Downsides to Living in Cali, Colombia: An Expat Perspective - Medellin Guru
Cali is the third largest city in Colombia with a growing number of foreigners living in the city. But there are downsides to living in Cali, Colombia.

11 Downsides to Living in Cali, Colombia: Expat Perspective – 2021 Update

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20 thoughts on “11 Downsides to Living in Cali, Colombia: Expat Perspective – 2021 Update”

    1. DaNiel Kish February 11, 2021

      Hello Jeff, my name is Dan, and in showering the internet looking for ideas, I came across your website. I am wondering if maybe you can help me. Many years ago I was in Cali, and I met a wonderful gal there, we really had a wonderful time together, and when I returned to the states, she gave me her email, and phone #. Upon returning to the states I could not find her info anywhere. One day maybe a year later I came across it. I tried to call her, but the number said like the number was not correct. I tried to email her many times, and although when I sent it it said message sent about to or three days later I received notification that the email address could not be found. Now many years later those old pieces of paper are still here but her last name isn’t legible. However, I now found another paper that has her last name on it, and I would like to see if I can locate her. I am hoping to find someone who speaks English in Cali that could put me in touch with someone who could possibly locate her for me. Any suggestions, or info would be greatly appreciated. Phone number. 918-857-9166

    2. The worst part for me (a beginning driver) is that there are no street signs. I can drive for a mile on a street and never know where I’m at.

    3. As a Dutch living in Cali since 2018, I have felt safe most of the times. I do think that the public transport system is perfectly fine to use at night – as long as you use the E or T lines that stop at big stations, because at most big stations, there is police. Also walking at night is generally safe, although I wouldn’t advise on walking alone at night. When you walk with another person or in a group, you should be good to go. To continue about the MIO system, I think it is a pretty good way to travel around the city safely and cheap. Even though during rush hours, the buses can get packed.

      About the weather: I actually do agree with the higher temperatures here, but that is purely personal preferance. I don’t like the cold so I prefer the weather here (even though between 1 and 3 it can be pretty sweaty outside. During the night temperatures are very nice though).

      I do agree with the tip that Aguablanca, Siloé and other sketchy neighbourhoods should be avoided. I have been once to Aguablanca for an appointment and even though nothing happened to me, crime rates in these comunas are higher than in the more touristy, richer areas.

      Also, be aware when there are motorcyclists around, especially in an empty street. My partner has been robbed twice my a motorcyclist at gunpoint and that is really a growing problem here in Cali.

      In everything you do, just use your mind. Don’t have a lot of cash, don’t use your cellphone in the streets and be aware of your surroundings. Cali maybe gets a bad rep, but most of the crime is between caleños in the poorer neighbourhoods. I feel crime against foreigners here is rare, although it does exist (like happened with my fellow countrymen in january last year).

      • I actually do *like* the higher temperatures here, but that is purely personal preferance. Maybe I shouldn’t be reacting at 3 am xD

    4. Luis Castano May 16, 2020

      Short opinion about Cali. Public transport in Medellín is obviously better, but traffic is a lot worse in Medellín and the road network in Cali, probably by being mostly a flat city, is way better. I am 150% sure you have not driven enough in Cali to realise that is the case. Plus those who do stay in Cali long enough get to see how friendly its people are and end up loving it. Everything else I agree with you is probably how you describe it. Thanks.

    5. We all have valid points. I don’t want the conversation to devolve into which city is better (very subjective) or more dangerous (Cali statistically has more crine, but we must ask how much of that is violent crime against foreigners. I suspect the averages would be similar, but have no evidence to support that opinion)

      Jeff, thanks for the news article. I was unaware of this incident.

      The main purpose of my reply was not to downplay safe practices—we all should always do our best to stay safe when traveling to unfamiliar areas; my intent is to curb some of the unintentional fearmongering by giving honest anecdotal evidence that it’s very much possible to live and travel throughout Cali without ever being accosted, just like in Medelin (as it is very much possible to be accosted in Medellin as it is in Cali).

      Many gringos have told me ceratin parts of Cali are dangerous and yet, they’ve never set foot anywhere near thise areas. As Jeff’s article said, they deem “there’s nothing to see.” But I’ve been to those areas and sugest there are many brautiful experiences to be had; we dismiss huge populatuons of people and culture based on hearsay. Most of those gringo reports of being accosted in Cali ironically happen in the “safe” areas like El Peñon, Granada, San Antonio.

      We all have different expectations and experiences. I’m just trying to be balanced about the representation of travel throughout Colombia. It is very much possibel to be explorative yet safe in Cali without avoiding whole sections of the city. Perhaps tbe key is not to be afraid of engaging those areas and people whom are routinely villanized because of where they live. I really don’t know. But that’s what I’ve done. I embrace and learn from my Colombian neighbors.

      Well, thanks again for the discusssion. Yes, let’s encourage travelors to stay vigilant about safety no matter if it’s in Cali, Medellin, Bogota or other.

    6. While I agree with some of the list, Jeff, I think you haven’t spent much time in Cali to be as well informed (beyond anecdotes) as someone living here.

      One thing I want to address is the common warning to take taxis everywhere due to danger (especially at night). This is a bit of expat hyperbole, due to lack of personal experience.

      I have lived here for 5 years in various barrios, including in the “dangerous” east (Calipso) as well as the south. I routinely travel by foot at night (late night after midnight, too) throughout the city — walking miles for up to 4 hours at a time in and out of bad areas.

      I’ve never been robbed, never accosted.

      My main point is not that danger does not exist, but that lt exists everywhere for persons unfamiliar. Therefore, one should familiar themselves and behave with caution.

      I’m not lucky; I’m simply observant of my surroundings and smart about my presentation in the environment. I believe if you show less fear and more respect (i.e, not automátically considering an entire population off-limits) you encounter fewer problems.

      Yes, I’ve met expats who report being robbed or otherwise accosted, but 7 out of 10 times those expats were being loud, flashy and drawing a bullseye on themselves.

      Just a different expat perspective. Notably, my expat friends here from other countries have also not experienced harm. And we range from White to Black.

      • I lived in Cali for 2 years and agree with the list of downsides in this article. I was robbed twice in Cali and I am not loud, flashy and drawing a bullseye on myself. The second time I was robbed at gunpoint in El Peñon and decided I had enough of Cali and moved to Medellin where the climate is better and I feel safer. In Cali I felt I had to be looking over my shoulder all the time. And just about all the friends I had in Cali were robbed. And one friend was stabbed by a knife during a robbery and he did not resist..

        • Charlie, I empathize with your experience. As I said in my origianl reply, I am simply sharing a different perspective. You and your friends have been accosted; myself and my friends have not in almost 5 years of living here. It isnn’t a contest; just different experiences and realities. You say you feel safer in Medellin; ironically, to my knowledge, no foreigner has been killed in Cali since I’ve mlvex here, but that has happened in Medellin. Again, just sharing a different persoective because we tend to let our bad experiences color the reality for everyone. I’m glad you have found a safe environment for yourself; that is what is important.

          • Chris, I respect your view but you are wrong. There are several reports over the last years of foreigners being killed in Cali. And it’s a simple fact if you look at the numbers that Cali is WAY more dangerous then Medellin.

            Cali is the most dangerous city in Colombia so it’s important that fellow foreigners are very well informed about the risks if they travel to Cali. I live in Medellin for 8 years now. I am a white European living a low profile life and have never been robbed or molested here. I love Cali too, have good colombian friends there and visited 9 times over the last 8 years. Although I love Cali I always feel that I have be way more cautious in Cali then in Medellin. Just my 2 cents.

    7. Andrew Hughes October 27, 2019

      Hi Jeff. I am a uk citizen looking to retire to Cali, where I have been visiting for nearly 25 years. Which visa service would you recommend i use in Cali? Thank you.

      Ps I have very much enjoyed your professional articles on life in Colombia.

    8. I have a question ‘MEDELLIN GURU” How would you be so well verse in the downside of Cali,etc. If you reside in MEDELLIN. I think someone whom has lived there at least should be someone commenting about Cali. Me personally Medellin is beautiful but I will take Cali even with your downside. It has always been and will always be a dangerous city since we do not have the resources. Plus, do not forget PRESIDENT “ALVARO URIBE’ favored and sent most of all revenue proceeds to ANTIOQUIA during his presidency. That why MEDELLIN is a fabulous city. Let’s allocate the same resources to a Cali, Bucaramanga, Armenia, Manizales, Pereira and see if we do not get the same results as Medellin. I love Medellin and do not get me wrong. But the facts are the facts.

    9. Filipe Z August 26, 2019

      Just got the news I will be transferred to Cali… There are any good side to living in Cali?
      Should do a 11 good sides of Cali, Medellín, Colombia =D

    10. geoffrey April 29, 2019

      On the plus side, I’ve met numerous people from Cali here in Medellin and find their Spanish to be well spoken and clear. The tropical sauna-like heat is a deal killer.

    11. David Williams April 28, 2019

      Nice list that I agree with. I went to Cali with a friend and we were robbed in Granada at night by youngsters on a moto that pulled up with a gun. At our hotel they said that happens all the time in Cali and highly recommended taking a taxi at night. After that experience we took taxis everywhere. And it was too hot during the day to do much.

      I was not impressed with Cali. But Live & Invest Overseas have been pushing Cali – see this from 2018 — https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurabegleybloom/2018/01/08/quit-your-job-and-move-abroad-the-cheapest-places-to-live-in-2018/#6b457cad2614 . What a joke, they are recommending Cali, which is one of the most dangerous cities in the world but don’t mention this downside.

    12. Mary Johnson April 28, 2019

      Nice article. Cali is too hot for me. When I visited I was not impressed and it was in the high 80s or low 90s every day. The only foreigners I saw there were backpackers.

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