This is my story about discovering Colombia and moving to Medellín. I have now been traveling to Colombia since over 10 years ago and living in Medellín for over seven years. And I have no regrets.
I originally discovered Colombia back in late 2006, when I was living in Dallas and looking for a new vacation place. I was looking for someplace warm to go, as this was during the winter. Cartagena was the first place I discovered in Colombia. And the above photo was taken in Cartagena in 2006 from the hotel I stayed in.
How I discovered Colombia? I happened to buy a book “100 Places to See in Your Lifetime: Heaven on Earth” published by Life magazine. And two places in the book caught my eye as possible vacation places – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Cartagena, Colombia.
I decided to go to Cartagena on vacation, as it was closer and cheaper. And I spent several weeks in Cartagena as a break from a cold winter in the U.S.
I thoroughly enjoyed Cartagena, which I described to my friends in the U.S. as kind of a mix of a Caribbean beach location with the vibrant history, restaurants and nightlife of a place like New Orleans. I returned to Cartagena several more times on vacation. In addition, I brought a good friend along on one of the trips and he also really enjoyed Cartagena.
How I Discovered Medellín
It was during one of these trips that I met some expats in Cartagena who told me I had to go to Medellín. I had the typical American reaction thinking of the history of Pablo Escobar and drugs and violence. But these expats assured me that Medellín had changed completely.
To make a long story short, I went to Medellín. I planned a trip and decided to go to Medellín to see the Christmas lights. I had an amazing time and was enchanted by the city. I wanted to spend more and more time in Medellín. I started spending all my vacation time in Medellín. Normally I spent a week to 10 days.
I even worked remotely from Medellín during some of these trips for a few days and started to think about moving to Medellín, as I had a job in the U.S. with location flexibility.
Moving to Medellín, First a Trial
By 2009, I made the decision for a trial of living in Medellín. I was working from home in the U.S. and just needed Internet and a phone to do my job. So, I had location flexibility and really could work from anywhere.
For my first living in Medellín trial, I rented a furnished apartment in El Poblado for a month in late 2009, which was close to Oviedo mall. I quickly decided El Poblado wasn’t for me, even though it is the area of Medellín most popular with foreigners. El Poblado is relatively expensive and too much like living in the U.S. And I wanted to experience living in other neighborhoods.
So, this was followed by a longer-term trial of renting a furnished apartment in Fatima in 2010 for three months. Fatima is a more middle-class barrio in Belén within walking distance of the Unicentro mall, near the Fatima Metroplús station and near Pueblito Paisa.
For anyone considering moving to Medellín, I highly recommend doing a trial like this. My trial of living in the city went well. And the more I learned about Medellín, the more I wanted to stay.
By June 2011, I decided it was time to rent an unfurnished apartment, as continuing to rent furnished apartments in Medellín would be expensive.
Moving to Medellín: My First Unfurnished Rental
I started looking for unfurnished apartments with my moderate Spanish skills and immediately encountered a problem. I called real estate agent numbers I saw posted on apartment windows. These agents told me details of the apartments (how many bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.). And when I asked to see apartments, agents asked if I had a fiador.
A fiador is a cosigner who guarantees the tenant’s rent payments, so the agent can go after the fiador if the tenant stops paying rent. I became frustrated as every agent asked if I had a fiador. So, to get in to see apartments I started saying “yes.”
I spent some time walking around areas in Laureles/Estadio I liked near where a friend was living. And I called numbers posted in apartment windows and looked at a few apartments. But this was a frustrating process, I heard many times things like: come back tomorrow, sorry I do not have the key, let me call the owner, etc.
After looking at a couple more apartments, I found an apartment I liked in Estadio. This was a three-bedroom apartment in a new five-story building located three blocks from the Floresta Metro station.
The real estate agent who showed the apartment to me didn’t have any experience renting to a foreigner. And she wanted a fiador. I didn’t know anyone in Colombia that could be this fiador.
So, I asked, what if I paid rent in advance? I told the agent I could pay six months in advance. She called her lawyer and also the apartment owner to see if they would agree to a six-month lease and paying in advance. And both said yes! So, I signed and notarized a contract, paid rent and got the keys!
Moving to Medellín: Getting Established
So now I had a place and started furnishing it. This took a couple weeks, as I was still working during the day from the furnished place in Fatima.
But I ran into another roadblock – trying to setup triple play Internet/TV/phone service. UNE the provider wanted a local ID (cedula), which I didn’t have at the time, as I didn’t have a visa yet. My solution was to get service in the name of a Colombian friend. So, I lived in this apartment for a while and really liked the area with the convenience of the metro.
But I encountered reliability problems almost monthly with Internet service from UNE. And Claro, the other major provider in the city, wasn’t available in the building. I also got tired of walking upstairs with groceries, as I was on the top floor. In Laureles-Estadio there aren’t that many high-rise apartment buildings like in El Pobaldo.
Many buildings in Laureles-Estadio don’t have elevators and only about one-third in my experience have a 24×7 porteria (doorman). The building didn’t have a porteria that is found in many high-rise apartments in Medellín, it was key-access to the building.
My Second Apartment
So, after a year, I started looking for a new apartment and immediately ran into the fiador problem again. The agent I used before was no longer working. And I finally got frustrated and ran an ad in the newspaper.
One agent responded and said he’d rent without a fiador, if I paid in advance. He took me around to many apartments in different neighborhoods and I found one I liked in the Loma de los Bernal barrio in Belén. This apartment was an upgrade over the one in Estadio. Apartment specifications were:
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, about 75 square meters (807 square feet)
- Kitchen with gas cooktop and granite counters
- 15th floor with balcony in a high-rise with 24×7 security
- Pool and small gym in building
- Estrato 5 neighborhood
- Rent: 1,200,000 peso per month (same as the apartment in Estadio)
Moving and getting set up in the new apartment was painless, as the agent had a good contact at Claro and also recommended a good mover.
I lived in this apartment for two years. But after renewing for six months, the owner contacted my agent and said he was moving back from Bogotá to live in the apartment. So, I needed to find another place quickly.
Moving to Medellín: Getting Rid of Everything in the U.S.
For the first 2.5 years of living in Medellín, I was splitting my time between Dallas and Medellín. And when in Medellín, I was on tourist visas. But I had starting downsizing in Dallas and getting rid of things, with a plan to eventually move to Medellín full-time.
I moved to a much smaller place near the airport in Dallas. And I got rid of my car. And then I started taking Spanish classes at Universidad EAFIT in Medellín. Plus, I got a Colombian student visa, so I could live full-time in Medellín.
At that time, I decided to put everything in storage in Dallas and started living full-time in Medellín. After a year of paying for storage, I decided I wasn’t going back to the U.S. and sold or donated everything. This was a few months before moving to my third apartment in Medellín.
My Third Apartment
My real estate agent knew my requirements by then and quickly found an apartment he said I would like. And he was right. What really sold me was the apartment had two balconies with an incredible view of the city. The two balconies offered a 225 degree unobstructed view of Medellín.
So, I moved to this apartment in Belén in the Los Alpes barrio, located within a few blocks of Los Molinos mall and the Los Alpes Metroplús station. My third apartment specifications:
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, about 75 square meters (807 square feet)
- Kitchen with oven and gas cooktop, plus a gas water heater (tankless)
- 14th floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
- Pool and small gym in building
- 24×7 security
- Estrato 4 neighborhood
- Rent: 1,150,000 pesos per month (cheaper than my first two apartments)
Soon after living in this apartment I starting dating a Colombian that a couple years later became my wife.
We lived in this apartment for two years but decided it was too small. So, we decided we weren’t going to renew our lease.
And the owner contacted us and said he had sold the place he was living in and would need his apartment back. So, it was a mutual decision to end the lease.
My Fourth Apartment
I again contacted my real estate agent and he took us around to look at larger apartments primarily in Belén, Envigado and Sabaneta.
After looking at several in Sabaneta we decided we really liked the area. We started only looking in Sabaneta. And my agent found an apartment we really liked and we signed a contract. But the expat owner changed his mind about renting.
So, we found another apartment in Sabaneta owned by a Colombian investor. Specifications of this apartment:
- Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 105 square meters (1,130 square feet)
- Kitchen with granite countertops, oven, and gas cooktop, plus a gas water heater (tankless)
- 10th floor in a high-rise building, with two large balconies
- Pool, sauna and small gym in building
- 24×7 security
- Estrato 4 neighborhood
- Rent: 1,280,000 pesos per month (two years ago and net after renting the parking space for 70,000 pesos per month)
Moving to this apartment was painless, as I already had experience twice before with moving in Medellín.
Now over two years later, we rent directly from the investor owner. And we recently renewed our lease for another year. We really like living in Sabaneta and plan to live here for the foreseeable future.
The Bottom Line: Moving to Medellín
After moving to Medellín and now living in Medellín for over seven years, I can still definitely say this was the right decision and I have no regrets. To better answer the question “Why Medellín?” I even wrote an article that includes 27 reasons why I ended up choosing Medellín as a great place to live.
I believe that as more foreigners from other countries experience Medellín, the expat community in the city will continue to increase. Medellín offers a great lifestyle and a near perfect climate with a lower cost of living than locations in North America and Europe.
While I have moved three times while living in Medellín, each time I moved to a better place. The longer I have lived in the city, I learned more about different neighborhoods and experienced more areas in the city.
Three years ago, I decided to in my spare time to write about my experiences living in Medellín for the Medellín Living blog. I did this as I wanted to help other expats. After three years, I decided it is now time to launch this website, which is my own travel blog. So, I can now do more to help expats visiting Medellín and expats considering moving to Medellín.
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Jeff…I just want to say how helpful and wonderful it is to read about your experiences. Thank you so much. My husband and I find your blogs very informative. Thank you again from newcomers to Medellin. ?
Jeff! Your nice article about Medellín makes me feel so happy and proud of being a “PAISA”. I just want to congratulate you for making the right decision about moving to Medellín. I lived in Chicago for 25 years and still remember, as if it was yesterday, when the American Vicecónsul handed me the Permanent Resident Visa which would allow me to work, study and do everything a foreigner dreams of doing in the United Staes, one of the thing he told me was: “George…Why Chicago?”…”Because I understand it is the Industrial City of the United States and therefore, the possibilities to progress and make my dreams a reality are greater that in the other big cities of the country” I answered. “Well…(he continued), let me tell you: You are leaving a city with the most beautiful climate among the many countries where I have served as a Foreign Officer for the U.S Government and you are going YES, to a great city, but a city with one of the worst weather systems in the country, where summer is hot, humid, and very uncomfortable and winter is long, snowy, very windy, terribly cold and miserable. However, just by knowing how creative and hard working you “PAISAS” are, I have no doubt that you are going to smell the roses as you start fulfilling your expectations. GOOD LUCK”. I want to congratulate you dear Jeff and wish you the very same GOOD LUCK in my Home City of Medellín.
I just signed up for your new site. I always appreciated your down to earth, clear, and easy to understand articles. Great job and … smart move.
I am now in Lima, Peru, then Ecuador, and then Sabaneta (August 21-31) where I bought a small condo a year ago. Hope to meet you there.
Much success with MedelinGuru.com.
No doubt in my mind that your new site will grow exponentially sooner than later. You have the ability to explain statistic numbers/facts/life in simple, sincere/easy understandable ways . Not many people can do that.
To me, you are Medellin Guru.
Excellent reporting about your history in Colombia, and how you wound up living there fulltime.
Your experiences will help each of us , who are thinking of moving there also.
Keep up the good work, Jeff.
I would like for you to email me directly regarding Medellin. I am thinking about moving there if I can find a teaching job beginning January 2019. I am currently teaching in China. I have many questions.
Hi Dwayne, happy to help, I just sent you an email.
Great article I visited and lived in Medellin for a few months. Now considering a permanent move. Also interested in tips for a teaching job there if you can email me back I appreciate it.
Thanks Jeff very detailed and done with care. Have been to some of the most dangerous cities. Some are on the list. I think I deleted my own post? Ha Ha. So will do it again. It really comes down to common sense. I would employ these measures in most any city. Still a great, post though. Will be in touch soon.
I have been to Medellín six times in the past four years. It is wonderful. My only concern is that the secret will get out and then the city will be flooded with annoying tourist.
I would like medellin to remain a secret, since the prices and the cost of living increase with fame
Medellin is such an amazing place! Went to visit a couple of friends during the winter and fell in love. They were able to relocate thanks to their work, I think I might start looking into doing the same thing very soon. Great post!
Would love to live in Medellin
Colombia is such a beautiful place. It a has a very rich culture!
Great reading Jeff, thanks for sharing.
It’s great how you tell it like it actually is, not sugar coated or glorified.
I actually worked and lived in Bogota for about 12 years, with the last 7 living there full time, Bogota is not for me, I got old and returned to the U.S. 🙂
I’m actually thinking of returning for 1-2 years but near Medellin, one of my favorite cities and areas of the country.
I would like to communicate with anyone living in or near Quatape.
Hi Bob thanks. Yes on this website we try to tell the real story, not the sugar coated version that is told in other places. We try to cover the downsides like – https://medellinguru.com/downsides/ as well as the positives like – https://medellinguru.com/why-medellin/. Every place has its pluses and minuses.
Fantastic article and a wonderful site. The stories are well researched and written. Thanks.
I moved to Medellin 3 weeks ago from Idaho – I certainly do not miss the snow and shoveling required there right now. Jeff, like you I explored Medellin for a couple of years on vacation before I took the plunge and moved here. On New Years Eve 2018, I am feeling quite content about my decision. Thanks for publishing this content. It has been a tremendous help to me.
If possible, I would like to meet with you soon to reminisce on the transitions we have made. When are you available for cafe or a beer?
Thank you for all of your valuable information.
I’m concerned with the tax situation in Colombia.
I plan on moving to Colombia, most likely, Medellin early next year.
Is it as easy to just leave Colombia for 1 week at the 180 day to avoid taxes.? I receive Disability benefits from the US, I pay a tax on it already.
I’ve been reading that Colombia and the US have an agreement in relation to taxation. I’m not trying to avoid my share but I already pay taxes in the US, is it really that simple to just up and leave Colombia for a week or so and return to avoid their taxation system.?
Realize, If I’m a visitor in Colombia, I’ll be paying into the country’s taxation, by renting a apartment, food, utilities…
I’ll be a visitor to Colombia but I won’t seek work in Colombia. My monthly Disability check will be deposited in the US, but I’ll draw from my account as needed while in Colombia.
How do you attend to this situation of taxation.?
Where can I get good solid information so I’m on solid footing when I come to Colombia.?
The rule is a total of over 183 days in a year to become a tax resident in Colombia. To avoid being a tax resident you can only spend a total of 183 days in Colombia in a year, if you stay 184 days or more you become a tax resident. See our article about Colombian income taxes -https://medellinguru.com/income-taxes/. Also, we plan to publish an update this year.
Jeff when you get a chance I am looking at potentially moving that way as I travel there very frequently. I would appreciate some of your input if you want to email me. Thanks
hi Jeff , can you pass along the contact information of the realty agent who helped you find apartments in belen & sabaneta ?
Can no longer recommend the agent that helped find the apartment in Belén. The agency that helped find the casa (house) we are currently in is – https://www.arrendamientosenvigadosa.com/