Many expats living in Medellín work remotely for a company in another country. This is known as being digital nomads with location independent jobs.
I have lived in Medellín for over six years. I work remotely as a research analyst for a company based in the U.S. During this time, I have met many other expats living in Medellín doing something similar – digital nomads working remotely for companies in other countries.
With my job with location flexibility I have chosen to live full-time in Medellín with its low cost of living as well as good climate, public transportation, infrastructure and healthcare. But I could live and work from anywhere with reliable Internet services.
For example, I have worked remotely for over a month from several locations. This includes the beach cities of Santa Marta in Colombia and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I also spent over a month working from Pereira in Colombia’s Coffee Triangle.
All I need to do my job is reliable and high-speed Internet and voice-over-IP (VOIP) phone service with a U.S. phone number. When I lived in the U.S. I worked out of my home. It’s the same for me while living in Medellín – I work from home online.
I have met many digital nomad expats living in Medellín working remotely as I do. They have a variety of location independent jobs. This includes web development, software development, writing, copy editing, consulting, graphic design, translating and day-trading.
Information technology (IT) related location independent jobs such as web design, computer programming or software engineering are particularly attractive. With these types of jobs it being possible to earn over $100,000 USD a year.
Digital Nomads – Our Survey Results
Preliminary results from our Medellín Living reader survey that is currently running is finding that there are more expats living in Medellín that are digital nomads working remotely for companies in other countries than expats that work for companies in Colombia.
Out of 100 survey responses received so far of Medellín Living readers that indicate they live in Medellín, 33% of these expats living in the city work remotely for companies in other countries.
Only 11% of surveyed expats living in Medellín have jobs with companies in Colombia. And only 6% of expats living in Medellín own companies in Colombia. While 41% are retired.
For those expats living in Medellín and working remotely, 87.9% have a Colombian visa. So while they are digital nomads with location flexible jobs, they have chosen to stay in Colombia for an extended time. 48.5% of these digital nomads have lived in Medellín at least three years.
Local jobs in Medellín typically don’t pay that well so it is possible to earn much more working remotely for a company in another country. I have met several digital nomad expats that earn six figure USD incomes living in Medellín. So, they can live like a king with the low cost of living in the city.
When I was taking Spanish classes at Universidad EAFIT I met several expats working as English teachers at EAFIT. One told me that he earned roughly $1,000 per month. He also received benefits such as health insurance.
He rented a room in a shared place with roommates as he didn’t really earn enough to live alone. But he was also taking Spanish classes for free at EAFIT with a goal of becoming fluent.
Note: if you haven’t yet taken our reader survey, please take 5 minutes to help the Medellin Living community and complete our first ever reader survey. The above preliminary result graphic is an example of the interesting information our reader survey is intended to provide.
We want to better understand our community and identify what you want from Medellín Living so we can continue to improve for you.
To provide a little extra motivation to complete the Medellin Living Reader Survey, each qualified response with an email address is entered to win a COP 300,000 gift certificate to Carmen Restaurant, one of Medellín´s best restaurants.
Infrastructure in Medellín supports Digital Nomads
The infrastructure in Medellín such as power and Internet services are reliable and support being a digital nomad in the city.
There are two major Internet providers in Medellín: Claro and UNE. Claro offers Internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps and UNE offers speeds of up to 50 Mbps.
I have had Internet service from Claro for over six years. My Internet service with Claro has been more reliable than my Verizon FiOS service was in the United States and of course it is much less expensive.
I have only experienced three Claro Internet outages in over six years. In each case I called Claro and service was restored within a couple hours.
I have lived in Medellín for over six years in several neighborhoods. During this time I experienced only three power outages. Electric service in the city is very reliable in my experience.
The only unplanned electric outage I experienced in over six year was for a couple hours during a major storm. I have never experienced an unplanned water outage.
Two other electricity outages I was notified about beforehand by the electric provider (EPM) and both were due to maintenance. One of these planned outages was over six years ago in Belén and one was recently in Sabaneta.
If you work remotely in Colombia with a job in the U.S. as I do, it is possible that you may not have to pay any income taxes in Colombia. I didn’t pay income taxes in Colombia for my first five years living in the country.
Only in 2016 did I have to pay income taxes in Colombia for tax year 2015, which ended up being less than 10% of the income taxes I paid in the U.S.
You are considered a Colombian resident for tax purposes if you stay in Colombia for more than 183 days during a year.
We looked at income taxes in Colombia earlier this year on this site. Colombia taxes worldwide income, just like the United State does.
If your worldwide income was $12,751 or over in 2015 and you are a tax resident of Colombia, you were technically required to file income taxes in Colombia in 2016. But you may not have to pay any income taxes, depending on your situation.
When filing income taxes in Colombia there are many possible deductions. You can also subtract income taxes paid in another country from income taxes due in Colombia. The result is that it is possible to work as a digital nomad living in Colombia and pay no income taxes in Colombia.
I have met many expats living in Colombia working remotely like I do. Several of these expats don’t pay any income taxes in Colombia. They pay income taxes in the U.S. or another country on their income, which is more than their income taxes due in Colombia.
Moving to Colombia can be tax neutral. But we recommend talking to a tax expert as everyone’s situation is different.
The Bottom Line
There are more expats living in Medellín working as digital nomads with jobs from other countries than there are expats living in the city working for local companies in Colombia.
Jobs with location flexibility from other countries can offer the opportunity to earn much higher incomes than are available from many of the local jobs found in Medellín.
Expats planning to move to Medellín and find a job in Medellín may want to rethink this approach. Instead you may want to find a location flexible job in your home country before making the move to Medellín. It turns out that many expats living in Medellín have successfully done this.
Some expats have also been successful in opening businesses in Medellín. For example, there are successful foreign-owned real estate companies, hostels and restaurants in Medellín.
But starting a business can be difficult in a foreign country. So there really aren’t that many expats living in Medellín that have opened businesses in the city. There are more expats working as digital nomads living in Medellín than there are entrepreneur expats that have started businesses.
Panama City has been touted as a good city for digital nomads by some foreign living publications. But our recent Medellín vs Panama City comparison found that in many ways Medellín can be a better place to live.
The bottom line is that Medellín is expected to attract more and more digital nomads with location flexible jobs. This is due to Medellín’s low cost of living, inexpensive real estate, good climate and good infrastructure.