Living the digital nomad lifestyle in Colombia has been interesting experience for me. Before coming to Colombia, the common theme I hear from the media is how dangerous the country is because of the drug cartels.
Some friends who has visited Colombia also mentioned to me how slow the internet speed is here. Since internet speed is important when running an online business, having a slow connection will negatively affect your daily operations and performance.
So, what is the truth? Is Colombia a safe country for you to setup an effective home base as a digital nomad?
In this blog post, I examine several important aspects of living the digital nomad lifestyle including safety, price, quality of life, and internet speed.
Prices in Colombia
Many individuals who travel to Colombia choose to live in Medellin. Home of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel, it is now one of the safer and more modern cities to visit while traveling throughout this country.
Because of the city’s popularity among tourist, the sheer amount of Air Bnb and property rentals have sky rocketed in Medellin. High demand has also caused the prices to surge higher over the years.
El Poblado is the most popular and richest area in Medellin, Colombia. Most backpackers and travellers go here to either party or set up base for long term living. It’s not uncommon to see expat Americans all over this city. If you’re the type of individual that loves city life full of parties and social events, then El Poblado is a must for you.
Using the website “MedellinLiving.com” as reference, the average cost for a one bedroom rental in El Poblado ranges from $925 to $3,720 USD per month. That’s quite a bit of money for aspiring digital nomads.
I personally stayed in a hostel while I was in El Poblado and enjoyed my time there. However, after a few days it got too noisy for me so I moved to Laureles. Many travellers also apply to do volunteer work at hostels in exchange for free accommodation. This is a great method for starter digital nomads who wants to get free accommodation and internet access in exchange for 5 hours of work per day. However, if you have an online business or freelancing gig that requires you to put in a lot of hours per day, then renting a property is the better option.
The opposite of Poblado, Laureles is one of the most quiet and peaceful area in the Medellin. If you prefer a quiet working place, then this city is for you.
It’s also a bit cheaper than El Poblado with the average cost of renting a one bedroom apartment ranging between $616 to $1,680 USD per month.
I personally stayed in both hostels and Air Bnb while I was here and paid an average of 25,000-35,000 COP ($12-$17 CAD) per night. The area was definitely peaceful and felt safe; however, after awhile, it started to get boring.
I think a balance of bouncing between El Poblado and Laureles gives you the right amount of excitement and relaxation as well as the ability to get your important work done.
The city I stayed in the longest during my time in Colombia is Guatape. It is a peaceful town roughly 1.5 hours away by bus from Medellin.
I decided to setup base here after securing a workaway gig (free accommodation in exchange for volunteer work). This turned out to be a great decision. The place has a very peaceful feel due to being surrounded by mountains, lakes, and nature. Specifically, the hostel I volunteered at, had an amazing lake view. Every time I ate breakfast or while working, I got to see this stunning view of a lake.
It was such a great feeling to have an “office” where with a simple turn of my head, I would see all the beauty that mother nature has to offer.
There are also several Air bnb rentals available in the area costing between $24-$200 USD per night. This might be a good option if you are setting up base as a digital nomad with other people (and you plan on splitting the cost of rent).
Other popular cities in Colombia that you can potentially set up base would be:
- Bogota (Capital city of Colombia)
- Cartegena (The most popular port town in Colombia)
Food in Colombia
The typical Colombia food is called a “bandeja” which typically consist of a fried plantain, avocado, rice, beans, a piece of meat (chicken, pork, beef or trout), salad, fries, and arepa (a bread-like food made of corn). It’s on the healthy side and they also give you massive portions (great for people trying to build some muscle).
They also eat your typical western food like pizza, burgers, steak, and pasta. If you like Asian food, they do have Chinese food but it’s not very good. I haven’t tried any of the Japanese restaurants because they are ridiculously priced.
One thing I have to say; though, is Colombians really know how to make a good soup. Colombian soup is probably the best I’ve eaten in all the 30+ countries I have visited as of writing this article!
The prices typically range between 7,000 COP ($3.50 CAD) for breakfast and between 10,000-30,000 COP ($5-$15 CAD) for lunch or dinner.
Travel between Colombian cities is normally done by taking buses. Colombia has some of the best bus network I have ever used in my life!
The typical price for a bus ride between cities ranges between 12,000 COP ($6 CAD) to 60,000 COP ($30). Bus ticket prices depends on how far the destination and the type of bus company. The most expensive bus ride costed me about 130,000 COP ($65 CAD). It was pricier because the bus took me from Pasto to Bogota and the entire bus ride was 22-hours long.
One surprising aspect of Colombia that I really liked is their taxi drivers are quite honest. The only city I had issues with taxi scams is in Ipiales, which is a city right at the border of Ecuador. Taxi drivers typically use the meter to determine the price of your trip and round it to the closest 1000 Colombian Pesos.
Uber is technically illegal in Colombia but there are tons of drivers available for hire if you open the app. Prices are slightly cheaper than taxis and I recommend taking them when you can. Places that is not good for Uber would be bus terminals where there is strong police presence and Uber drivers will cancel your booking if they have to pick you up there (they’re afraid to get caught by the police).
Medellin has a great metro system and cost as little as 2,000 COP to travel between the city. Other cities doesn’t have a metro.
Internet Speed and working
Working in Colombia depends greatly on where you work. The accommodation I was while in Bogota had a pretty slow internet and same as many parts of Colombia.
Of all the cities I was in while traveling in Colombia, Medellin had the fastest internet. Guatape also had a decent internet speed but the problem is that it was erratic. It would occasionally shut off out of nowhere which can be irritating when I am in a good flow while working.
The rule of thumb is that bigger cities usually have decent internet and if you want to setup base as a digital nomad, bigger cities is the way to go. I did like my time in Guatape and might still want to setup base there as a digital nomad because looking at the lake and mountain view gives me great inspiration for writing.
Colombia has a big party culture so if you love drinking, dancing, singing, partying, then you’ll never run out of entertainment.
For people who prefer a more quiet life, there is plenty of that as well. There are tons of places you can go hiking, biking, kayaking, and doing tons of outdoorsy activities.
Colombia is also a great place to rent a motorbike or scooter and just drive through different smaller towns all over the country.
People in bigger cities like Medellin and Bogota are image conscious and working out is part of this culture. Most big cities and even smaller towns have a gym you can join and workout. I’ve seen gym drop-in price go as low as 3,000 COP ($1.50 CAD) with bigger commercial gym matching western country prices.
There are also tons of hiking, biking, swimming, and kayaking spots in the country if you prefer to get your exercise outdoors.
Colombians are some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They genuinely want to make friends with foreigners making socializing not too difficult in this country. There is only one catch: you must be able to speak Spanish. Most people outside Medellin, cannot speak English and knowing how to speak Spanish is the only way you can communicate with Colombians.
If you prefer to make friends with fellow foreigners, staying at a hostel is the easiest way to make friends with people all over the world. I’ve met Americans who are 55+ staying at hostels here in Colombia so it’s never too late to travel and make friends. There are people in their 20s, 30s and 40s so if you prefer to hangout with people of a certain age range, you’ll definitely get that opportunity.
I absolutely loved my time in Colombia and will return here to learn Spanish and setup base as a digital nomad. It’s also a great place to invest in properties and I would like to return one day to make investments.
The internet speed isn’t as bad as I thought. As long as I focus doing my work between morning and late afternoon, this is not a huge issue and I can still get a lot of work done.
Colombia is high up on my list of places I will frequently visit. I look forward to returning here again in the future.