Moving to Colombia from Canada

Colombia is a diverse country. Pacific and Caribbean beaches next to grasslands and rain forests. Hot stifling plains and mild climate plateaus lead to snow-capped Andes peaks. Various elevations on the equator allow 52 million to enjoy year round 12 hour days. For those up to about 1,000 meters it’s hot all year. Others up to 2000 meters find it comfortable and warm. At over 2000 meters it is chilly to cold. There is the wide ranging biodiversity. Abundant fruits, flowers and the worlds best coffee beans are everyday pleasures.

It has been over two decades since the days of Pablo Escobar ended. Mental images remain, however. Low incomes and high inflation continue to result in the usual realities. Bogota, a city of over 7 million people is a cosmopolitan city. Medellin, ‘the city of eternal spring’ and Cali, are both over 2 million. All share the same issues of other big cities. Colombia today is proud to have 22 of the top 50 hospitals in South America. Over the last decade, policing and priorities have aimed at law and order. Civil unrest with groups like FARC have and are being addressed.

Spanish is the usual language used and English is NOT. Not being fluent in Spanish means day to day difficulty with getting around, communicating and purchasing. Your cost of living will be very different if Spanish is not in your skill set. Colombians balance work, recreation and family life in a 1960’s style. Catholicism is ubiquitous. The website of the Colombian Embassy in Canada offers an incite. It is in Spanish and offers of other languages, EXCEPT English. A indicator of how important speaking Spanish will be when you move there.

Plan on acquiring a new vehicle in Colombia. The Andean Automotive Agreement allows only the permanent import of current year unused vehicles. Classic and old collectors’ cars have possible exemptions. Complicated national to civic taxation policies often have harsh implications. There is a heavy reliance on customs duty revenue.


• Colombia is a growing retirement haven. Its lower cost of living, great climate and healthcare attract seniors. Vaccination before leaving Canada helps with local health hazards. Different diseases or insect born threats like Malaria, Yellow Fever, etc. are realities. Foreigners may eventually opt into the public health insurance plan (i.e. Entidades Promotoras de Salud – EPS) after becoming a resident with a cédula (i.e. Colombian ID card)

• Selling off things that bring little joy will reduce arrival and moving costs. Especially if those items are available in Colombia. Furnished rental apartments let you store in Canada before shipping. That way local Colombian options let you decide. Plus you avoid added customs and import bureaucracy.

• Housing, even with maid service, is reasonable. Yes imported foods and cars are harder to get. Yes the culture accepts slower service than you might like. Yes foreigners pay a premium, as is generally the case in Latin American countries. Yes tips and bribes are a natural part of greasing the wheels. Yes there is a 19% sales tax and a flat 35% tax on foreigners income. None the less, it is an attractive lifestyle at a fraction of what it would cost in Canada. Plus your home will smell like a florist shop. There is also the joy of your fresh morning Colombian coffee.

• Arrange for a cell phone and internet as soon as possible. Ease of contacting others makes the move in much easier.

• Exchange rate monitoring can have a big impact. A Colombian bank account mitigates Canadian dollar conversion costs. Using the banks debit card also limits the risks that carrying cash brings.

To place a call to Colombia

• Dial 011 ( for outside North America calling )
• Dial 57 ( code for Colombia )
• Dial the city area code:
Bogota – 601, Cali – 602
Cartagena – 605, Barranquilla – 605
Medellin – 604, Santa Marta – 605
• Dial local phone number

Emergencies in Colombia use:
112 for local police
123 for national police 337-4413 for tourist police
123 for ambulance
127 for traffic accidents
165 for anti kidnapping
119 for fire

Weather varies by location. It snows in the Andes, but that is a long way up from the beaches or cosmopolitan cities. Along coastal Colombia, tropical storms, including hurricanes, are reality, as are flooding and heat waves. Bekins packing for international moves is on your side. Packing by ‘local’ movers is for local moves, a few blocks away. Columbia means transfers between truck, rail, ships, customs inspection and storage. A lot to absorb on the way to this new international destination. Use the experience Bekins has earned, learned and already paid for, to reduce your risks.