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The internet is inconsistent when it comes to costs in Colombia: some say that costs are average yet others say that costs are one of the highest in South America.

Some areas of Colombia are still considered dangerous to tourists, although the major cities are generally deemed safe as long as you take the normal precautions.

The train service in Colombia is limited.

Colombia to / from Ecuador

  • Bus: From Ecuador travel to Tulcan to get a taxi over the border. Get your stamps and then take another taxi to Ipiales, from here you can travel to anywhere in Colombia.
  • Flight: Bogota to Quito one way €246 | 5hrs 45


Old Cartagena (rumoured to be one of the most expenses locations in South America)

A beautifully restored coastal gem of spanish colonial architecture. Nearly 7 miles of city walls enclose flowering patios, wooden balconies, narrow back streets, mansions, fine restaurants, cafes, and palm-lined plazas.

The city can feel like Old Havana. Indications are that it may prove to be one of the more expensive places on my itinerary.

Santa Marta

Although not as glamorous as its neighbor, cool and cultured Cartagena, you can still find pleasant plazas, old churches and tree-lined streets in the atmospheric city – despite the fact that things are a little rough around the edges. Parque de los Novios is one bustling hangout with locals and backpackers enjoying drinks in open air restaurants and quirky bars.

For Colombian holiday-makers, Santa Marta is one of the most popular getaway destinations who revel in the sea, sun, muchos rum and ‘brisa loca’ (Santa Marta’s Caribbean breeze), whilst backpackers mainly use the city as a base to explore the surrounding Caribbean coast, nearby national parks and jungle adventures. Just a stones throw away you’ll encounter some of the country’s most amazing coastline at Parque Nacional Tayrona, and it’s also the most popular place to organise a trek to Ciudad Perdida, the pre-hispanic Lost City, Colombia’s answer to Macchu Picchu.


Monthly budget: US$1,800. Monthly rent: US$500.

Colombia is the world’s top up-and-coming retirement haven. Specifically, Medellin, Colombia’s city of flowers and eternal springtime, offers a very appealing and competitive retirement lifestyle option. Medellin is a pretty place with strong Euro-undertones, meaning it’s a chance to embrace a sophisticated, cosmopolitan retirement on a modest budget. The world just hasn’t figured that out yet.

Medellin makes a good impression immediately and on many levels. Architecturally, this city is lovely. Built almost entirely of red brick, with most every structure topped by a red clay tile roof, the place is pleasing in its consistency, especially when viewed from some height.

Day-to-day costs in Medellin are on par with those in Panama City, which is to say they’re not ultra-bargain basement. The cost of living here would be greater than in Ecuador or Nicaragua.

The real cost advantage of Medellin is its real estate. The market today reminds me of the Panama City market when we first began paying close attention to it, about a decade ago. That is, it qualifies as a screaming bargain.

El Poblado, in the heart of the city, is the top end of the market, for both renting and buying. Here you’re looking at US$1,000 to US$1,500 per square meter to purchase resale (sometimes furnished); US$1,500 to US$2,000 per square meter to buy new; and US$1,000 (for a one-bedroom) to maybe US$3,000 (for a luxury-level penthouse) per month to rent, furnished.

Again, that’s the top of the market. In less recognized, more local neighborhoods, those prices can fall in half and more. Right now you can rent, for example, a one-bedroom apartment in the Laureles neighborhood for as little as US$450 / 850,000 pesos a month, maybe less.


Population: 2.4 million
Climate: Springlike year-round; the average temperature is a pleasant 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the city is in the mountains, nights can be cool and humidity isn’t an issue.
Access to health care: Five of the top hospitals in Latin America are in Medellin. Affordable, high-quality health care has made the city a popular destination for medical tourism. (Note: Medicare does not cover overseas medical care.)
Cost of living: A retired American couple could live comfortably on $1,500 a month in Medellin. A small apartment in the center of the city costs about $75,000.
The draw: Unlike other popular retirement spots in Latin America, Medellin isn’t overrun with foreign expats, so real estate is still relatively affordable.

My Initial Thoughts…

My tourism and retirement targets are:

  • Anywhere on the Caribbean Coast
  • Cartagena
  • Medellin

I get mixed messages about the costs in Colombia. I also get mixed messages about the overall safety of Colombia.

I remain unconvinced about Colombia. But, it is on the International Living Retirement Index, so I can’t ignore it completely.

I will be coming to South America from Panama. This means that one of my options is to come into Colombia via Cartagena or Bogota.

Depending on what I discover between now and then, I may visit Colombia on my way to Ecuador.

If I do, I will almost certainly check out Cartagena on the northern Caribbean Coast.

I may pass through Medellin and / or Bogota as I make my way south but both are landlocked and unlikely to appeal to me as prospective retirement locations.

The next stop in my journey will be Ecuador.

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