Located at the tip of South America, Colombia is where the Pacific and the Caribbean collide with the Andes and the Amazon. It’s a country that is more beautiful, dramatic, and diverse than nearly any other. It offers sparkling colonial cities in the highlands and world-famous (and safe) resorts along the Caribbean. Cartagena, a walled colonial city on those turquoise shores, is one of Spanish America’s most beautiful enclaves.
What’s more, Colombia boasts beautiful areas where the cost of living is the lowest you’ll find anywhere in South America—lower, even, than in Ecuador.
Get Your Free Colombia Report Now
Learn more about Colombia and other countries in our daily postcard e-letter. Simply enter your email address below and we'll send you a FREE REPORT: Beautiful, Diverse and Safe - Take Another Look at Colombia.
This special guide covers real estate, retirement and more in Colombia and is yours free when you sign up for our IL postcards below.
Get Your Free Report Here
- Population: 45,745,783
- Capital City: Bogota
- Climate: Tropical along coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands
- Time Zone: EST (GMT-5)
- Language: Spanish (official)
- Country Code: +57
With spiraling costs compelling more and more North Americans to retire overseas, retiring abroad has never been more attractive. But finding the right location among the myriad options available can be daunting. That’s what our Annual Global Retirement Index does. Using input from our team of correspondents on the ground all over the world, we combine real-world insights about climate, health care, cost of living, and much more to draw up a comprehensive list of the best bang-for-your buck retirement destinations on the planet. Keep in mind that, even though only 25 countries feature on our list, all of them are worth your attention. We selected them from among all the countries in the world for their qualities as retirement hot-spots, so even the lowest-ranked nation on our index is still very much an option worth considering.
“Wow…wow, wow, wow!” I said, as I walked into Popayán’s main square, Parque Caldas, for the first time. Glistening white colonial buildings surrounded me on three sides and a majestic cathedral stood in front of me. “Okay,” I thought, “now I see why Popayán is known as the ‘White City.’” Though beautifully preserved, this city is not just another pretty face. Popayán exudes a sophisticated, intellectual atmosphere, kept lively by the nearly 13,000 university students among its 300,000 inhabitants. And did I mention the climate? Mild, with highs around 75 F and lows in the mid-50s F, thanks to the city’s altitude (nearly 6,000 feet).
The best estimate points to a world population several billion larger than today’s just a few decades from now—Earth may host 9.6 billion people in 2050, according to the United Nations. This population growth is all going to be a strain on Earth’s already stretched-thin resources. So how do you invest in a world like the future we seem to be hurtling toward? A world of rising population and increasingly scarce resources?
In the 2014 Fast-Track Your Retirement Overseas Package we’ll introduce you to more than a dozen beautiful places in the world where you can live a caviar lifestyle on a hot dog budget.
Perhaps you long for your own cottage on a quiet beach… a grand apartment in a city vibrant with concerts and cafes… a mountain villa where the air is crisp… or even your own vineyard amid gently rolling hills…
Affectionately nicknamed the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai is Thailand’s charmer; a laidback, yet vibrant, university city famous for its many Buddhist temples, culture and good food. The warm climate, low costs and excellent, modern infrastructure have attracted expats in big numbers, and that includes thousands of retirees from all over the world.
Romania acceded to the European Union back in 2007… just in time for the global financial crisis to bite it in the neck. GDP growth, which at a robust 6% to 7% during the previous few years had been among the highest on the continent, promptly collapsed. The economy contracted by a whopping 6.5% in 2009 and remained in the red the following year. It’s been in a state of tentative recovery ever since.
Now this is why I live in Colombia: sunrise over the mountains and a view of puffy white clouds hovering over the valley. To get from my home in Líbano to Manizales— located in the Central Andes region—I can take the easy route, which passes through the Magdalena Valley, or go over the mountain and around a few volcanos… For my latest trip, I choose the mountain passage and a 5-a.m. departure. The road twists and turns through isolated farmlands, until it enters the Los Nevados National Natural Park, well worth dawdling through.
With a population under 450,000 people, you won’t have to fight your way through crowded sidewalks or sit in frustrating traffic jams in Manizales. Daytime highs rarely exceed 72 F and 53 F lows give you an excuse to show off your favorite sweater. Best of all, Manizales offers an affordable, relaxed lifestyle, with all the amenities you’d find in larger cities such as Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín. It’s the type of place I love most, with a comfortable climate, warm people, and loads of things to keep me busy.
Southern Colombia is like a rainbow of landscapes and subcultures. Cali, the area’s largest city, is a melting pot of ethnicities and the birthplace of Colombian salsa. South of Cali, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities dot the landscape. And one hour north you’ll find one of Colombia’s true undiscovered jewels. With high temperatures reaching 80 F during the day, Buga offers its 100,000 or so residents an airy lifestyle, with doors and windows open wide throughout the day. In the city center, students from the University of Cauca’s Buga extension mingle in cafés, and in the main plaza children frolic in the shade while old men shoot the breeze.
I am living proof that dreams can come true. For more than 20 years, I worked in jobs that I never really wanted, all the while trying to convince myself I was getting satisfaction that wasn’t really there. Secretly, I dreamed of doing what I love best—traveling, taking photographs, and sharing stories of my adventures with the world.
Before moving to South America in 2008, I worked independently and couldn’t afford health insurance. Here in Colombia, where health care costs are low, I used to pay out of pocket for medications and basic services, such as a dental checkup, which costs around $25. Even so, I often went without the care I needed to avoid extra expenses.
Le Marche is a land of rolling hills topped with traditional stone farmhouses, honey-colored villages seemingly untouched since the Middle Ages, and farm-to-fork cuisine served up in rustic trattorias, where a meal will cost you as little as $7.
South of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle, the Pan-American Highway wends through the foothills of the Central Andean mountain range and into the Cauca Valley. Haciendas, orchards, and colorful fruit stands line the road and the air becomes warm and moist. Just past Tuluá, the sky seems to expand and the horizon fills with sugar-cane fields as far as the eye can see.
Former Alaska resident Russell Agnew, 43, doesn’t wait for the weekend to indulge his passion. “Before all of this, my profession was as a graphic designer. I was making way more money then and had great benefits, but I lived in a cubical,” Russell says. “So I moved to a ski town, Girdwood, Alaska, where I learned to paraglide. I was able to start a new career in paragliding and support myself that way.”
Bucaramanga is one of Colombia’s most beautiful cities. Colombians refer to it as the “City of Parks” because of its many green spaces. But when tourists come to the Santander department—of which Bucamaranga is the capital—they typically have one thing in mind: adventure. The landscape of Santander is a treasure trove of mountains, rivers, lakes, caves, and forests.
You might think you know a thing or two about Colombia, but I bet you don’t know everything. For example, did you know that Medellin now has a new title—the Urban Land Institute’s Innovative City of the Year for 2013? Or that UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes seven Colombian sites, and 19 more are currently under review for inclusion.
Atlantic beach towns that take you back in time…a foodie’s paradise in Southeast Asia where dim sum stalls beckon…an arts-rich bohemian haven in South America full of cafés and concerts… All over the planet you’ll find hidden gems like these—spots that rarely, if ever, earn even a passing mention in the popular press. It’s not surprising. Almost no publications bother to keep outposts abroad anymore. The quality and scope of international news coverage—and our understanding of and empathy for the world—has suffered for it.
It’s 10 a.m. in Buga, Colombia, and downtown is buzzing.I’m sitting in an open-air café with British expat Richie Holding, taking in the sights and sounds that make this a one-of-a-kind town.
Many emerging markets are actually in much better physical shape than the United States. So for instance, while people think of countries like Indonesia as being highly risky from a fiscal standpoint, Indonesia is actually on much sounder financial footing than the U.S.
You’ve just weighed anchor on another night of bliss, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of your sailboat in the calm sea. Before you is a small cove lined by craggy cliffs. Clear blue waters end at a white-sand beach. You’ve had it all to yourself for the last week. It was supposed to be just an overnight stop. But it was so beautiful, you decided to stick around. After a quick dip, you’re enjoying a cup of coffee and a light breakfast on deck as you contemplate which island paradise you’ll go to next.
I’m writing this postcard from a veranda overlooking the Caribbean Sea on a nearly forgotten tropical island. The ocean is showing off several shades of blue and a slight breeze teases the palms. The piña colada at my side completes the picture. But as my family’s annual vacation draws to a close I’m actually a bit anxious to return home to Cotacachi, Ecuador.
Colombia has been on my radar for some time. For big oil and banking, the action is in Bogotá. But it’s getting expensive there and the city is already bursting. I prefer to focus my efforts in this part of world in Medellín, and in the El Poblado area in particular.
When I quit my job to travel the world for a year‚ the last thing I wanted to do was work. Well, at least not in the capacity that I used to as an editor in Manhattan. In fact‚ part of the reason I left the country was to take a break from the New York corporate rat race.
For many, Latin America conjures up images of steamy, wildlife-filled jungles and beautiful people lounging on tropical beaches, sipping umbrella-bedecked drinks. But there’s a whole other side to Latin America…regions where temperate—even cool—climates and jaw-dropping vistas of snow-covered volcanos are the order of the day.
“Wait, what? Don’t move to Argentina, you can’t speak any Spanish!” Everyone reacted the same way when I announced I was moving. My Spanish education consisted of one class I took for a few months when I was 11 years old.
If you ask expats living in Colombia why they fell in love with the country, most will say because of its warm and welcoming people. But once you settle in, you’ll discover that hospitality is just the icing on the cake, because there are endless reasons to retire to Colombia. In Colombia, you can find unbelievable deals on homes and the cost of living is downright cheap. You can choose a town or city in which to live based upon the type of climate and lifestyle you most enjoy. Best of all, you’ll be able relish your retirement…
All over the planet you’ll find little pockets of prosperity…corners where you can live comfortably on a modest budget…destinations rich with opportunity for adventure and profit. Rarely—if ever—are these places you hear about on the nightly news. But that’s not surprising. Our correspondents aren’t looking under bushes for a brouhaha.
Colombians have been visiting the colonial town of Salento in the heart of the country’s Coffee Triangle for decades. Its colorful bahareque architecture and the proximity of the vast and magnificent Cocora National Park are just two attractions. Trout is a specialty dish. And costs of living are low. For example, expats who have settled in the region report renting for just $200 a month.
In many ways the Coffee Triangle is the heart and soul of Colombia. Even in the region’s modern cities, where you’ll find international cuisine, state-of-the-art museums, and innovative public transport, the country’s agrarian traditions linger. Farmers sporting traditional straw hats sit amongst college students in cafés, and hardware stores in trendy shopping malls display agricultural tools in front windows.
A great view usually translates into a premium price tag. But you can afford a home with stunning vistas if know the right place to look. For example, I know of one Pacific coast town where a beachfront condo with Californian-style ocean views and a similar lifestyle will only set you back $119,000. You’d need at least three times that to get close to the beach in California.
I used to be like you. Sitting in front of a computer screen dreaming of faraway places…the sun on my face…lazy afternoons exploring forgotten seaside villages…or drifting through market towns in search of exotic indigenous rugs and hammocks to adorn my beautiful, colonial apartment. And then I decided to actually do it! In 2003, I chucked in my day job, bought a ticket to South America, and never looked back.
For more than 30 years, International Living has been researching the best retirement havens in the world…and every January the Annual Global Retirement Index is released—highlighting the best places for you to retire. This Index ranks the top 24 countries in the world for retirement in 8 categories. The top 10 countries that feature on the list this year each bring spectacular benefits for retirees living overseas—from great health care and ideal climates to a low cost of living and financial perks for retirees. Starting with number 10, here are our top retirement havens for 2014.
Buga is one of Colombia’s oldest colonial towns, and a place tourists pass through on their way from Cali to the coffee region. It has a hot, humid climate where a good beer wouldn’t go astray. At least that’s what Stefan Schnur thought when he first visited. Stefan, 43, is originally from Germany but had lived in the United States for 20 years—most recently in Port Townsend, Washington.
At the end of the calendar year, we hear a lot about goals and resolutions. Television reporters with slow news days on their hands take to the streets to inquire about changes folks are planning to make in the coming year. A few weeks later, the same reporters will share statistics of all the health club dropouts and other abandoned resolutions.
One of the ways to reduce the uncertainty of moving overseas and setting up your own enterprise is to buy into a franchise—an already proven business model. The advantage of a franchise is that it has name recognition, provides you with the necessary “know how,” and much of the groundwork has already been done, which will increase your chances of success.
The number of U.S. taxpayers renouncing their American citizenship or permanent-resident status is accelerating. For many, the benefits of U.S. citizenship no longer outweigh the costs. Whether you are a high-net-worth individual or a young entrepreneur with a lifetime of earnings ahead of you, renouncing your U.S. citizenship is the only way to end your U.S. tax obligations.
I have a confession to make. I’m a romantic. Whenever I travel, I look for a hotel or hostel in an old colonial home. When I wake up in the morning, I throw open the shutters or step out onto the balcony imagining I’ve been transported back in time. But there are folks who get to do that every day. And you can, too.
The morning rush hour spreads through the central business district of Popayán, Colombia. But the rush of activity isn’t the relatively few cars and motorbikes slipping through the narrow lanes of this well-preserved colonial city. It’s the armada of street vendors for whom these lanes serve as a showroom floor.
Canadian and U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist. If it’s your first time in the calendar year to enter Colombia, you can stay for up to 90 days. If you decide to stay longer, you can apply for a 90-day extension at one of 27 Migración Colombia offices throughout the country.
An apostille is an internationally-recognized certification applied to certain types of public documents, which can include diplomas, marriage licenses, patents, birth certificates, judgments, pension and Social Security documents, or adoption papers. Countries that have signed the Apostille Convention, a treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, require foreigners to submit apostilled documents when conducting certain types of business.