Medellín vs Algarve, Portugal, which is really the better place to live? In our Medellín vs Algarve comparison, we comprehensively compare the two places in 21 categories to see which is the better place to live in for expats.

We previously published an article about 11 reasons why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location. The foreign retirement publications have for several years been touting Colombia as a top foreign retirement location.

The Live and Invest Overseas retirement publication chose the Algarve as the best place in the world to retire in 2019 for the fifth year in a row. However, Medellín actually beats the Algarve in many categories.

And the International Living retirement publication ranked the country of Colombia as its sixth best foreign retirement location in 2018 and Portugal is its seventh best foreign retirement location.

Several Medellin Guru readers asked for a comparison of Medellín with the Algarve, as we have published several comparisons in the past.

The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal. It has an area of about 1,930 square miles and incorporate 16 municipalities. It has a population of about 450,000 permanent residents but this more than doubles to over 1 million during the height of summer, due to a big influx of tourists.

Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia located in a valley in the Colombian Andes Mountains in Colombia. And mountains surround Medellín with a river running though the city.

Many expats I have met living in Medellín prefer Medellín. And expats living in the Algarve tend to prefer the Algarve. However, many of these expats living in one of these two places have never traveled to the other. It’s not really fair to compare two places if you have not been to both of them.

I have lived in Medellín for over eight years. But I have traveled several times on business and vacation to Portugal and I have been to the Algarve twice. In my opinion, both places have their pluses and minuses. No place is perfect.

Note, the following 21 categories in this Medellín vs Algarve comparison are in no particular order. And where possible in our Medellín vs Algarve comparison, we provide some statistics to back up how we chose the winner of each category in our comparison.

Also, in our comparison we assume the winner is chosen based on what expats from North America would likely choose. For Europeans, this comparison would be different as the Algarve is located in Europe.

View of Portimão in the Algarve, photo by Guido Biermann

View of Portimão in the Algarve, photo by Guido Biermann

1. Climate – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín wins here. The temperature during the year in Medellín averages 72.5 °F (22.5 °C). The Medellín weather and climate is a benefit of living in the city.

Also, Medellín is also known as “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera”, or the city of eternal spring. The average temperature in Medellín typically only varies by about 1 °F during the year.

In Medellín, the high daily average temperature ranges from 81.0 to 82.8 ° F (27.0 to 28.2 °C). And the low daily average ranges from 61.7 to 63.3 ° F (16.5 to 17.4 °C).

In the Algarve, the temperature during the entire year averages a cooler 64.2 ° F (17.9 °C). In addition, the Algarve has seasons. Summers are hot and dry and the winters are cool with chilly nights. So, some homes in the Algarve have both heating and cooling due to the seasons. And heating is more common in homes in the area.

During the summer months (May to September) the average high temperature ranges from 79.5 to 84.6 ° F (26.4 to 29.2 °C). And during the winter months the average low temperature typically ranges from 46.2 to 58.3 ° F (11.0 to 14.6 °C).

During the summer on some days it can get above 90.0 ° F (32.2 °C). Also, it rarely snows in the Algarve during winter. But during winter the low temperature occasionally gets below 32 ° F (0 °C). I visited the Algarve once during the winter and it was pretty cold.

In terms of rainfall, in Medellín there is one month out of the year with heavy rain (October), which is normally over 220 mm (nearly 9 inches) of rain. The average rainfall in Medellín for the entire year is about 69 inches (1,752 mm) per year.

In comparison, it rains less in the Algarve. The average rainfall in the Algarve for the entire year is about 20.0 inches (508.8 mm) per year.

Medellín arguably wins this category due to the Algarve having seasons and a need to have at least heating and possibly also cooling, which aren’t needed in Medellín.

2. Cost of Living – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín wins here. Apartment properties I have seen in the Algarve tend to rent for or sell for at least 40 percent higher prices than similar properties in Medellín. And sometimes even higher. I have seen some properties for sale in the Algarve with 100 percent higher prices compared to similar properties in Medellín.

In addition, the cost of living site Numbeo reports that the cost of living is more expensive in the Algarve in almost every category compared to the prices in Medellín.

Also, the cost of living site Expatistan reports that the cost of living is 24 percent more expensive in Faro (the biggest town in the Algarve) than in Medellín.

Both the Expatistan and Numbeo cost of living websites collect data using a crowdsourcing. Users enter prices for their own city and the more users that enter prices for a city, the more accurate comparisons will be. But this method has limitations. For more accurate cost of living information we recommend talking with expats living in the locations.

Some expats living in Portugal try to avoid the higher cost of living near the coast in the Algarve by living in a small town in Portugal away from the coast.

One expat from the U.S. living in the Algarve with his wife that I met told me he is paying € 880 ($1,000 USD) per month for his three-bedroom apartment. But his apartment was smaller than the three-bedroom apartment I rent in Sabaneta for less than half the price.

This expat also said their cost of living for a couple is about $2,400 per month and that they have a car, as it’s really needed in the Algarve.

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, the best hospital in Medellín, photo by SajoR

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, the best hospital in Medellín, photo by SajoR

3. Healthcare – Medellín vs Algarve

The two places arguably tie here. Both Medellín and the Algarve have good healthcare available. Good healthcare is a very important category for retirees.

Medellín has nine of the top 58 ranked hospitals in Latin America. And Colombia has 23 of the best hospitals in Latin America.

Here is a list of all the top ranked hospitals in Medellín, with the rankings in the top 58 hospitals in Latin America:

  1. Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe (#9)
  2. Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación (#16)
  3. Clínica las Américas (#23)
  4. Hospital General de Medellín (#28)
  5. Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana (#34)
  6. Clínica El Rosario (#43)
  7. Clínica Cardio Vid (#44)
  8. Clínica Medellín (#53)
  9. Clínica Las Vegas (#58)

WHO ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked, which is ranked higher than many wealthier countries like the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Canada (#30) and Australia (#32).

Portugal’s healthcare system is ranked even higher than Colombia’s healthcare system by WHO, as they rank Portugal at #12 out of 191 countries.

In the Algarve there are two large hospitals in Faro and Portimão, which are the two largest towns in the Algarve. The hospital in Faro is reportedly ranked as one of the best hospitals in Portugal.

Also, in the Algarve there are smaller hospitals located in the towns of Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira and in Faro. And there are health centers located in a number of other locations.

The bottom line is that Medellín is a large city with more hospitals including 7 of the top hospitals in Latin America compared to the Algarve with two large hospitals. But Portugal’s healthcare system is ranked at #12, which is rated higher than Colombia, ranked at #22. So, the two places arguably tie in this healthcare category.

Traffic in Medellín

Traffic in Medellín

4. Traffic – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve easily wins here. In a survey by Waze in 2016, Medellín was ranked #176 in the world in terms of drivers’ satisfaction out of 186 metros surveyed.

The Algarve in Portugal is a rural area with the exception of some small towns. So, the Algarve doesn’t have much traffic in comparison.

Traffic can get bad in Medellín during rush hours. It can sometimes take an hour or more during rush hour to get to some places in Medellín. The worst traffic in the Medellín metro in my experience tends to be in El Poblado, El Centro and Envigado.

However, there is worst traffic in Latin America than in found in Medellín. In my experience, the traffic is much worse in the bigger cities of Bogotá, São Paulo and Mexico City.

Medellín's Metro

Medellín’s Metro

5. Public Transportation – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín wins here.  Medellín has a comprehensive metro system and an extensive network of buses.

The Medellín Metro is a comprehensive and inexpensive system. Furthermore, it integrates two rail lines, four Metrocable cable-car lines, two Metroplús elongated bus lines, a Tranvía tramcar line and even feeder Metro buses. Medellín’s metro system has over 60 stations throughout the city.

The coastal areas of the Algarve (the main tourist areas) have a reasonable network of bus routes but going inland, even a few miles, the network is sparse and service is infrequent. Also, bus services in the Algarve on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and Public Holidays are a lot less frequent than on weekdays. And most bus routes have no service after about 8 pm.

Buses at the Albufeira Bus Terminal in the Algarve, photo by Kolforn

Buses at the Albufeira Bus Terminal in the Algarve, photo by Kolforn

The bus fares in the Algarve are expensive compared to bus fares in Medellín. For example, Albufeira to Faro is € 4.85 ($5.50 USD) for about 38 miles. Bus fares in the city of Medellín tend to be only about 2,100 pesos ($0.66 USD). And the bus routes in Medellín operate much later that the buses in the Algarve.

Also, there is a railway line in the Algarve, with several daily passenger trains, running along the coast between Lagos, Faro and Vila Real de Santo António. However, some of the train stations like Albufeira and Loulé in the Algarve are several miles from the towns they serve making it difficult to walk from the station.

Taxis are expensive in the Algarve compared to in Medellín. In the Algarve the weekday daytime taxi fare starts at approximately € 3.30 ($3.75 USD) for the first 1.8 km then around € 1 per km.  We looked recently at the new 2018 taxi fares in Medellín, which for me tend to average only about 7,500 pesos per trip ($2.38).

It is definitely possible to live in Medellín without a car with the good and inexpensive public transportation in the city. Reportedly about 80 percent of the expats living in Medellín don’t have a car.

I found it difficult to get around in the Algarve without a car. And I would want to have a car if I lived there.

Since Medellín has a comprehensive and inexpensive metro system as well as inexpensive buses and taxis, Medellín wins this category.

6. Safety – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve wins here. The Algarve region generally has lower crime rates than are found in the city of Medellín.

Crime in the Algarve recently has been on a downward trend. In 2016, overall crime for 2016 (21,515 cases) registered a decrease of 1.5% compared to 2015.

The last time overall crime in the Algarve was lower was way back in 1998 when it stood at 19,690 cases. The crimes most committed in the Algarve were drunk driving, followed by burglary with break-in, theft from motor vehicles, minor assault and domestic violence.

While there doesn’t seem to be a published homicide rate for the Algarve, the homicide rate in Portugal tends to be low. In 2015, the homicide rate in Portugal was 1.0 per 100,000.

In comparison, the homicide rate in Medellín of 23 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017 was up from a homicide rate of 20 in 2015 in Medellín.

But over the past few years Medellín has experienced a homicide rate that is lower than is found in St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit or New Orleans in the U.S.

Furthermore, Medellín dropped off of the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world a few years ago based on homicide rates.

We previously looked at security in Medellín and expat safety tips. And in a survey of 12,548 Colombians, Medellín ranked higher than all other cities in Colombia in terms of citizens feeling safe in their barrio (neighborhood) – slide 41.

7. Pollution – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve wins here Medellín has pollution problems. WHO has reported that Medellín was ranked #9 in a list of the 10 cities most polluted in Latin America.

Medellín’s biggest issue is that it’s located in a canyon.

Mountains surround the city of Medellín. So, pollution tends to stay in the Medellín metropolitan area. This is similar to the problem in Denver in the U.S. But fairly regular rain in the city can help clean the atmosphere.

The Algarve is a mostly rural area located in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula. But three of the most polluted areas in Portugal are in the Algarve. In the Algarve, the Portimão, Albufeira and Faro municipalities all have readings over the WHO limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter limit.

But in general, the Algarve has less air pollution than is found in Medellín. So, the Algarve wins this category.

However, according to WHO, Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile and other towns in Chile; Monterrey, Mexico; Cubatão, Brazil; as well as some towns in Costa Rica all have worse pollution levels than in Medellín.

The entrance to the Faro Airport in the Algarve, photo by Bextrel

The entrance to the Faro Airport in the Algarve, photo by Bextrel

8. Travel Access to North America, Europe and Latin America – Medellín vs Algarve

The two places arguably tie hereThe Algarve’s Faro International Airport has non-stop flights year-round to over 35 international locations in Europe.

In addition, the Faro airport gets busy during the summer months from March to October with the addition of many more seasonal flights to many locations in Europe. Also, it only has one seasonal flight to Toronto in North America and no flights to Latin America.

So, there are no non-stop flights to the Algarve from the U.S. or from Latin America, you would have to connect somewhere.

Inside José María Córdova international airport, Medellín's airport

Inside José María Córdova international airport, Medellín’s airport

Medellín’s José María Córdova international airport (MDE) is the second largest airport in Colombia. This airport has non-stop flights to 12 international locations in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

From the MDE airport there are non-stop flights available to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Miami and New York (JFK) in the U.S. In addition, from MDE you can fly non-stop to Madrid in Europe. Also, you can fly non-stop to Cancún, Lima, Maracaibo, Mexico City, Panama City, San Salvador and Valencia.

In addition, there are more domestic Colombia flights available from Medellín as the city has two airports: the international José María Córdova airport and the domestic Olaya Herrera airport (EOH). From Medellín’s two airports you can fly non-stop to over 30 cities in Colombia.

The bottom line you can fly to over 35 international locations in Europe from the Faro airport in the Algarve. So, it has more international destinations and it a good airport to fly to Europe. But the Faro airport does not have flights to the U.S. or Latin America.

In comparison, the Medellín airport has fewer non-stop destination but you can fly non-stop to several cities in the U.S., several cites in Latin America and one in Europe.

So, the two places arguably tie. The Faro airport in the Algarve is better for flying to locations in Europe. And the Medellín airport is better for flying to the U.S. and Latin America.

9. Cost and Time to Travel from the U.S. – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín wins here. It is cheaper and quicker to travel from the U.S. to Medellín than traveling from the U.S. to the Algarve in Portugal.

It’s important to not only look at flight availability but also look at the cost and length of flights. Proximity to the U.S. is important for some expats from the U.S. that travel home for family or work.

We previously looked at finding cheap flights to Medellín. For example, it’s possible to find roundtrip from New York to Medellín for under $400 and roundtrip from Los Angeles to Medellín for under $500.

From New York to Faro in the Algarve, the cheapest roundtrip I found in February was $610 with a connection in Lisbon – which is more expensive than the cost of flying to Medellín.  And from Los Angeles to Faro in the Algarve, the cheapest roundtrip I found in February was $580 with a connection in London (LGW).

Also, Medellín is much closer to the U.S. than the Algarve in Portugal. For example, it’s only about a three-hour non-stop flight from Miami to Medellín and a six-hour non-stop flight from New York to Medellín.

In comparison, it’s about a 12-hour flight with a connection from Miami to Faro in the Algarve and an 11-hour flight with a connection from New York to Faro in the Algarve. There are no non-stop flights from the U.S. to Faro in the Algarve.

Since the flights to the Algarve from the U.S. are more expensive and over double the travel time on average, Medellín wins this category. However, for expats from Europe, Algarve is obviously closer than Medellín. So, Algarve is a popular retirement location for Europeans.

The Praia da Marinha beach between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra in the Algarve, photo by Tobi87

The Praia da Marinha beach between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra in the Algarve, photo by Tobi87

10. Things to Do – Medellín vs Algarve

The two places arguably tie. Both the Algarve region and Medellín and its nearby region have many things to do.

TripAdvisor has over 500 things to do listed for the Algrave region. And it has over 200 things to do listed for Medellín. While this is unscientific it demonstrates there are many more things to do in the Algarve region than just in the city of Medellín.

But this is primarily due to the Algarve being a popular tourist region in Portugal, which includes all the small towns in the Algarve region. If we compare Medellín only to the largest town in the Algarve, which is Faro, TripAdvisor only lists 88 things to do for Faro.

So, if we include with Medellín all the pueblos near Medellín as well as the other municipalities in the Aburrá valley this would be more comparing apples-to-apples.

If we include Medellín plus other municipalities in the Aburrá Valley and nearby pueblos, TripAdvisor has over 400 things listed to do. But TripAdvisor is missing many of the things to do in each pueblo.

For example, for some pueblos, TripAdvisor has only one thing listed to do, which is inaccurate, as every pueblo has many things to do. This is due to many pueblos near Medellín not being in the tourist guides like Lonely Planet, which only lists three pueblos near Medellín. So, many pueblos aren’t accurately covered on TripAdvisor.

The Algarve region is popular with tourists. So, it is well mapped out with all its beaches and tourist attractions.  Medellín is more of an emerging tourist destination with many things to do in its nearby pueblos still undiscovered by most foreigners.

The Algarve has beaches, water activities and many small towns to explore plus several highly rated golf courses. And Medellín is surrounded by mountains with many rivers, lakes and streams and many small pueblos to explore.

The bottom line is that there are hundreds of things to do in the Algrave and there are hundreds of things to do in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and nearby pueblos. So, these two places arguably tie in this category.

The Faro Harbor in the Algarve, photo by Glen Bowman

The Faro Harbor in the Algarve, photo by Glen Bowman

11. Restaurants and Nightlife – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve wins here. Both the Algarve and Medellín have many good restaurant options. But you will have a much bigger choice of restaurants in the Algarve.

If you look on TripAdvisor, it lists over 4,200 restaurants in the Algarve but less than 1,400 restaurants in Medellín. Both the Algarve and Medellín have many good restaurant options. But you will have a much bigger choice of restaurants in the Algarve.

The Algarve is a popular European tourist destination during the summer. During the peak travel season in the summer, the population of the Algarve reportedly more than doubles with all the tourists visiting. So, there are many restaurants targeting the huge number of tourists.

Also, during the summer, the Algarve is considered one of the best areas for nightlife in Portugal with all the tourists visiting. There are many clubs in Lagos, Albufeira and Praia de Luz in the Algarve that cater to tourists.

Also, Faro is known for a vibrant student-themed nightlife thanks to the large number of students studying in the city.

But the nightlife in the Algarve dies down after the peak summer travel season. When I visiting the Algarve during the winter, the nightlife was pretty dead and several places were closed.

In terms of nightlife, Medellín has many more nightlife options than the Algarve due to having a metro population of about 4 million. And the nightlife in Medellín is active year-round.

In Medellín you can find bars, nightclubs, music and pubs of many styles found in areas like Parque Lleras, La 70 and La 33.

But the Algarve edges out Medellín in this restaurants and nightlife category due to having many more restaurant choices.

12. Taxes – Medellín vs Algarve

The two places arguably tie here. We highly recommend talked to a tax professional to understand the tax implications before moving to another county.

Tax residents in both Colombia and Portugal are taxed on worldwide income. In both Colombia and Portugal, you become a tax resident after spending 183 days in a year in the country.

But Colombia no longer taxes foreign pensions. And Portugal has a Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) program. Under this program, certain types of income – including income from pensions, interest, dividends and royalties – are exempt from taxes in Portugal for a period of 10 years.

You can apply for the NHR program if you haven’t been a resident in Portugal the previous five tax years. But keep in mind the NHR program is only good for 10 years. After 10 years your income will be taxed in Portugal.

Portugal tax residents are liable to a progressive tax on their worldwide income ranging between 14.5 – 45 percent. And Colombia tax residents are liable to a progressive tax on their worldwide income ranging between 0 – 33 percent.

We looked at filing income taxes in Colombia last year. Colombia has many income deductions including deductions for expenses related to receiving your income, mortgage interest, health insurance, retirement savings and economic support of dependents.

In addition, in Colombia, you can exclude 25 percent of your salary (up to a limit) from income taxes. Also, some income taxes paid in another country are subtracted from income taxes due in Colombia.

Property taxes in Portugal typically range from 0.3 to 0.8 percent. And property taxes in Colombia typically range from 0.3 to 3.3 percent.

The standard VAT tax is higher in Portugal at 23 percent for many items. In comparison, the VAT (IVA tax) tax for most items in Colombia is currently lower at 19 percent.

13. Job Opportunities – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín wins here. Medellín is a much larger city with a metro population that has over eight times the population of the Algarve region of Portugal. So, clearly there are many more job opportunities in Medellín.

Medellín has several very large employers and several multinational companies have offices in Medellín that are headquartered in the U.S.

But there aren’t that many work opportunities in either place for foreigners. This is particularly the case in Medellín if you don’t speak Spanish fluently. Fluency in Spanish is typically required for the best jobs in Colombia.

The Algarve is a major tourist location and most of the jobs are seasonal tourist jobs that have a lot of competition from locals.

In both Medellín and the Algarve you can find English teaching job opportunities if you are a native English speaker. However, the pay for English teaching isn’t the greatest in either place.

Also, to work in either Colombia or Portugal will require a visa.

14. Expat Community and Expat Friendly – Medellín vs Algarve

The two places arguably tie here. The Algarve has a much bigger expat community than Medellín. The Algarve reportedly has about 60,000 expats, primarily from Europe and mostly from the UK. And there aren’t many expats from the U.S. living in the Algarve.

The expat community in Medellín is smaller but unfortunately there aren’t reliable statistics for Medellín. However, I would estimate there may be less than 5,000 expats from North America and Europe living in Medellín.

The expat community in Medellín may be smaller but it’s much better organized. Medellín has several large expat groups on Facebook that are very active including:

The Algarve has an Expats Living in the Algarve Facebook group with over 4,600 members but it’s not very active averaging only about 10 posts per day. Also, I didn’t find an Algarve Digital Nomad group on Facebook.

In addition, in Medellín there are many regularly organized meetups for expats each week. Two expats I met living in the Algarve originally from the U.S. both told me there aren’t nearly as many regularly organized meetups in the Algarve for expats as there are in Medellín.

Finally, both Portugal and Colombia are rated very expat friendly countries by InterNations. In 2018 when looking at the best and worst places for expats, InterNations ranked Portugal as #6 out of 68 countries. And Colombia is ranked #9.

The Algarve has a bigger expat community but the expat community in Medellín looks to be better organized. And both Portugal and Colombia are rated as very expat friendly countries. So, these two places arguably tie in this category.

15. Education Options – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín arguably wins here. Medellín has about 40 universities. So, there are many university choices available. The Algarve in comparison only has a handful of universities.

In addition, Medellín has many Spanish language programs available for foreigners.  Also, Medellín has Universidad EAFIT, which reportedly has the largest Spanish language program in Colombia for foreigners. In comparison, the Algarve has several Portuguese language programs available for foreigners.

Furthermore, both Medellín and the Algarve have several bilingual schools available for children.

So, Medellín has Spanish language programs for foreigners and the Algarve has Portuguese language programs for foreigners. And both places have bilingual schools available for children.

However, Medellín arguably edges out the Algarve in this education category due to Medellín having many more university choices.

16. Internet Availability and Infrastructure Reliability – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve wins here.  In the Algarve, it is possible to get higher Internet speeds than in Medellín.

In Medellín, it is possible to get up to 300 Mbps Internet speed from Claro. In addition, up to 150 Mbps speed is available from Tigo-UNE and up to 40 Mbps from Movistar.

Most buildings in Medellín will have service from at least one of these three providers. And all three providers in Medellín provide triple-play Internet/TV/phone services. Also, we have a guide to Internet and cable TV providers in Medellín.

In the Algarve, it is reportedly possible to get up to 200 Mbps Internet speed from NOS and up to 1,000 Mbps speed is available from MEO. Both providers offer triple-play Internet/TV/phone services.

Furthermore, the highest speed Internet in both cities will normally be available only in the newest apartment buildings. In older buildings, you may be limited to lower speeds.

In terms of other infrastructure like electricity and water, the two places are similar. Tap water is drinkable in both places and electricity and water services are reliable.

Since the Algarve has higher Internet speeds available, the Algarve edges out Medellín in this category.

17. Economic Freedom, Ease of Starting a Business and Corruption – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve arguably wins here. Since both places are in different countries it is good to compare the countries in terms economic freedom and ease of starting a business as well as corruption when considering them as places to live.

The Heritage Foundation ranks countries in terms of economic freedom. It ranks Colombia as a “moderately free country”. It ranks Colombia #42 out of the 180 countries it ranks in terms of economic freedom in the world.

Heritage Foundation ranks Portugal lower than Colombia with a “moderately free country. It currently ranks Portugal #72 out of 180 countries in terms of economic freedom.

Portugal returned to democracy in 1976 and the country joined the European Union in 1986. Unemployment has fallen in Portugal but remains high, especially among younger Portuguese.

In terms of ease of doing business, Colombia is ranked #65. And Portugal is ranked #34 in terms of ease of doing business. So, it’s generally easier to do business in Portugal.

Some corruption is found in both countries. Portugal is ranked #29 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption perception by Transparency International. And Colombia is ranked #96. So, corruption is perceived to be worse in Colombia.

Since Portugal ranks better than Colombia in terms of both ease of doing business and corruption perception, Algarve arguably wins this category.

The Aqua Portimão mall in the Algarve, photo by Jose A.

The Aqua Portimão mall in the Algarve, photo by Jose A.

18. Shopping – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín easily wins here.  When I was last in the Algarve I only counted five malls in the area and some smaller shopping centers.

The malls in Medellín in my experience are much larger than the relatively small malls found in the Algarve.  And we have looked at 22 malls in Medellín including the 13 best malls in Medellín.

The largest mall in the Algarve, is reportedly Aqua Portimão with only 117 shops. The smaller malls in Medellín are larger than the largest mall in the Algarve.

There are five malls in Medellín with at least 400 shops each, which means each is almost four times as large as the largest mall in the Algarve in terms of number of shops.

The Viva Envigado Mall in Envigado

The Viva Envigado Mall in Envigado

For example, Santafé mall is one of the largest malls in Medellín with over 400 shops. And in October 2018, Viva Envigado, the largest mall in Colombia opened in Envigado, directly south of Medellín, which also has about 400 shops.

The bottom line is that Medellín has many more malls and many more shopping options. This is due to Medellín having a much larger population than the Algarve.

19. English Proficiency Levels – Medellín vs Algarve

Algarve wins here. The Algarve has more locals that speak English than locals that speak English in Medellín.

The Algarve is a tourist location that caters to Europeans, particularly from the UK. And about 50 percent of the tourists in the Algarve are from the UK each year. So, English is frequently used.

Also, there are about 60,000 expats living in the Algarve, which is over 10 percent of the population living there. And a majority of these expats are from the UK. So, there are even some English newspapers found in the Algarve.

In Medellín you will some English speakers in hotels and nicer restaurants. And some of the taxi drivers and shopkeepers in Medellín speak some English. Also, executives at larger companies are typically are bilingual.

But in everyday life in Medellín you will be more challenged to find English speakers than in the Algarve.

Education First ranks Portugal as #19 in its English Proficiency Index with a score of 60.02, which means a high level of English proficiency. And Colombia is ranked #60 with a score of 48.90, which is a low level of proficiency (a higher number signifies that more people speak English).

But not everyone in the Algarve speaks English. If you want to be able to speak to all the locals you will need some Portuguese. But Spanish is definitely needed more in Medellín.

20. Learning the Language – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín arguably wins here. For those wanting to integrate, learning Portuguese is considered to be more difficult than Spanish. Some expats that move to a foreign country want to learn the local language to better integrate and be fully self-sufficient.

Portuguese spoken in Portugal will reportedly take much longer to learn, not only to be able to speak, but also understand.

Also, Spanish has more native speakers than Portuguese. And Spanish is spoken in many more countries than Portuguese. Spanish is the most spoken language in the world after English.

Portuguese and Spanish are related, as they are both Latin-based languages and both share many grammatical structures and patterns. Some words are the same in both languages. But many of the common words used in everyday language are different between Portuguese and Spanish.

Since Spanish is considered easier to learn and is more widely used in the world, Medellín wins this category.

21. Ease of Getting a Visa – Medellín vs Algarve

Medellín arguably wins this category. Colombia and Portugal both have a number of visa options. And the visa processes for both countries are fairly straightforward.

Portugal has a Golden Visa that is intended to encourage investment and development in the country and allows immigrants to fast-track the residency process by buying property worth half a million euros or more, investing 1 million euros in the country or by starting a local business that creates at least 10 jobs.

But Colombia’s investment visas that we previous looked at have much lower investment requirements.

Most retirees that move to Portugal from North America use a Type 1 Resident Visa, which requires you to show financial means to support yourself with a monthly income of over 1,000 euros. This type of temporary residence visa is initially granted for one year, followed by two consecutive two-year terms. After five years’ residence in Portugal, you can apply for a permanent residence visa.

In comparison, Colombia’s retirement visa, which we previously looked at, has a lower income requirement and is good for three years and after five years you can apply for a Colombia resident visa.

Also, the visas in Portugal reportedly can take months to get and require more documents. And Portugal requires criminal records as part of a visa application, while Colombia doesn’t.

Colombia streamlined its visa process a couple years ago and you can apply online, fewer documents are required and approvals are now relatively fast, typically in about a week.

Medellín arguably wins this category for North Americans with Colombia having similar visas that have fewer requirements and are quicker to get.

But Europeans who are citizens of the EU (as well as national of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) who want to remain in Portugal for more than three months can apply for a residence permit within 30 days of arriving in Portugal. This residence permit is valid for five years

The Medellin Guru City and Place Comparisons

We have compared on this website living in Medellin with living in several foreign locations:

Also, we have compared living in different cities in Colombia:

Praia de Carvoreiro beach in the Algarve, photo by Tobi87

Praia de Carvoreiro beach in the Algarve, photo by Tobi87

The Bottom Line: Medellín vs Algarve 

In our Medellín vs Algarve comparison:

  • Medellín wins in 9 of our 21 categories.
  • Algarve wins in 7 of our 21 categories.
  • The two places tie in 5 categories.

So, in this unscientific and somewhat subjective Medellín vs Algarve comparison of 21 categories, Medellín edges out Algarve if you equally weigh the categories. But it really comes down to which categories are more important for you.

If having a lower cost of living, better climate without seasons and proximity to the U.S. are your most important categories, then Medellín would win for you.

And if having beaches, less pollution, less traffic and more English spoken are your most important categories, then the Algarve would win for you.

Both of these places in our Medellín vs Algarve comparison have their pluses and minuses. I prefer living in Medellín due to it having an eternal spring climate year round, low cost of living and is relatively close to the U.S.

The Algarve is currently a popular retirement location for Europeans but I personally doubt it will become a very popular retirement location for retirees from the U.S. as it’s too far away, the Algarve has seasons and lower costs of living can be found in several countries in Latin America.

The bottom line in our Medellín vs Algarve comparison is that the best place to live is the best place to live for you. Everyone has different priorities. The only way to know which place is the best for you is to spend time there.

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Editors note: updated on December 22, 2018 with new 2018 Colombian hospital rankings.