A Family Affair in This Surprising and Affordable Mountain Town

For Mary, moving to Pereira, Colombia, was partially inspired by family (her daughter and grandson live in the city), but equally so by the cost-effective lifestyle available to her. She arrived in Colombia in May of 2016. Her first few months were spent on a tourist visa to get settled and see if she was ready to commit. She even had an escape route planned via the round-trip ticket she had originally purchased. She didn’t end up using it.

As she describes it, “Colombia was not the Third World country I was expecting. There is a much better public transport system than where I was from in the U.S. Not only do they have a specific route for the mega-bus with enclosed bus stops, but all over the city you can wave down a bus, then when you get near where you want to go, you just ask them to let you off right there. This is really cool.”

She also enjoys the fact that the outlaying pueblos, or towns, are easily accessed. The main bus terminal offers regular buses to the outlying areas for between $2 and $8, depending on distance. Many of these towns are tourist destinations with unique architecture and cafés, including French, German, or Austrian foods (and others) and pastries along with good coffee for about $3 or less.

“The city is a good size, but not too big,” Mary says about Pereira. “There are about 800,000 people so the amenities are great. You cannot get some imports that Bogota or Medellin get, but there are still plenty of options available.”

The cost of living in Pereira is less than the U.S., and even less than other Colombian cities like Medellin or Bogota.

Mary splits the costs three ways with her daughter and family. Her third of the rent is $100 per month (which is also the average cost of renting a room in Pereira). High-speed internet costs $20 per month, her cellphone costs $10 per month, and utilities are $15 to $20 per month (split three ways).

“Food is approximately $50 per week, but can be more depending on how often we eat out or travel to other cities,” Mary says. Much of the produce available in Pereira is grown nearby, keeping the costs down and meaning that the fruit she buys has often been picked that very day.

Keeping entertained is also easy. There are traditional celebrations, concerts, movies (some in English), fun get-togethers like coffee gatherings of expats, and twice a week people meet for “Let’s Talk Pereira,” where English or French speakers gather together with local college students and business people of all ages and backgrounds to practice languages.

Surrounded by hills that flow into towering mountains, Pereira has natural views that aren’t just breathtaking, but nearby and easy to access. With plenty of mountain bike and hiking access, the options for outdoor lifestyles here are endless. Mary often visits local parks or plazas with her daughter to practice Tai Chi or to take her grandson for his walks. The locals are friendly, the coffee is fresh, and Mary has found her place in the sun.

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