Best Cities in Colombia

I"m new to this forum. Currently I live in Ecuador, but feeling like I will want to make a change next year. There are so many places to see in this world. I would like to hear from expats and locals about where you are in Colombia, and what areas you think are the best, and why.  I am thinking of moving to Colombia, but hardly know where to begin looking.  I'm hoping to be inspired by what you say.

Your inquiry is basically unanswerable without more information.  Colombia is at least three times bigger in population with almost 48 million versus Ecuador's 16 million.  It is also much bigger in area, almost 4 times as big as Ecuador.

The "best" area - it depends.  Do you like big city life, small city life, village life, or rural life?

Do you like the coast with ocean access, or mountains?  What climate are you looking for, hot or cooler, dry or not-so-dry?

Are you comfortable speaking only Spanish with very little English language?  Depending on where you go in Colombia you may find even fewer people who speak English than in Ecuador.

Although I spent several years as a child in Ecuador, I (currently) like Colombia more not in small part because most of my wife's family lives in Cali and I have been charmed not only by the family's openess and acceptance but also by that of the general population I have met, and the more cosmopolitan aspects of Colombia mixed with the many varied climates and the overall friendliness of the people.  My impression is that Ecuador is still a bit behind in modernity and infrastructure although in the big cities there's not much difference.

Bogotá is big, over 7 million, and due to the altitude is cool - and people also say the people are cool, if not cold.  It's a big city and has many problems but some love it.  It's probably the most cosmopolitan city in Colombia.

Medellín has a great climate and some say it is perfect in that respect, and among the most advanced cities in Colombia, it's the second largest, and many expats would say it is the most cosmopolitan and modern.

Santiago de Cali is the third largest city, hot, both in climate and ambience, the city of salsa, and "sucursal del cielo" with very friendly people but lots of crime although with care that can be avoided - crime is everywhere in Colombia but everyone's experience can be different depending on how you conduct yourself and yes, just also due to chance.  Ecuador probably is a bit safer but as I'm sure you know, there are always those who will prey on those perceived as "rich" and that's most foreigners.

And then there are the numerous smaller cities in Colombia each with their own atmosphere and weather and good and bad points - away from the larger cities things are cheaper and life is generally more laid back, with usually less crime and often with incredible vistas of mountains, but often with less amenities readily available.

Colombia has a more well-developed infrastructure of roads and transportation than Ecuador and it's easier to move about from place to place.  Plus with the US dollar now around 3000 Colombian pesos (and fluctuating up and down) your money goes a long way.  Certainly one can have an equivalent lifestyle in Colombia for less than half of what it would cost in the US and a bit cheaper than in Ecuador (your mileage may vary).  The economy in Colombia is strong and is not tied as much to oil as in some other countries, and for now they believe in a mostly free market which means fewer government price controls which means fewer shortages of consumer goods.

Colombia continues to be plagued with the guerillas of FARC and ELN in too many areas but peace talks are in motion.  In more rural areas this may be a consideration but in the bigger cities it is not.

Because of "income inequality" and the prevalence of crime, it is advisable not to "dar papaya" and show your wealth in public - nevertheless 99.99% of the Colombian people are hard-working and honest, and although life is not easy for many of them they are happy and well-adjusted in their outlook on life.  There is a government-set minimum salary in Colombia just as there is in Ecuador, and it's 689,454 pesos/month or just short of $236 USD per month at the current rate.  But only about 50% or so of the population is covered by that in "trabajo formal" - the rest are employed in "trabajo informal" meaning they get along as best they can by whatever work they can find.  And even "trabajo formal" is often just contract work for only periods of several months not subject to any automatic renewal.

You must also take into account that Colombia is debating the details of another "reforma tributaria" because the government's spending plans are too ambitious for the current  "take" from their citizens and foreigners.  If you spend 183 days or more in any 365 day period in Colombia you will be considered a Colombia resident for tax purposes and they will arrogate to themselves the right to tax you on your world-wide income.  The US and Colombia do not currently have any tax treaty in place to avoid double taxation but they already do have information sharing agreements in place so they will know what Colombian citizens earn in the US, and what US citizens in Colombia earn in the US, and they will tax them accordingly and at higher rates than in the US.  But you should consult a tax specialist in Colombia to make sure you get the latest information.

Hopefully others now in Colombia will chip in and give you more info - but you need to be more specific about what you are looking for, so they can give you specific and up-to-date information.

I want to thank you so much, OsageArcher, for your very thoughtful and helpful response.

I apologize for not being more specific; what I am mostly interested in is a small community or town with not too distant access to a larger one (with public transportation options), in a warmer climate. Given your comments, I can rule Bogota out. Way too many people for me! And the coolness (what I live with in Cuenca) is not my cup of tea. (Don't like 'cool' people, either). I'm generally not interested in beaches, but really want to live in a green scenery. I like green things and so tropical-type places appeal to me. That's it basically.  I'm kind of drawn to Cali (no particular reason) but see myself in a smaller place. I envision something between Cali and Medellin but no idea where, yet, maybe somewhere midway between them. I tend to like smaller cities and communities but would like to jump on a bus or train or whatever the public transport is and get to a big city without too much trouble or time. Not sure what that would be. Recently I read something about the "Coffee Triangle" and so curious to know more about that, too. Because Colombia is so much larger, I'm just trying to figure out where to begin exploring.

I speak intermediate Spanish but it's something I continue to work on.   Kind of interested in learning which cities are most popular with expats, and for what reasons to kind of suss out the possibilities and hear from peoples' experiences.  You've given me great info and other things to think about. You seem to have a lot of information and if you don't mind, I'd like to contact you with other questions, when they arise.

Again, thank you. I truly appreciate the effort you made to address my question.

You may also want to read the discussions and post your questions at … ombia.html

There are a number of posters there that live in Colombia and know the "Eje Cafetero" area as well as smaller cities in and around several of the bigger cities, and who can give you very specific answers.  The forum is kind of rough-and-tumble at times but you can get good, helpful answers.

Great Post #2 on this thread, Brother Archer. :top:

About the infrastructure you mentioned... can I expect decent road signage on my next Colombia trip -- which will be by car through Ipiales, Pasto, Popayán, Armenia and possibly to Medellín ?  I drove from the airport outside Quito, EC, into the city of Quito last night and was surprised how poorly marked the highways are relating to how to get back into the city.

Also, how can I get Colombia SOAT car-liability insurance before entering Colombia to show proof of it at the border?

cccmedia in Quito, Ecuador

globalwoman :

really want to live in a green scenery. I like green things and so tropical-type places appeal to me.  I read something about the "Coffee Triangle" and so curious to know more about that....

I just got back to Ecuador from two weeks in the Coffee Triangle (home of the fictional Juan Valdez), aka Eje Cafetero .. and I found it delightful.  The greenery you mentioned -- it’s unparalleled there in my experience.  The view from the Salento Mirador of the Cocora Valley will take your breath away.

I wrote about one of the three main coffee cities on this forum’s Armenia thread.  Use the Colombia forum welcome page’s search function to locate that thread.  If I had to relocate anywhere in the world outside Ecuador, it would likely be the Armenia-Salento area.

The Coffee Triangle weather is wonderfully mild, cooler than Medellín and much milder than the Cali heat, especially at Salento’s altitude where the air is particularly fresh.  Salento’s turnoff from the highway is only about a 15 minutes drive north of Armenia’s Portal del Quindío shopping mall.

The Parque de la Vida in Armenia -- a veritable green jungle within a city -- is not to be missed.

The main plazas in Salento and Filandia were delightful.

I’m not a big fan of Pereira’s ambience, although the people I met there were friendly and helpful.

cccmedia, from Quito, Ecuador

Maybe you should consider also "JARDIN" a small city with a perfect climate (around 22 degree C) but is not located near to bigger ones. It may take you about 4-5 hours by car or bus from/to Medellin. For more details on this city you may use this link: … 0antioquia

Thank you. I will check it out.

Thank you cccmedia!  Great info.  I always see your posts in the Ecuador group, too!  :-)

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