Colombia Lifestyle Guide

by Escapeartist Staff

"Colombia will attract as much as $10 billion in foreign direct investment this year, up from $7.2 billion." - Bloomberg Business Week, August 2010

"Colombia's $244 billion economy is the fifth-largest in Latin America." - Newsweek, July 2010

"21,529,415 Internet users as of Dec/09, 48.7% penetration, per CRT. 11,115,840. Facebook users on August 31/10, 25.1% penetration rate." - Internet World Stats - Internet Usage and Population Statistics

"Colombia has a sustained record of sound economic policies, and has very strong economic fundamentals and institutional and policy frameworks. The Colombian authorities' have responded appropriately to the global financial crisis, and have demonstrated a commitment to maintaining this solid record." - IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 2009

"Billionaire investor Sam Zell recently declared Colombia the "next best" Latin American market, as new President Juan Manuel Santos continues to support economic development and change the country's image." - Latin American Investor

"In the past decade, Colombia has experienced an economic, social and security transformation. With an increasing number of bilateral trade agreements, as well as stable and strong economic growth rates, the country has positioned itself as an attractive destination for foreign direct investment." - World Economic Forum, 2010

"The new BRICs are Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa (CIVETS). They are countries with major populations, dynamic, diverse economies, political stability and each of them has a brilliant future. Any company with global ambitions will have to take Colombia among the CIVETS immediate action in these markets." - Michael Geoghegan, CEO HSBC, April 26, 2010 in his speech to AmCham Hong Kong

The World Bank ranked Colombia as the third most business friendly country in Latin America and the first country in the region that best protects investors and its rank fifth worldwide.

These incentives include:

1.Free Trade Zones: the most competitive in Latin America because they offer up to a 50% tax break on sales into the local market. They also can be established in any place in Colombia.

2.Legal Stability Contracts to protect investors

3.100% of the amount paid for industry and commerce, signs and billboards, and property taxes during the corresponding taxable year, as long as these are directly related to the taxpayer's economic activity.

4.25% of the tax paid on financial transactions may be deducted, regardless of their relationship to the taxpayer's economic activity.

5.125%income tax deduction over investments in scientific and technological developments.

6.200% income tax deduction over salaries and social benefits paid to handicapped employees."

"Colombia Is considered the third most "Business Friendly" country in Latin America and main reformer in the region." - 2011 Top Reformers Report, World Bank

"Colombia is the fifth country in the world and first in Latin America that most protects investors." - Doing Business, 2011 (World Bank)

"The Colombian economy has fared better than its Latin American peer group. Much of the growth was sponsored by foreign investment attracting US$8.6bn gross foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2009." - Money Week, March 2010

Introduction to the Colombian Economy and Relevant Growth Factors

During the past five years, the Colombian economy has grown by 4% per year. In 2009, Colombia's GDP registered an increase of 0.4%, a positive growth during global recession. During 2009, Colombia was one of the best economic performers in the Region. The market economy is US$1 billion, and has grown at a rate of 42% in three years.

Colombia was the third country in Latin America that got the FDI inflows reduced because of the global crisis. Additionally, Colombia was the Latin American country that experienced the least reduction in exports and the largest increase in tourism. (Source: World Tourism Organization, Latin Focus and EIU Tourism.)

Direct foreign investments have increased fivefold since 2002 and the country's stock exchange has grown more than any other in the first half of 2010. The country per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has doubled in just eight years.

Colombia is outshining its Latin American neighbors as it continues to improve its international ranking by rising 42 positions on the scale from 2007 to 2010, which is far beyond the improvement of any other Latin American country. Colombian is known around the world to be an Emerging Country with excellent social and business activities that are contributing to its rapid economic growth and FDI attraction.

As Colombia distances itself from 20th century stigmas of 'old West' violence and poverty, investors are taking a new look at a country that has reinvented itself and is:

  • Attracting record-setting levels of tourism
  • Offering Legal Stability Contracts to guarantee investment projects
  • Granting generous tax deductions to attract investments
  • Establishing 84 Free Trade Zones
  • Protecting investors. Colombia is the fifth country in the world and first in Latin America that most protects investors
  • Protecting the environment. Colombia is the tenth country in the world and the first in the region in protecting the environment
  • Supplying a qualified labor pool. Colombia has the second most qualified labor available in the region.

General Demographics of Colombia

Colombia is located in the northwest portion of South America with Brazil to the south and Venezuela to the east; Colombia is the only South American country to have both Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines.


Colombia is about twice the size of Texas with 3,208 km of coastline along the Caribbean and North Pacific Ocean: 1,760 km along the Caribbean Sea and 1,448 km along the North Pacific Ocean. 1,141,748 km2 (26th). Geographic coordinates: 4°39N 74°3W.

Population of Colombia:

  • 45,393,050 (July 2010 est.) Country comparison to the world: 29
  • Age structure in Colombia:
  • 0-14 years: 27.7% (male 6,192,707/female 5,919,959)
  • 15-64 years: 66.4% (male 14,292,342/female 14,717,249)
  • 65 years and over: 5.8% (male 1,093,432/female 1,461,683) (2010 est.)
  • Median age in Colombia:
  • Total: 27.6 years: Male: 26.7 years - Female: 28.6 years (2010 est.)
  • Population growth rate of Colombia:
  • 1.184% (2010 est.) Country comparison to the world: 105
  • Seven cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants
  • GDP (purchasing power parity):
  • $407.5 billion (2009 est.) Country comparison to the world: 29
  • $404.3 billion (2008 est.)
  • $393.7 billion (2007 est.)
  • Note: data are in 2009 US dollars
  • GDP (official exchange rate): $232.4 billion (2009 est.)
  • GDP - real growth rate: 0.8% (2009 est.)
  • Country comparison to the world: 105
  • 2.7% (2008 est.)
  • 6.9% (2007 est.)
  • GDP - per capita (PPP): $9,300 (2009 est.)
  • Country comparison to the world: 113
  • $9,400 (2008 est.)
  • $9,200 (2007 est.)

Note: data are in 2009 US dollars

  • Capital City: Bogota
  • Currency: Peso (COP)
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Form of Government: Unitary presidential republic
  • Drive: Right hand side of the road
  • Calling Code: +57
  • GDP - per capita (PPP): $5,087
  • Time: GMT -5
  • Provinces: 32 departments
  • Freedom House Colombia Rating: 3.5
  • Political Rights Score: 3
  • Civil Liberties Score: 4
  • Status: Partly Free
  • Major Airport: El Dorado International Airport (BOG) located in Bogota.
  • Main Industries: Textiles, food processing, oil, clothing, beverages, chemicals, flowers, coffee, cement and mining (gold, coal, and emeralds). Tourism is also growing here.

Colombian Leadership:

The presidential elections of June 2010 have also highlighted the country's reputation as one of the most stable democracies in the Americas. The newly elected president, Juan Manuel Santos, trained as an economist has been a major factor in helping the country overcome recession through new reforms and major reductions in government spending.

Colombian women are among the most politically active in Latin America.

Increased stability (both economically and politically) have meant that tourism has also started to flourish again. Many overseas visitors come to Colombia and see how beautiful the country is without the fear of crime and drug trafficking that once held it back.

In the 20th Century, Colombia suffered from a reputation for drugs and political instability. These factors have improved over the last decade and as a result, Colombia has become the fifth largest economy in Latin America. The $244 billion economy has included a significant increase in foreign investment.

Vital Cities in Colombia

Colombia is quickly establishing itself as a safe and very exciting holiday destination.

During the first quarter of 2010, tourists coming to Colombia grew 10.8%, from 311,363 tourists in January and March 2009, to 345,138 in the same period of time in 2010. At a news conference in December 2010 in Bogota, the capital, Commerce Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados said tourism generates $2.8 billion in foreign currency for Colombia. The country has something for everyone, whether it is a beach holiday or a cultural excursion. Let's take a look at some of the best places to visit in Colombia:


Even though Colombia's capital city sits close to the Equator, it sits at a high2,546 meters above sea level and enjoys a 'fall' temperature range throughout the year. Bogota is Colombia's fastest growing city with 7.5 million inhabitants. Bogota has gained popularity as a vital tourist attraction for visitors to its churches, theatres, galleries and museums. One of the most popular tourism destinations is The Gold Museum with one of largest collections of pre-Hispanic gold in the world. Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden is also another popular destination with over 2,000 species of plants as well as lakes and waterfalls.


This city of one million residents loves to party until dawn with its warm tropical climate, salsa clubs, fine dining and shopping. And, if you'd like to retreat, you can spend time on Cartagena's white beaches and bathe in the warm waters of the Caribbean. If you enjoy seeing the sites, you can walk two miles through the city's walled gate to view the areas historic buildings, fortresses, monuments and ports. You may also take a day trip to visit the stunning Islas Del Rosario, a Natural National Park dedicated to preserve and protect the coral reefs and the associated ecosystems. You may also tour Naval Museum and the Modern Art Museum.


This is the second largest city in Colombia and is very popular for its nightlife, bars and restaurants. The city is also referred to as "The Land of Eternal Spring," and "Capital of The Flowers." The women in Medellin are considered the most beautiful women in South America; a famous Colombian saying says, "If you want a pretty mistress, go to Cali, but if you want a beautiful wife, go to Medellin."

August is a lovely time to visit during the Le Festival de Flores (festival of flowers) takes place. Visitors can see a stunning view of the town from high via the Santo Domingo cable car. Other places worth seeing here include thePlaza Botero, Parque Explora and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Providence, "Providencia"

With 170,000 residents, this is the second largest island of the archipelago and features beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees. It is considered 'The Jewel of the Caribbean," and the warm sea makes the waters an ideal place for scuba diving, while there is plenty for hikers to see on this island. UNESCO has declared this island and it's seas as the Sea Flower Biosphere Reserve in recognition of the area's immense natural biodiversity.

Immigrating to Colombia

Colombia is growing in popularity with investors and people looking to immigrate there and requires a visa issued by the Colombian Government if one plans to stay in the country longer than 90days. If planning to stay longer than 90 days, contact a Colombian Consulate in your country for an application for permanent residency, or if you are already in Colombia, contact the Ministry of Foreign Relations, "Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores," in Bogota, Colombia.

Living in Colombia

  • Whether you are taking a vacation or fact-find trip to Colombia, or you're planning to move there permanently, it is wise to learn to speak Spanish.
  • As of January 3, 2011, the 1 US Dollar = 1,961.30 Colombian Peso. 1 Colombian Peso (COP) = 0.0005099 US Dollar (USD)
  • A large three to four bedroom house in Medellin may cost just over a million pesos per month to rent, which equates to about US$500 to US$550.
  • Construction has been booming in Colombia's large and medium-sized cities and as a result, many new residences are available for sale and rent.
  • The cost of living is affordable compared to the United States.
  • The price of a moderately priced condo is around 45 million pesos (about $22,000). A middle-class condo will cost between 90 and 100 million pesos. A condo in an upscale building is priced at around 300 million pesos.
  • Meals in restaurants can range from 6,000 to 10,000 pesos per person in a moderate restaurant to 30,000 to 40,000 pesos in an upscale restaurant.
  • Beers can also vary from 2,000 to 4,000 pesos (depending on the establishment.)
  • Shoes and clothing are affordable if they have been made in Colombia. Imports are priced more than they would in the US.
  • Gasoline prices are controlled by the government and are kept around 7,000 pesos per gallon irrespective of prices worldwide.
  • Imported electrical appliances sell at a premium, while national brands, like Haceb, are much less and are highly rated by Colombians. Most people in Colombia use gas stoves and water heaters. Clothes dryers are expensive and not common in Colombia.
  • A cell phone minute with no 'plan' will cost about 200 to 300 pesos. The fee is the same wherever you call within Colombia. The mostly commonly used cell phone providers are Tigo, Comcel and Movistar (Telefonica). An affordable cell phone with no plan is priced around 40,000 to 60,000 pesos.
  • A visit to the movie theatre will cost between 3,500 and 6,500 pesos and an additional 12,000 for a large popcorn and drink. Most foreign films offer subtitles.

Conducting Business in Colombia

The 21st Century Colombian business climate offers an improved stability in the country due to the country's new leadership, Juan Manuel Santos. Law and order is one element of society that has improved significantly making it a safer country to conduct business.

Real Estate in Colombia

Real estate is an increasingly appetizing investment opportunity not just for residents, but also foreigners. Any non-Colombian citizen can own real estate in Colombia with their private property rights protected by the state and the sale proceeds received from real estate can be returned to the investor's country of origin.

If you are looking to buy a home in Colombia or simply to invest in property, many of the usual rules apply here as they do in other countries. For example, you should always research the area before making a purchase.

Many home owners in Colombia overprice their property so be prepared to negotiate on the price, which will be easier if you know the true value of the property. If you are new to the market, it may be worthwhile enlisting the help of a local contact who knows the value of properties.

Once the price has been negotiated, establish a method of payment and sign the purchase agreement. More forms will be required at the closing when both parties attend a Notary's office, present various documents, pay additional costs such as taxes and registrar fees and finally sign the document to hand over the property to the buyer.

The Notary's office may ask you to provide them these documents:

  • Certificate of tradition
  • Copy of the buyer and seller's ID
  • Power of Attorney issued by the buyer
  • Purchase Agreement
  • Tax free property certificate
  • Tax free value gain property certificate
  • Property Deeds
  • Once the closing process is complete, the buyer should then register the property at a local government office to legalize the agreement.

Predictions from market analysts suggest that Colombia's real estate market is seeing a surge of interest and some restrictions have been modified for foreign investors to simplify the process for investing in Colombian property.

Presently, there are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Colombia's interior. However, director ownership by non-citizens is forbidden along the coast and on the islands and foreigners are asked to create a Colombian trust or corporation in order to invest.

Education in Colombia

Colombia has three of the top 30 universities in Latin America, 26 schools which give the SAT Test, 19 which are members of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). There are 27,000 business graduates and 13,000 engineering graduates per year in Colombia.

The standard of education is improving in Colombia with literacy levels improving. This is due to an increase of at least 10% of the annual state budget dedicated to education.

The constitution dictates that public education must not conflict with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Courses in the Roman Catholic religion are compulsory, and the Church has a large degree of control over the public schools. Private schools on the other hand have more freedom over their curriculum.

Some students move onto further education after secondary school. University education is divided into under-graduate degrees and post-graduate degrees. Most university degrees are five years in length. However, technical formation usually lasts just three years. Post-graduate education includes specializations, masters and PhD programs.

Medical Options in Colombia

Healthcare in Colombia is considered to be more advanced than in most Latin American countries. The country has led the way in the region in terms of innovation and being the first to implement new medical procedures.

Countries Public Health Care System: A period of reform in public healthcare coverage is expected since the election of the new government. 2009 was a year of great public controversy over the access and quality of the public healthcare system and new policies being strategized to care for the 40 million who live in poverty. Please note: Private healthcare coverage is also available and offers affordable plans that ensure excellent medical care and treatment.

Hospitals in Medellin have received high accolades for their state-of-the-art surgery and transplants. The high standard of healthcare in Colombia has led to the Government promoting the country as a top medical tourism destination. Tourists come to Colombia to receive high quality cosmetic surgery and dentistry among other treatments at affordable prices.

Many clinics and hospitals are accredited by US organizations such as the Joint Commission International. Colombia was ranked 22 nd in the world for overall health system performance. The United States was rated 37th place in the 2010 World Health Report.

The attraction for United States citizens is the affordable price of healthcare and some medical procedures at 30% to 90% lower in Colombia. A flight to Colombia from Miami is less than three hours and less than six hours from New York.

Medellin is one of the top cities in the country for surgery and other medical procedures. It is recognized for its high quality cosmetic treatments, dentistry and eye surgery. Of the 35 best-ranked medical institutions in Latin America, eight are located in Colombia and five of those are in Medellin.

Jobs in Colombia

In mid-2010, the unemployment rate in Colombia reached 11.7 percent. However, there is still a demand for skilled, foreign workers in the country including the teaching and construction professions. Medical care workers are also very much in demand, with many foreign doctors and nurses working in Colombian hospitals.

There are several benefits to being a worker in Colombia. For example, the amount paid in taxes is much lower than in many other countries.

The country is growing and offers skilled construction work with areas of new housing and improved infrastructure. Unlike many western countries, construction workers are very much in demand in Colombia.

The oil and gas industry in Colombia also recruits foreign workers. However, these are mostly workers gaining a transfer to Colombia having already been employed by the company in another country. These workers are well looked after by the employer and in some cases qualify for additional benefits including bonuses and a pension plan.

Are you interested in visiting Colombia, relocating your business to Colombia or simply investing in Colombia?

Do you want to be introduced to high level private industry and government contacts that can fast-track success in Colombia?