Moving to Medellin in May and I have questions!

[1] Pensionada visa: It isn't clear to me if there are things I need to be doing now in the four months before I make the move, or if that's an issue I'll have to deal with after I get to Colombia.
[2] Health Insurance: I would appreciate other expats' insight on this issue.
[3] Cell Phone: What providers offer the best service at a reasonable cost? Will I be able to use my unlocked Galaxy S6? What cellphone stores are recommended?
[4] My current plan is to visit Medellin a week in April, hopefully find a small furnished apartment in Laureles/Estadio area, preferably near the university. Any thoughts or advice about that?
[5] Motor scooter: My plan is to buy a motor scooter (probably new) fairly soon after arriving. How big of a pain in the wazoo can I expect? What are the pitfalls? What do I need to know? Scooter license? Drivers license? Insurance?
Any and all input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

From my observations during my visit to Medellin, I would say your biggest pitfall will be staying alive for more than a few weeks if you indeed go ahead to buy a scooter/moto. I suspect you may change your mind about that once you get into the city from the airport. That should be enough time to demonstrate the insanity of the urban riding techniques. I say that as a long-time M/C rider in North America.

Even in the smaller and more placid city of Armenia during a 2 day period I saw more than one instance of a moto rider sprawled bleeding and unconscious (or worse?) on the pavement.

Outside of the big cities it is less dangerous on a moto but still more dangerous than it should be due to the way people drive, and due to road and natural hazards.

Every week you can read about multiple deaths from motos, which lose every time - the bus or car or tree or bridge abutment always wins.  Sometimes the moto and an animal both lose.  Sometimes it's two motos hitting each other.  Here are some hits (no pun intended): … AtwdmbfJn0

Dear Bob,

Here are some thoughts on some of your issues.

Motos:  Follow the guidance of Steve and Brother Archer .. and don't risk life and limb in the big city on a moto.  If you move to La Ceja, Rionegro, Retiro or another suburb, it's a different story.  Get back in touch with us at that point.

Pension visa:  This is something that can be handled when in Colombia.  I did it last year (2017) for the first time, using Langon Law Firm of Medellín without ever leaving Quindío.  Arrive in Colombia on the customary no-cost tourist stamp and you should have 90 days to obtain the visa.  It may be easier and cheaper to obtain one document, the proof of pension income, before you start your trip.  Find out if your document needs to be apostilled or otherwise certified within x-number of days before applying for the visa.

Cell phone:  I would say go to a retail cellphone store at a big mall near your place in Medellín and have them hook you up with a modest, reliable phone and a complementary, reliable service provider. 

Health coverage:  Go to the forum welcome page (by clicking on "Colombia" atop this page) and use the forum's search box to find threads on the various issues related to this multi-faceted topic.  Once you have a visa and the national ID, you may be required to purchase "EPS."  See if you can find a discussion of this matter using the search function.

cccmedia in Depto. de Nariño

I agree owning and driving a Moto is insane in the big cities, I bought and owned a new Yamaha motorcycle from the Yamaha dealership in Llanogrande near the airport. I was however living in Llanogrande and driving there and in Rionegro is a big difference tan driving in Medellin, yes, still dangerous of course. I went into Medellin a few times with my motorcycle but you are relived when you are leaving and heading back up the mountain!  I advise you to live here for a while and observe and learn the ways before making a decision to buy a scooter or motorcycle. You will see that getting around by taxi or Uber is much easier and safer.

I concur that riding a moto in the cities is very risky.  I won't even drive a car in the cities because I would probably have an accident every week.  I just got back from a taxi ride in Cali and he drove like a maniac, but he knew how to do it and we got home alive.  I can't drive like that.  It's insane here.  Once I was in a cab in Cali and at one particular point I asked the driver who had the right of way in that situation and he replied "Estamos en Colombia"  (We're in Colombia)  That is to say, that concept doesn't exist here.

The visa system changed recently and for now the information on the Cancilleria website is gone, presumably in the process of being updated.

The best visa contact in Medeliin is Alan Gongora agongora[at] at Langdon Law. They are very reasonable and they can manage the entire visa process without you having to do a lot of running around. My advice would be for you to contact him before you come here to be sure that you have all of the proper documentation when you arrive.


Harvard-educated attorney Alan Gongora and his Medellín firm do excellent work at fair prices.

However, I believe there may be some errors in the contact information given earlier:

The firm's name is Langon or Langon Colombia, not Langdon Law.

Alan's email address is agongora(at) ...

I attempted to locate (mentioned above) and arrived at a Go Daddy site selling available web addresses.

cccmedia in Depto. de Nariño

Thanks, Fred. That's valuable information and I appreciate it, moreso today than yesterday. A week ago I emailed the Colombian Consulate in Atlanta and received their response today. I have to find someone here who is qualified and certified to translate an SSA document (haven't a clue where to start or what to look for in the way of valid or acceptable certification), submit that online and, eventually, do an overnighter to Atlanta. I like your plan a whole bunch more.

Best regards,


Thanks for saving me the time, trouble and headache of having to unravel that. I appreciate it.

Just to add my two cents worth, in answer to your questions,
For the Pensionada Visa, make sure you get the required paperwork (proof of pension etc) within three months of coming, and ensure that it  has the apostille stamp on  each document, if it is dated more than three months from receipt, it will be thrown out. As for what papers you need, I last had this Visa six years ago, so it may have changed, do not take anyones word for what is needed, check on their site, ( )

Health Insurance: If you are going to be legal here, then you have to pay into the EPS (National Health Service) whether you like it or not, you then have the option to take out your own Health Insurance if you can afford it. Personally, if you pick the right EPS, you will be fine with that, I am with SURA, and I also pay for a supplementary plan (PAC), which gives me direct access to Specialists, private hospital ward, etc, and they have been great.

Cellphones, are all a rip off here, I go with Claro, but don't use it a lot being retired, only for emergencies, they have the greatest coverage, but the service is lacking. As for your own cellphone, it seems to go on the submodel of your phone, I came from Europe with a popular model, it worked for a while, then they cut it off, saying it wasn't compatible with Colombia, you can check it out here : … homologada

Accomodation: try for finding your short stay.

Riding a Scooter: short answer...don't. I came here as an experienced Motorcyclist, went and exchanged my Licences for Colombian Licenses (after taking the medical), and after one year of losing all my hair, I retired from Motorcycling here, it's just too dangerous. Many of the 'motorcyclists' here, have only had four hours tuition and then got their license, they then ride with four or five family members on one machine, and wonder why they get squashed. If you are going to base yourself in the City, which it sounds as if you are, then use Public Transport, if you want to have a day out, then hire a Taxi for a day, it's cheap enough.

Whatever you decide to do...Good Luck!

Thanks for your response. It is much appreciated. You aren't the first one to advise me against the scooter idea, although yours is the straw that broke the camel's back ... so I'm giving up on that idea; my idea of an enjoyable life in Medellin does not include broken bones or hospitals.

Re: Pensionada visa: On the recommendation of others, I've decided to go through an attorney there who has been recommended by three other people. Fewer headaches and not that costly. And he knows what he's doing; I don't.

I really appreciate your info on insurance. I haven't read or heard about that before ... something I'll look into straightaway when I get there.

Hopefully our paths will cross once I get settled in there. Best regards.

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