John and Susan are two expats who recently moved from Panama to Medellín. We interview them to find out about their experiences and challenges in moving.

John and Susan are originally from U.S. and they lived for three years in Boquete, Panama. They loved living in Boquete. Also, they made wonderful friends and had unforgettable experiences. But deep down they never expected to be in Panama long-term. And after three years they got the bug for a new adventure and decided to move to Medellín after three exploratory trips.

Two more huge drivers for John and Susan were the high quality and low cost of healthcare in Colombia with Colombia having 23 of the best hospitals of Latin America plus the overall lower cost of living in Medellín compared to Panama.

Note the above photo is John and Susan overlooking Comuna 13 in Medellín. Here’s the interview with John and Susan:

1. When did you first visit Medellín?

We first visited Medellín in July 2016. This was a city on our bucket list for a while. We visiting for a short four days and crammed in as much as possible in that short time.

Our impressions from our first visit included:

  • It’s a bargain – for example, a fantastic filet mignon lunch for two in the southern municipality of Sabaneta, including a bottle of wine, was about $36.
  • Medellín is incredibly clean – we rarely saw trash thrown anywhere in Medellín including the roadsides. Anyone who’s done extensive traveling in Latin America knows what a rarity that is.
  • It’s pretty – Medellín lies in a valley surrounded by two mountain ranges so there are amazing views.
  • The Metro system is fantastic – We rode the Medellín metro extensively and paid no more than $8 in our four-day visit. Medellín has one of the best public transportation systems we’ve ever experienced, anywhere.

We visited two more times including a 12-day trip in June 2018 that sealed the deal. During this June trip we stayed in three different neighborhoods. And we spent a lot of time walking around to get a feel for what life might be like in each.

Outside the Ivy building in Laureles where John and Susan rented a furnished apartment for two months

Outside the Ivy building in Laureles where John and Susan rented a furnished apartment for two months

2. When did you move from Panama to Medellín?

We moved to Medellín in November 2018. So, we rented our house in Panama, sold our car, packed and got our dogs ready for the big move.

We arrived in Medellín on November 22, 2018 with 12 pieces of luggage and our two dogs in cargo.

The dogs went to a cargo complex at the Medellín airport. Fortunately, we had the assistance of a driver/helper when we arrived and found the three offices we had to find (yes, three – the shipping company, the agricultural ministry, and the customs office). And after a paperwork glitch we finally were able to see our dogs after three hours.

Also, on our blog we wrote about our arrival in Medellín.

A typical Laureles street

A typical Laureles street

2. Where do you live in Medellín?

After spending time in three different areas in June – Sabaneta, Envigado, and Laureles – we chose Laureles as our first place to live.

We like Laureles which has a wonderfully European feel and is extremely walkable, with quiet leafy streets, large parks, and more restaurants than we’ll ever possibly be able to visit in one lifetime.

In addition, we chanced into a great temporary rental, a furnished two-bedroom apartment that allows pets. We lived in this furnished apartment near the Primer Parque in Laureles for two months to get our bearings while looking for a more permanent rental.

Apartment building in Laureles where John and Susan rented an unfurnished apartment

Apartment building in Laureles where John and Susan rented an unfurnished apartment

3. Did you find a more permanent rental?

Yes, we looked at upwards of 10 unfurnished apartments in Laureles before finding one we liked. We found an apartment of our dreams – a three-bedroom unfurnished apartment on the sixth floor of a building in Laureles.

However, we discovered that renting furnished apartments was easy compared to renting unfurnished. As foreigners to overcome the fiador (cosigner requirement) we found we needed to put down a large deposit in the form of a CDT (a type of CD, in U.S. terminology, that does pay interest) and/or pay several months’ rent in advance.

In addition, we wrote about our first three months in Medellín including our experience renting, getting visas and getting health insurance on our blog.

4. What has been your biggest challenge in moving from Panama to Medellín?

Learning Spanish has been our biggest challenge so far. But it’s a good challenge we knew about before moving.

Renting an unfurnished apartment was also big challenge for us. And we found knowing Spanish was important when looking for apartments. But we found a bilingual driver/translator to help.

The bottom line is the difference between renting an unfurnished apartment and furnished apartment in Colombia is like night and day. We found it’s much more difficult to rent an unfurnished apartment.

5. What do you think of Medellín so far and what advice would you give to someone thinking about moving to Medellín?

So far after about four months in Medellín, we love it. We wake up every morning, walk the dogs and say what a great day.

Our biggest advice to someone planning to move here is come and visit and actually spend some time here. Also, don’t come with a vacation mindset. Come to Medellín with a relocation mindset and spend time in neighborhoods to see what is like to live in different areas.

Meet John and Susan at the April Medellin Guru Meetup

If you would like to meet John and Susan and talk to them they plan to be at the April Medellin Guru meetup on April 23 at Mercado Del Tranvía in Envigado.

Join the Medellin Guru April Meetup

John and Susan at Machu Picchu in Peru

John and Susan at Machu Picchu in Peru

The Bottom Line: John and Susan Moved from Panama to Medellín

I want to thank John and Susan for sharing their story about moving from Panama to Medellín.

John and Susan are not the first expats I have met that have moved from Panama to Medellín. Over the past several years I have met several other expats who have moved from Panama to Medellín.  But I haven’t yet met any expats the moved the other direction.

Also, we previously compared Medellín vs Panama City, which have been rated as two of the top foreign retirement locations. In our unscientific and somewhat subjective Medellín vs Panama City comparison of 21 categories, we found that Medellín wins if you equally weigh the categories.

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