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

Personal Experiences from Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia 09/30/07

Background:

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

I have travelled all over Latin America and lived in many places over the last 9 years including Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Argentina. I have been in Colombia for 4 years.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Own a business here: http://www. LaCasaMedellin.com

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

Miami to Medellin is daily on AA or Avianca. I do not know from Europe but there should be many flights to Bogota daily. There are several flights a day from Bogota to Medellin.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses are in all prices ranges from next to nothing to millions of dollars. Same with apartments.

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

Local products such as meat and vegetables are cheaper than in the U.S. However, anything imported is much more. Almost everything is available in large grocery stores such as Carrulla, Marco, Callifor and Exito.

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

Nothing except personal things. Electronics here are twice the price as in the USA so I know a lot of people who ship them in on the airplane, since they normally do not tax things that are brought through the airport. However, if you ship something through a courier you will pay taxes which are very high.

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

McDonald's, KFC and many Colombian versions of fast food such as Frisby (friend chicken), Kokorico (roasted chicken) and several others.

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Daily Life:

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

450,000 pesos a month which right now is equal to US$210. Readily available.

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2. 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 unreliable and usually only allow the equivalence of US$150-$200 per transaction. However, they are readily available, so if one is broken there is usually another close by.

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

I doubt there are services in English. Everyone is Roman Catholic.

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

DirecTV is available with some channels in English, such as CNN and FOXNEWS. About $60 US a month for a good package. The local cable company also has some channels in English. Most Hollywood movies are in English with Spanish sub-titles.

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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?

Few people speak English here. It is best to speak passable Spanish.

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

I really would not know. However, I can say that as the owner of a hotel I was required by law to install ramps for wheelchair access.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as the United States.

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

When you call a taxi they record everything in a computer in case there is a problem. There are stories of people being kidnapped by taxi drivers, but I have never known this to happen to anyone after 4 years of living in Colombia. Buses in the city are safe, but I would absolutely not take a bus in the countryside. Both buses and taxis are affordable.

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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?

Only brand new cars/trucks can be imported and are subject to a tax of up to 84%. Cars are very expensive here due to these rules. Cars also keep their value much more than anywhere I have been. It is cheaper and easier to buy a car here than to import one. SUVs are the most popular. Carjackings are not common.

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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?

1.5 megabyte DSL connection is about US$100 a month. Slower speeds of DSL start at $40. WiMAX and cable are also available for around the same price. The services are not as good as they could be but still passable. I am presently using all three types of services and would recommend the Internet on cable.

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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?

Pay-as-you-go phones are readily available and cheap. Getting a contracted monthly phone is almost impossible without residency.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

There are businesses everywhere offering phone services where you pay per minute.

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Pets:

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

Good. I have two cats and they are well cared for.

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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 doubt it. If you start your own business here then it is possible to make money, but working for someone else is unlikely to pay well. Some people teach English for private schools, but the pay is low.

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

Most people wear long pants and semi-formal in the day time. But dressing down is no big deal except perhaps at a nightclub.

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Health & Safety:

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

On busy streets pollution is HORRIBLE due to do old buses that ooze out diesel fumes. Away from the busy streets it is good and in the mountains it is great.

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

The upper class areas where I live are as safe as anywhere I have traveled. The poor areas are a different story. Colombia is not as bad as most people think. In four years of living in Colombia I have never even seen a mugging or a fight.

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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 is good private medical care if you have money or insurance. If not, they unplug the machine and you die. Probably the capital for plastic surgery in all of Latin America.

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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 changes little year-round except when it rains more.

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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, but there are international schools here that teach in English.

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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?

No personal experience, but there is a preschool next door to my house that seems very nice.

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Expat Life:

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

Small, perhaps a couple hundred people scattered around.

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2. Morale among expats:

Most would not know what this word means.

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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 clubs, bars, nightlife. Thousands of people in Parque LLeras most nights, especially Thursday to Saturday.

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

If you are a single male you will not be lonely.

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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?

There is no political correctness here, so often people will make comments about race that would not be said in the United States. However, other than a few off-color comments, there is little racial tension. Most Colombians are a mixed race.

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

Many restaurants, bars, clubs and nightlife. Driving through the mountains is beautiful. Cable car rides, horseback riding, farms, water park, etc.

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

A bottle of Medellin Rum.

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9. Can you save money?

Maybe, but this is not something I can answer.

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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 clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Killing Pablo

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


It is both fiction and non-fiction depending on who you talk to.

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


It is both fiction and non-fiction depending on who you talk to.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Check out the hotel I am building: http://www. LaCasaMedellin.com

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