Colombia Fast Facts

Colombia: A Rising Star in the Americas manizales-colombia

Population: 47,220,856

Capital City: Bogota

Climate: Tropical along coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands

Time Zone: GMT-5

Language: Spanish (official)

Country Code: 57

Coastline: 3,208km

Colombia: The Strikingly Beautiful Country With Something for Everyone

Lush green coffee plantations along the Andes Mountains, sparkling crystal beaches, and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta—the 18,700 foot, snow-capped mountain which is only 26 miles from the Caribbean Coast.

The country is the second most bio-diverse in the world. Located in the north of South America, it has coastline on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, borders the Darien jungle to its west, and the Amazon to its east. With 1,889 species of birds, Colombia is home to 20% of all species on earth. Tucked away in the eastern part of the country is Caño Cristales, the river dubbed a “liquid rainbow.” This river of five colors is one of the country’s many natural gems.

All this gorgeous scenery is a backdrop to one of the best things about Colombia–its warm, accepting people. Happy to share their country with foreigners, the Colombians will welcome you into their communities with music, dancing, interesting local food, and of course festivals. Nearly every city and town has a festival to celebrate some aspect of Colombian life.

Medellín, Colombia

Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city, hosts Feria de las Flores (flower festival) in August, followed by the International Jazz Festival in September. And every December they present the most spectacular display of Christmas lights in the world.

Life in Colombia varies from laidback, relaxing beach living in the coastal town of Taganga, to the culture-rich capital city of Bogotá, filled with theaters, churches, and the Gold Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Pre-Columbian gold artifacts. Trendy nightlife, upscale shopping, and an array of imaginative restaurants can be found in both Bogotá and Medellín, as well as several other large cities. Many cities in Colombia offer a first-world lifestyle for significantly less than the cost of living in the U.S.

Healthcare in Colombia is top-notch. América Economía, Latin America’s premier financial publication, reported in 2015 that 22 Colombian hospitals ranked as being in its top 43 in all of Latin America.

The people of Colombia and its government have worked hard to overcome the former, harsh reputation of the country. More than two decades have passed since the infamous days of Pablo Escobar and much of the country is now vibrant and thriving. Multinational companies in the technology, mining, banking, and healthcare sectors have a major presence in Colombia.

Getting from one area of the country to the other is rather easy. Bus travel is inexpensive. However, due to the mountainous area around most of the country, journey times can be long. On the positive side, you can spend the hours soaking in all the magnificent scenery. Many airlines provide services between major cities. Domestic flights are reasonably priced and make for much shorter transit, allowing you to spend more time exploring your destinations.

Colombia is steadily growing as a popular retirement haven. Expats report being happier and healthier and their cost of living is a lot lower than it was back home. When Wendy and Darren Howarter decided to move to Colombia, their friends and family thought they were crazy. Two years on, they have an “incredible life that we love” in Medellín.

“We bought our very own Medellín apartment with a pool, gym, and Turkish spa, in a great neighborhood,” Wendy says. “With two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and an enormous balcony, it cost less than $135,000. The same apartment in a similarly sized city, such as Chicago, would have cost at least twice as much. It’s great to be able to enjoy a bottle of wine with our new friends—expats and locals—on our balcony, or better yet, poolside.”

Find Out More From Our Colombia Correspondent

From the Archives of Colombia

Earn the Big Bucks for a Life of Ease Overseas

Earn the Big Bucks for a Life of Ease Overseas

Copy Writing
By |
November 4, 2015

Waking up every morning to the beautiful views of Medellin's Aburra Valley is like a dream compared to the corporate life I left behind in America. Back then I dreaded the buzzing alarm clock jolting me out of a restful sleep followed by a 60-minute, rush-hour commute to my office only 15 miles away. Then wasting eight hours in a cubicle doing work I hated only to repeat the one-hour commute to get home.

Infographic—Your Social Security Payments Overseas

Infographic—Your Social Security Payments Overseas

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Social Security Administration, U.S. retirees overseas received more than $3 billion in social security payments in 2013. That number shows an increase of $160 million since 2012—and has nearly doubled since 2013. In total, 373,224 U.S. retirees received their social security payments as residents of a foreign country in 2013. Europe is home to the most U.S. retirees drawing their social security payments abroad (154,238), followed by Canada and Mexico (95,767), and Asia (70,586).

We Found a Different Miraculous Cure in This Colombian Town

We Found a Different Miraculous Cure in This Colombian Town

Buga is a Colombian town that gets lots of visitors for several reasons. First, it's directly between Cali, Colombia's third-largest city, and the stunningly beautiful mountains of Colombia's Coffee Triangle area, a place that lots of people like to visit. Second, it's the home of an incredibly popular site for religious pilgrimages, the Basilica del Señor de los Milagros. The Basilica is home to an image of Christ called the Lord of Miracles, or El Señor de los Milagros. Three million people a year visit the Basilica.

The Surprising Answer to “Where Should I Live Overseas?”

The Surprising Answer to “Where Should I Live Overseas?”

I get a couple of emails a month like this from International Living readers: “I’ve been doing my research as you suggest. I know I want to make my move abroad, but no matter how many likely destinations I cross off my list, I still have too many to choose from. Where should I go?”

Enjoy an Affordable, Relaxed Lifestyle in Manizales, Colombia

Enjoy an Affordable, Relaxed Lifestyle in Manizales, Colombia

Daily Postcard
By |
August 12, 2014

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.

The Benefits of Living in Colombia

The Benefits of Living in Colombia

Culture
By |
June 27, 2014

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.

I’d Never Live on This Caribbean Island…

I’d Never Live on This Caribbean Island…

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.

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