I thought I’d take the opportunity to give an insight on what it is like to move to Bogotá from another country and my perspective as a foreigner on how it is to live here.
Compared to the rest of Colombia the price of living can be higher here and other sources often highlight the disparity between salary and living costs. However there are generally more work opportunities in Bogotá than in other areas of the country and although yes English teacher is the go to position for foreigners there are still plenty of opportunities to make money here in the capital, you just have to seek them out and keep applying!
The cost of leaving by plane is high and the cost of electronics and clothes surprisingly high also. Cars have a huge import tax and extremely overpriced in comparison to Europe. That being said rent is incredibly cheap in comparison to most capital cities, especially those in Europe and North America. Food (both eating out and shopping) and public transport is cheap and like most cities a huge variance can be found in the price of nightlife or restaurants depending on the neighborhood. This is also true in terms of accommodation, the standard 700.000-800.000 per room in a furnished apartment (sometimes including bills and a cleaner) in the popular Chapinero area could nearly get you a full apartment to yourself in a different area of the city.
A tip for food shopping would be head to the markets or look at the home delivery options, merqueo.com for example or look to the cheaper supermarkets D1 and Ara which also provide delivery. There’s no Amazon or Ebay here but the next best thing is Mercado Libre which follows a similar format.
Bureaucratic processes can be long winded and unnecessarily complicated here. Even relatively simple transactions sometimes take a while, you just have to be patient and accept things can be slower sometimes. I remember it taking 45 minutes 3 queues and some paperwork to buy a sim card once!
Work & Visas
Upon entering Colombia you may be asked to show proof of onward travel, there are plenty of websites designed for this nowadays that offer refundable flights if you cancel within 24 hours, so you can arrive at the country with peace of mind that you’ll be allowed to enter. I do not see this method of manipulation as unethical as most backpackers or workers have no idea when they plan to leave the country or where to, it’s illogical to be forced to decide this well in advance. The majority of nationalities receive a 90 day tourist visa on entry to Colombia which can be renewed for another 3 months at immigration offices in the cities or automatically renewed by leaving and re-entering the country. You can renew like this once per calendar year meaning a maximum of 180 days tourist visa per year. If you arrive around June/July time this means you can have 6 months and then another 6 months once the new year starts.
Obtaining a work or TP4 visa requires a work contract and getting a job can sometimes frustratingly require a work visa first! Most employers will help you with the process though. You will have to pay for your visa and your Cedula Extranjero (identification card) and your visa will last for the duration of your work contact. More information on the documents you will need and the processes involved in obtaining a TP4 visa and cedula can be found at
Your cedula will come in particularly useful as it used as a reference for many things from payslips, to sending items or just general in-store purchases. Your fingerprint will be taken for your cedula card and is also taken for other processes such as phone contracts, Western Union transfers and converting money. There are plenty of other visas available as well from business, volunteer, study visa to spousal and investment visas. More information is available on the cancilleria.gov.co wesbite.
There’s no two ways about it, public transport in the city leaves much to be desired. Rumours of developing a metro system have been floating around for some time but until then we’re left with the Transmilenio. An affordable bus system with admittedly an extensive route around the majority of the city and for the most part its own specific lanes in the same way a metro or tram would operate, thus avoiding traffic. Due to the sheer size of the city it can take hours to traverse and although initially affordable, once you live here taxis are not something you can use every day and also get caught in the traffic that the Transmilenio avoids. The advertisements at the stations concentrate on fare dodgers but in my opinion the only people being robbed are the public not the bus company, they are being robbed of the basic right to an efficient, safe public transport system. Really the problem is that there’s way too many people and no where near enough buses, the amount of people pushing to get on at rush hour and then crammed on the buses is simply dangerous. At first horrified, I’m now resigned to the inevitability of it all but still (as a British person) can never accept the absolute disregard for queues and other human life at these rush hour times of mayhem. Waiting to get on a bus at these times can take forever. The routes at first are complicated but through repetition and google maps (which knows all the routes and can advise on the bus number required) can be easily learnt. I’ve yet to experience or see theft on the Transmilenio.
As mentioned international flights can be expensive but Viva Colombia can even compete with buses in terms of domestic travel, just don’t forget you’ll have to pay for extras such as checked baggage. Whilst living here I’d highly recommend travelling to some of the surrounding areas, a short cheap bus ride can have you in a gorgeous finca in the country, a rustic coffee plantation or hiking amongst stunning scenery and waterfalls.
Lastly, buy a bike! Over 300km of bicycle routes and actually more respect for cyclists than in London for example, this is definitely the way to navigate the city.
People & Culture
Learning Spanish is important if looking to mingle and expand your career prospects here, you can find many options online but one of the most affordable is going through one of the universities, a 2 month 2 hours a day group course costing less than 900.000 COP. The only problem is these course generally start only twice a year designed to coincide with the start of semesters in Jan/Feb and Aug/Sep.
People here have a reputation amongst the rest of the country as being colder but I’ve not found it hard to meet people and I really like Bogotans. I’m quiet so don’t notice if strangers aren’t chatty, however there are plenty of nights, events, applications designed for you to meet people in city. A quick google can find you many expat communities here and different Facebook groups designed to provide support. Of course everyone here loves to dance so it always pays to practice and learn or go to some social dance nights. I’ve actually found Bogotá to be much more multicultural and varied in its nightlife than some other Colombian cities though.
The last thing I’ll mention is the weather. It’s fine! Definitely see a lot more sun than in England anyway! Yes occasional unpredictable weather and rain and cooler nights but who likes hot nights?
For a blog post regarding safety in the city please view this post by my colleague.