather is always spring-like so temperatures are great. The people are very friendly and welcoming. It may be difficult to travel a lot if you are with an embassy, due to security restrictions, but there are lots of amazing places to visit, including sparkling beaches, the amazon, coffee country and quiet mountain retreats. And the air is better here than in most big cities I've lived in.

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11. Can you save money?

If you want to, but you'll have to make it a priority, as there are lots of great things to spend money on.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

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

preconceived ideas about Colombia. Unlike what you normally will hear on the news, Colombia is a great place to live.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience and willingness to adapt.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Maria Full of Grace and anything you find on Pablo Escobar

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Bogota, Colombia 06/26/10

Background:

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

Mexico, Tunisia, Washington DC, Jerusalem.

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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?

From Bogota to Miami: about 3 1/2 hours, then there are direct flights to Atlanta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

US Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

People working for the U.S. Embassy live in Rosales or el Chico. People with kids who go to the colegio nueva granada or to gran Bretania, live in Rosales, which is in the mountains, a beautiful place but cold. They have large modern apartments, each bedroom with bathroom. Some buildings have playgrounds, gyms, and even pools, but in rosales you definitely need a car. For single people or couples without kids (or with younger kids who go to preschool), el Chico is really nice. The apartments are big -- some of them ultra modern, but more noisy, and it has good parks. all of them are apartments. Temporary housing is something that you may have to deal with, and sometimes for months.

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

Fruits and vegetables are cheaper than in the States. Cheese is expensive, cleanning suplies are a little bit more expensive sometimes. Clothes, toys, and electronic supplies are much more expensive here than in the States.

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

You can find pretty much everything here. It may be more expensive, but they have almost everything.

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

Most of them. Pretty much the same price as in the States. Maybe a little bit more expensive, but not a big deal.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

APO and FedEx.

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

About 350 USD per month plus pensiones and heath insurance. You pay between 400 to 500 per month. You have to be very careful and make a contract and make them sign their monthly receipts. Lawsuits are very popular here. There are lots of maids available who want to work for embassy people because they pay more and treat them better than the locals. But in our experience, the ones who work for embassy people for a long time become lazy. I've here about maids who take things like ipods, money, cellphones, kids' toys, etc... It is better if you ask your "portero" for someone, then you send her for a security check at the embassy. People who do that have better experiences.

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

Yes, even in the embassy there is a really good gym. There are all kinds of gyms around, but they are expensive.

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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?

They charge you about 5 USD every time you take money, and in some of them you can take only 250 USD. It is better to cash checks at the embassy.

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

Yes, of all the churches.

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

Yes, pretty much the same as in the States.

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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 definitely need spanish to survive here. There are some people here who speak only english, but most people speak at least some spanish.

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

Most of the buildings have an elevator, but the sidewalks are not the best.

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Transportation:

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

We are not allowed to take public transportation, just taxis. And you have to call them. There have been issues with taxis that you take in the street. When it is raining or during rush hour, it is impossible to get a taxi -- really impossible.

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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?

We have a Toyota Sienna, and there are lots of Toyota agencies here. But the Sienna is not available here, so they have to order parts from the States, and they are really expensive. In addition, the parking spots here are really small. If you don't need a big car, bring one as small as posible. But single men bring good cars -- because for the Colombian women, a fancy car is important.

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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?

The same as in the States.

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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?

Prepaid is cheaper than postpaid. You can bring your unlocked cellphone from the States.

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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)?

Great. Here everyone has dogs.

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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?

No.

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

Dressy.

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Health & Safety:

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

You cannot drive to the south of the city. I've heard that cellphones are the target. You cannot use expensive jewelry, and you cannot travel by car from one state to the other one because of "las Farc". Driving here is an issue. They really drive poorly.

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

Because of the weather, kids are sick all the time. The doctors are not the best. We didn't have good experiences here, and to be medivac'd you need a really difficult surgery. Our kid needs adenoid surgery, and the embassy wants us to have the surgery here, but Colombian doctors are not the best. We have not had good experiences. They say that the eye doctors are good.

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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?

Unhealthy.

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

Very rainy. You can have sunny days from November to February, but from March to July it rains every day, and all day long. From August to November it can rain at any moment. Even if you see a sunny day, you have to take your umbrella and raincoat with you, because the weather changes in minutes from sun to rain.

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Schools & Children:

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

My kids go to preschool, but some people here go to Colegio Nueva Granada and Gran Bretania, and they seem to be happy with them.

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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?

Lots, but people who live in el Chico use Babidibu, Past Partou and Abaco, and they are expensive. We have 2 toddlers, and paying for preschool is really expensive for us, but you have no choice.

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

Not at the preschool. You have to pay an additional 200 USD per month per kid to go 2 times per week 1 hour to "la academia" kind of a gym for kids, because in the preschool they don't have any kind of sports programs. The older kids who go to CNG or Gran Bretania have sports programs there.

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Expat Life:

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

Big.

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

People go to restaurants. Colombians, as all Latin Americans, love fiesta and alcohol. People who have local friends have fiestas every weekend.

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

God for all. Singles are really happy here, especially men. I've heard that here are the most beautiful women they've ever seen in their life, and Colombians like Americans a lot. For kids. the weather is sometimes frustrating. They cannot be outside, but there are plenty of indoors places for kids, but again, in this area they are expensive. The preschools are nice, there is gymboree, divercity, mundo aventura, Andino mall, and lots of restaurants with playgrounds and people who paint their faces, make ballons,and play with them. If you live in el Chico, Jenno's pizza at calle 11 and 94 is a great place for kids when it is not raining.

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

I've heard It's OK, but not the best. It definitely is not San Francisco or Brazil.

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

They are racist against the indians and the afro. If you are blond you are going to be the king here. Blond kids are the hit here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Legal suits from maids, and car accidents seem to be very common. In the legal suits, the embassy doesn't help you at all. If you don't speak spanish, you are lost. The weather is not the best; it rains almost every day from March to July. You cannot make plans for outdoor activities,so the kids have to be indoors all the time. It is expensive. A preschool costs about 400 dollars (US) per month, and the kids just go 4 hours per day and they have lots of holidays and vacations -- and still you have to pay for 12 months. You also have to pay an inscription fee of about $800 dollars per year plus the monthly fee of $400, so people with young kids just cannot save much.

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

la catedral de la sal, Andres carne de res, botero's museum, lots of restaurants, and if you don't have to pay for preschool, you can travel to the beach or to Miami.

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

Emeralds, coffee, flowers and furniture.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Bogota is a great country with great people. It is a big city, but you can find everything, and it is pretty close to the States. It is a beautiful city, but there are not many touristic attractions. It rains almost every day -- and all day long. You cannot save money at all, but people like it. A lot of people at the embassy ask for one more year. People say they like almost everything but the weather. Single men love it here.

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11. Can you save money?

Not with 2 toddlers at preschool. We've been using some of our savings.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I think so, life is good here.

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

shorts, flip-flops, sandals, summer clothes and snow clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrellas and raincoats.

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

Alvaro Uribe's biography.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

El Cartel (spanish series)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I don't know anyone who wants to live here because of the weather or to save money. If you like to be outdoors and in sunny places, this is not your place. It is a nice place for kids, but very young kids get sick all the time, and the preschool and extra activities are very expensive. The embassy is full of locals who manage everything and are not very gentle, and who are not eager to help you. It is more the opposite! They don't provide you with enough information and help, maybe because of the size. It is a really big embassy.

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Bogota, Colombia 01/01/10

Background:

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

No, lived in Russia, Bulgaria, Peru, Tajikistan

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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?

Portland, Oregon. We fly Bogota-Houston-Portland on Continental. Total flying time is around 8-9 hours, with layover it is 12.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3.5 years, still live there.

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

Work for an NGO

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most of the houses have been torn down and replaced by brick facade very modern apartments, which are everywhere. No matter what you pay in rent (which is very high always - we pay $2,400 and another $400-$500 for administration (security guards, etc for the building), your apartment WILL have something that needs repairing and the rental agency will never get around to repairing it unless you refuse to pay until it is repaired.

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

Expensive, except for fruits, vegetables and meat. Cheese is like gold here. No idea why but you will pay around $10 for a small piece of Colombian-made swiss cheese. And anything imported is very expensive.

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

I always buy clothes and shoes in the US because Latin women have different styles, and clothing is MUCH more expensive for half the quality. Things like pine nuts, worchestershire sauce - while you can get them there sometimes are lots more expensive.

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

All are available, usually about the same prices as the US. Bogota has lots of great restaurants. My favorites are in Usaquen and La Macarena. Many are very sterile steel and glass very modern and for me rather cold decor.

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

None - this is a great thing about high altitude cities!

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Daily Life:

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

DHL. And do not have anyone send you anything but paper mail - even a hand-made gift will be subject to expensive customs fees.

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

We pay around $700 per month for our child's nanny. I think we pay more than some people do, but hell - it's an important job.

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

Readily available all over the city.

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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?

Careful - lots of identity theft. It happened to me. Do NOT let the waiter or store clerk take your card from you to process. Restaurants have machines that they carry to your table.

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

I don't know. There is a synagogue in Bogota, but I don't think the services are in English.

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

Cable TV has many channels in English, including Dr. House! Most are not in English though.

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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 can't live there without Spanish and expect to have any kind of life.

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

Do NOT come to Colombia! I can't imagine how someone with a physical challenge would handle it.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis aren't bad, but try to call one and not to hail one on the streets - they CAN be unsafe. Look for ones that have their fees, and other signs of a legit taxi if you have to hail one. I have taken the buses, but I hate this experience. Drivers drive like maniacs - truly! And people get on board asking for money, prefacing their pleas with 'I am not going to rob you.'

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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?

I wouldn't own one here. You can't import an used car (maybe dips can, I don't know) and adding to the horrible traffic situation sitting in a parking lot of cars whose drivers know no rules is not my idea of freedom. Moreover, there is pico y placa, which means that several days a week license plates ending with certain numbers will not be allowed on the streets. Take a taxi,or even a bus (but not after dark).

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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, it is around $50 per month for internet and cable TV packaged together.

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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?

Comcel has the better range.

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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?

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

Very much so. Colombians are huge fans of dogs, as you will see from the amount of doggy doo in the streets, sidewalks and parks.

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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?

No. It is very difficult to get a work visa here.

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

Casual-nice. Suits for business people. A perfectly acceptable 'uniform' otherwise is jeans, a nice shirt, nice coat and boots.

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Health & Safety:

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

very bad.

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

Almost all of my staff were robbed this year. Just cell phones, but one was pushed into a car to do the millionaire's run (take you around to ATMs to drain your account). Yes, lots of crime in Bogota. And there are neighborhoods in all cities that tourists would not want to visit. Much of the country is off-limits due to the conflict, but most large cities are accessible.

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

Medical care is OK. Long waits, and doctors will always prescribe long lists of the most expensive medicines - never generic.

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

It is almost always overcast, with the sun breaking through at times. Never cold, never hot. No indoor heating means it can be cold indoors at times though.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have a special needs child and so this was a nightmare for us. The so-called American School (Nueva Granada) supposedly takes special needs kids, but in reality they only accept them from diplomat parents. We were very lucky to have our child accepted at the Colegio Anglo-Colombiano, a British system school which is a wonderful school! We couldn't be more pleased with the real dedication to teaching, the quality of education - just everything. I would say this even if we did not have a special needs child.

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

El Anglo, where our child goes, made a board policy for a pilot program in which our child was admitted. This year another child was admitted as well. The rector and staff are committed to diversity at the school. It has been a wonderful experience for us.

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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?

Lots available. I recommend Platero y Yo - there are two locations. There is also Montessori, Waldorf, etc.

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

Very many, and the schools are very good with this - all kinds, including horseback riding.

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Expat Life:

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

Large, but you don't see other ex-pats very often unless you go to Rosales or Usquen. The city is huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good I think. It can be rather lonely here though because it is a huge city and tough to meet people outside of work. Also, watching your back all the time (because of crime) can be tiring. TRAFFIC is terrible and trying to cross streets is also stressful.

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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?

Colombians spend every waking minute with their families when they are not working, so weekends they are unavailable usually.

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

For all.

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

There is a large gay community. Not everyone is accepting of gay people, but many are.

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

Well, it is a Latin culture and so there is some machismo and some discrimination of Afro-heritage people, Colombian and otherwise. This is not as bad as in other Latin countries where I have lived (such as Peru).

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

Restaurants, movies, shopping, parks, ciclovia, getting out of town, gym, art classes, dancing

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

Good crafts - though not as diverse as in Peru thanks to the armed conflict. Very nice picture frames of good wood, sold in the market in Usaquen. Furniture.

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9. Can you save money?

No way.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Certainly. It has been a great experience for us.

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

Winter clothing.

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3. But don't forget your:

Summer clothing is a must, but for use outside of Bogota.

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

I don't know. I would look online for articles and blogs.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Clear and Present Danger does not do justice to everyday life here, though that kind of thing is certainly going on. Colombian movies would be more indicative.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is a nice post, but kind of lonely because of the large city situation. You get tired of traffic, pollution and watching your back from crime. But all large cities have a degree of all of these things.

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

US Embassy.

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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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Bogota, Colombia 12/17/08

Background:

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

Multiple other experiences.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Through Atlanta, if possible; the Embassy usually forces you to route through Miami because of a contract arrangement with American.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments that are about a 40-45 minute drive to the Embassy (on holidays and off, off hours the drive can be made in about 15 minutes).

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

This is an expensive city. Groceries are as costly or more than Washington and other major cities, and it really hurts when the exchange rate dips like it did for a few months in early 2008. Even though gas prices have fallen to around US$1.50 in the US, we're still paying around US$4 here.

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

Peanut butter, olive oil, spices (Colombians are culinary-challenged), spaghetti sauce.

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

McDonald's, TGIF, Hooters, Kokorico, Pizza Hut, KFC, Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts, Juan Valdez Cafe (think Starbucks but better), etc.

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Daily Life:

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

DHL; but we get everything thru the APO and 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?

Available, but quality varies. With the mandatory health, social security, and transport costs, domestic help is somewhat pricey here (around US$370/month).

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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?

Use the ATMs at the Embassy or, if you must, in trusted locations out in town. Crime is rampant. Careful when handing over your credit card at stores and elsewhere, card cloning is not uncommon. It's best to use one card and regularly check your activity online to monitor for fraud.

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

There are a non-denominational Protestant service and a Catholic service held near the emmbassy housing area.

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

Buy a box from DirectTV Puerto Rico (departing personnel often have it for sale) and you'll get ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. Telmex also has digital service with a box that can get you a few channels and can be bundled with internet and local phone service (which usually charges per call) to save you money.

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

I've actually come across more English speakers outside Bogota than in Bogota. Regardless, Spanish is indispensible. It can be a problem especially for spouses, even when dealing with FSNs at the embassy.

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

This is definitely not an ADA-compliant country.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

In theory, on the right side like in the U.S. However, there are no enforced traffic laws in Colombia, there are merely suggestions (especially late at night when stop lights turn invisible to Colombians). Be prepared to drive aggresively and without any etiquete. Whenever Colombians get in or near a motor vehicle they become some of the most inconsiderate and aggressive people on the face of the planet. New Yorkers have even commented on how rude and poorly Colombians drive. Buses and taxis are the worst. They will stop ANYWHERE, to include the middle lane, intersections, entry/exit ramps. And be ready for the last minute turn from the far opposite lane.

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

Taxis are reasonably priced and safe as long as they're radio dispatched. Never hail one from the street or you're inviting trouble. The tourist train is OK, but buses are prohibited as a form of transport for embassy personnel.

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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?

Pretty much everything is on the roads here.

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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, at about the same rate as in the U.S. It goes down on a somewhat regular basis though, and customer service is definitely foreign to Colombia. Expect a run-around and lack of service for 2-4 days when this happens.

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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?

They're reasonable and you can find them everywhere. Better to buy a phone and recharge the minutes than to do a monthly plan. Comcel has the best coverage, but you can choose Avantel and get the free radio-to-radio function with other Avantel users. Movistar and Tigo also operate here.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage and Skype.

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Pets:

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

Excellent. Colombians are dog lovers.

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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. Even in the Embassy, non-Spanish speaking spouses have practically no options because almost all the jobs have Level 4 (Fluent) requirements. Teachers may be able to get a job at one of the schools.

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

Depends who you work for. Some agencies have the majority of their employees in jeans or cargo pants, for others it's suits.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderately unhealthy.

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

Lots of crime and the ever present worries of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the FARC decide to do something

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

Good medical care on the economy (lots of dissatisfaction with the embassy health unit). Good availability of English-speaking local doctors, but getting past the receptionists and nurses can be challenging for non-Spanish speakers.

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

Bogota is like a combination of Seattle and San Francisco, but with more altitude than Denver. Lots of rain and temps averaging between 55-65F. Brief daily periods (1-2 hours) and nice months (generally Aug and Dec) are overshadowed by the dominant dreary cloud and rain pattern.

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Schools & Children:

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

The two most popular with embassy families are Colegio Nueva Grenada (CNG) and Colegio Gran Bretana (CGB). Both have serious issues. CNG has almost 2,000 students and is a U.S. school in name only (U.S. curriculum and administrators). The student body is overwhelmingly comprised of rich, and often obnoxious, Colombians to whom the school caters. The administration blatantly lies to parents on a regular basis. Aside from offering a greater amount of activities, the only other advantage is the proximity to embassy housing.

CGB is much smaller (approximately 400 students, but growing). The commute time is much greater (40-50 minutes on average). The school follows a British curriculum and has a rule restricting the student body to no more than 50% from any one (read Colombian) nationality. This helps reduce the cliques and bullying found at CNG, but does not eliminate it from CGB. The school does not appear to be coping well with growth. Weak administration, poor communication (they say they're a bilingual school but they don't even have a receptionist who can speak English), an expensive and mandatory food program, and a willingness to pay lip service rather than solve problems are among the complaints about the school. Parents are generally satisfied with the academic standards at both schools (each offers the IB program), but are frustrated with practically all other dealings with them.

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

Both schools have special needs departments and tutoring available. CNG has been accused of labeling more kids than normal as special needs kids in what seems an effort to sell more services; CGB has hired someone who has focused on ESL, neglecting all other needs and driving away many qualified/experienced teachers/tutors.

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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?

Many choices and generally good. There are about 4-5 that are most popular (usually due to proximity to housing) among the embassy community.

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Expat Life:

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

Moderate, but growing.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends who you talk to. Single guys are pretty happy. Married couples where the spouse speaks Spanish (ie, Latinas/os), tend to be happier.

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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?

What one makes of it. The Embassy is large and cliquish. There's very little sense of community like you would find at most posts.

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

For single guys and couples without children (or with very young children), it's a good post. Families should avoid this place.

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

It appears to be fairly tolerant.

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

No glaring prejudices.

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

Andres Carne de Res in Chia, Multiparque and Diverscity for kids, the Gold and Botero Museums, ciclovia on Sundays and holidays.

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

Art from Ecuador and Peru (or the border region).

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9. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely not.

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

Winter parka and summer shorts (unless you get away to other parts of Colombia).

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3. But don't forget your:

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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?

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Bogota, Colombia 12/09/08

Background:

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

Second expat experience after New Delhi.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over one year.

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

Miami in 3.5 hours.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All apartment living, many people are not happy with the housing. The apartments are small or old or very noisy. Everyone has a white noise machine to help with sleeping, but it's hard not to hear the apartment noises (parties in other apartments, etc) and the buses and motorcycles are really loud.

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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 almost anything here except for spices and good ethnic food. EVERYTHING IS EXPENSIVE! For Americans living on a government salary, it's hard to cover your costs if you are a family and eat at home during the week, and like to enjoy dinner out once or twice a week. Don't expect to save anything.

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

Spices, cereals, peanut butter and jelly and other basic U.S. items that are so expensive here.

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

Yes, lots of options, but they are expensive.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Available, but many are not reliable, honest or efficient. Most people that I know have been through at least 2-3 maids in one year.

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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?

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

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

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

Spanish is required to live comfortably.

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

Sidewalks are in bad condition and it is not pedestrian friendly -- the cars/trucks/buses rule the road.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as the U.S.

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

Government employees and their families are not allowed to take them.

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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?

A small SUV is the best. Parking spaces are small, but you want a bigger car so you can see in all of the traffic and get a little more respect on the road.

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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?

It's available and has been reliable -- TELMEX costs about US$75 per month

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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?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage.

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Pets:

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

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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?

It is hard to find a job that pays well. If you don't care about the salary, you can find work. Embassy jobs are also available.

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

Definitely a dress up city -- you will never see a woman wearing sweats and sneakers and walking around. They are always wearing boots and nice jackets and have make-up on, etc.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy, lots of exhaust and diesel pollution for buses and trucks. It just hangs in the air.

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

Yes, lately there have been more armed robberies and the threat of attacks against Americans is very real.

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

A lot of respiratory issues -- my kids have a lot of coughs and runny noses here. The pollution makes it hard to stay healthy.

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

Rainy, rainy, cloudy, and a little sun every day.

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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?

YES! Lots of options but they are impossible to get into, especially the ones that have a good reputation.

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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:

Not great. Among government employees, it is getting worse not better due to the living conditions and the embassy life 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?

Colombians love to party.

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

Not so great for families with young children - they are stuck in the apartment a lot -- it rains almost every day and there is nowhere for children to go.

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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?

Yes, Colombians are not racially or culturally sensitive. At a young age, kids call each other terrible names like 'negrito', etc.

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

Lots of cafes and restaurants!

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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?

Definitely NOT. In fact, you may even eat into your savings if you are on a government salary.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

NO. I would go somewhere that is family-friendly, with less pollution and with a better Embassy Management team (see below).

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

Summer clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella -- it rains a lot, pretty much every day.

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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?

The Embassy here is terrible and doesn't seem to care about making life better for families. Most people say it's the worst embassy management team that they've experienced - the CLO office provides no good information at all, GSO is terrible with maintenance issues (don't expect anything to be fixed on time or at all - it takes 6 weeks for someone to come to fix an electrical or plumbing issue). The embassy housing pool is getting worse -- people that have come in during the last 6 months have gotten some of the worst apartments available in the city -- and they all have maintenance issues that are not getting fixed. The embassy furniture is old and badly damaged and hasn't been replaced in many years.

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Bogota, Colombia 11/26/08

Background:

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

5th expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

5 months.

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

3.5 hours from Miami.

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

Government.

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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."

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Daily Life:

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

We have an APO here.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

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.

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

Not safe at all, and not allowed.

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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.

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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, but it brakes often.

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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?

You can get one here from Comcel.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or Skype, if you internet is not broken.

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Pets:

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

I think good, they love their dogs.

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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 sure, but again, if you don't Speak spanish you will get nothing.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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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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:

So so.

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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?

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.

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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.

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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"?

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.

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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.

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9. Can you save money?

No way! Unless you sacrifice a lot, but then you will be miserable and depressed.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Not in a million years.

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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.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrellas, rain coats, happy lamps, because there is no sun here.

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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?

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.

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Bogota, Colombia 11/10/08

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Honduras, Nigeria, Slovenia, New Zealand, and the Dominican Republic.

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2. How long have you lived here?

14 months.

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

3 hours from Miami.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Good, mainly apartments.

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

Very available, especially fruits and veggies; cost for local goods reasonable, for imported expensive.

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

Workout equipment; sporting equipment.

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

MANY of all nationalities.

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Daily Life:

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

APO.

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

Available and reasonable.

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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?

Definitely can be used, but just be careful.

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

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

Yes; cable TV and Internet provide a great deal of programming; cost around US$30/month for each.

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

A lot; educated people speak English, but many street folks do not.

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

Altitude - at 8500 feet the air is thin and polluted.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

Relatively safe, but caution is required.

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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?

Nothing too new or expensive, preferably small SUV.

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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, US$30/month.

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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?

Look at all the various plans.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Phone card or VOIP phone.

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Pets:

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

Good - Colombians love dogs.

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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?

Some, if applicant has good Spanish.

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

At work business formal; in public, jeans are ok.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy - especially from bus/truck exhaust.

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

Both street crime and terrorism, though more of the former.

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

Good medical facilities and doctors, but a host of tropical disesases once you go out of the main cities.

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

Rains briefly many (most) days, but always spring-like in temperature.

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Schools & Children:

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

Good - none.

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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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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large, but not too active.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good, except when there's too much rain or violence.

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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?

Pretty good - lots of clubs for young people, concerts, theater, etc for older people.

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

Good for all of the groups.

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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?

Somewhat with Afro-colombian and Afro-Americans.

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

Travel is somewhat limited, but Cartagena, Santa Marta are both good coastal cities; Salt Cathedral, Gold Museum in Bogota; lots of golf courses; major roadways closed for walking/jogging/biking on Sundays/holidays.

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

Leather, emeralds.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Preconceived notions.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and patience.

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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:

Maria Full of Grace (for the drug scene).

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Bogota, Colombia 05/10/08

Background:

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

No, I've also lived in Seoul, Korea.

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2. How long have you lived here?

A little over a year.

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

About 7 hours I think. American/Delta/CO all have decent flights and fares but we prefer the 6am American Airlines flight as it gets you to Bogota around 1pm and you sleep most of the way here :)

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Love, love, love the housing. It's all apartment living but the housing office really does try to give everyone ample space. Most single people come here to find themselves in 3 bedroom apartments, most families 3-5 bedrooms (including a maid's quarters). Most have studios, dining rooms, nice size kitchens (most of our ovens are terribly small though). . .and usually each bedroom has a bathroom.

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

The dollar is worthless right now so it's extremely expensive. No exaggeration. In January 2007, you could purchase 1 million pesos for about US$500 (sometimes less), now it cost about US$645 USD to purchase 1 million pesos. If you don't buy the U.S. imported stuff and buy locally, it may not be that bad but with three children, we usually buy the U.S. stuff. I find it quite expensive to buy food, cleaning supplies, clothing . . .pretty much everything I have to have I can get it cheaper on Netgrocer.com (company that ships just about any guilty U.S. pleasure you have to have). I also shop on Drugstore.com.

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

Hmmm so much! Diapers, any baby items, clothes, formula, toys. TOYS, TOYS, TOYS! The toys are ridiculously overpriced. Those tiny little hot wheel cars are almost US$4, Barbies are almost US$50. Nintendo DS games are close to US$90. All toys are insane. We went to the dollar store and purchased all the toys for birthday parties etc. I would bring all your favorite seasonings. But remember, there's always Netgrocer.com for most things.

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

I hear Bogota has some of the best restaurants in the world. From personal experience, it's one of my favorite things about the city. As far as Fast Food goes, Bogota has it all (KFC, McDonalds, Subways, Pizza Hut, etc). The best thing about Bogota is that almost every single restaurant, even the mom and pop tiny grill places deliver! Best restaurant to try is Andres Carne de Res. . .about 45 minutes away from Bogota, great food and man what an experience. .. dancing on tables, great music, great environment!

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Daily Life:

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

We have APO (APO AA) and Fed Ex.

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

We have a full time live in maid and a part time maid who comes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We pay our full time maid roughly US$$350 month and the other maid US$$75 month. We also have a child in preschool for a little over US$$350 as well. As the dollar drops, it gets increasingly more expensive. . fast!

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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?

Most of us write checks to the Embassy or take money out at the U.S. Embassy ATM. . .if we absolutely must take out money, we do it at one of the malls.

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

There are Greek Orthodox churches, Jewish services, of course Catholic churches and lastly the United Church of Bogota, an English speaking church. If you are religious, you should have a place to go.

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

You can get the Miami Herald I believe, not sure about that. On the cable side of the house, you can get the Puerto Rican Direct TV which shows all the real U.S. stations or you can get Colombian Direct TV or TELMEX cable. PR Direct TV costs US$50 a month. The Telmex cable/internet package is a little over US$150 a month.

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

You cannot live here happily without Spanish. There are only a handful of people who speak English none of whom work at the preschool, work as a maid/nanny. It is extremely difficult for my spouse here who has no Spanish. I enjoy it immensely but I'm about at a level 3 Spanish.

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

Sidewalks are terribly broken and uneven. We couldn't even use our brand new double stroller we purchased before we arrived.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

On the right side - thank goodness.

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

NOPE! With the taxi's you MUST call from home, restaurant, Embassy etc, the company will tell you the license plate number and a secret code that only you and the driver know. Unfortunately, people have been held against their will or robbed in the taxi and thrown out. So best way is to drive. Taxi's are affordable, gas here not so much.

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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?

Love having our SUV but the garages in most apartment buildings are so narrow that we've scraped the side of our Pathfinder. That is the only consideration to have. The service on the vehicle is relatively cheap, parking is plentiful in town. I would now normally go into my THEY DRIVE CRAZY here speech but that's with any tour overseas!

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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 great wireless internet. . .of course, the apartments are so large you can't get coverage all over the house unless you're a techie and can rig it yourself.

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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?

Most offices in the Embassy (if not all) issue cell phones upon arrival to have throughout their tour.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Embassy IVG line or Vonage.

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Pets:

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

This country loves its dogs! There are doggie schools, dog walkers, great kennels. I don't have any animals but hear from my friends. Many people buy dogs here because the best breeds are bred here.

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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 sure.

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

Business. . .many dress casual on Fridays but with all the meetings and constant VIP visits a casual Friday is sometimes just not going to happen.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate, like any big city. I'm a New Yorker so it's really all relative :)

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

The security concerns are very real. I am here with my three small children. On the surface, people are eating picnics in the park, riding bikes, always laughing and kissing and enjoying life but just under the surface it's scary. In the year I've been here, I've had a few friends get robbed and much worst. I myself, have been safe and enjoyed myself but AGAIN, I'm a New Yorker and many big city people do just fine here because we don't go where we aren't supposed to and we're on alert at all times. . .using all the common sense God gave us!

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

Medical care is fantastic in Bogota. Many Dr's are U.S. trained and certified but again, no English in the hospitals so Spanish is a must.

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

Always, always, always partly cloudy with a chance of rain!

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many good schools here. Unfortunately, the Embassy pushes the main school Colegio Nueva Grenada (CNG) on you the moment you arrive. It's a beautiful school, much like a college campus that sits on acres and acres of beautiful land. But with any large school, comes the distance. You drift off into a sea of other parents. Colegio Gran Bretana (CGB) is a small school, a little further out from housing but beautiful and the school is broken off into 4 different houses (think Harry Potter). The Director of CGB knows your NAME for the most part and your child. Those are the two main schools but there is also a French school and an English speaking religious school I hear alot about.

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

I don't know from experience but I have a co-worker who has a child with Down Syndrome and I know of other parents who've had ADHD children or other special needs. . . I think CNG has a wonderful program and does it's best to get your child where he/she needs to be.

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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?

LOVE the preschools. No complaints here. They are all Spanish speaking which means your 3 year old will speak more Spanish than you will but that will make your heart sing watching him interact with his friends and teachers. In the area the embassy community is forced to live (basically the Beverly Hills of Colombia), all of the preschools are really expensive (compared to the rest of the country) but they are great!

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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:

Bogota is really hard work. . .from the Cafeteria, to the Ambassadors office, everyone is ALWAYS working hard and that leads to tiredness but we all truly enjoy the work we do and can see the impact of it daily.

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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?

There are tons of bars/clubs/ restaurants to go to still less that eating out in the States. It's a great social life here.

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

Great for singles, wonderful for couples with no children. . .as for families, it rains quite a bit. NO exaggeration, like every weekend. There are a handful of apartments with playgrounds in the building so you're stuck at home. Additionally, if you don't make Colombian friends you are stuck in Bogota when only an hour to three hours away it's hot, sunny and there are farms and resorts. The trick is knowing how to get there. Most of us, without Colombian friends don't know how. . .rewind back to the security question! You can't just jump in your car . . .rephrase, a New Yorker doesn't just jump in the car with license plates that say Hi I'm an American Diplomat in a country with a history like Bogota's. With that said, there are tons of places to go and see. Hopefully, before some of the families who are here now leave, we can compile something for families with children to get them around.

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

No idea. I presume so, I know one gay couple who have a wonderful time here. I think it's accepted here.

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

I'm an African American and have found no prejudices in this area at all. Finding a beautician to handle African American hair is the hardest part.

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

Bogota has the most beautiful shops, tastiest restaurants and amazing history! I take tons of pictures and we do get out when it's sunny and go to places. There are many wonderful things to do with kids once you get someone to tell you about them :) Bogota loves children. As for singles/couples with no children, there are great clubs, malls, movies, anything and everything you may want to do, Bogota has it!

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

HA! For a person who has never lived overseas, especially in Asia, maybe they'd go nuts buying wood items, bedroom suites etc but if you've been anywhere else in the world, nothing here you have to have.

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9. Can you save money?

Not right now. . .it's expensive here! Well maybe a little bit if you're not paying rent :)

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I don't know. I say it's great but it's terrible all in the same day! We like it because of the schools, the weather (when it's not raining) and the nightlife but the insane driving, and constant watching your back takes its toll. You'll love it if you know people to get you out of Bogota every now and then.

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

Heavy winter coats, winter clothing.

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3. But don't forget your:

Pocket umbrellas, huge golf wind resistant umbrellas, rain boots for the kids, ponchos for the kids. Don't forget your Spanish/English dictionary if your Spanish is so/so. Feminine products! Baby FOOD! Bring it or you'll have to make it yourself, the baby food here has sugar in it.

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

Funny enough for all my countries that I investigate, I go to Realpostreports.com :) I never looked at a book for Colombia.

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

Funny enough for all my countries that I investigate, I go to Realpostreports.com :) I never looked at a book for Colombia.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Man on Fire with Denzel Washington was not only a good movie but actually paints the picture of the danger in the city. . .keeping in mind it's a movie.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

We generally like it here. Great food, great things to do (when it's not raining) and great housing. The biggest difference in hating Bogota and loving it is finding that one friend who can show you how to get out of the city. Just remember that Bogota is like any big city, NY, DC, PA, as long as you're aware of your surroundings, it's not as bad as you've heard.

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Bogota, Colombia 04/20/08

Background:

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

No. I lived in Brasilia, Brazil before.

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

No. I lived in Brasilia, Brazil before.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

Miami to Bogota 3.5 hours.

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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

Miami to Bogota 3.5 hours.

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All apartments for embassy employees. The apartments range from large and really nice to small and just okay. It's luck of the draw. The plummeting dollar is making the process of finding and keeping nice housing even more difficult.

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

All apartments for embassy employees. The apartments range from large and really nice to small and just okay. It's luck of the draw. The plummeting dollar is making the process of finding and keeping nice housing even more difficult.

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

Groceries are available at many supermarkets. Almost everything is available except for some baking supplies and ingredients for ethnic dishes. You might want to bring that with you. You will pay an arm and a leg for anything imported from the U.S., so buy local brands, they are pretty good. It is becoming more expensive to buy groceries. This also depends on the strength of the dollar.

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

Groceries are available at many supermarkets. Almost everything is available except for some baking supplies and ingredients for ethnic dishes. You might want to bring that with you. You will pay an arm and a leg for anything imported from the U.S., so buy local brands, they are pretty good. It is becoming more expensive to buy groceries. This also depends on the strength of the dollar.

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

Baking goods - brown sugar, powdered sugar, etc.

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

Baking goods - brown sugar, powdered sugar, etc.

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

Subway, Quizno's, KFC, McDonalds, TGI Fridays, Hard Rock, Dunkin Donuts are all here. But the Colombian restaurants are much better, so enjoy the local fare. We had some of the best steaks here. Most of the restaraunts in the Zona G and Zona Rosa are great. The affordability of this great foods depends largely on the dollar. It has been pretty comparable to prices in DC lately.

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

Subway, Quizno's, KFC, McDonalds, TGI Fridays, Hard Rock, Dunkin Donuts are all here. But the Colombian restaurants are much better, so enjoy the local fare. We had some of the best steaks here. Most of the restaraunts in the Zona G and Zona Rosa are great. The affordability of this great foods depends largely on the dollar. It has been pretty comparable to prices in DC lately.

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Daily Life:

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

There is APO for American Embassy employees. International Mail can be sent via FedEx.

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

There is APO for American Embassy employees. International Mail can be sent via FedEx.

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

Maids and Nannies cost about US$250-300 a month for a live-out, 5 day a week, 8 hour a day schedule. You pay more for weekends, holidays and overtime. Make sure they have good references.

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

Maids and Nannies cost about US$250-300 a month for a live-out, 5 day a week, 8 hour a day schedule. You pay more for weekends, holidays and overtime. Make sure they have good references.

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5. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATM's are readily available. I don't recommend using them at night. Most people prefer to use the ones at the Embassy. Credit Cards should only be used at reputable locations.

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6. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATM's are readily available. I don't recommend using them at night. Most people prefer to use the ones at the Embassy. Credit Cards should only be used at reputable locations.

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

All denominations available but in Spanish only. I think there are English Services at a few churches, but I have not attended them.

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

All denominations available but in Spanish only. I think there are English Services at a few churches, but I have not attended them.

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

Direct TV for sports lovers, but it is pricey. TVCable has a great TV/Internet package with many different English channels.

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

Direct TV for sports lovers, but it is pricey. TVCable has a great TV/Internet package with many different English channels.

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

You need a lot of Spanish.

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

You need a lot of Spanish.

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

Using the baby stroller here is challenging, so it must be the same for those in wheelchairs.

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

Using the baby stroller here is challenging, so it must be the same for those in wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Just like in the U.S.

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

Taxi's are safe if you call them to pick you up. Hailing them is not safe.

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3. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Just like in the U.S.

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

Taxi's are safe if you call them to pick you up. Hailing them is not safe.

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5. 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?

There are a lot of potholes and it rains almost all the time. Your vehicle should have some clearance, so a small SUV is probably your best bet. Parking spots tend to be small.

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6. 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?

There are a lot of potholes and it rains almost all the time. Your vehicle should have some clearance, so a small SUV is probably your best bet. Parking spots tend to be small.

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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?

TVCable Internet and Digital TV package (with many movie channels in English) costs about US$100 a month. The service was excellent.

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

TVCable Internet and Digital TV package (with many movie channels in English) costs about US$100 a month. The service was excellent.

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

Buy a local prepaid phone. Comcel has reliable service.

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

Buy a local prepaid phone. Comcel has reliable service.

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5. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or Skype.

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6. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or Skype.

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Pets:

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

Quality is good. Although fleas are a serious problem here.

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

Quality is good. Although fleas are a serious problem here.

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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?

Yes, if you speak Spanish well. Same within the Embassy. Lots of jobs that require language ability.

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2. 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?

Yes, if you speak Spanish well. Same within the Embassy. Lots of jobs that require language ability.

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

Business Dress within the Embassy. There is an informal dress down Friday, but is often discouraged by many American supervisors.

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

Business Dress within the Embassy. There is an informal dress down Friday, but is often discouraged by many American supervisors.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate. Bogota is at high altitude, so the air is much thinner.

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

Moderate. Bogota is at high altitude, so the air is much thinner.

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

Embassy employees are not permitted to hail taxis or ride buses. Some employees have been robbed of electronics or jewelry while jogging, so use caution when going outside. Otherwise it is pretty safe within Bogota.

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

Embassy employees are not permitted to hail taxis or ride buses. Some employees have been robbed of electronics or jewelry while jogging, so use caution when going outside. Otherwise it is pretty safe within Bogota.

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

Medical care is excellent, but the language barrier can often be a problem. Clinica del Country and Fundacion Santa Fe are both great.

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

Medical care is excellent, but the language barrier can often be a problem. Clinica del Country and Fundacion Santa Fe are both great.

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

It rains a lot, but the weather is great because it rarely goes below 50 or over 75 degrees F.

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

It rains a lot, but the weather is great because it rarely goes below 50 or over 75 degrees F.

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Schools & Children:

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

Colegio Nueva Granada is a great school. They are administratively difficult because they are very disorganized in the registrars office, but the curriculum is good and the kids like it very much. Colegio Gran Bretana is also very good, but it is smaller than CNG.

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

Colegio Nueva Granada is a great school. They are administratively difficult because they are very disorganized in the registrars office, but the curriculum is good and the kids like it very much. Colegio Gran Bretana is also very good, but it is smaller than CNG.

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

From what I hear they can handle minor to moderate special needs. More severe cases of special needs cannot be accomodated at this post.

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

From what I hear they can handle minor to moderate special needs. More severe cases of special needs cannot be accomodated at this post.

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5. 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?

There are wonderful preschools on every corner to accomodate your needs. Although, most people have nannies that care for young children before and after school.

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6. 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?

There are wonderful preschools on every corner to accomodate your needs. Although, most people have nannies that care for young children before and after school.

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Expat Life:

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

Very Large. Lots of NGO's and US Companies.

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

Very Large. Lots of NGO's and US Companies.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good.

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4. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

What you make of it. Lot's to do, but some people choose to just entertain at home.

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5. Morale among expats:

Good.

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6. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

What you make of it. Lot's to do, but some people choose to just entertain at home.

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

This city is great for all. Great restaraunts, bars and cultural activities and sites. The only thing is that U.S. Embassy employees are very restricted when it comes to traveling the country. This makes traveling to the beach towns more expensive because you can't just stay anywhere. No adventure travel allowed here.

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

This city is great for all. Great restaraunts, bars and cultural activities and sites. The only thing is that U.S. Embassy employees are very restricted when it comes to traveling the country. This makes traveling to the beach towns more expensive because you can't just stay anywhere. No adventure travel allowed here.

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

I think so. Many gays/lesbians seem to be happy here.

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

I think so. Many gays/lesbians seem to be happy here.

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

Not really. If you are darker skinned, you may get mistaken for a nanny. Happens to me all the time, but nothing to worry about.

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

Not really. If you are darker skinned, you may get mistaken for a nanny. Happens to me all the time, but nothing to worry about.

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

Lots of museums, comedy shows, concerts, family fun events. Every Sunday and Holidays is Ciclovia, where they close down major streets for bike riding, jogging and walking.

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

Lots of museums, comedy shows, concerts, family fun events. Every Sunday and Holidays is Ciclovia, where they close down major streets for bike riding, jogging and walking.

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

Wooden furniture, Coffee and leather boots. Colombia is famous for its beautiful emeralds but they are very expensive.

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

Wooden furniture, Coffee and leather boots. Colombia is famous for its beautiful emeralds but they are very expensive.

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17. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel to Cartagena or other beach towns all the time.

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18. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel to Cartagena or other beach towns all the time.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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

Sandals and shorts.

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

Sandals and shorts.

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5. But don't forget your:

Umbrella and Raincoats.

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6. But don't forget your:

Umbrella and Raincoats.

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

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8. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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

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11. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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13. Do you have any other comments?

The threat of terrorism on behalf of the FARC, the Narcos and other armed groups is very real. You must follow the security officer's instructions to keep out of harm's way. The security situation has been better during the current administration but there is talk of it deteriorating soon. Just keep a heightened awareness and you will be fine.

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14. Do you have any other comments?

The threat of terrorism on behalf of the FARC, the Narcos and other armed groups is very real. You must follow the security officer's instructions to keep out of harm's way. The security situation has been better during the current administration but there is talk of it deteriorating soon. Just keep a heightened awareness and you will be fine.

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