Pereira is the largest of the three cities that make up the Coffee Axis (Eje Cafetero) in the heart of the Andes mountains. With a population of over 700,000 people, the city offers a sophisticated lifestyle with all the creature comforts: hotels, shopping malls, fine-dining, open-air nightclubs, cafés, quality healthcare, and public transportation.
A commercial center, Pereira is characterized by its modern appeal and outdoor spaces. It’s a place where it seems almost everyone is moving up the economic ladder, from working class to middle class, and from middle class to wealthy.
Due to Pereira’s reputation for welcoming outsiders, it has earned the nickname “La Ciudad Sin Puertas" or "The City Without Doors,” and “La Querendona, Transnochadora, y Morena,” which translates to "The Brown, Caring, All Night Woman.”
Not as colonial as other cities, Pereira has had the money to replace older buildings with new ones as they deteriorated leading to a more modern appearance and feel. There’s one sector in downtown which has managed to save some of the original houses which are now a scattered collection of uniquely eclectic bars and restaurants.
As you meander through Pereira’s upscale neighborhoods, you are greeted by high-rise apartment buildings, a few houses, and towering palm trees. You might be surprised by the number of palm trees that grow in the Andes mountains all around Pereira. This area is home to the wax palm tree, Colombia´s national tree. These majestic beauties grow to between 150 feet and 200 feet tall.
Retire in Pereira, Colombia
Pereira is a great place for retirees who want to enjoy the comfortable mountain spring-like weather with an average daily temperature in the mid-70s to low 80s. Expect at least one short rain cycle each day around 1p.m. or 2p.m. The year-round near-perfect climate makes staying active quite easy. Bicycling, horseback riding, and hiking are popular sports.
Pereira has everything for expat living: smalls, car dealerships, department stores, boutique shops, and Homecenter—Colombia’s answer to Home Depot or Lowes. On the outskirts of town, you’ll also find numerous garden centers (viveros) where you can find all types of exotic plants and flowers to spruce up your patio, terrace, or yard. There’s even a local orchid association for those who have the talent for growing.
Some of Pereira’s most desirable neighborhoods lie on the eastern side of the city. The Circunvalar, Los Alpes, Los Alamos and Pinares area offers older homes interspersed with newer high-rise apartments in a wide price range, starting around $100,000. A house can go for $200,000 or more.
Future expansion of Pereira is to the west in Cerritos where the country estates and gated communities of the upper classes are located. Plans include a 300-room Hilton hotel, shopping mall, high-rise apartments, and even a medical complex. On this side of the city it is at least 5 degrees warmer and rains a bit less.
The culinary scene in Pereira is diverse and full of variety. Of course, you can prepare your own meals with the fresh, local ingredients you can find in the grocery stores, small corner stores, or the monthly farmers´ markets. If, from time to time, you´d rather let someone else do the work, then you can choose from a range of restaurants that serve Italian, Mexican, Arabic, Danish, Spanish, and German dishes in addition to local Colombian fare. Meals will cost you a third of what you would normally spend in the U.S. or Europe.
Lifestyle in Pereira, Colombia
Pereira’s bus terminal lies on the eastern side of the city. There are dozens of bus companies and "collectivos" offering transportation to destinations all over the country. Within the city, there are three mass transit options, the Megabus, Megacable, and regular city buses. An added benefit is that the city buses will stop almost anywhere to pick up passengers, you don’t have to search for a bus stop.
The Matecaña International Airport has a brand-new terminal and a central location, just 15 minutes from most parts of the city. It offers primarily domestic flights between many of Colombia´s cities and a few international routes to Miami and New York.
While you can enjoy a cosmopolitan lifestyle in Pereira, the surrounding area has plenty of access to national parks, waterfalls, and rivers. You don’t need to travel more than 30 to 40 minutes to connect with nature.
Be sure to visit the Technological University of Pereira’s (UTP) botanical garden. Located adjacent to the university’s campus, the 31-acre garden was once a coffee plantation. Now it is a lush jungle of exotic plants and trees which help to purify the air of the city.
Pereira even has a waterpark, called Confamiliar, which has slides, pools, nature areas, soccer fields, a petting zoo, and restaurants. This is a great weekend destination for families and couples.
Probably the most popular weekend plan is to go “puebliando,” or visiting to the small towns. You can drive one hour in almost every direction to places like Filandia, Circasia, Marsella, Viterbo, Cartago, or Quimbaya.
Cost of Living in Pereira, Colombia
Like many cities in the world, your cost of living will vary, so you can tailor your lifestyle to your budget. You can choose to live in a high-rise apartment in the upscale Avenida Circunvalar area, or a small bungalow just outside of town; dine out several times a week or prepare your own meals using fresh, local produce. Shop at the upscale malls or buy your clothes in the local tiendas (shops) of the boutique district downtown on Carrera 6 between Calles 17 and 24.
The general cost of living in Pereira is about 80% less than in the larger U.S. cities of Boston, L.A, Denver, or Chicago.
Monthly Budget Breakdown for a Couple Living in Pereira:
|Rent (three-bedroom, two-bath apartment)||$300 to $750|
|Water & sewer||$20|
|Telephone (land and cell)||$20|
|Transportation (buses & taxis)||$35|
|Entertainment (evenings out, etc.)||$125|
|Health plan (public basic)||$80|
|Maid service (once per week)||$40|
|Clothing & personal care||$150|
|Monthly total||$1,030 to $1,480|
Staying Safe in Pereira, Colombia
You don’t need gangster-level street smarts to stay safe in Pereira. You do need to know a few common sense rules which will basically ensure you don’t do what the locals call “Dar Papaya,” or give advantage.
If you are out at night and it is dark and/or lonely, you are putting yourself at risk. Try to go in groups, let others know where you intend to be, and avoid walking alone.
El Centro actually looks and feels more dangerous than it really is. Calle 18 between Carrera 6 and Plaza Victoria is particularly safe because the road is lined with banks, all of which have real people watching the street and security cameras. Never go below Carrera 5 toward Avenida del Rio. This is a no-go zone at night and police will not respond.
The most active areas at night are near Parque el Lago in el Centro, Avenida Circunvalar or Zona Rosa, Zona G—near Parque La Rebeca and all the shopping malls.
Don’t walk in an idle fashion using your cell phone. If you want to take a picture or respond to a message, stop, put your back to a wall, and do what needs to be done.
Colombian law does not defend people who use aggression. If you are being robbed it is better to let go of your personal possessions and leave with your life and person intact. If you defend yourself, but cause damage to the face especially, you can be fined up to $3,000 USD.
Keep in mind that any altercation that results in arrest or a police report, will eventually be sent to INTERPOL and will be reviewed by the U.S. Embassy. They may decide to deport you—which carries a ban of 15 years from re-entering.
Pereira in essence is a nice city with friendly people. That being said, it is important to remember that you are a guest in this country and the first to go if you cause problems. Tread lightly.
Things to Do in Pereira, Colombia
Due to its size, Pereira caters to many different interests and hobbies. You can find almost any common hobby here.
If you love plants, consider joining the Asociacion de Orquideologia de Risaralda, where you will learn everything you need to know about cultivating and keeping orchids.
If dance is your thing, find a dance academy and learn to dance salsa. In Colombia, the most common styles are Caleno style (fast feet), or Cuban style. The social dance styles we are used to in the U.S./Europe are only found in Cali.
Self defense is a great hobby and Pereira has many schools which feature taekwondo, jujitsu, or even boxing. The biggest issue to watch out for is fake karate masters. Half the schools in Pereira are run by people who do not have legitimate black belts—do your research carefully, check the backgrounds of the people running them, and if something doesn’t feel right—leave.
Probably the biggest sport in Pereira is bicycle riding and groups. You can find groups for women, children, youth, adults, men, morning, daytime and even night groups. Some of the best cyclists in the world come from Colombia and they are passionately enthusiastic.
Another major hobby in Pereira is hiking. There’s a group called “Amigos Caminantes” which go out walking in nature on Saturdays and/or Sundays. Look them up on Facebook. It isn’t very costly, and you will meet new people too!
The most common weekend hobby in Pereira is to visit a family-owned farm or nearby small towns. In literally every direction there is a different place to visit, each with unique facets and culture.
Especially if you are new to living abroad, hobbies and sports are vital to being able to meet new people and even integrate with local culture. Take time to observe how people dress, behave, and speak. In no time you will find your flow and it will add a special energy to the life you are living abroad in Pereira, Colombia.