By Kathleen Peddicord
Medellin, Colombia, and Panama City, Panama, are two of the world’s top retirement havens for 2011. Here’s how these top retire-overseas choices compare with each other.
Preparing it, I couldn’t help but compare that city to Panama City, my current home base and a long-standing top retire-overseas choice.
In many ways, these two places are the yin and the yang of each other.
Arriving in Panama City, you recognize instantly that this town is open for business, pushing for growth, and embracing prosperity. Your heart rate quickens, and your mind works quicker, too, trying to keep up with the commotion all around.
Arriving in Medellin has the opposite physical effects. Your heart slows a bit, your mind settles…
Unlike Panama City, Medellin‘s cityscape isn’t all high-rise condo towers and features nary a single building of glass or steel. From any height (the windows of one of the city’s luxury penthouse apartments for example, or the top of one of the surrounding hills), Medellin appears a sea of red clay tiles and red brick buildings interspersed regularly by swatches of foliage and flowers. The effect, again, is calming and peaceful.
You can learn a lot about a place both from and by its taxi drivers. They’re a top source of getting-to-know-a-city information and insights, of course, but they’re also a barometer of the mood of a place. In Panama City, taxi drivers are in a hurry. They honk their horns constantly. They weave in and out of traffic, from lane to lane, pushing for constant progress. They can’t abide sitting still or even slowing down and tend to run traffic lights and ignore things like “Stop” signs.
In Medellin, the taxi drivers, like their city, are gentler and calmer, happy to stop to offer directions or even to chat. During our entire visit, I heard the honking of not a single car horn, not by a taxi driver and not by anyone else either.
It’s also worth noting that, in Medellin, taxis are not only ever-present, but also always painted yellow and metered, unlike in many of the places where we recommend you spend time. Again, orderly…genteel…
Medellin is impressively green, with trees, plants, and small gardens everywhere, and remarkably clean. In the central neighborhoods, you see no litter. The metro, a point of pride for the local population, is spotless and like new. At every station and in every train we boarded, I looked for but was unable to find even a cigarette butt or piece of gum on the ground.
MY OPINION AS AN EXPAT LIVING IN MEDELLIN SINCE MARCH OF 2006:
First off, I would like to commend Katleen Peddicord for even suggesting the notion of retiring in Medellin, Colombia. Although everyone already lives in Colombia knows that it is an amazing place to live and visit, most outsiders are still mind-locked on the stereotype that described the violent days of Medellin past. Granted, some of the violence remains, but you will find the same most everywhere in the world including places such as Miami, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Detroit just to name a few. Do not let old stereotypes keep you from visiting or considering Colombia as a retirement destination.
I lived in Panama City for 6 months in 2005 and personally did not like the city and its climate. Medellin for me is a far superior place to live and call home due to several factors including climate, cost, culture, friendly locals and ease of transportation to name a few. However, the city does not come without its drawback. The traffic here is difficult at times and the infrastructure is far from perfect. However, we do have the Metro which is a great alternative to buying a car or taking taxis. I take the Metro all the time, but avoid it at peak hours in the morning and evening after work. I would have to say that Medellin‘s biggest drawback for me is the pollution caused by car, bus and motorcycle exhaust. In fact, many of the original expats have already moved away to the countryside where the air is much cleaner. The banks here do not have a great reputation from an ‘ease of use’ perspective. However, I maintain bank accounts in the USA and use the ATM system as my preferred choice of withdrawal. Although I am not retired, I would consider any place in Colombia as a retirement destination once you figure out how to manage your affairs here.
Kathleen failed to mention the ‘pensionado visa’ in her report which is also an effective method to retire here without having to buy property and/or start a business for VISA purposes. There is alot to learn about living in Colombia and although I am no expert, I am learning more every day that I chose to live here. I will add to Kathleen’s excellent reports on Medellin with one of my own soon that will shed some more light on this town my my own unique perspective. Until then, ‘a la orden‘ from Medellin, Colombia!