Best Places to Retire in Colombia
Colombia is a country at the northwest top of South America. Panama and Central America are to its north, with Ecuador to the South and Venezuela to the northeast. The official language is Spanish and the population was 48,400 in 2015, making it the third most populous country in Latin America. The principal city is Bogata, which is at an elevation of 8500'. The major cities are in the approaches to the Andes Mountains, but Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. The Constitution was amended in 1991 which seems to have been a very good thing for the country.
Most people have an outdated opinion of the country as a hopelessly dangerous place of revolutionaries, drug cartels, and kidnappings. Those dangers certainly were present during the 90s, when there were conflicts between left wing guerrillas and the government. Cocaine production and sales by drug cartels also contributed to the violence. Since 2005 these trouble have greatly abated and what remains tends to be in very remote areas. Today the country is quite progressive and relatively safe, and attracting tourists in greater and greater numbers.
Expatriate retirees are attracted here for the low cost of living, tropical climate, coastline, and interesting cities. According to Wikipedia, Colombia is the country in the planet more characterized by a high biodiversity, with the highest rate of species by area unit worldwide. Earthquakes and hurricanes are always a risk here. The country has embarked on an aggressive program of roadbuilding and infrastructure development.
Residency. Anyone can generally get a temporary visa for up to 180 days. Colombia has a resident investor visa available to people who invest at least $100,000 in Colombia and meet other conditions. It appears that if you had temporary visas for 5 years in Colombia you can apply for permanent resident status - and one of the available categories is retirement (TP-7).
Crime and Security. According to a 2015, the U.S. State Department Warning states that: "Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin, and Cali. However, violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural and urban areas." The State Dept. does have prohibitions on some forms and locations of travel within the country for its employees.
Taxes. Non-residents only pay income tax on what they earn in Colombia. Residents pay income tax on their worldwide income. There is a VAT tax which is generally 16%.
Medical. US Medicare is not honored in Colombia. The country has a bustling health tourism economy. Colombia is projected as one of Latin America’s main destinations in terms of health tourism due to the quality of its health care professionals and institutions. You should have some kind of medical insurance if you live here.
Cost of Living. Thanks to devaluations of the peso, the cost of living is very inexpensive compared to most of the rest of the world. Not counting rent, Colombia's cost of living is 61% less than in the U.S. (rent is cheaper by about the same amount). The numbeo.com price comparison (CPI plus rent) shows Colombia with an index of 20, vs. the U.S. with 57 and UK at 60. The Local Purchasing Power Index shows 21 for Colombia, vs. 120 for the UK and 139 for the U.S.
Best Places to Live. If we have reviewed cities in Colombia they will be listed in the top right hand column. Places near the coast and major cities are most popular. Taganga are on the coast Santa Marta, as is Cartagena, a walled colonial city of great beauty. Medellin is quite interesting and sophisticated.
Pluses and Minuses. Colombia is a much cheaper alternative than almost any country. Some expats report a fair amount of culture shock - particularly with dealing with the bureaucracy and living in a foreign country.
Weather. The climate depends on what region you are in. The cold zone is at high altitudes where snow is common. Along the coast and anywhere below 1000 meters, the tierra caliente zone (hot land), the climate is equitorial and hot. In between is more temperate. Earthquakes can occur here.