When buying computers or tablets in Medellín and Colombia, it is possible to find computers and tablets with prices similar to in the U.S. or sometimes even cheaper.
I bought two Apple computers and two Apple iPads in Colombia and only paid a total of about $75 USD more than the same models listed on Apple’s website in U.S. at the times of purchase.
For lower priced computers and tablets, Colombia exempts the 19 percent IVA tax in Colombia, which helps make these items priced similar to in the U.S. But higher-end computer and tablets will be more expensive in Colombia due to the high IVA tax.
The information in this article applies to Medellín as well as other cities in Colombia. Note the above photo is of Apple iMacs for sale at Falabella.
Colombia Exempts Some Computers and Tablets from the IVA Tax
Colombia has a policy where personal computers and laptop computers are not subject to Colombia’s 19 percent IVA tax (value added tax) if they do not exceed the price of 2,718,792 pesos ($942 USD at the exchange rate of 2,885 pesos per USD) for 2018.
Tablets are also not subject to the 19 percent IVA tax if they do not exceed the price of 1,425,708 pesos ($494) for 2018.
These price limits for computers and tablets to avoid the IVA tax in Colombia for computers and tablets are for 2018 and are adjusted each year.
These maximums are based on a multiple of Unidad de Valor Tributario (UVT), which is a tax value unit. The computer price limit for avoiding IVA tax is established at 82 x UVT and for tablets the limit is set at 43 X UVT.
UVT in 2018 is set to 33,156 pesos. UVT is adjusted each year based on the inflation for the prior year. So, the maximum value for avoiding IVA taxes for computers and laptops is adjusted each year. Higher priced computers and tablets are subject to the 19 percent IVA tax.
Avoidance of IVA taxes for computers and tablets was established in 2012 under Colombian Law 1607 under Article 38.
Other Things That Help Lower Computer and Tablet Prices in Colombia
In addition to the IVA tax exemption, Colombia has been putting in place free trade agreements with several countries, which has helped reduce the costs of computers, tablets and other electronics in Colombia over the past several years.
Also, the exchange rate for the Colombian peso fluctuates. So, if the U.S. dollar strengthens, stores in Colombia do not necessarily immediately adjust prices higher of the computers and tablets that are priced in Colombian pesos. As a result you can find better deals in terms of USD when the dollar strengthens.
Where to Buy Computers and Tablets in Medellín
There are many stores selling computers and tablets in Medellín and other cities in Colombia. The following are several locations where you can find inexpensive computers and tablets in Medellín. Also, these stores all frequently have sales on computers and tablets.
Alkomprar is like a small Best Buy selling appliances, audio equipment, cellphones, computers, tablets, televisions and other electronics. And they frequently have sales.
Most noteworthy, Alkomprar frequently has sales that are advertised in fliers and on their website. You can pick up the fliers in the stores and they also sometimes have people handing out their fliers.
Typically, the sales including some televisions with up to 40 percent off, some computers for up to 30 percent off, some appliances for up to 35 percent off and some cellphones for up to 40 percent off.
Exito is a large supermarket chain in Colombia that also sells appliances, computer and tablets, electronics, clothes, home furnishings, kitchen items, and many other things. An Exito is similar to a Walmart in the US.
Exito has 26 of its large format grocery stores in the Medellín metro area that also sell computers, tablets and many other household items.
If you shop frequently at Exito and/or Carulla you should sign up for Puntos Colombia, which is a program that used to be known as Puntos Exito. Puntos Colombia is a frequent shopper program where you accumulate points for each purchase. You can use these points to purchase items in the future.
To sign up for Puntos Colombia you just need a Colombian cedula ID. And it’s essentially like getting 1 percent cash back on your purchase that you can use for future purchases. With the program you get 1 punto for every 700 pesos in purchases. And that 1 punto is worth 7 pesos.
Exito frequently has sales on computers, appliances, TVs and other electronics. Typically the sales including some computers for up to 30 percent off, some appliances for up to 35 percent off and some cellphones for up to 40 percent off.
Falabella Department Store
Falabella is a large U.S.-style department store that sells a wide range of items including appliances, clothing, computers and table and other electronics, furnishings, furniture and many other things. You can also find many imported brands at Falabella.
Falabella is based in Chile and reportedly has over 90 department stores located in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru. In Colombia, Falabella has 25 stores located in 11 cities. And in Medellín, Falabella only has two stores, which are located in the San Diego and Santafé malls.
Falabella frequently has sales of computers and tablets listed on their website.
In Colombia, you can also find iShop stores that specialize in Apple products. In Medellín you can find iShop in the Santafé and Los Molinos malls. There are also iShop stores found in Bogotá and Cali.
Also, iShop sometimes has sales listed on their website.
Jumbo is a large supermarket that also sells appliances, computers and tablets and other electronics, clothes, home furnishings, kitchen items, and many other things. A Jumbo is similar to a Walmart or Target in the US.
If you shop frequently at Jumbo you should sign up for Jumbo Puntos (points). Jumbo Puntos is a frequent shopper program where you accumulate points for each purchase. These points can be used to purchase items in the future. However, to sign up you need a cedula.
Jumbo frequently has sales on appliances, computers and tablets, TVs and other electronics, which are similar to the sales at Exito.
Ktronix is a chain of stores in Colombia that is somewhat similar to a Best Buy in the U.S. The Ktronix chain of stores sells electronics including audio equipment, cameras, cellphones, computers, tablets, televisions and video games as well as home appliances.
Ktronix frequently has sales, which are advertised on its website and in flyers. The sales normally include several computers with savings of 30 percent or even higher.
In Medellín, Ktronix has two stores located in El Poblado on Avenida Poblado and in El Tesoro mall. It also has 11 stores in Bogotá, one in Bucaramanga, one in Cali and one in Villavicencio.
Monterrey Mall in El Poblado is a specialty mall in Medellín that is unlike all the other malls in Medellín.
The uniqueness of Monterrey mall is that it’s full of small shops selling technology products. In this mall, you will find well over 175 shops selling all types of technology products. This includes cameras, cell phones, computers, computer parts, game consoles, network equipment, printers, printer cartridges, tablets and much more.
Many of the small shops in this mall have good prices on computers and tablets. And the shops in this mall frequently have sales.
My Experiences Buying Computers and Tablets in Medellín
Over the past several years, I bought two computers and two tablets in Medellín.
In 2014, I bought an Apple iMac at Falabella that was on sale. It was priced about $50 less than the same model listed on Apple’s website in the U.S.
In 2015, I bought an Apple MacBook Pro at iShop for only about $50 more than the same model found on Apple’s website.
Also in 2014 and 2016, I bought two Apple iPads. The first one was priced at about the same as listed on Apple’s website for the same model. And the second one purchased in 2016 was priced at only about $25 more than the price on Apple’s website for the same model.
So, I bought two Apple computers and two Apple tablets and only paid a total of $75 more than the same models listed on Apple’s website. Also, three of the four items were on sale at the time I purchased them.
This demonstrates that it is possible to find some computers and tablets in Colombia for similar prices as found in the U.S.
Other Latin American Countries Have Higher Prices for Computers and Tablets
Many other countries in Latin America have higher taxes computers and tablets. For example, when I was in Perú early this year, computers in stores there cost at least 30 percent higher than in Colombia.
And when I visited Chile last year, I found that computers there were roughly 10 percent more expensive than in Colombia.
The worst country I am aware of is Brazil. In Brazil, computers, tablets and other electronics can cost more than double than what they cost in the US. due to very high taxes in Brazil. I have a few friends in Brazil and they are always complaining about the high cost of electronics in Brazil.
I was in Brazil in December last year and saw iMacs in a store there were more than double the cost listed on Apple’s website in the U.S.
For example, an iMac cost about $2,300 in Brazil vs. $1,099 in the U.S. for the same model listed on Apple’s website at the time. I also saw a 128GB iPad mini that cost about $950 vs. $399 listed on Apple’s website.
Over the past decade, the Brazilian government has tried several times to enable cheap computer. But these efforts never were successful due to red tape, Brazil’s dysfunctional tax system and political infighting. So, pricing of computers and tablets in Brazil is still out of reach for many in the country.
This is why I have seen on flights to Brazil from Colombia many computers, tablets and phones in carry-on bags. Brazilians can probably pay for a trip to Colombia with the savings they can get by buying computers and tablets and other technology items for much cheaper in Colombia.
Spanish Style Keyboard on Computers in Colombia
Computers sold in Colombia will have a Spanish style keyboard. This keyboard really isn’t very different than the U.S. keyboard. And it didn’t take me very long to get used to it.
For example, Apple’s Spanish keyboard features:
- All of the letters are in the exact same position as on the U.S. keyboard.
- Very few of the symbols have changed positions, and they are easily identifiable on the keyboard. And there are two extra keys.
- Direct access to accent marks and many other diacritical marks.
- Also direct access to the € (euro) symbol, with continuing access to the $ symbol.
- And direct access to the inverted ¿ and ¡ (exclamation) characters, with continuing access to the standard ? and ! characters.
If you are looking for a U.S. style keyboard on a laptop sold in Colombia, I haven’t seen them. For desktops it is possible to buy a replacement U.S. style keyboard. I have seen a few being sold in Colombia.
The Bottom Line: Buying Computers or Tablets in Medellín and Colombia
It is possible to find lower end computers and tablets in Medellín and Colombia for similar prices as found in the U.S. This is due to an exemption from Colombia’s IVA tax and free trade agreements.
However, a higher-end computer and tablet will normally cost more in Colombia than in the U.S. So, it will usually be cheaper to buy a higher-end computer or tablet in the U.S.
If looking to buy a computer or tablet in Colombia, we recommend looking for sales. The shops selling computers, tablets and other technology items in Colombia frequently have sales which you can see on their websites.
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Editors note: updated on August 20, 2018 to reflect the change in Exito’s frequent shopping program that has changed from Puntos Exito to Puntos Colombia.