New to the forum and have questions

Hi all, I'm David and currently live in Phoenix, Arizona and have visted Bogota a few times over 8 years ago and always remembered the people, food, music, art and museums and everything outdoors.
I am planning on visiting again and have begun investigating the prospect of living part time in Bogota, Meddelin, or Cartegena.
Since I can work from anywhere with sporadic travel to the US I plan on a tourist visa in order to spend time in the places of interest, but like many my Spanish is not the best but have a few friends in the places of interest who can assist, but would like to connect with those in the forum in order to learn your experiences and in what I need to be aware of.

Any pros and cons are greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


Learn as much Spanish as you can, it will make a big difference.

David / great choice / my home base in colombia is medellin / i find the balanced climate excellent internet health care and professional support services such as visa,and legal to my liking. I have been in colombia 4 years and have a cedula,card. Just like social security number in the usa. I am from california and charlestion south carolina - medellin has plenty of expats who hangout in coffee shops and you can talk and are good source for info for recent people finding there ways.
I also travel to costa rica panama ecuador and santa marta san andres frequently.
Some things you need to understand that colombians have there own habits culture and lifestyle which may or may not be palable to you.
As a gringo / expat you need to be sensitive to the environment. Is it safe / maybe / if you hang out with toxic people places and things the you accept the consequences of being robbed and cellphones wallets passports etc gone. I could write a book of storys i have heard.
Good luck

Dear David,

Expats rarely have security troubles in the preferred cities if they follow a few simple rules.

Be alert in public spaces, especially on buses and public transit.

Don't flash gold chains or expensive jewelry.

Minimize public use of sofisticado smart phones.

Don't leave goodies a.k.a. papaya lying around which would invite delincuentes to start edging over.

Use indoor ATM's .. and avoid withdrawals at night or when suspicious characters abound.

In the Andes (Medellín) and higher elevations, don't sport the Gringo uniform of Hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip-flops.  This signals 'Gringo in town -- see if he's a target.'

Avoid eye contact with beggars, especially energetic ones who give signs they could be aggressive.  Don't accept food, drink or other handouts on the street.


Pros and cons of the three cities mentioned....

Cartagena:  the heat scares away the foreigners, so don't count on making a lot of friends unless you become fluent in their language.  Tourists and beachgoers are in their element, weather permitting.

Bogotá: The metro area is huge and you can find almost anything you want (except during The Situation).  Too cold and rainy in many months for Expat tastes as a rule.

Medellín:  Mild to warmish weather most days.  Poblado sector is the Beverly Hills of Colombia .. although the malls can get over-crowded and traffic is a problem on the byways, including the 'locos' on 'motos'.  Plentiful nightlife.   Most of the casinos are on the Golden Mile.  Architecture and landscaping in Poblado are tops. 


Great advice / how much you try and stay under the radar some people just look walk and talk like a gringo and will be targeted in safe areas. That comes woth territory. You dont need to be paranoid but you need to sensitive for your safety and well being 7 × 24.

Hola, I understand most of the signs of a gringo; flower shirt, shorts et. What are some of the more subtle signs I should change to prevent for Colombia?   LOL,  when in Europe I changed my clothing style, my hat type, coat, etc. even the way I acted at times just to fit in. :)

As a gringo coming to Colombia you will never fit in by changing your clothing or shoes even if you spoke perfect Colombian Spanish, NEVER.

The nuances are all different, the way we walk, our posture, our gait, our mannerisms, our facial expressions, the way we sit, the way we gesture, you will never fit in so get use to it.

They know that you are a gringo the moment that they see you and even from a half km away.

I agree I will never fit in, just want to avoid trouble, keep safe, learn as much as I can and get to know as many good people as possible. :)


Well said. Being safe in Colombia is no different than anywhere else. It is far more dangerous for those in Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Vancouver's east side. If you want to hang out in bars or other questionable areas.... expect trouble. And don't hang out with dangerous people/strangers.
Don't go out at night if you can help it. Myself, I will go to centro solo during the day on an errand but never at night. And I usually I am with a friend or my spouse.
The "real" danger for foreigners in Colombia is being a pedestrian and not making your first priority avoiding an accident with the crazy reckless drivers here. That will get you killed or injured a lot faster than Colombian criminals.
The other major rule I have (not seeing it ever mentioned) is the "I CHOOSE" rule. Never be solicited by a strangers "hey amigo" danger. You can easily avoid being a targeted gringo by not responding or politely rejecting any stranger who tries to initiate a conversation with you. Always see that as a gringo red flag. Instead, increase your safety odds by choosing for yourself who you want to talk to. That will cut the danger margin by 90 percent, especially for females.
And don't live isolated or in a small town... that is a sure target on your back. Stick to medium sized cities to avoid pollution problems like Bogota and Medellin.
NEVER EVER EVER "resist" while being accosted by a thief! Cooperate and give them the money. I know foreigners in Colombia that were lucky that they weren't killed by fighting back. Luckily for them they were only crippled for life from the beating they got for saying "no". And the thieves still stole the money.

Pretty morbid picture you painted there, amigo! Sheesh!  :joking:
I think it's well-established that the biggest cities (Bogota and Medellin)  are great for certain things... but what about living in smaller towns like Barranquilla or Armenia?

Nigeria huh? Nice to meet you. I live in Armenia and it has been great for 4 years now. I liked Medellin but I am a health nut and there is 50% less pollution here. I have full intentions to collect my maximum amount of pensions money.
In all my travels in Latin America over the past 5 years I have never been exposed to a single problem (except maybe a couple latinas heheh).
I spent my career in Occupational Safety so I have expertise in avoiding problems.
Give me a message if you ever decide to visit the coffee zone and we can coffee?

P.S. I have other stories about foreigners who made bad moves by not following basic safety rules.

donaldhschmidt said you cannot fit in "BY CHANGING YOUR CLOTHES AND SHOES". That doesn't mean you can't fit in by being yourself. I find the locals super friendly and the culture great. I have local friends and a Colombian wife. I "fit in" nicely and so can you. And I suck at spanish hahahahaha
I just make sure every day that I do not do stupid things that could lead me to danger in a foreign country.

I have lived in Bogota for 14 years and never have gotten accosted or robbed. I'm a guy, so that is probably in my favor and I'm not much for going out to clubs at night. I pretty much travel by bike... faster usually, tho not so great when it's raining every day... like now. I must say, I'm not at all cautious. Never really think about safety. I live on the north side, which is probably a lot safer than the city center. From what I hear, tho, it is more dangerous than it was in the near past... Covid has made some more desperate. There's a new element of Venezuelan criminals that we hadn't seen before...

A few other things that I do.  Only carry a copy of your passport, leave the original where you are staying.  Wear a cheap watch. Don't carry much cash, my max is usually 300 to 400,000 pesos.  Be awake to what is going on around you.  No loud conversations in English while on the street.  Cell phone is always in my pocket, if you need to make a call go to a safe area.  Better to call for a taxi and not pick one up on the street, I was once kidnapped (not in Colombia) because I took a street taxi.  Stay mainly in safe areas day and night.

Laker4115 wrote:

Better to call for a taxi and not pick one up on the street, I was once kidnapped (not in Colombia) because I took a street taxi.

Can you tell us the country/city where this happened .. and why you think you were targeted?

cccmedia in Bucaramanga

It was in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I was carrying a large briefcase which a kidnapping gang thought was filled with money, it only had business papers.  Afterwards they wanted to take me to banks to use my ATM cards to take out money and I told them the cards I had could not be used there which they believed.  Actually they could have been used.  They took all the cash I had and finally let me go on the outskirts of B.A.

Yikes. Glad you were unharmed. Now I am nervous even having a "lump sum" of money sitting in the account that I can access from any Bancolombia ATM (I tested/used it in July, and it works fine). So I guess I'll just keep $200 at a time in there, and "refill" it as necessary (by calling my banker on the actual phone, and going through voice authentication). That way, if caught in your situation, and FORCED to withdraw everything and hand over to the robbers, the max loss shall be $200.

Once again, we're glad you're OK. You musta been terrified  :(

ChineduOpara wrote:

Yikes. Glad you were unharmed. Now I am nervous even having a "lump sum" of money sitting in the account.... So I guess I'll just keep $200 at a time in there, and "refill" it as necessary (by calling my banker on the actual phone, and going through voice authentication). That way, if caught in your situation, and FORCED to withdraw everything and hand over to the robbers, the max loss shall be $200.

Once again, we're glad you're OK.(

You may be making too many assumptions, Chine.

1.  If you don't look like a target (for instance, carrying a case that bad actors come to believe is filled with cash), you have little chance of being abducted and cleaned out.  There are many types and colors of bags that do not cause people to surmise they may be loaded with cash.

2.  The efficient way to ongoingly keep a smallish amount of money in your bank account may have nothing to do with voice authentication .. and everything to do with setting up recurring transfers via the bank's online system.

3.  $200 may be an artificially low amount to keep in an account.  Keeping a higher limit, for instance $1,000 US, may be useful for an urgent need that may be more likely to befall you than the abduction scenario.

4.  Laker did not say he was not injured or roughed up. 


You make good points, thanks. Also, after my my initial response, I checked my "stuff" to confirm that my money auto-transfers ("refills") are set up properly. So far so good. Yeah I think $800 - $1,000 might be a more reasonable max to keep in the Colombia-accessible account.

Anyway... I certainly hope all my precautions end up being overkill!

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