Each year Medellín continues to attract more foreign retirees with its low cost of living, “eternal spring” climate and good healthcare with nine of the top 58 hospitals in Latin America. In addition, Medellín has been described by a number of publications including U.S. News , Huffington Post and CNN Money as a top foreign retirement location.
Furthermore, Medellín has been touted for many years as a top foreign retirement location by the foreign retirement publications. And Medellín is a beautiful city in a valley surrounded by mountains. The above photo of Medellín was taken from Pueblito Paisa by Jenny Bojinova.
I previously wrote about 27 reasons why I chose to live in Medellín. I am not retired but many of these same reasons apply to retirees. There are 11 main reasons why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location:
The climate in Medellín is one of the main benefits of living in Medellín and one of the main reasons Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location.
Medellín is even known as “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera”, the city of eternal spring. The climate was one of the main things that originally attracted me to Medellín.
Medellín has a comfortable climate that is consistent year-round due to being located at a high elevation of about 4,900 feet and also being near the equator. The city’s average annual temperature is 72.5 °F (22.5 °C).
The average temperature in the city typically only varies by about 1 °F during the year. During an average day in the city the temperature typically ranges from 63.2 to 82.1 °F (17.4 to 27.8 °C).
The climate makes it possible to live without air-conditioning or heating, which I have done for over seven years. And I am now spoiled by the climate and dislike going places with cold temperatures and snow or hot temperatures.
However, it does rain in Medellín. It rains on average 69 inches of rain for the entire year in Medellín. But normally the rain showers in the city are relatively short. And even with the rain there is still an average of 5.1 hours of sunshine per day in Medellín for the entire year.
2. Low Cost of Living
The relatively low Medellín cost of living is another main reason why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location. This is one of the reasons I started living in Medellín after I discovered it over eight years ago.
Our cost of living for a family of three with a baby has dropped to less than $1,200 per month. And we live in a nice rental house.
Many expats living in Medellín I have met have a budget of less than $2,100 per month. I have met several single expats that have lower budgets.
For example, here’s the cost of living for a single woman with a budget of less than $1,100 per month. And I have met some expats with budgets of less than $1,000 per month, typically living in shared apartments.
But other expats I have met have budgets of over $3,000 per month and some over $4,000 per month. There is a wide range of monthly budgets for expats living in Medellín.
We recently moved to a casa (house) with rent of less than $310 per month. This is for a house with:
- Three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, about 110 square meters (1,184 square feet)
- Kitchen with gas cooktop
- Gas water heater (tankless)
- Estrato 3 neighborhood in Sabaneta
Six years ago, the exchange rate in Colombia was about 1,800 pesos to the USD and it is now almost 3,500 pesos to the USD. So, things have become cheaper in terms of US dollars over the past five years in Colombia.
3. Good and Inexpensive Healthcare
Good and inexpensive healthcare is another main reason why Medellín is considered a great foreign retirement location. This is a very important category for retirees.
Many foreign retirement locations don’t have highly rated hospitals like Medellín has. Medellín has nine of the top 58 hospitals in Latin America, according to a study in 2019 by América Economia. Colombia has 24 of the best hospitals in Latin America. So, 41 percent of the best hospitals in Latin America are found in Colombia.
In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s health system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked. This is even ahead of the United States (#37), Canada (#30), Germany (#25) and Australia (#32).
In Medellín it is possible to have access to world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost compared to healthcare costs in North America or Europe.
In my experience, the costs for healthcare in Colombia can be significantly lower than the costs found in the U.S. It is possible to find costs that are from 50 percent to even over 70 percent less expensive. Medical insurance is also relatively inexpensive in Colombia in comparison to the U.S. and Europe.
4. Colombia Retirement Visas are Easy to Get
Colombia has retirement visas with a low-income requirement that are easy to get with few documents required. In December 2017, Colombia changed its retirement visa to a Migrant (M) visa of category 11 (an M-11 visa).
The M-11 Colombia retirement visa is better the previous TP-7 retirement visa in Colombia. The M-11 visa is good for three years compared to only one year for the TP-7 visa. So, you don’t have to renew it as frequently. And after five years with a M-11 retirement visa you become eligible for a resident visa.
The income requirement for the new M-11 retirement is low. Your retirement income must exceed only three times the minimum wage in Colombia. The minimum salary in Colombia is 877,803 pesos per month in 2020. So in 2020, you need an income of only 2,633,409 pesos per month (which is only $810 USD at the exchange rate of 3,250 pesos to USD) to qualify for the Colombia retirement visa.
The retirement visas in many other countries have higher income requirements. For example, it is $1,000 per month in Panama and Costa Rica.
5. Inexpensive Public Transportation with a Good Metro System
Medellín has a modern metro system, which is the only rail-based metro system in Colombia. The Medellín metro is a comprehensive and inexpensive system. It integrates two rail lines, four Metrocable cable-car lines, two Metroplús elongated bus lines, a Tranvía tramcar line and even feeder Metro buses. And the metro cost is only 2,355 pesos per ride when using a Civica card.
In addition to the Metro, Medellín has extensive bus routes in the city with inexpensive fares typically ranging from 2,200 to 2,400 pesos as well as very inexpensive taxis.
So, it is quite possible to live without a car in Medellín, which helps lower the cost of living. I have lived without a car in Medellín for over eigtht years. And the majority of expats living in Medellín (reportedly over 80 percent) do not have a car.
6. Reliable and Inexpensive Infrastructure
The utilities (electricity, water and gas) and triple play services (Internet, TV and phone) in Medellín have been very reliable in my experience over the past seven years.
During this time, I only experienced three Internet outages with Claro. And these were each resolved within an hour after calling the company. We currently have 10 Mbps speed Internet service. But speeds of up to 300 Mbps are available.
In addition, I only experienced three power outages in over seven years. And one of these outages I was informed about by the provider EPM beforehand, which was due to maintenance.
With no need for air-conditioning or heating our utility costs are low. Our utility costs (electricity, water and gas) have averaged only 141,000 pesos ($43) per month over the past three years.
And our triple play services (Internet, TV and phone) from Claro with 30 Mbps Internet and several hundred TV channels for two TVs costs only 119,586 pesos ($37) per month.
7. Near to the United States with Direct Flights
If you need to travel to the U.S. for work or to see family/friends, this is much easier and cheaper to do from Colombia than from other countries in South America like Brazil, Argentina and Chile. And it is much less expensive than traveling from Europe or Asia to the U.S.
So, it is easier and cheaper for your family and friends to visit you in Colombia compared to if you were living in Europe or Asia.
There are several direct flights daily to the U.S. to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York City-JFK on American Airline, Avianca and JetBlue from the Medellín international airport. Furthermore, it’s only about a three-hour flight to Miami or Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Also, Colombia is the same time zone as the U.S. But Colombia doesn’t do daylight savings. So, depending on the time of the year, in Colombia it is either the same time as Central time or Eastern time in the U.S. So, it’s also easier to talk to friends and family if you are from the U.S. being in a similar time zone.
8. Stable Economy and Government in Colombia
Colombia has been experiencing solid growth over the past several years that has been faster than the average in Latin America. Compare this to the more challenged Latin American economies in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.
Colombia has maintained strong economic fundamentals, including openness to global trade and finance. The relatively sound economic policies in Colombia have contributed to GDP growth averaging over 4.0 percent annually over the past ten years. In the past 55 years, Colombia’s GDP has contracted only once, in 1999.
In addition, Colombia is Latin America’s oldest and most stable democracy. For more than a century, the country has experienced peaceful changes of government every four years.
9. A Growing Expat Community
Medellín is still an emerging market for foreign retirees but I have seen more foreign retirees living in the city each of the seven years I have been living here.
There is an established strong network of expats living in Medellín with regular meetups. Almost every night of the week, you can find an event or meetup in the city.
Also, Medellin Guru hosts the largest monthly expat events in Medellín, our Medellin Guru Meetups averaged over 175 attendees in our 12 events in 2019.
And there are big expat groups on Facebook to enable connecting with other expats including Medellin Expats with over 20,000 members and Digital Nomads Medellin with over 6,500 members. You won’t find this size of expat network in other cities in Colombia.
10. The Colombian People
The Colombian people (otherwise known as Paisas in Medellín) are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I have met in Latin America or Europe or Asia. There seems to be a culture of welcoming and inclusiveness that I haven’t really experienced elsewhere.
For example, if you are lost and can’t find your destination, it is commonplace to ask a local on the street and they will point you in the right direction. But their directions may not always be correct in my experience, but I appreciate the effort and kindness. And there will be someone else along the way to help out.
In addition, in my experience, Colombians in general are happy and positive people. There have even been a number of global happiness surveys over the past few years and Colombia frequently ranks in the top three. And several times Colombia has even been ranked number one. For example, here’s a survey from WIN/Gallup in 2015 where Colombia was ranked the happiest country in the world.
11. The Views in the City
Medellín is a beautiful city, which is located in a valley and is surrounded by mountains. This provides for many panoramic views throughout the city.
Many apartments in the city have fantastic views in my experience. Two of the apartments I lived in had incredible views of the city and the mountains surrounding the city.
The many high points in the city also offer incredible views in the city, such as from Mirador de las Palmas, Cerro El Volador, Cerro de Las Tres Cruces (Hill of 3 Crosses) and Pueblito Paisa located at the top of Cerro Nutibara.
The Bottom Line: Medellín is a Top Foreign Retirement Location
Medellín continues to be rated as a top foreign retirement location for good reason. It is ranked as a top foreign retirement location for several reasons including the low cost of living, great climate, good healthcare and visas are easy to get. And there are many other benefits such as 14 surprisingly cheap things in Medellín for expats.
Medellín is a beautiful city with many things going for it. But no city is perfect. Expats considering living in Medellín should also consider the downsides to living in the city.
Many publications I have seen tend to only discuss the positives and advantages about living in Medellín. And the downsides are glossed over or may not be mentioned. But there are some downsides to living in Medellín such as traffic and pollution that should be considered.
So, here’s a list of 11 downsides to living in Medellín. Not all of these downsides apply to everyone and some of the downsides can be overcome.
The bottom line to me is that the positives and advantages of an expat living in Medellín greatly outweigh the downsides. I have traveled to over 40 countries and haven’t yet found a city I would rather live in than Medellín. And I expect that Medellín will continue to attract more foreign retirees each year as more retirees discover this top foreign retirement location.
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Editors note: updated on December 31, 2017 with the new 2018 Colombia minimum wage information.
Editors note: updated on December 22, 2018 with new 2018 Colombian hospital rankings.
Editors note: updated on October 1, 2019 to update several sections with current information.
Editors note: updated on October 29, 2019 with new 2019 Colombian hospital rankings.
Editors note: updated on January 4, 2019 with the new 2020 Colombia minimum wage information, which impacts the income requirement for the Colombian retirement visa.