An American Couple Calls a Colombian Pueblo Home

The Reeds (not their real name) are a retired American couple who decided 16 months ago to live full time in Santágueda, a small town in Caldas near Manizales…

Why Santágueda?

Originally from Wisconsin, their last home in the USA was in Texas where they lived in an RV. Until they made it to Colombia and decided to make a go at living here, that is! They didn’t exactly choose Santágueda: they were having no luck with real estate agents until they asked a Colombian friend to help, and he found them a house in a gated community they ultimately liked best and they bought it.

Language a Problem?

The Reeds say their Spanish is intermediate, but they only really started learning once they got here.

How do you describe the local people?

Mr Reed said: “Colombianos are very warm and welcoming people”. They maybe experienced “gringo pricing” a couple of times, and never felt discriminated against by locals.

How’s the weather out there?

Mr. Reed describes it this way: “Mid-80s Fahrenheit every day, mid-60s every night. Rains a little most days, but we rarely get rain for long periods any day. We have had a few downpours from time to time, but that is the exception rather than the rule. But it is a tropical environment, so everything is always so very green”. Editor’s note: 80 F = 27 C, 60 F = 16 C.

Getting Supplies

They find just about everything they need in the town itself. There’s restaurants, grocery stores, a pharmacy, hardware stores, and lots of merchants of locally grown fresh produce. Their trips to nearby Manizales are for medical visits, legal services and for a few other things like new light fixtures that are harder to get in the pueblo.

Getting Around

The Reeds decided against buying a car here as they’re expensive and driving here is crazy. A bus passes close by that takes them to the terminal in Manizales 45 minutes away and costs just 8000 COP (less than 1.75 at time of writing). A cable car takes them from the terminal to downtown Manizales, or they can catch another bus to other Colombian cities. “Very easy and very affordable”, Mr. Reed says.

As for getting here from the United States, the closest international airport is in Pereira. American airlines has daily flights to/from Miami.

Do you feel safe here?

“Very safe!”

In One Word describe life here


Do Family Members / Friends from the USA Visit You?

Mr. Reed replied: “We are from the USA, and the general assumption there is that Colombia is a dangerous place. Many people do not want to visit because of the (inaccurate) reputation. But we have had visitors, and they absolutely LOVE it when they see where and how we are living.”

Is this a Good Way to Retire?

Mr. Reed answered: “Absolutely! The cost of living here is incredibly affordable. We have visas, so we participate in the Colombian healthcare system. In fact, once a person has a visa, participation in the healthcare system here is obligatory. We could never have afforded to retire early and live in the USA. In fact, we probably would have needed to work at least another six to eight years in order to afford retirement. Here we retired at 59 1/2.”

What about the Local Food?

The Reeds really love the Bandeja Paisa, though it’s so big they usually share one between the two of them. “Chicharrón is wonderful”, adds Mr. Reed, “All of the fruits and vegetables are incredibly full of flavor and I also really like Ajiaco…And a Colombiano friend of ours made us Changua for breakfast one day. That is a soup-like breakfast made with egg, milk, two types of potatoes, onions, etc. Very tasty.” (Editor’s Note: To find out more about Colombian food, visit our Food section)

What about utilities?

Mr. Reed gave a detailed answer: “Electricity depends on usage, and we are pretty heavy users. Our power bill is about 250,000 COP per month. Cell reception for Claro is very good, Tigo is so-so. We have Claro Prepago with unlimited voice and unlimited data for WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook, plus 9GB for other data. Cost is 30,000 COP per month per phone. Cheap. We have Dish Network TV… 80,000 COP per month. Internet is difficult here, as none of the terrestrial providers are available. We have service from a small company that uses an RF antenna aimed at a station on one of the surround hills. 100,000 COP per month, and only about 5Mb/s of bandwidth. It is really the only option here for unlimited Internet. But it’s good enough. Gas and water are cheap… 60,000 and 80,000 COP per month respectively.”. Note from editor: a lack of Internet services in Colombia’s rural areas is still prevalent.

Any Regrets?

Mr. Reed answered: “Only one, really. This house is in a conjunto cerrado (gated community) in a very highly-regarded area. It is very popular for people from Manizales to have a second home here and come here for weekends and holidays…Only five are occupied full-time. Consequently, weekends here can be VERY busy and VERY noisy. People like to come here for weekends and holidays and party. The fiestas here can be very boisterous. Makes those times here difficult.” Colombians are known for partying hard, so this complaint isn’t unique to the Reeds!

The Reeds Tips for Visitors

  • Must know Spanish (recommends
  • Bug spray is helpful
  • Umbrellas are mandatory for either rain or strong sun

The Reeds Must See List

  • Risaralda (Caldas)
  • Filandia (Quindío)
  • Circasia (Quindío)
  • Quimbaya (Quindío)
Photos provided by Reed family.
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