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Moving to Colombia..November 2017. Many questions

Hello all,
I have posted a couple of times on the Medellin forum.  However it is looking very much like I'll be starting my time in Colombia in Chinchina/Manizales.
I plan to arrive in early November, and I have arrangements for housing temporarily already.
I have many questions:
I plan to stay a few months initially to get connected in the Chinchina area, and get comfortable.
Then back to the states to do taxes and take care of a bit of personal business.
Then back to Columbia for a longer stint, probably some years.
Here are my first questions:
Telephone..I have an iPhone via Verizon...should I use it in Colombia or purchase a phone there?

Drivers license..first trip I don't plan to do any driving but I'll have an international DL.  However when I return I want to either bring my Motorcycle down or purchase a new motorcycle in Colombia...
So I'll need to find out about Columbian drivers licenses and motorcycle insurance.

Health Insurance:  I am 67 and in very good health,  but health insurance is a no brainer...gotta have it

Any general tips, advice, or information would be greatly appreciated.
Also, anyone who enjoys bicycles, motorcycles, tennis, astronomy, and good conversaton please get in touch

Any expats in Manizales, Periera, or the Chinchina area, I'd love to meet you when I get down there.
Thanks in advance
Dave Marquez

I'd bring the iPhone and see if it can be converted here inexpensively for use in COL.

Used, non-"Classic" vehicles are banned from import into Colombia.  Plan to buy here.

Bare-bones SOAT third-party insurance (covers the guy you hit) is readily available here.  When you obtain a cédula or national ID, you can upgrade to full coverage.

cccmedia in Medellín

All the action is in Colombia forum these days it seems.

Telephone..I have an iPhone via Verizon...should I use it in Colombia or purchase a phone there?

Verizon phones often use CDMA technology. Most cellular networks in Latin America use GSM technology. Therefore you may need to look into getting an unlocked GSM phone which probably can be bought cheaper in the States.

Marquezdl :

Any general tips, advice, or information would be greatly appreciated.

All Expats considering a life in Colombia should ascertain their tax liability in advance.

Colombia is no tax haven.  Worldwide income is theoretically subject to taxation at rates that have historically topped out at 33 percent.

I say theoretically because there are some creative accounting minds around.  Some Expat residents might owe no tax to Colombia depending on their situation and their accounting professional's creativity/advice.

Some Expats who love Colombia restrict their time in-country during any 365-day period to about 180 days .. to avoid tax-resident status and the requirement to file a tax return regardless of whether tax is actually owed.

cccmedia in Medellín

Another question I have is this.  I am not planning to have a residence in Washington state in the future. But I do want to maintain an "address" to recieve mail, and so that I can keep my drivers license and passport
Any suggestions?  PO box?  Mail forwarding service?  Does anyone here on the forum have experience with this?
Thanks
Dave

My motorcycle insurance costs $400,000 COP/ yr.  Paid around i think $ 100,000 COP for the license.  It seemed pretty painless to acquired the license.

Usually, here in Rionegro it takes up to two months to receive mail from the states.  I assume the pony express system is being used at times.

I had a phone from T-Mobile and they were not able to convert here in Colombia. 

I suggest buying some phone cards such as Orbital.

i am from Washington State and for over 5 years I have just used a relatives, and found this ok.  I still use a Washington address for my Social Security with direct deposit into my Credit Union then using debit cards to convert dollars to pesos monthly.  I guess there are cheaper senerios if 1%  hurts your $$ budget.  I have no bank in Colombia nor do I want one, but again that is just my view.

Greetings,

your post was inspirational enough to get me to sign up and reply.

Get used to emphasizing that las "a" in Chin-ChinAA

There are some ammmmmazing roads for 2 wheeling around here, so I'm guessing you will love it.


<-iPhone via Verizon...should I use it in Colombia or purchase a phone there?->

Many folks still think that Verizon sells phones that don't use SIM cards or that are somehow not worthy of global usage.
Fact is, Verizon sells unlocked devices and that started when they received their FCC licensing for LTE, it was part of the provisioning to get the frequencies they wanted.
(non believers, just go use Google)
So if your iPhone is a 6s or later from Verizon you will be 100% fine.
Starting with the 6s, the iPhone became a fully compatible global phone.
I personally have multiple Verizon phones here and just his past week received an S8.
My best piece of advice here on this topic will be to NOT get involved with Claro.

In Colombia all cell phones must be registered by their IMEI. Its a good system that is supposed to help with cutting back on theft. So, your carrier of choice will want you to register your IMEI and state that its yours, you bought it and its not stolen.
I currently have accounts with Movistar and Tigo and the regsitration is simple, takes about 3 minutes online and no issues.
Claro, will make you jump through hoops, will activate your device, then a week later they may cut it, a week later they ask for you to send in a proof of purchase, then you have downtime while they process/wait for that... all to then cut your service again cause they can't verify sales outside the country.
Unless you buy a phone directly from Claro, its just not worth the headaches.
Plus Claro is so dam popular that their networks often get vey congested at peak times.

<----Drivers license..first trip I don't plan to do any driving but I'll have an international DL.  However when I return I want to either bring my Motorcycle down or purchase a new motorcycle in Colombia... ---->

Your USA license is good enough for 6 months from your last entry as shown in your passport. in my first year, I simply carried my USA license and a photo of my last entry stamp on my phone. But no worries, getting a local license is easy and I would recommend you get one for moto and car at the same time. There are tons of "schools" where you can go, show them your USA license -skip the training and just pay to the get the license. You will need to dedicate a whole day to this, as the paperwork is slow and they will send you for a doctors visit.

Sell the Moto you have now, on eBay.
I left behind a F800GS and a lovely DR650....
Came here and now I have a Colombia assembled AKT 180TTR ...
rough transition, but you know what, If the thing gets stolen, knocked over, etc I can just go buy a new one with out a blink. The motor is grossly underpowered, I often have to give way to bigger bikes, climbing the hills in Manizales screams in first gear... and you know what.
I enjoy this bike more that you can imagine.
But don't worry, there are plenty of big man bikes to be had here, you just have to be ready to pay about double what you are used to.

<---Health Insurance:  I am 67 and in very good health,  but health insurance is a no brainer...gotta have it--->

can't comment on this one as I'm still with out it.
Been sick a few times and just simply showed up at the hospital and payed cash.
Last time I went in, saw a doctor got blood work and it came out to 23,000 COP


<----But I do want to maintain an "address" to recieve mail, and so that I can keep my drivers license and passport ----->

as long as you remain a US Citizen you will also want to have an address on file with the IRS. I use a service based in Texas. They receive all my mail, its my legal USA Address for IRS, credit cards, bank and my US employer. They receive my mail and send me scans of the envelopes. I can then choose to have them open the mail and scan all the contents, I can tell them to shred it or I can tell them to bundle all I have there and send to another location.

Washington has no income tax, so you could be good keeping an address there, just keep in mind that these services make life easier. Most times family friends want to help, but it turns in to a pain in the a** down the road.
I'm a former VT resident and therefore went to a Texas address to break free from VT claims on income tax.

In Florida I have a forwarding service that can receive my bundled mail as well as packages from Amazon, eBay -then they ship to Colombia and deliver straight to my hands. They are solid, fast and I feel very economical for what they do. They take care of all the customs/import paperwork as well as import taxes.
So far all my orders have been small and amazing.
Bought a $180 rice cooker on Amazon, it took a week to get here for $32
Bought a new Samsung S8 directly from Verizon, it also got here within a week and only cost $16

Same here. Left Washington ST. 3 yrs ago but use a friends mailing address. I live in Santa Marta and they is no mail system here

Just recieved a letter yesterday that was sent six months ago from the states.  Told my wife that you just can't beat the postal services in Colombia.

yeah, you def need some intermediate services.
air travel is expensive, so items default to container on boat shipments and six months for a letter is not really effective means of transferring information these days.

not sure how links are handled in this board so here goes nothing;;;

in the US I use a company in Texas for normal mail and legal address
https://www.usglobalmail.com

When needed, I have them bundle and send to the casillero service in Florida and they then deliver to my hands in Colombia. Ironically enough, 4-72 is the Colombia postal service...
https://casillerovirtual4-72.com.co

bundles of mail reach me within a week and although the 4-72 policies states that they will not deliver credit cards, I have received one and I have never received an opened bundle from us global. I know cause they use their own logo tape.

4-72 are also the same folks bringing all my Amazon orders.

Pro Tip:
get a Schwab Checking account set up now, before moving down.
100% free ATM withdrawals because they refund fees at the end of every month.

Id keep the i phone at home and buy a BLU with multiple sim cards for cheap. Likely not able to use your USA cell except to receive calls. Buy a Colombian SIM with a monthly plan, likely 10$ or so. Bring a back up phone, again a BLU. Write down all your contacts on paper too. Manizales is a good choice. enjoy.

Yes, Manizales is a good choice if you dont mind steep hills and lots of rain.......Nice city in all respects.......Actually anywhere in the eje cafetero works quite nicely......what btw, is a BLU?  Sorry, I dont do well with acronyms.....they drive me batsht crazy to be candid..........

Blu is a brand of cellphone. If it is an acronym as well, beats me.

Bold Like Us.

Photos and info at the company website www.bluproducts.com/android-phones

Oh.........jajaja........right...one of those Chino cheapies............How silly of me...........

Yes, silly...

I have bought two BLÜ phones and they are an excellent value.  The latest one I have has Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with a quad-core processor and for many things it's as fast or faster than an ordinary mid-range desktop computer.  The phone does not come with a lot of "bloatware" and it functions perfectly, the touch screen is very responsive, clear and crisp with excellent resolution (they make one, not my model, that's I believe a 5" screen with full HD resolution, 1920x1080).

In the future I will also consider buying another BLÜ phone, they have worked so well and for much less cost than the "name" brands.  You can find a good selection of them described and for sale on the website of that giant company that's named after a really big river in S.A.

My Blu worked great for 3 years, smartphone and all. Dual sims and 80 bucks at Walmart, but Best buy has the same and same price. They are very durable. I wuld still be using it if i hadnt been robbed last month in Cali. Anyways, 80 bucks for 3 years is pretty good.  Blu GRand M, $79 is not fastest but works well.

Well, it appears that Blu has come a long way since the last time I noticed them. But looking at the prices, I dont see any real advantage over a Samsung J5 which I have: https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Galaxy-J … 5+unlocked

BLU stands for Bold Like Us. Its a phone manufacturer from Miami.
I use an android BLU dual SIM in MDE all the time. You will need to register it at Claro or Tigo when you purchase your SIM. Works like a charm. I purchased a very nice one on Amazon for about $80.

I lived in the manizales pereira area 5 years ago. I will be retiring there next year. Keep me in your friend loop. Mkj01[at]aol.com
I decided to retire in my early 50. I have own properties in Brasil ( rio and rcife, but Brasil is dangerous despite the fun level, high inflation). I have lived in th Dominican Republic as well ( cheap cost of living in Santiago but country wide education level yields to a lot of poverty and crime). I always felt safe in Colombia. The nicest people I ever met. However, never take things for granted. I will split my time between Colombia and Thialand due to Colombia 183 day stay and world wide tax issues on income.

Tell me more about using the service in Texas. Texas has no state taxes. That way , if I have a residence or address there, I will not have to pay the 6 percent la state taxes. Write me at mkj0[at]aol.com

Marquezdl :

Drivers license..first trip I don't plan to do any driving but I'll have an international DL.  However when I return I want to either bring my Motorcycle down or purchase a new motorcycle in Colombia...

I've been in Colombia for the past eleven-plus months and get stopped by tránsito and police from time to time checking my documents.  I never have had a problem showing my Ecuador drivers license to the authorities. 

Theoretically, I should have gotten a cédula within six months of my TP visa approval last March.  However, when national Inmigración showed up at my hotel and shuttle me to their Popayán office threatening to fine me last week, they did not do so.  They discovered I had properly applied for the cédula in Quindío (though did not receive it) .. and gave me permission to pick it up on my next trip to Colombia.  (Once you get a cédula, you are supposed to apply for a Colombia drivers license if you plan to drive in Colombia.)

My car has Ecuador plates and has to be out of Colombia by December 1 (2017) based on the second of my two vehicle-permit extensions from DIAN.  So it will have been in Colombia almost a full year if I exit on that date, with me driving it on an Ecuador license the whole time.

Don't rely on the above-mentioned international driver's permit aka "international DL."  It's probably a mail-order scam and the authorities will want to see your national government-issued license.

cccmedia, near the Colombia-Ecuador border in Ipiales, Nariño, Colombia

ch33br0h :

There are tons of "schools" where you can go, show them your USA license -skip the training and just pay to the get the license. You will need to dedicate a whole day to this, as the paperwork is slow and they will send you for a doctors visit.

This nugget from Ch33 about how to easily get a Colombia drivers license is just one of several valuable 'consejos' in his above post.  In Ecuador two years ago, they waived the on-road drivers test for me and I got an EC drivers license off my almost-expired USA drivers license.  However, the paper trail was long and arduous .. and it took many months.

Good job, Ch33. :top:   I suggest that new arrivals to Colombia re-read or print out your entire post as a reference on how to deal with various Colombia trámites.

cccmedia in Departamento de Nariño near the Ecuador border

ch33br0h :

the 4-72 policies states that they will not deliver credit cards....

4-72, Colombia's putative mail service, is so named apparently because these numbers designate a location in the geographic center of La República.

So they refuse to deliver credit cards, huh?  Thanks a lot, 4-72! :mad:

That explains why my USA bank twice attempted to send me an ATM Visa card at my then-hotel in Medellín this year just after my USA bank card expired.  When the card(s) didn't arrive, the USA bank told me the shipment(s) were untrackable, so the bank apparently was trying to use the maldito 4-72 for delivery, unaware of 4-72's exciting policy of not delivering credit cards.

My backup card from another USA bank was valid but not working (for awhile) at local ATM's and I was reduced for several weeks to repeatedly buying casino chips with the second card and then washing the chips into cash at the casino 'cage' after a blackjack playing session in whatever casino.  (Fortunately, the second bank's ATM card was honored at hotels and vendors, just not ATM's at first, reducing my cash on hand to a low level until I found out that the Medellín casinos sold chips to USA bank-card holders.)

Finally, I found an ATM that accepted the second card regularly and I dropped the casino-chip strategy.

I mention the strategy as it may be useful to others in an emergency.  Also, to point out the importance of having a backup ATM or bank card.

My first USA bank finally send a third replacement card to my home address in Quito, Ecuador, so that should be waiting for me when this extended Colombia trip ends.  Since moving to Ecuador in 2013, I have never had a problem receiving a bank card in the EC mails.  Correos of Ecuador may be slow, but their shortcomings pale in comparison to what's been posted on the Internet about Colombia's 4-72 cluster-f***'s.

cccmedia near the Colombia-Ecuador border

I don't have any direct experience with this but others report that the 4-72 service is mostly good but only if you use the 6-digit código postal appended after the address.

This number can be found for any location in Colombia using this zoomable, clickable map:

http://visor.codigopostal.gov.co/472/visor/

You can also input an address in Colombia and (maybe) get back the postal code, although this has not always worked well for me:

http://www.codigopostal.gov.co/

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