Within the past year, I lived 2+ months in both of two major cities of Colombia, Medellin and Bogotá.
Today I’m going to share with you why an internet entrepreneur / aspiring location independent might consider living in each of the cities across different considerations.
(Note: the internet connections in both places are solid and about the same, i.e., fast enough for Skype video calls without interruptions.)
So let’s get to the smackdown…
Medellin has a terrific spring-like climate that makes you feel all good inside. It rains many days, yes, but most days I can wear my ideal outfit of t-shirt and shorts practically every day. I love it.
Bogotá, on the other hand, is one big refrigerator that can’t decide if it wants to be cold or hot, wet or dry, cloudy or sunny. You have to wear at least 3 layers every day and you don’t know what to expect. It’s probably a contributing factor to why the inhabitants feel slightly colder and more pessimistic.
Hands down this category goes to Medellin.
Bogotá needs some serious help in administering transportation for its residents. It seems like roads are always under under construction, that every Transmilenio bus is filled to the brim, and it takes forever to get anywhere in the city.
Medellin, on the other hand, has a terrific metro, cheap taxi rides, and a city layout that makes it easy to get around the city.
3. EXPAT CULTURE
There are expats in both Bogotá and Medellin. Medellin has been discovered over the past few years, and as a result of how liveable it is, there are more and more moving to town all the time. Bogotá has the advantage of being a major economic outpost, and so attracts many expats (more of the successful business type). You are likely to meet travelers from other countries in both cities.
4. FAMILY ATMOSPHERE
Medellin has such friendly people and beautiful weather, it seems like a great place to raise a family. Just the other day I was in a mall and there were a bunch of cool interactive science exhibits for kids, totally free. I see happy children in many places around Medellin.
As for Bogotá… there are families in Bogotá?? Could have fooled me!
5. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Here we’re thinking about things like gym memberships, parks for exercising, and whole food/ healthy food stores…
I found decently priced gyms in Medellin, and higher priced ones in Bogotá. There are parks in both cities, but there seemed to be bigger ones in Bogotá. (Several of them are big enough that you can run long distances within them.) And if you look hard enough you can find healthy food stores in both cities, but they are not always prominent.
So, you can live a healthy lifestyle in either location, but I tend to think the constant inhalation of car fumes in Bogotá can’t be very healthy.
6. HIGH END LUXURY
Bogotá seems to have a more “corporate” and “business” feel to it. As a result, there are some really high priced restaurants and places to stay, especially because the town is already built out to its limits. Medellin is such a great value and you can fork out a lot if you want to, but doesn’t have the “posh potential” to the extent that Bogotá does. If you want to spend money fast, go to Bogotá.
7. COST OF LIVING
Bogotá is higher priced than Medellin partly because everything is one big downtown and there is a tremendous overpopulation in the city. Also, most clubs I went to in Bogotá were rather expensive and seemed to be aimed at those with higher income. The clubs in Medellin cost less, as do a bigger percentage of their restaurants. The apartments tend to be cheaper. All in all, it is such a great value.
If you want to cut your costs, you are better off in Medellin.
Lots of people are discovering Medellin and its potential. As a result, you will be able to meet entrepreneurs, property owners, and business people within the city. However, the size and scope of the business climate doesn’t come close Bogotá’s global reach.
If you want to try to establish global partnerships or key connections with the biggest corporations in Colombia, Bogotá is your city.
9. POLITICAL STABILITY
One of my posts earlier this year had to do with the strikes in Bogotá, and how apparently, this happens all the time. Even though most of the year has passed, the strikes have not stopped and just recently there have been more strikes regarding public education. Classes have been cancelled for a huge number of students and the protests continue.
Also of note, the mayor of Bogotá was recently kicked out of office on charges of corruption and taken to prison. Right now is definitely not a time of political stability in the nation’s capital.
In Medellin, by contrast, I haven’t heard more than some minor peeps regarding protests, and haven’t heard of any major shutdowns. The positive spirit is one reason Medellin is super-liveable.
10. PACE OF LIFE
In Bogotá, I got the sense that many people were living high-stress lives focused on business, making money, and advancing up the various corporate and social ladders of success. They are often walking fast, looking straight ahead, and talking on cell phones. While I have not spent time in New York or some other corporate metropolis, I imagine that the people there are more like what you find in Bogotá.
In Medellin, the pace of life is much more peaceful and, as the Colombians say, tranquilo. People are open to help you, not in such a hurry, and seem more relaxed.
Along with the concerns about riots and protests, I had an extra sense of caution in Bogotá. There recently have been notable violent crimes in the downtown area, even near the hostels. It always felt a little more dangerous there, and one experienced traveler said he thought Bogotá was the most dangerous spot on the tourist trail in all of Colombia.
Medellin has its crime problems as well. Theft happens, and there are areas of the city too dangerous for tourists. However, a vast majority of the city is like that, and I felt safer by far in Medellin than Bogotá.
12. GLOBAL POSITIONING
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, and houses all of the major national government offices in its city limits. It also has a much more developed business climate, as any of the major corporations most likely will have their homebase there. The Bogotá airport is much larger, busier, and attracts more flights than Medellin. Many young people I’ve met tell me they plan to move to Bogotá because that’s where they can find a job.
Medellin is a growing city and many companies have branches there, but it’s just a fact that Bogotá is the principal ‘seat’ of Colombia. Like I said earlier, it is like a business metropolis with a much more corporate-career mindset.
This is a major factor to consider, especially if you a younger man. The presence of beautiful girls can work wonders for your psyche and keep you motivated to make the dream happen.
Basically, here’s the skinny: you can find ridiculously good looking women in both cities. Some prefer paisas (girl from Medellin), but some prefer rolas (girls from Bogotá). The dating life is a dream here, and every time I leave Colombia, I have a burning to come back to see the girls.
So, I will just go on record to the women in both cities: I LOVE YOU ALL.
Smackdown Winner: Medellin
It’s no secret I really love Medellin. I wrote earlier on why Medellin is a super-liveable city, and provided a breakdown of my costs of living as well. While Bogotá might be more suitable for folks in large multi-national corporations and/or higher-income earners, if you are considering Colombia as a place to make the internet dream happen, Medellin is a great place to do it.