Medellín vs Lima, Peru, which is really the better place to live? Both places have been rated as top foreign retirement locations. So, which is really better? In our Medellín vs Lima comparison, we comprehensively compare the two places in 21 categories to see which is the better place to live in for expats.

We previously wrote about 11 reasons why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location. The foreign retirement publications have for several years been touting both Colombia and Peru as top foreign retirement locations.

International Living ranks the country of Colombia as its sixth best foreign retirement location in 2018, which is ahead of Peru that is ranked number 10.

Lima is located along the Pacific coast in Peru in the valley of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers. Medellín is a city 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 Lima tend to prefer Lima. But 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 seven years. But I have traveled several times on business and vacation to Lima and other locations in Peru. And I have some friends living in Peru. In my opinion, both places have their pluses and minuses. No place is perfect.

We have also compared on this website:

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

View of Medellín from Pueblito Paisa, photo by Jenny Bojinova

View of Medellín from Pueblito Paisa, photo by Jenny Bojinova

View of Lima, photo by Juanity41

View of Lima, photo by Juanity41

1. Cost of Living

Medellín wins here. Apartment properties I have seen in Lima tend to rent for or sell for about 25-35 percent higher prices than similar properties in Medellín. And sometimes even higher. I have seen some rental properties with 50 percent higher prices in Lima compared to similar properties in Medellín.

The cost of living in terms of USD or Euros has dropped in both Medellín and Lima over the past few years due to the strength of the USD.

In addition, the cost of living site Numbeo reports that the cost of living is higher in Lima than in Medellín. For example, Numbeo reports that for rent Lima is 32.77 percent more expensive than in Medellín. So, in general the cost of living is higher in Lima than in Medellín.

Some expats living in Peru try to avoid the high cost of living in Lima by living in a much smaller city or town in Peru. But if you live outside of Lima you lose some of the benefits of the big city. Plus, you will most likely need a car.

One expat I met recently in Medellín who used to live in Lima told me his cost of living is now lower in Medellín by about 25 percent. He said one of the biggest differences was in the lower cost to rent or buy real estate in Medellín compared to Lima.

2. Climate

Medellín arguably wins here. The temperature during the year in Medellín averages 72.5 °F (22.5 °C). 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 Lima, the temperature during the entire year averages a cooler 66.9 ° F (19.4 °C). The daily average high temperature in Lima ranges from 65.1 to 79.7 °F (18.4 to 23.1 °C). And in Lima, the daily average low temperature ranges from 58.3 to 66.9 °F (14.6 to 19.4 °C).

Humidity is high in Lima with an average humidity for the entire year that is 82.8 percent. This is due to its location on the coast. While relative humidity is high in Lima, rainfall is extremely low, as Lima is actually considered a desert area.

In Medellín in comparison, the average humidity for each month ranges from 63 percent to 73 percent.  And the annual average humidity in Medellín is 68 percent.

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 rarely rains in Lima. It averages only 18 days of rain with 6.4 inches of rain in Lima for the entire year. It can sometimes go for weeks or even months in Lima without rain so it is much less green than Medellín.

In addition, Lima gets only about 1,230 sunshine hours per year. In comparison, Medellín gets over 1,850 sunshine hours per year.

From June to November in Lima it averages less than two hours of sunshine per day. This is due to heavy cloudiness in Lima during these six months but little rain. This lack of sunshine drives many to seek the sunshine in the Andean valleys in Peru located at higher elevations

Medellín arguably wins this category due to Lima having a depressing six months of grey skies when you sometimes won’t see the sun for weeks at a time.

Clínica Internacional, the best hospital in Lima

Clínica Internacional, the best hospital in Lima

3. Healthcare

Medellín wins here. Medellín has seven of the top 49 ranked hospitals in Latin America while Lima only has two.

Lima and the entire country of Peru only has two hospitals on the top Latin American hospital list: Clínica Internacional is ranked #13 and Clínica Ricardo Palma is ranked #15.

In comparison, Colombia has 20 of the top hospitals in Latin America. And Colombia’s healthcare system has been ranked as the best healthcare system in Latin America by the World Health Organization (WHO). 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).

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

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

Peru’s healthcare system is ranked much lower than Colombia’s healthcare system by WHO, as they rank Peru at #129 out of 191 countries.

Here is a list of all the top ranked hospitals in Medellín and Lima, with the rankings in the top 49 hospitals in Latin America:

  • Hospital Pablo Tobín Uribe – Medellín – #9
  • Clínica Internacional – Lima –  #13
  • Clínica Ricardo Palma – Lima –  #15
  • Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación – Medellín – #16
  • Clinica Las Américas – Medellín – #18
  • Hospital General de Medellín – Medellín – #26
  • Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana – Medellín – #32
  • Clínica El Rosario – Medellín – #33
  • Clinica Medellín – Medellin – #47

Good healthcare is a very important category for retirees. And Medellín wins this category due to having seven of the best hospitals in Latin America and Colombia having the best rated healthcare system in Latin America according to WHO.

Traffic in Medellín

Traffic in Medellín

4. Traffic

The two cities arguably tie here. In a survey by Waze in 2016, Lima was ranked #169 and Medellín was ranked #176 in the world in terms of drivers’ satisfaction out of 186 metros surveyed. In addition, Lima was ranked lower than Medellín by Waze in terms of just traffic.

Traffic can get bad in Medellín during rush hours. It can sometimes take an hour or more during rush hour to get certain 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 or Lima. In my experience, the traffic is much worse in the bigger cities of Bogotá, São Paulo and Mexico City.

Furthermore, in my experience both Medellín and Lima can have bad traffic. But during rush hours it can be worse in Lima. Reportedly during rush hours in Lima, about 25 percent of residents are stuck over two hours in traffic each day.

The Medellín metro

The Medellín metro

5. Public Transportation

Medellín arguably wins here. Medellín has a modern metro system, which is the only rail-based metro system in Colombia. And it has been in place for over 20 years.

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.

Lima’s metro system only has a single rail line with 26 stations, which opened in 2011. Lima plans to add additional lines to its metro. Construction of line two started in 2014, which is reportedly planned to open in 2019.

The Lima metro, photo by Jorge Gobbi

The Lima metro, photo by Jorge Gobbi

In comparison, Medellín’s metro is much larger and more comprehensive with nine lines including integrated cable car, tram and articulated bus lines. Furthermore, Medellín’s metro system has over 60 stations throughout the city.

Lima has a rapid bus system known at El Metropolitano and many other bus routes in the city. Medellín also has a rapid bus system known as Metroplus that is integrated with the metro system. In addition, Medellín has many other bus routes in the city including many routes integrated with the metro system.

Both Medellín and Lima have inexpensive taxis but the taxis in Lima are generally more expensive. The taxis in Medellín are metered and you just need to pay the fare on the meter.

Unfortunately, Lima has unmetered taxis and reportedly the majority of taxis in Lima are unregistered and not official taxis. So, it’s important to find the price to go to a destination before you get in a taxi in Lima. Otherwise you may be overcharged. Also, at night it is recommended to only use registered taxis.

The Medellín Metro system was named one of the top transport systems in the world by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in 2012.

Due to Medellín’s much more comprehensive metro system that is considered world-class and metered taxis, Medellín arguably wins this public transportation category.

6. Safety

Lima arguably wins here. The larger city of Lima generally has lower crime rates than are found in the city of Medellín.

According to statistics from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática (INEI) in Peru, the overall homicide rate in Lima grew from 5.0 homicides per 100,000 habitants in 2015 to 7.2 homicides per 100,000 habitants in 2016.

In 2016 in Medellín, there were a total of 534 homicides reported, which was up 7.9% compared to 2015. 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.

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

Medellin wins here The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Lima has the worst air pollution out of all the cities in Latin America.

Lima’s problem is that it’s nestled between the Andes Mountains in the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. In addition, the city has substantial amounts of heavy industry plus all the vehicles in the large city. And Lima receives almost no rain, which could help clean the air. Also, there is little or no wind in Lima, except for an occasional sea breeze.

Medellín also 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. And mountains surround the city. 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 clean the atmosphere.

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.

In general, Medellín has less air pollution than is found in Lima. So, Medellín wins this category. In addition, Medellín is the cleanest city out of over 30 cities I have been to in Latin America and you won’t see much litter.

Inside Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, photo by Vasenka Photography

Inside Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, photo by Vasenka Photography

8. Travel Access to North America, Europe and Latin America

Lima wins hereLima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport has non-stop flights to over 35 international locations in North America, Europe and Latin America.

From Lima, you can fly non-stop to Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York-JFK and Toronto in North America.

From Lima, you can also fly non-stop to, Amsterdam, Barcelona, London (seasonal), Madrid and Paris in Europe. In addition, from Lima you can fly non-stop to over 25 different cities in other countries in Latin America. Also from Lima, you can fly non-stop to over 15 domestic destinations in Peru.

Inside the terminal at José María Córdova airport in Medellín

Inside the terminal at José María Córdova airport in Medellín

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

From the MDE airport there are non-stop flights available to Fort Lauderdale, 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 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 non-stop to many more international locations from Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport. So, Lima wins this category.

Paragliding in Miraflores, Lima

Paragliding in Miraflores, Lima

9. Things to Do

Lima arguably wins here. Both Medellín and Lima have many things to do.

TripAdvisor has over 350 things to do listed for Lima. And it has 194 things to do listed for Medellín. While this is unscientific it demonstrates there are more things to do in Lima.

This is primarily due to Lima having over double the population compared to Medellín. Lima has a metro population of nearly 10 million compared to about 4 million in Medellín. So, Lima has more churches, landmarks, parks, shopping malls and tourist sites and things to do.

The country of Peru also has many things to do including the world-famous Machu Picchu. But Colombia also has many things to do. And Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world after Brazil.

Lima night view

Lima night view

10. Restaurants and Nightlife

Lima easily wins here. Lima is a much bigger city than Medellín with over double the population. So, it clearly has a bigger selection of restaurants and nightlife when compared to Medellín.

If you look on TripAdvisor, it lists over 2,500 restaurants in Lima but less than 1,300 restaurants in Medellín. Both Lima and Medellín have many good restaurant options. But you will have a much bigger choice of restaurants in the larger city of Lima.

Lima is often considered to have the best cuisine in Latin America. Lima has even been called the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas, with a cuisine that mixes Andean, Asian and Spanish traditions. Medellín doesn’t compare as well in terms of restaurant selection and cuisine.

In terms of nightlife, Lima has many more nightlife options than Medellín due to being a much bigger city. However, Medellín also has many nightlife options. You can find bars, nightclubs, music and pubs of many styles in Medellín found in areas like Parque Lleras, La 70 and La 33.

11. Currency and Banking

The cities tie here. Colombia uses the Colombian peso. And Peru uses the Peruvian Sol. So, in both countries you need to change money. Also, both countries have fluctuating exchange rates.

The fluctuating exchange rate in both Colombia and Peru has been beneficial to expats over the past few years making the cost of living lower in Colombia and Peru in terms of U.S. dollars.

For example, four years ago, the exchange rate in Colombia was about 1,926 pesos to the USD. And the exchange rate is now 2,708 pesos to the USD. This makes real estate and other products in Colombia priced in pesos cheaper in terms of U.S. dollars than four years ago.

But this fluctuation can work with you or against you if you have a currency like the USD. For example, two years ago, the exchange rate in Colombia was higher than it is now at about 3,094 pesos to the USD.

The fluctuating exchange rate in Peru has also been beneficial. Four years ago, the exchange rate in Peru was about 2.78 Sols to the USD. And the exchange rate is now 3.02 Sols to the USD. This makes real estate and other products in Peru priced in Sols cheaper in terms of U.S. dollars than four years ago.

In both countries banks normally require a local ID to open a bank account. In Colombia, the banks typically require a cedula de extranjería for foreigners to open an account. The cedula is a local Colombian photo ID you will receive after you have a visa.

In Peru, the banks typically require a carné de extranjería for foreigners to open an account. The carné is a local Peruvian photo ID.

In both countries be careful of counterfeits. The best counterfeiters in the world are reportedly in Peru. And an estimated 60 percent of counterfeit U.S. bills reportedly now come from Peru. Also, there is a counterfeiting problem in Colombia and we have looked at how to avoid counterfeits in Colombia.

12. Taxes

The two cities arguably tie here. Tax residents in both Colombia and Peru are taxed on worldwide income. And in both countries, you become a tax resident after living in the country for over 183 days.

We highly recommend talked to a tax professional to understand the tax implications before moving to another county.

However, it is possible that living in Colombia or Peru can be tax neutral or nearly tax neutral.  I have talked to several expats living in both Colombia and Peru that pay little or no income taxes.

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 taxes. Also, some income taxes paid in another country are subtracted from income taxes due in

Property taxes in Peru typically range from 0.2 to 1.0 percent. And property taxes in Colombia typically range from 0.3 to 3.3 percent.

The IVA tax (VAT tax) is somewhat higher in Colombia at 19 percent for many items. In comparison, the VAT tax for most items in Peru is currently a bit lower at 18 percent.

13. Seismic Risk

Medellín wins here. Lima and coastal Peru have a history of seismic activity. Lima has been impacted by at least five seismic events that caused deaths since 1940.

Earthquakes are common in Peru, with at least 170 earthquakes felt by people in the country annually. Seismology experts have warned that over 30,000 people would die if a large earthquake was to strike Lima. The Lima districts most at risk reportedly include Chorrillos, La Molina, San Juan de Lurigancho, Ventanilla and Villa El Salvador.

In 1746, an earthquake flattened colonial Lima. And a 50-foot wall of Pacific Ocean crashed into the adjacent port of Callao, killing all but 200 of its 5,000 inhabitants. Being on the coast, Lima faces risk in the event of a tsunami after an earthquake

A 7.5-magnitude quake in 1974 located about a day’s drive from Lima in the Cordillera Blanca range killed about 70,000 people when landslides buried villages. And 78 people died in the capital. In 2007, a 7.9-magnitude quake struck even closer, killing 596 people in the south-central coastal city of Pisco.

Medellín historically hasn’t experienced as much seismic activity as Lima. According to geologists, Medellín is situated on a giant block of andesite, which is a gigantic and deep-rooted hunk of igneous rock. This rock is hard like granite and resistant to seismic motion.

While there is no certainty, this resistance to seismic motion likely makes Medellín safer than many other places in Colombia and certainly safer than Lima.

14. Job Opportunities

Lima wins here. Lima is a much larger city with over double the metro population of Medellín. So, clearly there are many more job opportunities in Lima.

There are more multinational companies in Lima. But 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 city for foreigners. This is particularly the case if you don’t speak Spanish fluently. Fluency in Spanish is typically required for the best jobs in both Colombia and Peru.

In both Medellín and Lima 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 city. And competition is reportedly fierce for English teaching jobs in both places.

To work in either Colombia or Peru will require a visa. Note that if you have a retirement (pensionado) visa in either country you are not authorized to work.

15. Expat Community

Lima arguably wins here. Lima is estimated to have a somewhat larger expat English speaking community than Medellín has.

Peru has nearly 10,000 expats from the U.S. and nearly 1,500 from Canada and the UK living in Peru according to International Organization of Migration.  Likely more than half of those expats live in Lima, which is by far the largest city in Peru.

The entire country of Colombia has nearly 19,000 expats from the U.S. and over 2,200 expats from Canada and the UK living in Colombia according to International Organization of Migration. But a majority of those expats living in Colombia likely live in Bogotá, which is the largest city and the business center in Colombia.

The expat community in Medellín is likely smaller and unfortunately there aren’t statistics for Medellín. However, I would estimate there may be less than 4,000 expats from North America and Europe living in Medellín.

However, both places have active expat populations that are fairly well organized. Medellín has large expat groups on Facebook like Medellin Expats and Digital Nomads Medellin that are active with several thousand members each.

Lima has a Living in Lima Expat Support Facebook group with over 5,800 members that is active.

In addition, in both Lima and Medellín there are many regularly organized meetups for expats each month.

The new Language School building at Universidad EAFIT in Medellín

The new Language School building at Universidad EAFIT in Medellín

16. Education Options

The cities tie here. Both Lima and Medellín each has nearly 40 universities. So, there are many university choices in both cities.

In addition, both Lima and Medellín have many Spanish language programs available for foreigners.  However, Medellín has Universidad EAFIT, which reportedly has the largest Spanish language program in Colombia for foreigners.

Furthermore, both Medellín and Lima each has over 10 bilingual schools available for children.

Both cities have many education options – many universities, many Spanish language programs and many bilingual schools for children. So, the two cities arguably tie in this education category.

17. Internet Availability and Infrastructure Reliability

Medellin arguably wins here.  In Lima, it is possible to get higher Internet speeds than in Medellín. In Lima, both Claro and Movistar offer Internet speeds of up to 200 Mbps. And both offer triple-play Internet/TV/phone services.

In Medellín, it is possible to get up to 100 Mbps Internet speed from Claro. And up to 50 Mbps speed is available from Tigo-UNE. Most buildings in Medellín will have service from at least one of these two providers. And Both Claro and Tigo-UNE in Medellín provide 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.

I have a good friend living in the Miraflores neighborhood in Lima that tells me he typically experiences power outages several times each year and Internet outages at least once a month. And a friend of his experiences power, water or Internet outages at least monthly in Lima.

I only experienced three power outages in over seven years living in Medellín. And one of these outages I was informed about by the provider EPM beforehand, which was due to maintenance. In addition, I only experienced three Internet outages with Claro in Medellín and these were each resolved within an hour after calling the company.

In addition, the water quality in Lima and other cities in Peru is a major issue. The source of water in Lima is the Rio Rímac. And this river is one of the world’s most polluted rivers. So, the water that comes out of the tap in Lima has very high levels of chlorine and heavy metals and isn’t really considered safe to drink.

Lima has higher speed Internet available. But Medellín reportedly has more reliable infrastructure and the water in Medellín is safe to drink. So, Medellín edges out Lima in this category.

18. Economic Freedom, Ease of Starting a Business and Corruption

The two cities tie in this category. Since both cities 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 also ranks Peru with a “moderately free” economy. It currently ranks Peru #43 out of 180 countries in terms of economic freedom. So, both countries are ranked similarly in terms of economic freedom.

Furthermore, both countries are similarly ranked in terms of ease of doing business. The World Bank ranks Peru #58 out of 190 countries in the world in terms of ease of doing business. In comparison, Colombia is ranked #59 in terms of ease of doing business. So, in both countries are ranked similarly.

Corruption is found in both countries. Colombia is ranked #96 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption perception by Transparency International. And Peru is currently tied with Colombia and also ranked #96.

Since both Colombia and Peru rank similarly in terms of economic freedom, ease of doing business and corruption perception, Medellín and Lima are tied in this category.

Jockey Plaza mall in Lima, photo by Juanity41

Jockey Plaza mall in Lima, photo by Juanity41

19. Shopping

Lima wins here.  As a much larger city with over double the population, Lima reportedly has more Western style malls and more shopping options than the smaller city of Medellín.

The largest mall in Lima, is reportedly Jockey Plaza. This mega-mall has a big selection of shops and boutiques that offer everything from clothes and appliances to shoes and sporting goods.

In addition, the Lacomar mall in Lima has a great location. It’s on the cliffside of the Miraflores boardwalk with a great view of the Pacific Ocean.

Santafé mall in Medellín

Santafé mall in Medellín

Santafé mall is the largest mall in Medellín with reportedly over 2.1 million square feet of space and over 400 shops. Medellín has many malls and we have been looking at the largest and most popular malls in Medellín is a series on this website.

The bottom line is that Lima is a much larger city. So, Lima has more shopping options than are found in Medellín. So, Lima wins this category.

20. English Proficiency Levels

The two cities tie in this category.  In both cities, you will frequently find some English speakers in hotels and nicer restaurants. And even a few of the taxi drivers and shopkeepers in both Medellín and Lima speak some English. Also, executives at larger companies in both cities typically are bilingual.

But in everyday life in both Medellín and Lima you will be challenged to find English speakers.

Education First ranks Peru in its English Proficiency Index with a score of 52.46, which means a low level of English proficiency. And Colombia is not far behind with a score of 46.54 with an even lower level of proficiency (a higher number signifies that more people speak English).

I have seen some publications claim that many people speak English in Lima. This is not true in my experience. The bottom line is that some Spanish is needed in either Lima or Medellín. Or you will need to depend on someone bilingual.

21. Ease of Getting a Visa

The two places arguably tie in this category. Colombia and Peru both have a number of visa options. And the visa processes for both countries are fairly straightforward.

Both Colombia and Panama have retirement (pension) visas with relatively low-income requirements. In addition, both countries also have investor visas with lower investment thresholds than many other countries.

As an example, Peru’s retirement visa requires a minimum retirement/pension income of $1,000 per month. The retirement visa in Peru can take months to get but it’s a permanent visa.

In comparison, Colombia’s new retirement visa (a migrant visa of category 11) requires a minimum retirement income of three times the minimum wage in Colombia.

The minimum salary in Colombia is 781,242 pesos per month in 2018. So, you would need an income of only 2,343,726 pesos per month ($866 USD at the exchange rate of 2,708 pesos to USD) to qualify for this retirement visa. The Colombia retirement visa fee is $282 USD including the processing charge.

Both Colombia and Peru also have investor visas as well as several other visa options including student visas and marriage visas.

Peru’s investor visa requires a minimum investment of $30,000. Also, you have to demonstrate a plan for creation of five jobs if investing to form a company.

Colombia’s business investor visa has a somewhat lower minimum business investment that is no less than 100 times the minimum wage in Colombia or no less than about $28,850 and no job creation requirement.

Colombia also has a property investment visa with a minimum investment of 350 times the minimum wage in Colombia. This is $100,973 at the current exchange rate.

Colombia’s work visa is relatively easy to get, as it primarily requires just a work contract with a Colombian company. This is similar to the work visa in Peru, which requires a work contract with a Peruvian company.

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

After having most Colombian migrant (M) visas for five years (or two years for the new migrant marriage visa) you can apply for a Colombian resident visa that is good for five years.

View of the Pacific Coast in Lima, photo by Stvabod

View of the Pacific Coast in Lima, photo by Stvabod

The Bottom Line: Medellín vs Lima, Peru

In our Medellín vs Lima comparison:

  • Medellín wins in seven of our 21 categories.
  • Lima wins in seven of our 21 categories.
  • The two places tie in seven categories.

So, in this unscientific and somewhat subjective Medellín vs Lima comparison of 21 categories, the two cities tie 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, better healthcare and having good public transportation are your most important categories, then Medellín would win for you.

And if having more job opportunities, more things to do, more restaurant choices and having better flight access to North America and Europe are your most important categories, then Lima would win for you.

I have met a couple of expats living in Medellín over the past couple of years that moved to Medellín from Lima. The most common reasons I heard from these expats about why they moved to Medellín were: a better climate (they got tired of going for months without much sun), lower cost of living and the excellent Medellín metro system. But I haven’t heard of the reverse – expats moving from Medellín to Lima.

Both of these places in our Medellín vs Lima comparison have their pluses and minuses. I prefer living in Medellín due to it having an eternal spring climate, low cost of living, good healthcare and good public transportation.

The bottom line in our Medellín vs Lima 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 April 19  to add information about counterfeit currency based on a reader’s comment.