CITY TIPS

Welcome to Colombia. A country where the people make you feel right at home.

Despite the bad reputation Colombia has had in the past, the country has witnessed a dramatic improvement and is not one of the top tourist destinations in Latin America. The standard of living and quality of life for the local population has increased as well as the levels of security have improved dramatically and foreign investment has surged to record levels.
Along with the ongoing economic boom, there has been a massive influx of expats arriving and making Colombia their new home. As a result, Colombia is becoming much more international with the locals now used to seeing foreigners everywhere.

HOUSING
Due to the increasing number of foreigners arriving to the country, the cost of housing has increased dramatically and the supply of quality housing quite limited. Pricing, particularly in areas desired by expats, is comparable to large cities in the US and Europe. Once we find the best housing options for our clients, we always recommend to move quickly otherwise run the risk of losing the property to a different party.

Bogota’s housing market is dominated by apartment buildings, the majority with 24-hour security and some with other features such as a pool, gym, etc. On the outskirts of the city it is more common to find condominium complexes, "gated communities" or homes.

In addition to the rental price, the renter must pay a monthly administration fee for maintenance of the communal areas, pay for the security company, etc. This is similar to a condo fee.

The cost of public utility services varies and is dependent on the socio-economic level of the neighborhood. Colombia has a relatively unique system in which neighborhoods are classified on a scale from 1 to 6, with 1 implying abject poverty to 6 which implies the highest socioeconomic level. Subsequently, the same usage level of water, for example, will be charged at different rates depending on the level of the neighborhood in which you live.

The lease contract terms vary depending on who the guarantor is of the contract (e.g. the tenant vs. his or her company) and if the lease is managed by the owners of the property or by a hired real estate company (the former usually more flexible than the latter).

EDUCATION
The large majority of expats moving to Colombia place their children in private schools which are quite common. There are many excellent schools offering a high quality education. A challenge faced by many expatriates is that the competition to get into the top schools is significant, as there are typically many applicants vying for a limited number of available slots. Kindergartens mostly accept children from 6 months to 4 years old. Most schools accept children over the age of 4.

Schools are categorized by their academic calendar and gender. Schedule B, operates from late August to June (similar to the US system) and schedule A operates from February to November.

Several schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and most have intensive English programs. Many schools are differentiated according to the international community they serve, for example there is an official American school, an official British school, a German school, and French, Italian and Spanish schools, among others.

As for prices, they vary. The school pricing typically consists of three payments: 1) Most schools require a one-time tuition payment that can either be paid upfront or rolled into a higher monthly fee. The upfront fee can vary from a few thousand US dollars to as high as US$17k-$18k. 2) the monthly fee, or pension, is typically paid for 10 or 11 months, depending on the school (assume on average this will cost approximately US$700-$800 per month). 3) There is also an annual fee that is typically equal to one monthly fee.

The schools typically offer cafeteria, transportation and extracurricular services which are optional and are charged separately. These will typically add $300-$400/month to the monthly fee if chosen.

Universities last about 5 years and offer a wide variety of careers.

Links of interest
www.revistaedu.com
www.losmejoresjardines.com
www.losmejorescolegios.com

MIGRATION
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for granting visas for foreigners. Requirements vary depending on the type of visa. Visa requirements change frequently, thereby making the process more complicated for most foreigners. The Ministry often requires that most official documents be apostilled in the country of origin so it is recommended that you do that before coming to Colombia.

During 2012, approximately 1.7m foreigners entered the country, a record for Colombia and 7% more than in 2011. Of the 1.7m, 327k came from the US, 251k from Venezuela, 115k from Ecuador, 112k from Argentina, 95k from Spain and 89k from Peru, the rest from other countries.

Most foreigners entered as tourists. Approximately 4% or 75k applied for a temporary work visa. Engineers represented the largest functional category, with 12.5%, followed by managers, teachers, technicians, consultants, musicians and administrators.

Links of interest
www.migracioncolombia.gov.co
www.cancilleria.gov.co/colombia/migration
www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/practical-information/embassies-and-consulates-in-colombia

ENTERTAINMENT
Colombians love the good life and tend to enjoy it to the fullest. Colombia is an increasingly cosmopolitan and international country and in the large cities you will find a dynamic and vibrant culture. Examples of this include International Film Festival and the Hay Festival in Cartagena, the Festival de Teatro de Manizales, the International Book Fair and the Festival de Jazz in Bogotá and the International Poetry Festival in Medellin.

The museums have significant collections of universal art; fashion events in Colombia have an excellent reputation worldwide and there are several lively nightspots and fine dining options throughout the larger cities.

In Bogotá there are several gourmets areas, among them Usaquén, The T Zone, Parque de la 93, Area G, the Candelaria and the Macarena. Most international cuisine can be found in these areas.

Colombia is known as a great country for children, and Bogota in particular. There are 17 different amusement parks in Bogota and most restaurants offer some form of entertainment for children. In addition, Colombian´s are very family-oriented and are very warm with children in general.

Links of interest
www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/vacations-holidays-where-to-go
www.planb.com.co
bogota.vive.in
www.bogotaturismo.gov.co/en
www.bogotaturismo.gov.co/en/fun-and-entertainment


TIPS

While in Colombia please keep the following information in mind:

Security:
The security situation in Colombia has improved dramatically from the dark days in the 1980s and 90s. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement but for the most part the security issues are similar to issues seen in most big cities around the world. Pickpocketing is something one should be aware of, particularly in tourist areas or in areas with crowds, such as while using public transportation, at large public events and/or at shopping centers.

  • It is recommended that you find someone that you know or a referral from a trusted source to guide you around the city, at least in the initial months.
  • Store all your documents, cash, jewelry, cell phones and other items of value in a safe place
  • In terms of managing money, most use credit or debit cards or cash (although it is not recommended to carry around significant amounts at any given time). Checks are not widely used.
  • If you need to ecchange money, it is recommended that you do so in authorized foreign exchange offices or in banks.

Emergency contacts:
In case of emergency, please keep with you the following numbers:
Hotline: 123
Police: 112
Electricity: 115
Water: 116
Gas: 164

Holidays:
In Colombia two types of holidays are recognized: religious and civic holidays. Most businesses close for these public holidays.
Some holidays are on a fixed date and others are on movable dates (example: third Thursday of a given month).

http://www.colombia-sa.com/varios/varios-fiestas-in.html

TRANSPORTATION
When using public transportation, always do so in the terminals and places especially designed for it.

If you must take a taxi, call one of the local companies that provide this service or use online services like Tappsi, Easy Taxi or Uber.

If you drive your own car, it is recommended not to park on the street. There are parking garages all around the city and it is relatively cheap. In most hotels, restaurants, airports and shopping areas secure parking is available.

In Bogota and in other larger cities, there is a transportation mandate called "Pico y Placa". Established with the objective to reduce congestion and pollution, particularly during peak hours, Pico y Placa requires careful attention. Depending on the last number of your license plate, you are permitted to drive every other day during peak hours (6-8:30 a.m. and 3-7:30 p.m.) and only from Monday through Friday, at least in Bogota (other cities may offer variations of this). In you are caught in violation of Pico y Place you will be fined.

To further avoid congestion of vehicles, bicycles are highly promoted as a means of transportation and in most cities you will find special bike paths.

Nonetheless and despite these measures, traffic in Bogota is quite heavy and difficult to maneuver. We highly recommend that expats pay careful consideration to traffic when looking for housing. Ideally the expat selects housing that is close to the workplace and the school, assuming they have children.

GENERAL INFORMATION


Capital: Bogotá, Distrito Capital (D.C.)
Major Cities: Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga, Manizales.
Population: 45,239,079
Weather: Tropical, temperature varies with altitude. No clearly distinguishable seasons. Bogotá has an average climate of 14 º C, with a range between 9° and 20° C. The rainy season is distributed throughout the year.
Currency: Colombian Peso
Official Religion: Catholic
Language: Spanish
Electricity: Domestic electricity is 110 volts AC at 60 Hz (110V AC, 60Hz), electrical connectors or plugs are the American type, with flat two pins input (plug type A) or a third round pin (Plug Type B).
Country Calling Code: +57
Economy: The main agricultural products are coffee, corn, rice, potatoes, fruits, flowers, and sugar cane. The main natural resources are emeralds, coal, gold, silver, iron, oil, natural gas, forestry and water. The main industries are oil, mining and agriculture. The main sectors are construction, machinery, transportation, textiles, chemicals, metal products and financial sector. Major exports include coffee, cotton, cocoa, oil, plastics, iron, steel, coal, fruits, flowers, leather, textiles, industrial products and manufactured goods. The main imports are machinery, chemicals, transport equipment, appliances, electronics and technology.

Links of interest
www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/colombia
mitierracolombiana.co/21-razones-del-por-que-colombia-es-el-pais-mas-feliz-del-mundo
www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/practical-information