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Caribbean coastal zone questions (Baranquilla,Cienaga,Palomino..)

I ve been living in Quito for the past couple of years. Time for a change. I qualify for the pensionado visa for Colombia so can live there legally.

Been using Numbeo.com to look at cost of living in Colombia compared to Ecuador. The coastal zone  near Cartagena or Sata Marta  is attractive. If anyone here can shed light on what one might find in areas near Baranquilla or Cienaga, Palomino  or Riohacha, in the countryside around these places the information would be deeply appreciated. I remember being in Taganga  3 years ago (didnt care for it at all too many drunks too many tourists and too much noise) and being cautioned not to walk by myself to the Tayrona park several Km away on the coast because of robbers....... I dont have enough knowledge of the general Caribbean area to know  if someone wanting to live in a rural setting is going to be subject to this or not......

Many thanks
Expat

expat42451 :

I’ve been living in Quito for the past couple of years. Time for a change. I qualify for the pensionado visa for Colombia so can live there legally.

The coastal zone  near Cartagena or Santa Marta is attractive.... I remember being in Taganga ... cautioned not to walk by myself to the Tayrona park several Km away on the coast because of robbers....... I dont have enough knowledge of the general Caribbean area to know if someone wanting to live in a rural setting is going to be subject to this or not......
Expat

Dear Pat,

As someone who has been living here in Quito for two years, you will have a major weather adjustment to make.  You’ve visited the Colombia lowlands before, so maybe you need your memory jogged.  You’re moving from a place with 68 degree daily highs, Fahrenheit, to 88-plus highs, Fahrenheit, May to September.  Celsius:  Quito 20 C, Cartagena 31-plus C from May to September, almost as hot the rest of the year. 

Instead of schvitzing year-round and worrying about the robbers, consider a cooler place in Colombia.  Salento in the coffee region has mild weather like Quito even though its altitude is several thousand feet lower.  Armenia, just down the road from Salento, is a little warmer, just warm enough to enjoy year-round outdoor swimming.

If a “rural setting” is essential, you can find less populated districts in the same 'Coffee Axis' region.

cccmedia in Quito, Ecuador

expat42451 :

I qualify for the pensionado visa for Colombia so can live there legally.

The usual Expat advice applies in this case:  visit target area(s) first before you move.

You will get 90 days on a tourist stamp entering Colombia and -- according to the visa extension rules -- you should easily be able to extend that to 180 days if desired.

You may need a while to decide where to locate, as well as getting a better sense of how Colombia might work for you as a longer-term relocation country.

Your question about security as relating to rural living is an important one.  In most South American countries, an Expat deciding to live apart from other Expats and established populations would be setting himself up for trouble.  Doing so in rural, coastal Colombia could be dicey.

cccmedia in Ecuador

Hi ccmedia

Many thanks for the informative reply.  I  grew up in 90F temps  and lived in much the same  for the 10 years I lived south of Veracruz in Mexico but yours is an excellent reminder.

The security question is one I am more concerned about.  Several years ago I had friends around Canoa, North Americans who lived apart from others in a rural coastal setting. They were repeatedly robbed. I have also known people from Europe  who lived close to Tena in the Orient  who had  similar experiences and actually ended up abandoning property they purchased because of this.  What advice you give is excellent. I think I would like to live on the Caribbean side of Colombia close to Cartagena but without the high prices. Maybe Santa Marta or somewhere else.

Were I younger and either braver or way more foolish I would like to go explore the uninhabited coast north of Buenaventura, between there and the Panama border. I ve not done that , was warned off Buenaventura by Colombian friends in Medellin and elsewhere..... and have heard  stories about various groups operating in that region, people one doesnt want to run into. Besides I probably am too old to attempt such a thing......

Thanks again for the good advice and interest in replying.

Regards
Expat

expat42451 :

Were I younger and either braver or way more foolish I would like to go explore the uninhabited coast north of Buenaventura, between there and the Panama border. I have not done that, was warned off Buenaventura by Colombian friends.... and have heard  stories about various groups operating in that region, people one doesn’t want to run into. Besides I probably am too old to attempt such a thing.

Since the long-ago days of the Cartels’ heyday, Colombia’s government and military have done an exceptional job in breaking up the cartels and sending the remnants away from the cities.  Medellín is the shining example.

The cartel operatives have largely been marginalized to border and rural areas, where their nefarious activities affect fewer people.

These days, Colombia and Venezuela are probably the worst choices of all Spanish-speaking South American countries for an Expat retiree to go live in rural, under-protected areas.

Based on your posts, you’ve already gotten plenty of warnings.  Do the right thing.

cccmedia in Ecuador

Good advice from cccmedia, but I don't think it's quite fair to lump Colombia and Venezuela together.

Venezuela is a country now in the process of collapsing, with gangs roaming the streets looking for food and whatever they can steal - because the currency is so inflated and goods are so scarce, people are literally starving to death.  Those who can leave are doing it.

Colombia has a flourishing economy where consumer goods are readily available - if you have money.  But also if you have money, and as a gringo, you are a target because there is a lot of poverty.

It is often the case in Colombia that there is less crime in rural areas and small towns, than in the big cities - but if you don't speak good Spanish and know where to go and where not to go, you could wind up in trouble.

I've been in and around Buenaventura and areas of the rain forest inland which is overall very poor, much poorer than in and around Cali which is itself poor by Western standards.  During the day  it is fairly safe - but also I was always with my Colombian family members, one of whom is a brother-in-law who lives in Buenaventura with his family.

Without having family ties I would tend to view the experiences you relate of your friends in Canoa and Tena as being all too possible in many parts of rural Colombia also.

OsageArcher :

Good advice from cccmedia, but I don't think it's quite fair to lump Colombia and Venezuela together.

Venezuela is a country now in the process of collapsing, with gangs roaming the streets....

Without having family ties I would tend to view the experiences you relate of your friends in Canoa and Tena as being all too possible in many parts of rural Colombia also.

Brother Archer is quite right. :)  Colombia and Venezuela are worlds apart in many respects and should not be lumped together.  That was not what I was trying to do.  My comparison was for a limited purpose.

My point is that Expats are well-advised to be careful in Colombia to avoid isolated living scenarios where the remnants of the Escobar days could still be active -- rural / coastal areas being high on the avoid-this-place list.

cccmedia in Ecuador

ccmedia and osage archer

Thanks for the additional information. My girl friend is from Venezuela with family still in Caracas. So I get to share in many of the travails  her family experiences.......

Since I still surf (long board only now) I have  been curious about Buenaventura and the undeveloped west coast. I have been warned  away from there repeatedly so have not gone to explore. At  this point I probably will not.

I lived for 10 years in a small coastal Mexican village on the coast south of Veracruz....until increasing violence from the "drug war"  ended that life. I would be there still today were it not for that.

Interesting thought-- depending on what happens with the world situation in the near future, one wonders whether a disappearance of Plan Colombia and US  aid to that government, if  FARC and cartels might not be resurgent and cause chaos  as before. I was in Colombia in 1993 and again in 2012. The difference in  the country in the ensuing 9 years was marked. 

Regards and many thanks

Expat

cccmedia,

Do you stay in Quito or Armenia. I have visited Manizales once and Peireira. I used to live in Medellin but have wanted to try living in another part of Colombia. What makes you like Quito or Armenia over other cities?  Thanks B

Buenaventura they say is way too risky.

Caribbean is caribbean, you´ll find the same problems everywhere at the caribbean coast. I have lived there for many years. If you are not willing to suffer futher look for another place to live. Friends of mine living in "Jardin" a nice town in the country side located about 4-5  hours drive from Medellin and they are very happy there? Check it out at the Internet. If you also consider other places outside from Colombia use Numbeo and scheck it out: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/co … rrency=USD

sasha567 :

cccmedia,

Do you stay in Quito or Armenia?  I have visited Manizales once and Peireira. I used to live in Medellin but have wanted to try living in another part of Colombia. What makes you like Quito or Armenia over other cities?

Although I have lived in Quito for over three years, I find the low-oxygen altitude -- 9350 feet above sea level -- to be challenging to my energy levels.  So, since last month I have been spending time in Armenia and Eje Cafetero.  Armenia is thousands of feet below Quito’s altitude and I experience more energy.  I swim outdoors daily when I am here .. and hike around Parque de la Vide frequently.

Also, there is low-stakes casino blackjack here in Eje Cafetero (and elsewhere in Colombia).  Ecuador banned casinos as of 2011-12.

I would never live on the coast of Colombia -- too hot and humid at sea level this close to the Equator.

Since this is a thread about the coast, please visit us over at the Armenia threads of the Colombia forum for more information .. questions you may have .. and to post about Eje Cafetero / Armenia.

cccmedia, on the road in Eje Cafetero, Colombia

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