My Six Months in Bogota, Colombia

I moved to Colombia back in 2007 to assist a competitor in opening a call center in Bogota. I am in the telephone answering service business. I had been living between my home in Miami and my second home in San Jose, Costa Rica.  My first reaction to the invitation was the same as most people would have.  First you think of drugs, then you think of explosions. I did briefly remember the movie “Romancing the Stone”, which made the place seem like an adventure.  Having traveled most of Latin America and speaking Spanish fluently, I decided to give it a try.

The first thing you’ll notice when you land is that the plane seems to be going awfully fast. This is because Bogota sits at around 9,000 feet and the air density is very low, so planes need to move faster to keep up their airspeed. As soon as I stepped off the 757 I was surprised at the low temperature. Bogota has temperatures all year round in the mid 60s during the day and the high 40s at night.  The last surprise at the airport was when I carried my bags about 10 feet and couldn’t breath, again due to the altitude.

My associate in Bogota has us picked up in a Limo and took us to the apartment we had rented for six months.  Now put your seatbelt on for what I’m about to tell you.  I rented a 10th floor penthouse on the outskirts of Bogota for $ 400 per month. It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath with an office. The place was furnished with everything down to the sheets and dishes.  Included was the electric, gas, water, 2 satellite TVs, local telephone, and high speed DSL. If there is anything I miss about Bogota, it’s being able to pay all my fixed living expenses for $ 400 per month.

A few days after getting settled I went to the Zona Rosa, a very high class part of the city where we had lunch at an outdoor cafe.  I’m from Miami and not used to cold, so I was amazed at the outdoor gas heaters next to our table.  Bogota is ver modern, in some ways more so than Miami. Here’s my favorite example, McDonald’s breakfast delivered to your door at 7am, and the delivery boy has a credit card terminal on his belt.

Eating in Colombia is delicious and beyond affordable.  My first trip to the grocery store filled 3 standard size shopping carts; the total was $ 150. The supermarket is owned by a French company, so all the fixings were imported from France.  A typical lunch delivered to the house for a family of 3 cost about $ 3.50 and included a roasted chicken and steamed potatoes.  By the way, they have potatoes as big as your head and as small as a marble. The tiny ones are unreal and called “papas creollo.”

The government, police, and medical facilities were also up to the standards I expect in Miami. The only thing that might shock you is all of the searched when you go into public places. You’ll notice that all motorcycle drivers have a large ID number on their vest and helmet as part of their bomb prevention. None of this ever was annoying, but rather welcome considering the cities past.

The country has a national airline that can take you to Barranquilla, Cartagena, or Santa Marta in less than an hour.  All of these cities are on the ocean and have incredible beaches. In the same time you can be at a ski resort. Yes, I did say ski resort. Colombia is at the end of the Andes Mountains and offers every climate you can imagine.

The people are rather reserved in Bogota, but very outgoing at the coast. I believe this is primarily due to the cold temperatures in Bogota. I really didn’t go out much and kept a space heater at my feet most of the day. Most of the building are brick and gives the city a look almost like Boston.

If you are thinking about retiring some place where your dollar goes a long way, check out Colombia. You can find a lot of information on the net about visas and where to go.  Because of the reputation Colombia has you’ll find that they work twice as hard to ensure you have a good stay. 

Michael B. Jones
A Live Answer, Inc.

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