Essentials to live in Colombia


As an expat living in Colombia, what would you advise the ones about to pack to bring along?

What are the items you can easily find in Colombia? On the other hand, what is less common or quite expensive?

Share with us what you would recommend to bring in one’s suitcase or container when moving to Colombia.

Thank you in advance,


One thing I was surprised to see was how expensive (considering the quality) linens were. We brought towels, sheets and bedding with us from the U.S. and I'm so glad we did--we paid about 1/3 the price in the U.S. than the cost of similar quality things here.

Electronics are also really expensive, especially if you have loyalty to a certain brand (i.e. Apple). Keeping an eye on expat forums (like this one) is a great idea because you can get some great deals on furniture, TVs and appliances when people move. As far as what is cheap/readily available, I'd say that cookware and dishes are reasonably priced. Also, quality wooden and leather furniture (even custom made) is well priced compared to the U.S.

I wrote a blog post about this exact topic, if you want to check it out

I agree about the linens and electronics being more expensive here. To that I would add quality clothing and furniture. I consistently bring coconut oil from the u.s. because it's scarce and expensive here, which is a shame given the large amount of coconut trees on the Caribbean coast where I live.

Many (not all) medicines are cheaper and prescriptions seem to be a suggestion here, so that might work out in your favor.

If I had it to do all over again, I would only bring what fits in no more than six suite cases.  Some things, like electronics, are a little more expensive here but, they are not more costly than the cost of shipping them. 

I've been living here for ten years now and haven't wanted for much, that I cannot find.  Cars are much more expensive here but, unless you are attached to the American Embassy (i.e., work there), you cannot import cars, period.  Even then it's difficult.

My advice is to bring as little as possible and do not ship anything via common carrier.  Colombia is not a third world country and you can buy just about anything you want here.

You can transfer money to your bank account, which you can open once you get a cedula (ID card), however, you must show proof of your source of funds.  At Bancolombia, you can open an account (savings is recommended) and transfer up to $5,000 (USD) per month with no documentation of proof of source.  I don't know about the policies of other banks.  Be careful about the FATCA reporting rules.

Bienvenidos a colombia!

Clothing -  Shirts and jeans.  the cost and the QUALITY much better from the States.  Electronics -  the same.  I'm not just talking about cells and computers either,  but kitchen appliances.   Until I moved to Colombia over 7 years ago I never knew that many products which I thought were the same,  are not.  Different Countries receive different quality from the same manufacturer.  I was surprised.   I am actually going to go to Fla  for the first time in 5 years in 2 weeks just to shop.   Thanks to PRICESMART now being in Colombia things are much better for other things than a few years ago.  If you haven't been to a Pricesmart,  it's Costco  in Colombia.

Make it a great day......

That's funny, I now wait until I get to Cali to buy shirts and jeans!  The quality and worksmanship is fine, especially jeans from Arturo Calle or Pat Primo, and I have many shirts and jeans bought in Cali from various shops in various malls in Cali that are now 7-8 years old and still in great shape.  The prices are better too, especially for shirts, jeans not so much.

Dear Christine,

As the others have said before me, bring your computer, laptop and telephone.  Electronics here are rubbish and service is poor.  Just buy a local SIM card and smartphone plan and you will be fine.

I wish I had brought a European mattress and pillows with cotton sheets with us but otherwise everything else is here.

Women's clothing is good but men's clothing is again poor quality compared to Europe and the sizes are small. 

Food is good but any speciality foods that you may want can generally only be obtained in the north of Bogota.

Your main focus should be obtaining a Cedular Extrajeria and then opening a bank account with a major bank.

Good luck,


1.  Domino's Brown Sugar (for baking).
2.   Agree on sheets. The designs here are not great and prices are high for the quality.   
3.  Big ladies and ladies with big feet, buy clothes and shoes before you come to Colombia.
4.  Plastic food storage containers with lids are expensive. $3-$10+ each.

Bring dog poison

Hello everyone,

Thank you for your contribution.

I would like to inform that i removed some posts from this thread as they were completely off topic.

We can now get back on the initial subject of the thread.

Thank you,

Markcol, I am currently stuck in the States after living in B'manga and some time in Bogota.  I MISS BUCARAMANGA AND COLOMBIA!   You, and all of you, are lucky to be there in such a beautiful country with such good food, nice climates, etc..  Yes, there are difficulties or inconveniences - bank lines, "rule of papaya," unreasonable traffic situations.  BUT, there is walking down to Mercagan in B'manga for the best burgers in the universe!  And, going to get fried chicken at Marvilla is something that can't be denied as anything but having the most wonderful fried chicken anywhere.  And, the juices!  I am hungry just thinking of it all.

The inconveniences are annoying.  The price for clothes is absolutely unreasonable, and the price of linens also.  But, really how many linens and clothes do you need?   A shift of values and thinking is one of the joys of living in a different country.  Some prices are ridiculous, but so is the wonderful weather, the food, the evening walks, the fact of no AC being needed, and oh so much more. 

And, probably an expat can travel easily to the States for better prices just as do all the rest of South America who can afford it.  The malls here are full of people pulling suitcases full of stuff to go back.

Personally, I won't drive from B'mange to Bogota or many places because I am not sharp enough to figure out what should not happen, but I ride those roads and enjoy the ride, as long as the driver is Colombiano with solid experience.  I just don't drive there, but I do use taxies or travel with friends.  I am the one lacking in adapting skills, I see, but I surely do enjoy being there and adapting to what i can.
And, the people are friendly, helpful and are the ones in the airports laughing.

For anyone moving there, go with open eyes to enjoy all that you never expected, and find a home.   Do not be afraid, but do be cautious and learn the ropes.  Yes, you should be careful when walking the streets, especially at night, but the care ought to be given to the people who surround you as well as the traffic when you want to cross the street.

It is a magnificent country to be savored.

what a sad comment.

I agree with everybody about the linen and towels.  Finding linen with a 500 or more thread count is almost impossible to find.

A wide assortment of spices is hard to find. 

Finding good grades of meat is difficult to find.  Most of what is available requires a chisel to cut the meat. 

The availability of purchasing books in English language is hard to find.  Expensive to ship from the states using Amazon.  Load up on dvd movies in the English language with Spanish subtitle.  Your loved one will enjoy watching with you.  Purchase a DVD player in the U.S. if you plan on playing CD or DVD's that you brought with you. 

Good tools are hard to find.  Purchase a good set of screwdrivers and socket set before moving here. 

Simple things like stationary is difficult to find.  Envelopes are tissue paper thin and notebooks are hard to find. 

The cost of shipping mail to the states is expensive.  Sent six letters to states last weekend that cost me $30.00. Each time that I ship they always open my letters.  Looking for drugs I assume?

Plan on it taking 4 to 6 weeks to recieve mail or a package from overseas and then you will probably pay a tax on the shipment.

Texas Bred......

I want to respond to some of your comments here today.

I can find good grades of meat at the one Medelllin Price Smart - I near Envigato and also in Cali & Bogota) (which is a salvation for Americans looking for imported American foods, and many other grocery store products, plus small appliances). It is also the only place I can buy milk (albeit Lactaid) in half-gallon bottles, instead of the small plastic bags of milk sold everywhere else.

I have also found excellent (tho pricey) pre-packaaged New York Steaks  at LaCarrulla supermarkets.

Home Center (like Home Depot in USA) is an excellent place for all sorts of tools, building, electrical and plumbing supplies, as well as home appliances and more. They are all over Medellin.

For office supplies, check out the Office Depot store on Poblado Blvd a few blocks from Oveido and Santa Fe CC.

As for shipping, I avoid high shipping costs for the many things I order online from USA by using -  They are a Colombian shipping company based in Miami, and their charges are very reasonable. I have things from Amazon, PayPal, ,  (groceries from a choice of supermarkets), spices, clothes, software, DVDs and more all shipped to TCC....who can consolidate small shipments and then handle the Colombian Customs paperwork and duties and deliver things to my front door in Medelllin in about 4 to 5 days from when it leaves TCC Miami. And all for very reasonable fees.  And if you keep each shipment's value under $200, the Colombian Customs duty is only 10% (vs 29% for shipments valued above $200).

I pay all my USA bills (credit cards, etc) using my bank's Bill Pay function, which is easy and fast to do. I use to send any documents (and letters) to USA, as well as use to receive faxes from USA which are converted to e-mail attachments e-fax sends to me. Otherwise, I use e-mail to communicate to most people.

Also, on my Claro Cable TV system, I get over 300 channels, many in HD, and many (including the many premium channels) now have an English vs Spanish language option for each channel.

As far as I am concerned, Life Is Good here in Medellin !

Great advice on PriceMart which does offer some of the best meats.  But the price of ribeye steaks is more than I am willing to pay.  You can find T bone steaks at the Indiana Plaza and I was fortunate to find some Louisiana Tabasco Sauce there as well.   I do miss Jimmy Dean's breakfast sausage and Italian sausage

Home Center here in Colombia is nothing compared to say either a Lowe's or a Home Depot. 

I will look into finding an alternative method of shipping over special items.  I will add that an essential item for me is the purchase of a good fan such as Lasco brand.  There are times in Medellin when the temperatures can get toasty during the day.

The top 10 items I'm glad to have brought with me to Colombia from the States, though now I'm leaving for good and reselling everything (send me a PM if you want to come take a look)!

1.) Earplugs (it's noisy here)
2.) White noise machine (ditto)
3.) Cast iron pots by Lodge 
4.) Sea salt
5.) Quality tools, power and manual
6.) Electronics in general (are inferior and expensive here)
7.) Books (the editing, printing, and binding is of bad quality here, in both English and Spanish. Most books are missing pages, with teensy print, Bible-thin pages, backward spines, and so riddled with errors that it's painful to read)
8.) Women's pants (they are all for show here: fake pockets, butt-lifting, and sequined, but not functional or comfortable)
9.) Yoga mat
10.) Camping/hiking/outdoor gear

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