Ipiales, Nariño -- The Border Town

Today's PM mailbag brought a friendly message from VIP member Nards Barley about the Colombia border town of Ipiales where I have spent recent weeks.  Nards has been the unofficial mayor of the Greater Cuenca, Ecuador, Expat Community and initiated a thread on our Ecuador forum about comparisons between Colombia and Ecuador.

Noting that Ipiales is around 9,500-feet elevation -- similar altitude to Quito, Ecuador, where my condo is located -- Nards asked why I am currently staying in Ipiales.

FYI, Ipiales, near the Ecuador-Colombia Rumichaca border crossing in southwestern Colombia, has a population of about 143,000 (Wikipedia, from 2012 data).

Pronouncer:  ippy-AH-less, nah-REEN-yoh


Top Reasons Why I May Spend More Time in Ipiales in 2018 than in Medellín:

10.  Medellín, with a population of millions, is one of the most polluted cities in South America.  Ipiales being a smaller place whose economy is largely based on cross-border trade and not manufacturing .. is relatively much less polluted.

9.  Medellín is infamous for traffic problems that have only worsened in recent years as more locals drive cars and the big city population has grown, spurred by the peace makeover.  In comparison, Ipiales has mild traffic except during holiday weekends.  Even then, it's not like Medellín heavy traffic (6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays .. and on weekend nights).

8.  I can drive my Ecuador-plated car to Ipiales and thus have it with me for months at a time.  I made the multi-day drive from Quito to Medellín last year (December 2016) and won't be doing that obstacle course again.

7.  The weather in Ipiales suits me.  Wearing my jacket, I'd normally prefer walking around on a cold day in Ipiales (50's F.) .. to a hot one in Medellín (near 90 F).   Year-round highs in Ipiales average about 60 F. on a monthly basis. 

The high altitude in Quito was part of a combination of factors that made simple walking around difficult in my neighborhood.  In my sector of that city, Centro Histórico, those factors include hilliness and air pollution.  Ipiales, though hardly flat, is much less hilly -- and less polluted -- than my Quito neighborhood.  So, in general, it's easier to walk around without huffing and puffing.

6.  Cost-of-living comparison between Ipiales and the Gringo-friendliest/safest parts of Medellín is a joke.  I'm about to move into a one-month rental at a new Ipiales hotel with soundproofed windows (rare in Colombia in my experience) at a rate that works out to $11 a day.  That's a small fraction of what I was paying for a quality hotel in Poblado, Medellín, earlier this year (also monthly).

5.  Gran Plaza mall, the big mall in Ipiales, has a great selection of products at low prices.  Even on holiday weekends it's more civilized than the biggest, most crowded Medellín malls at crowded times.

4.  If I ever needed urgent medical care while in Colombia, the IESS hospital (costs covered by my monthly auto-debited payments) is a short distance away in Tulcán, Ecuador.  Medellín has highly-rated care, but it's not covered by Ecuador IESS .. and who knows what my travel insurance would really cover....

3.  It's easy to be a millionaire in Colombia.  My upcoming month at the "suites" hotel will cost me one million pesos.  That works out to $333 US.

2.  Less than ten minutes drive and I'm in beautiful Colombian countryside.  Not doable in that short time from the Golden Mile in Poblado.

And the #1 reason I'll spend more time in Ipiales...

1.  There's a sweet blackjack game in the Gran Plaza mall's casino  -- $3 minimum per hand, one to three hands per player.  Before play, during breaks and after playing, there are plentiful restaurants to choose from  in the mall food court .. a security-safe ATM .. and many shops including the Alkosto supermarket/electronics warehouse where the bargains draw thousands of shoppers from Ecuador every weekend of the year.

  -- cccmedia in Ipiales, Nariño

Thanks for the informative post, ccc. I wish Ipiales, as you describe it, were just a wee bit warmer! :)

I hear that.......Sounds like another border shopping center to me.......Get me closer to the beach.......What has happened to the cost of living factor in Ecuador since 4 yrs ago when I found it altogether bueno, bonito y barato..........? Has it lost that advantage as well as picked up some anti extranjero rencor (from what I gather on this and other expat forums).....Is everything cheaper now in Colombia or just electronics and certain items? Ecuador, like Costa Rica really has evolved into a tax crazy country unfortunately........

1.  Part of the story is Ecuador's tariffs, making imported goods including electronics more expensive.

2.  The rest of the story is the shift in currency values compared to the U.S. dollar.

Ecuador has been using U.S. dollars as its currency since Y2K, so its currency has long been in lockstep with the dollar.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, everything has become cheaper since early 2015 for dollarized Expats.   The dollar has 50 percent more buying power in Colombia compared to three years ago.

To see this graphically, google:  convert 1 USD to COP.  That will bring up the currency conversion chart of recent years showing the robust dollar growing from 2000 COP to the dollar in 2015 .. to about 3000 where it has hovered during 2016-17.

As of today, one US dollar is worth 3016 Colombian pesos.

To understand what this means...

1.  An Expat with dollars buying a late-model television in Colombia priced at 1,200,000 COP paid $600 US for the unit in 2015.

An Expat with dollars buying a TV in Colombia priced at the same 1,200,000 COP today pays $400 US.

2.  The dollarized Expat buying a condo in the Coffee Zone priced at 60,000,000 COP in 2015 .. paid $30,000 US.

Today, he can get a 60,000,000-COP condo in the same area fort $20,000.

cccmedia in Depto. de Nariño

I always like it when someone plays a place up and it then becomes inundated with gringos. it Paradise and kiss it goodbye....How many times have I seen it? But in any case, it usually happens in small countries or States, like Hawaii, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, but Colombia is probably big enuff to absorb it..........So CC, pick me out a nice one not far from a clean river and Im on my way pronto after the locura de Navidad.........

I cut short my blackjack session today at Ipiales's Ventura Casino.  I decided there was too much dust in the place from the construction they were doing on the casino floor.

Upon asking a pit supervisor what was going on, I found out that they are constructing a sportsbook about 20 feet away from the blackjack area .. complete with new countertops and several computer stations.

Of all the casinos where I have played blackjack in Colombia -- in Medellin and the Coffee Zone -- I had never seen or noticed a sportsbook in any of them.

Doing subsequent research on the Web, I discovered that casino gambling has been legal in Colombia since 1991, including sports wagering. 
Source: and

Online wagering is legal in Colombia too.

Coljuegos is the government agency that regulates casino gaming.  However, I have never been aware of a Coljuegos agent being present at any casino I visited.  In my experience, except for Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino regulators keep a really low profile -- you'd never know that they're around if you don't work for the casino.

The pit supervisor told me today that
wagering on all sports will be allowed at Casino Ventura's new sportsbook -- Major League Baseball, the NBA and NFL Football included.

cccmedia in Ipiales

There are brick-and-mortar stores for apuestas (bets) as well as on-line sites for sports bets and gambling throughout Colombia.

You can search for them in any city using a phrase like
colombia apuestas ipiales    or
colombia apuestas medellin   or just
colombia casas de apuestas

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