Over the past decade or two, Colombia has become a safer and more attractive option for people looking to move abroad. It remains a cheap place to live by almost all global standards, with living costs considerably less than in the United States or Canada and it even compares favourably to the most expensive South American nations such as Brazil and Chile. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the best and cheapest cities to live in Colombia.
At the bottom of the page, you can also see a cost of living comparison for cities across Colombia. In all cases, figures were last updated in May 2023 taking into account recent price fluctuations.
5 of the Best Cities to Live in Colombia
Colombia has changed a lot in recent years and the days when drug cartels and guerilla groups made it a violent and dangerous country to be in, are largely a thing of the past. In few places is the change more evident than Medellin, the former home of Pablo Escobar and the infamous Medellin cartel.
Medellin today has reinvented itself as a modern, hip city that attracts people from far and wide, either just to visit or to spend time working remotely. Digital nomads have flocked to the city in recent years, attracted by sunny and warm year-round weather, beautiful surroundings and an abundance of coworking spaces with fast wifi.
The city also boasts one of the best metro systems in South America, with clean and efficient public transport certainly a rare luxury in these parts. Overall, Medellin is perhaps the most appealing destination for anyone moving to Colombia looking for a great climate whilst being based in a big city with lots to see and do.
Living Cost Index – 3100 Colombia Pesos per month (US$700)
One thing Medellin can’t offer is a beach or access to a coastline. If that’s important for you and you also want to experience life in a genuine city, heading north to the Caribbean coastline and Cartagena may be a better bet.
It is slightly more expensive than Medellin or Bogota but not by much and for many that’ll be a price worth paying to have access to its sandy beaches and clear, warm waters. This is a busy city of a million people though, so you need to head well out of the town before you really find the nicer beaches and relaxed vibes that you might associate with life on the Caribbean Sea, but there’s plenty to see and do in the city too.
Cartagena boasts one of the best preserved old towns in all of Latin America, a walled city full of ancient streets and plazas which come alive at night to the sights and sounds of music and dancing.
Living Cost Index – 3300 Colombia Pesos per month (US$750)
If you’re a lover of big cities, then Bogota is certainly worth considering. The Colombian capital is roughly three times the size of the next largest city (Medellin) with over 10 million living in its sprawling metropolitan area.
Bogota is a city of contradictions in many respects and one that will frequently make you reconsider any preconceptions you might have of life in a big South American metropolis. While its size may be daunting at first, you’ll quickly discover plenty of things to do in Bogota, a city of bicycles, parks and on the whole friendly people who are happy to engage and help out, although you will need to know some Spanish to a decent level to truly fit in.
It’s an emerging major business hub in the Western Hemisphere with some exciting job opportunities if you are coming to Colombia to look for work. However Bogota does have some disadvantages when compared to other cities. These include the altitude (Bogota is 2,640 metres above sea level) and a climate which is quite wet and has a permanent autumnal feel to it with things never getting too hot or too cold. It’s certainly something to be aware of, before you commit to living in Bogota.
Living Cost Index – 3100 Colombia Pesos per month (US$700)
There are no such problems in Santa Marta where average daily highs hover between 32 and 34 Degrees Celsius throughout the year. If you’re not a fan of hot weather, this is not the place for you but for those looking for easy access to great beaches and wonderful nature, this may just be your paradise.
The Santa Marta area is the setting for some fantastic bays and beaches, with great options for relaxing, swimming and a variety of water sports (although the currents are very strong and dangerous in some places, so take care in the sea!). The Tayrona National Park which lies immediately to the east of the city and is a popular stop for those backpacking through South America, helps make the area one of the most beautiful places to live in Colombia. The land rises very quickly to form mountains meaning you can bathe in the Caribbean Sea and visit snow-capped peaks on the same day.
Truth be told, the city of Santa Marta itself is nothing particularly special and has the least going on of the five featured here. It’s a port city home to around 500,000 people but you’re not too far away from Barranquilla and Cartagena if you start to crave a bit more action.
Living Cost Index – 2650 Colombia Pesos per month (US$600)
Bucaramanga is regarded as one of the safest cities in Colombia and is a good option for anyone looking for something away from the typical hotspots for visitors to the country and foreigners looking to move here. It is situated in the north-central region, not too far from the Venezuelan border.
Surrounded by the spectacular Andes Mountains, Bucaramanga is known for its pedestrian-friendly streets and green areas which make a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of some of Colombia’s other major cities. There are also great hiking opportunities in the surrounding areas.
Bucaramanga also ranks amongst the cheapest cities in Colombia (unless you’re willing to look at the smaller towns and cities which don’t really have a great deal to attract people from abroad). You can probably save at least an extra 200 US Dollars each month by basing yourself here when compared to the likes of Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota.
Living Cost Index – 2200 Colombia Pesos per month (US$500)
Colombia Cost of Living Calculation Explained
For the table below (and figures above), numbeo’s cost of living calculator has been used as a guide to help work out the estimated cost of living in Colombian cities. It should be used as an index and means of comparison, rather than an accurate estimate of what you personally would spend if you lived in the country.
The figures are based on real data from people living in these cities, and are designed to cover the cost of rented accommodation plus living expenses on groceries and typical evening or weekend activities. They don’t cover any travel or health insurance costs which will vary depending on your age and other factors. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much this may cost in your circumstances.
Locals and people who have lived in Colombia for many years and understand all of the best ways to find accommodation and save money, may be able to get by on the amounts featured in the index, or perhaps even less. However, for newcomers looking to live in good quality accommodation in the safest and best neighbourhoods, you may spend considerably more, particularly if you’re renting a private flat and living alone.
Cost of Living (2023) – What are the cheapest cities to live in Colombia?
|City||Cost of Living Index (Monthly in USD)|
As you can see, there are significant differences when it comes to the cost of living in the richest and poorest cities in Colombia. Cartagena ranks as the most expensive according to our research, but it’s still considerably more affordable than even the cheapest places to live in Mexico for example and way cheaper than those in Canada or the US.
Overall, Colombia continues to offer great value for digital nomads, remote workers, retirees or students. Some of the best small towns to live in Colombia are also very cheap indeed but for those looking to move to the country and work, you should remember that salaries are also not very high, even in the major cities.
This post on the best and cheapest places to live in Colombia was last updated in May 2023.