Bucaramanga: Colombia's Hidden Retirement Haven

US News

Colombia is the Western Hemisphere's economic rising star and one of the world's emerging economic leaders. This country's economy grew by 5.9 percent in 2011 (compared with 1.8 percent in the U.S. and 2.7 percent in Brazil), and foreign investment in Colombia jumped a staggering 20 percent in 2012.

With its booming economy, strong agricultural sector, and energy surplus, Colombia is attracting a lot of attention from global investors. But what about retirees? Is there opportunity in this fast-moving marketplace for retirees in search of a place to live well on a modest nest egg?

Indeed. Colombia's strong economic factors provide a backdrop of support for some of the most appealing overseas retirement options in the world, including one spot in particular that few outside the country have heard of (yet): Bucaramanga.

Bucaramanga is a pleasant, comfortable city where the intrepid retiree up for an adventure can embrace a fully appointed retirement lifestyle on a budget of as little as $1,200 per month.

As retirees already enjoying what Bucaramanga has to offer put it, while the city boasts many advantages and conveniences, it is, first and foremost, "a place where you can feel at home."

In Bucaramanga you can get away from the pressures of the world. This is a big city, with more than a million people in its metro area, but it's also an unpretentious city. Most of the town is neither rich nor poor but made up of a solid middle class, meaning you don't find the extremes that you do in many cities.

Bucaramanga offers excellent infrastructure, with drinkable tap water, reliable electricity, and fast broadband Internet service at reasonable rates. A new metrolinea public transit system is being phased into service to whisk commuters and travelers from one end of the city to the other. The international airport is just outside town, making access more convenient than you'd think, given Bucaramanga's fairly remote location.

Healthcare here is leading edge and offered at a very reasonable cost. The ten universities in the metro area bring a youthful, vibrant feel to many of the city's sectors.

Perhaps most important for many retirees, this city is a world-class value. You can buy a home here for less than $75,000. If you prefer to rent (which is usually the better option wherever you decide to retire), current offerings include a two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath home in the gated La Fontana neighborhood for $350 a month and a fully furnished luxury penthouse with all the amenities of our age, including a home theater, for $1,250 per month. More than $1,000 per month may be more than you want to spend on rent, but it gives you an idea of the standard of living available in this city.

Another particularly appealing thing about Bucaramanga for potential retirees is the climate. Temperatures range from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. There are no seasonal variations, and, unlike in many tropical climates, there is no rainy season. You'll enjoy a pleasant mix of rain and sunshine all year.

Bucaramanga is known as Ciudad de los Parques--city of parks--with more than 160 parks scattered within its borders. The region of the city I'd recommend first for foreign retirees is Cabecera del Llano, which includes the popular neighborhoods of Pan de Azúcar, Sotomayor, Cabecera, Conucos, and Altos de Cabecera. The most attractive feature of this area of the city is Parque San Pio, which stretches over a couple of city blocks.

As one retiree explains, "I start each day here with a strong cup of rich Colombian coffee, some fresh-squeezed local juice, and a buñuelo, which is a traditional morning pastry. I settle in to relax and watch local residents who come to the park each morning to walk, sit, chat, and exercise. The lifestyle here really is hard to beat."

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas--Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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