advent of containerized freight Cartagena has regained its place as a major
seaport. The city has developed an ultra-modern container facility that
rivals any in the Caribbean. Ships come and go all day long. It has doubled
in size in the past 2 years and just in the past several monthsí, 2 new
giant cargo cranes have been added to make the port even more competitive.
Today, Cartagena is a vibrant growing city with a myriad of new construction
projects, hotels, condominiums, new retail space and private homes. To
be sure it has its problems just like any other growing city, but the citizens
of Cartagena will solve them just as they have so many times in the past.
be saying, to yourself, gee thatís nice but why would you want to retire
and live there?
There are many
reasons to consider Cartagena as a place to retire or just to visit. Not
the least of which is the cost of living. With an average exchange rate
of 2600 Pesos to 1 U.S. Dollar, your retirement nest egg will go twice
as far and I mean literally twice as far. With the exception of some imported
goods prices are half what they are in the States or Canada. They manufacture
or grow just about everything here, you will not want for anything. When
was the last time you bought a cart full of groceries for less than a hundred
dollars, I mean everything you need for two for at least a week. You can
take a taxi just about anywhere in the city for less than $2.00. They brew
several brands of local beer; by far the most popular is Aguila, which
sells in the supermarket for around .40 cents a bottle, .75 to 1.25 in
restaurants and on the beach and itís a nice beer. Many imported brands
are available and will run in the neighborhood of 2.00 per bottle. Colombia
is famous for the rums that are distilled here. From everyday, run of the
mill white rums to delicious aged golden rums, there are many brands to
choose from and they will cost you between 5.00 and 7.00 a bottle. If you
prefer a 12-year-old scotch, you can pay as high as 30.00 per bottle, imported
liquors are heavily taxed and expensive here. Accommodations are far less
than you would expect in a seaside resort. You can rent a fully furnished,
3 bedroom 2 bath air-conditioned apartment including all utilities and
cable TV, on or within a block of the beach and the most youíll pay in
the high season is $850.00. For a month! That, my friends, is in the high
dollar tourist area, a few blocks off the beaten path youíll pay 450.00
or less. If you would prefer a nice hotel and I mean nice, not a dump,
25.00 to 35.00 per day, which usually includes a continental breakfast
with coffee. You can also stay at the 5 star Cartagena Hilton, thatís here
too, but youíll pay itís imported.
The cost of
a nice apartment here can range from $30,000 to $150,000 Dollars; this
of course is dependent upon location and size. My wife and I purchased
a 3 bedroom 2 bath condominium in a small, low rise, garden apartment complex.
(There are 13 other units in the building) Our apartment is approximately
1300 square feet and is located in the heart of Bocagrande. We are literally
blocks from everything and yet our neighborhood is a quiet residential
area. We paid $42,000 and spent another $20,000 to completely remodel it.
Everything is new except the building, which is about 20 years old and
very well maintained. Another plus, there arenít any hurricanes here;
Cartagena is well out of the hurricane belt. Letís make a comparison, an
area with similar weather. South Floridaís Gold Coast, say from Jupiter
to Miami Beach on or near the water. I would conservatively say there is
a 90% difference in the cost of housing alone, plus utilities here are
50% less and taxes are almost non-existent. You can live on a modest pension
here and put money in the bank. Hereís an example. I took my wife, Mariela,
to lunch yesterday, something we do once or twice a week. We go to different
restaurants that are within walking distance from our home. The Dunia,
a two-block walk, was our choice. When we arrived our favorite waiter Juan
greeted us. He seated us on the patio, under an immense Banyan tree, I
prefer to eat outside, Mariela likes the air-conditioned dinning room but
I prevailed, that doesnít happen often. We ordered and Juan brought me
an ice-cold Aguila and my wife a homemade fruit juice while we waited for
our food. Mariela ordered the Special of the Day, meatloaf with rice, vegetables,
homemade cheese soup and salad with avocado dressing. I had one of my favorites
at the Dunia, a filet with black pepper sauce, baked potato and salad.
We had a second round of drinks and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. The Dunia
is a family owned affair and is very clean with good service and exceptionally
good food. Itís a medium priced restaurant; our lunch with tip was 27,000
Pesos. (about $10.50).
reason is personal safety. As I said earlier Cartagena is a very safe
place to live and visit. The city is surrounded by water on three sides
so there is really only one way in or out if youíre a bad guy and the police
and military heavily patrol the access roads into and out of the city,
in fact they patrol the majority of the northern coast of Colombia from
Cartagena to Santa Marta. The Colombian Navy is headquartered here on a
beautiful historic naval base with a substantial contingent of Marines.
The police and the military are omnipresent in the city and they donít
put up with any nonsense. All in all it makes one feel quite safe. Even
the Colombians who come here on vacation marvel at how safe they feel and
how tranquil Cartagena is.
reason is health care, perhaps the most important. It is a fact of
life that as we grow older we require more health care, wish it wasnít
so but it is. What is the sense of retiring to a beautiful tropical island
or some lush and lovely area in some far away country and building your
dream home if the closest hospital, with a heart trauma unit is two and
a half hours away over some iffy roads? Or worse, you have to be air lifted
to another island or back to the States. Air medical evacuation insurance
is expensive but if you live in many parts of the world or on many islands
in the Caribbean it is a must. If you donít have it and you require the
service it will cost you dearly as much as $25,000.00. That can put a serious
dent in your retirement account not to mention your chances of survival
are greatly diminished. Cartagena has world-class health facilities, excellent
hospitals, clinics and doctors of every discipline, from brain surgeons
to podiatrists and everything in between, many of them trained in North
America and Europe. Need your teeth fixed? Dental work will cost you 80%
less than up north. Plastic Surgery is peanuts here in comparison to America.
Health insurance is far less expensive, my wife and I pay $32.00US per
month for our family policy and itís good comprehensive insurance coverage.
Yes, we pay a co-payment when we go to the doctor, 5,000 Pesos, pocket
change! Iíll write a separate article on health care and elective surgery,
if you donít do anything else just coming here for your dental work and
elective surgery will save you a fortune.
thing is places to go, things to do and the people you meet. When you retire
the worst thing you can do is sit around the house and vegetate. There
are so many things to do here. My wife has joined a gym, the Body Tech,
itís quite a place, it takes up half a city block and it has every conceivable
machine plus aerobics and dance classes, everything you could ever want
in a gym. She goes three or four times a week and she loves it. I prefer
to walk; the city has built a walking path that goes part way around the
harbor. It starts at the Navy Base and goes all the way to the end of Castilogrande.
It takes a little over an hour to make the round trip. I do this four times
a week, grudgingly, but itís good for my heart and it keeps the blood flowing
so what the heck. We go out to dinner a couple of times a week, do the
happy hour thing once in a while, spend some time at the beach, we try
to go to different beaches when we go. We walk around the old city (Centro)
we always find a new shop or caf? or see something we didnít know was there..
Itís really a neat place. We have made quite a few new friends, once you
live here for a few months youíll find the folks to be quite friendly,
you do have to learn a little Spanish but that can be fun too. All in all,
Cartagena is a great place to live or visit.