Interested in renting in Colombia? Here are some tips from Solo Alquilar (solorent.com.co) for finding an apartment to rent in Colombia during your first vacation there.
The two main decisions you need to make when you are coming to Colombia is in which city do you want to stay and how long do you plan to be there? There are four main tourist destinations in Colombia and they are drastically different in every aspect. We will quickly highlight each city, but personal experience will tell you which city has the vibe you prefer.
Bogota: At the highest altitude, Colombia’s capital city, Bogota, has the coldest climate of the 4 cities. Here you will find the widest variety of nightlife and museums, the majority of which are free. Like all big cities, you need to keep a more watchful eye on what goes on around you.
Medellin: Known as the city of eternal spring, the year-round nice weather and friendly people are known as “Paisas” are always willing to show you their city and will want you to fall in love with it.
Cali: As a more costal city, the climate here is hotter than Medellin, and known for their fast-paced salsa dancing. You will be hard-pressed not to find someone who isn’t a good salsa dancer. Don’t be shy if you are a bad dancer (man or woman), they will happily show you a few steps on the dance floor.
Cartagena: As the hottest of all the cities, Cartagena also has some of the best historical spots to see, along with great beaches. If you are looking for year-round hot weather, some fun parties at night and historical tours in the day, this will be the perfect place to go.
With regards to the time of your trip, if you are coming for just a few days or two weeks, you can stay at a hotel or rent an apartment and it will be likely cost about the same. Mostly it just depends if you prefer to do a “check-in process” that goes with renting a furnished apartment. The check-in process will vary between agencies, but essentially they inventory the items in the apartment with you, and have you pay a deposit before you arrive. You then get that deposit refunded to you several days after checkout via Paypal or some similar method. Of course if you are traveling on a budget, all four of these cities have a range of hostels for you, but you will find yourself spending more time with foreign travelers than locals.
If you plan to stay in Colombia for more than a few weeks, i.e. 3-8 weeks or more, then there are some factors you must consider before coming. The minimum stay that Customs (known as DAS) will give you at the airport is 30 days, but they can give you 60 and sometimes 90, but you NEED to ask for it. It is important that when you are there speaking with the customs agent, you look at the number of days they write in your passport. If you are given 30 days and try to leave after 31…well, it gets complicated.
We know an American friend of ours who generally traveled to Colombia for 6 weeks periods for work and got so accustomed to receiving 60 days each trip that he didn’t bother to look in his passport one trip. After his 6 weeks, he arrived at the airport in Medellin (which is 45 minutes outside the city) and DAS rejected him. They told him he had to go to their office in the city. After missing his flight and not having a hotel reservation, he took all of his bags to the customs office only to find out he needed an appointment. The next available appoint was a week away or they gave him the option to fly to Bogota. Arriving in Bogota the next day, he jumped through all the hoops, signed the forms, paid the fines and learned an extremely valuable lesson, “Look to see how many days they give you!” If they only give you 30 days and you plan to stay for more, you can go to any DAS office (the taxi drivers will know them in each city) and within 30 minutes have an extension without any issues. Overstay by a day and after the visions of ending up in a damp Colombian prison sharing a cell with cartel members, you will never forget to look again!
We recommend that you decide to stay in one city to know it and the culture to really gain an appreciation for Colombia. If you aren’t in high season (which varies from city to city), you can negotiate with the rental companies about the price of the apartment or house. Generally there will not be a significant price drop, but culturally some negotiation is accepted. If you are fluent in Spanish, you can try to find an owner direct apartment which may save you some money, but be aware of any deals that seem “too good to be true.” Colombians, in general, are very honest people and very warm, but there are always going to be a few bad apples to keep aware of.
Best of luck discovering Colombia and all the aspects which make it one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in South America!