Digital Nomad Colombia [2020 Guide]
By Alex Hatton (Updated – December 2019)
Is being a Digital Nomad in Colombia for you? If you’re the sort online professional who loves to party after a hard day crushing the internet, challenge yourself and you’re seeking somewhere a little more… out there; yes.
But at five times the size of Britain…there’s a wholllle lotta Colombia. So how do you decide where the hell in it you should go?
And what exactly is it that makes Colombia one of the best countries for Digital Nomads right now?
Never fear. All shall be revealed in this article…
Table of Contents...
Colombia Travel 101
Colombia World Rankings
Traveling to Colombia
So here’s the deal…
Colombia, is on the rise.
While it’s certainly true that Colombia used to be a no-travel zone, things have changed as the country is attempting to shed its violent reputation and attract a whole new generation of tourists – Digital Nomads included!
While far from the safest country in the world, traveling to Colombia is significantly safer it used to be. Colombia attracted over 4 million tourists in 2018, and due to increasing safety and tourist infrastructure, it is expected to easily beat those numbers in 2019.
Overall Colombia has a pretty great visa policy enabling most Digital Nomads to stay in the country for months at a time.
Colombia offers a 90 day visa on arrival for people who have passports from…
Weather in Colombia
Colombia is a massive country with countless micro-climates, so the weather varies from region to region.
In Northern Colombia, coastal cities like Barranquilla and Cartagena are freaking hot and freaking humid. Prepare to sweat your ass off.
If you spend time in the capital city of Bogota, expect it to be cold and pleasantly dry.
And if you are Medellin, prepare for what is literally the greatest weather in the world – sunny and warm year round. It’s unbelievable.
Colombia Travel Costs
Colombia is easily one of the best bang-for-your-buck countries in the world.
Below are some (loose!) averages to give you an idea of what general costs in Colombia will be. These prices are a reflection of larger cities – rural areas should be cheaper. All prices in USD.
• Flat with roommates $150
• Furnished studio $500
• Hostel bed $7
• Studio Airbnb $11
• Local meal $3
• Western meal $8
• 10 minute Uber $4
If you are on a budget while traveling to Colombia then you can easily get by on $25 a day. This will include a hostel bed, local meals in a cafe you can work from, and even a few cervezas to end the evening!
Accommodation in Colombia
One of the best parts about being a Digital Nomad in Colombia is the accommodation options.
Because apartments are modern, comfortable, and they can be had for super CHEAP.
Food in Colombia
Eating local in Colombia is super cheap… but unfortunately, it can also often be bland.
While there are some AMAZING Colombian dishes (Sancocho soup is delish for and the ceviche on the coast is unreal), more over less Colombian cuisine is a bit on the boring side.
(Aka – there’s a reason there aren’t a ton of Colombian restaurants around the world)
If you are going to eat local, expect it to be a bit bland but it will also be very hearty and very filling. Expect lots of meat, rice, beans and plataños. Lots of plataños.
If you prefer non-Latino cuisine, there are tons of options in Medellin and Bogota – they’ll just cost you significantly more money.
If you prefer non-Latino cuisine, there are tons of options in Medellin and Bogota – they’ll just cost you significantly more money.
Getting around in Colombia
While the major cities have decent public transportation (you can book Colombia bus tickets here), we recommend taking Uber everywhere while in Colombia.
In general Uber is the safest way to travel. There is accountability. You can track where you are going and the price is already set in stone, meaning you won’t get ripped off.
Plus not to mention the fact that Uber in Colombia is dirt cheap. You can take 10+ minute rides that cost less than $3USD.
But isn’t Uber illegal in Colombia?
OK yes, technically it is. But this hasn’t stopped Uber from thriving in the country and in my time there I never had a problem getting a ride.
Internet Speeds in Colombia
While internet speeds in Colombia are not the fastest in the world, internet in Colombia is very accessible and very reliable – especially in the major cities.
If you are looking for a SIM card, grab one at your arriving airport, or keep an eye out for a Claro, Movistar or Tigo store. Oxxo can also get you situated (but their English might vary).
Ultimately, internet in Colombia won’t give you many problems.
Digital Nomad Colombia 101
Colombia for Digital Nomads**
Cost of Living
Colombia is without a doubt one of the most exciting Digital Nomad destinations on the radar right now. Not just in Latin America; but in the world.
Here are the three most important reasons why Colombia is so popular with Digital Nomads right now…
Insurance for Colombia
Whether its for protecting your gear, or covering your ass in case you get sick or mugged – having insurance is a smart idea for all Digital Nomads.
This is especially important when traveling to Colombia.
While Colombia has absolutely improved its safety, it can still be dangerous. Petty theft and muggings are often reported, and it’s best to be covered just in case.
Working in Colombia
As with any country in the world, as a Digital Nomad you are basically limited to three options…
Option #1 - Work from Home
If working from home is more your style then be sure to rent an Airbnb while you are in Colombia.
Option #2 - Work from a Cafe
If you are the type of Digital Nomad who prefers to work in a busy cafe with tons of food and coffee options at your fingertips – then you are in luck!
Colombia’s major cities have a great cafe-scene. Most of the more modern cafes have strong wifi connections with no time limits.
The only danger is drinking too much Colombian coffee!
Option #3 - Work from a Co-working Space
If you prefer to work from Co-working spaces, Colombia will provide you plenty of options.
Bogota, Medellin and Cali are bursting with Co-working spaces, and as the Digital Nomad scene grows in Colombia, we are seeing Co-working spaces sprout up in smaller cities and towns as well
Top 5 Cities in Colombia for
#1 - Medellin
Located in the Aburra Valley; a central region of the Andes Mountains, Medellin is Colombia’s second biggest city and the capital of Antioquia department.
Surrounded by epic mountain views and in close proximity to dozens of great day treks, alive with energetic Paisa’s and having a lively nightlife; it’s also become comparatively safe in recent years.
These traits, combined with fast WiFi and excellent co-working spaces are why Medellin is now the biggest digital nomad hotspot in the country. Let’s delve a little deeper.
Where to Stay in Medellin
Each neighbourhood in Medellin has it’s own distinct feel. For Digital Nomads, without a doubt the top three places to stay are:
El Poblado – This is the most touristy part of Medellin and it’s where you’ll find the most co-working spaces and backpacker hostels. The best hostel is certainly Selina. Of course Poblado is more expensive than the rest of Medellin and does not feel as authentically Colombian as other parts of the city such as:
Laureles – This is a pleasant upper class residence with a laid back vibe; with some popular nightlife destinations like La 70 and Calle 33. The Wandering Paisa is a superb hostel here.
Envigado – Envigado is half way between a backpacker area and a local residency. Building height restrictions, multiple parks and tree lined streets make it one of the most beautiful areas of the city. There’s numerous cafes and several working spaces here. I loved La Playa Hostel & Rooftop Bar whilst here.
Pro #1 - Insane Views
Surrounding the aburra valley in which Medellin lies are vast jagged shards of epic green mountains rippling away in every direction for as far as the eye can see.
Taking a break from looking at the screen doesn’t get much awe inspiring than this.
Pro #2 Co-Working Spaces
Medellin has over 40 digital nomad orientated and boy are they something special.
There are literally dozens of the things and they cater to every kind of vibe you can imagine – small and discreet, loud and social and places that are half way between.
Pro #3 - Trekking
Despite being a heaving city, Medellin; is surrounded by lush green hills on every side.
There are a variety of superb day treks that vary in length and difficulty. Most can embarked upon solo, but there’s also numerous trekking groups and guides who’ll be more than happy to do the navigating for you.
Pro #4 - Nightlife
If you enjoy any of the following: potent tequila, cheap beer, beautiful people, thumping bars, flashing lights, insane bar crawls, dancing the night away and every other vice you can possibly imagine…look no further than Medellin. It has them all.
Pro #5 - Amazing Climate
You know what they call Medellin? “The City of Eternal Spring”. That’s because the weather there is exactly that – a never ending, glorious combo of dazzling sunshine interspersed with refreshing mountain breezes.
Con #1 - Food is repetitive.
Do you like avocado, beans, eggs, rice, plantano and chicharron? Great! Because that’s what you’re going to be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner… every… single… day.
Con #2 - Safety
This is going to be a con of Colombia as a whole, because while the country has come a long, long way… it can still be very dangerous.
The best way to avoid danger is like you would anywhere else in the world. Don’t walk by yourself late at night, don’t buy drugs, and keep your valuables safe and out of sight.
Con #3 - Crossfit in Medellin isn't ideal
If you don’t care abut Crossfit then you can skip this one 😉
Despite trying several medelling crossfit boxes I found them all chaotically overpacked, poorly organised and unfriendly. Not keeping with the usual crossfit theme at all.
Instead opt for Smartfit; a series of massive, multi-story gyms spread across Medellin. There is a lot of space and equipment and a much more welcoming vibe with awesome gym music.
#2 - Bogota
Bogota is Colombia’s largest city and capital – a vast, high-altitude mass of sprawling urban cool nestled scenically between the Andes.
Despite the slower WiFi and year round heavy rainfall, Bogota a little more expensive than Medellin.
However, there is no denying that the food is much better and more varied in Bogota. Plus, it’s music and nightlife is truly legendary; it’s widely considered that Bogota has the best indoors nightclubs in all of Colombia.
Where to Stay in Bogota
La Candelaria – The cultural epicentre of Bogota, La Candalaria is the history laden cobbled downtown of Bogota. Peppered around 300 year old houses, church and convents are colonial buildings, museums, restaurants, hostels and hotels.
For culture geeks, music nerds and art dorks – this is the place to be. Plus it’s one of the safest places in the city and suitable for families and backpackers of every budget. We highly rate the hotel Casa Platypus!
Chapinero– One of the more wealthy neighbourhoods in Bogota, chapinero is used by many travellers for city wide explorations. The numerous super-sized malls like Unilago, Avenida Chile and Andina malls add testimony to the huge shoppping scene here. Also, check out it’s beautiful Parque del Chico!
Usaquen – Popular amongst travellers of every kind, this neighbourhood has the ideal mix of upmarket hotels and budget hostels. It’s speciality? Food! The authentic Colombian cuisine and street malls are what makes Usaquen famous.
Pro #1 - Food
Bogota is more cosmopolitan and as a result there’s a colossal variety of high quality cuisine. One of our favourite places? Andres Carne de Res – it’s essentially a food kingdom with dancing.
Pro #2 - Music
Bogota’s musical scene is more diverse than in any other Colombian city with heaps of jazz, rock and other musical styles – in addition to the Salsa, Bachetta and Reggaetone that tend to make up the only music bulk in many other Colombian other cities.
Pro #3 - Working spaces
There are heaps of digital nomad friendly co-work spaces in Bogota and more are springing up all the time. Check out El Cluster Hub for a sleek and classy interior and Tierra Firme Space for epic views!
Con #1 - Rainy Weather
Bogota experiences year round rainy weather – even the majority of it’s driest days get heavy rainfall from afternoon onwards.
Con #2 - Slow WiFi
In much of Bogota, the WiFi leaves something to be seriously desired. That said, within the a decent amount of the better co-working spaces, this is usually ok.
Con #3 - Unsafe in some areas
Whilst these days, almost all of Medellin is considered more or less safe, there are significantly large areas in Bogota, which would be very unwise to be in after dark.
Con #4 - A little expensive
Because it’s the capital, Bogota is a little expensive by Colombian standards. That said, an expat can expect to get around on $1,106 a month if they avoid extravagance.
#3 - Cartagena
A beautiful and historic city overlooking the glistening Caribbean Sea, Cartagena is famous both for it’s Old Town and for it’s vibrant dance scene, especially Salsa.
It’s been a hothub for backpackers and expats for years now with hostels and hotels for every budget as well as a range of high quality work spaces that offer fairly decent WiFi.
Where to Stay in Cartagena
Centro –This is Cartagenas historic downtown enclosed within the centre of the city by a mighty colonial stone wall. With colourful historic streets, it’s got something for everyone, from street food to exquisite dining, luxury hotels to backpacker hostels and laid back bars to pumping nightclubs.
Getsemani – With awesome street art, heaps of cafes and a vibrant nightlife, this is one of the hippest neighbourhoods in all of Colombia. There are many budget options here, plus it’s very close to Centro.
Zona Norte – This has some of the best beaches in Cartagena, being situated just outside of the city proper. Zona Norte a great place for escaping the crowds but it is removed from the cities other attractions.
Pro #1 - Dancing
Cartagena is an awesome place to learn to Salsa – or if you already know it, to show off your skills.
Pro #2 - Beautiful and Historic
With it’s legendary Old Town, 500 year old castles and monasteries and fascinating, varied history, Cartagena is incredible both to witness and learn about.
Pro #3 - Safe
Cartagena is one of the safest Colombian cities out there! Although there’s still a handful of sketchy areas to avoid at night, these are few and far between.
Pro #4 - Beaches
Cartagena has some beautiful beaches where it’s possible to surf, windsurf, kitesurf snorkel and even go scuba diving. Our favourite two beaches are Punta Arena and Playa Blanca!
Con #1 - Expensive
Cartagena is considerably more pricey to live in than other Colombian cities, at around just over $1,500 a month.
Con #2 - Some rainy weather
Although it has some lovely dry months with warm temperatures and ocean breezes, at certain times of the year, Cartagena is subject to heavy rainfall.
Con #3 - Limited public transport
There’s no metro system or elongated system, unlike in other cities. To add further frustration, the taxis are not metered and gringo prices are common.
A little further north of Cartagena, lies Barranquilla – an even larger coastal city thats less frequented by tourists – except for during it’s spectacular Barranquilla festival.
That said, due to the sheer size of the place, Barranquilla offers a wide range of living options for expats and travellers of every price range as well as good co-working spaces. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest cities to live in Colombia.
Where to stay in Barranquilla
Norte de Centro Historico – The historic part of the city. Here is where one will find most of the main shopping sights and larger hotels.
Riomar – This is the coastal city area that’s on the banks of the Magdalena river. With a number of hotels, spas, restaurants and bars, it’s one of the wealthier areas of Barranquilla but still cheap for travellers.
La Playa – Known for it’s active fishing and agricultural industry, La Playa is a beach area to the north of the city.
Pro #1 - Super cheap
Even by Colombian standards, Barranquilla is low in cost for everything. You can easily get by on slightly less than $1000 a month!
Pro #2 - Carnival time
The carnival of Barranquilla is one of Colombias’ most important folkloric celebrations and as such is the second largest carnival in the world! Get ready for four incredible days of epic costume filled, parading, partying craziness.
Pro #3 - Watersports
Because it overlooks the Caribbean sea, Barranquilla has several awesome beaches. It’s a great place for kitesurfing, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, diving and other water themed activities.
Con #1 - Underdeveloped Tourist side
Outside the four days of the carnival of barranquilla, this city has a comparatively low tourist and expat frequency. Whilst some travellers will doubtless see this as a bonus, it does mean there’s not many work spaces or hostels as in other cities.
Con #2 - WiFi isn't that great
WiFi here is around the same level of that in Bogota – maybe a little better, but ultimately still a tad sluggish.
#5 - Cali
Cali lies 1000m above sea level in the Cacua valley, bordered by scenic mountains to the west and itself bordering the bountiful Cacua river to the east.
This vast, affluent city is considered the Salsa capital of the world and as such Calenos (people from Cali) eat, breath and dream Salsa.
It’s also well known for historic landmarks and architecture as well as exquisite street food.
Where to Stay in Cali
El Penon, San Antonio & San Cayetano: These are three small, historic neighbourhoods in upper middle class Cali. They are considered some of the best neighbourhoods for nightlife. Endowed with restaurants, parks, bars, hotels and hostels they’re also the most popular area for tourists to stay.
San Fernando – Another safe and well facilitated area, San Fernando has some great budget options and is close to Parque del Perro which has excellent nightlife.
Historic Centre – Although most of Cali’s colonial architecture has disappeared with time, there’s still a fair bit to be found around the historic centre. Most quality accommodation is at the western part of this area near San Antonio. Being in downtown, the historic centre is not advisable to walk around at night.
Pro #1 - Salsa
Cali is the number one place in the world for Salsa dancing and forms a huge part of the local culture there. If you’re looking to learn or simply flaunt your skills, there is no better place.
Pro #2 - Cheap
Cali has significantly lower accommodation costs than many other Colombian cities. It also tends to be a little cheaper for restaurants, groceries and drugstore items.
Pro #3 - Clean air
Cali has exceptionally low levels of air pollution compared to many colombian cities, with regular breezes. That said the streets themselves can be a bit dirty.
Con #1 - Not very safe
Cali remains one of the world’s most dangerous cities with a homicide rate of 47.3 per 100,000 residents in 2018. Whilst certain areas such as El Penon and San Fernando are relatively safe, there is a somewhat uncomfortable number of places that are not.
Con #2 - Underdeveloped expat community
Because it’s relatively off the beaten track for Colombian cities, Cali has far less expat groups and events. You could check out the facebook group “Expats in Cali”, but it has only around 2000 members compared to the 17,000 members of say, “Medellin expats”.
Conclusion to being a Digital Nomad in Colombia
There you have it! Nomads Nation OFFICIAL guide for being a Digital Nomad in Colombia for 2020!
With the help of this one of a kind guide, you’ll be able to easily navigate the country of Colombia, and experience one of the many amazing Digital Nomad hotspots this beautiful country has to offer.
What do you think? Which Digital Nomad city in Colombia most appeals to you? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more great content?
- Branching out elsewhere on the South American continent, you could check out our article on the 10 coolest places to live in Chile.
- Wherever you travel to, you’ll need your Digital Nomad Insurance.
- Don’t forget your Digital Nomad Packing List!
* All data is taken from country Wikipedia page
*** The Nomads Nation Score is completely subjective and meant to be fun. Don’t take it too seriously dude
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