I have experience buying a couple of computers and a tablet in Colombia and I have found it is possible to buy either one for similar prices to what can be found in the United States.
Early this year, I was able to buy an Apple iMac at Falabella in the San Diego mall in Medellín for a price that was less than the price listed on Apple’s website at the time for the same model.
I also bought an Apple MacBook Pro recently in an iShop store for a price that was only about $50 more than the price listed on Apple’s website. In addition, I was able to buy an iPad mini last year for about the same price as listed on Apple’s website.
In Colombia, personal computers and laptop computers are not subject to Colombia’s 16 percent IVA tax (value added tax) if they do not exceed the price of 2,253,770 pesos ($1,092 at exchange rate of 2,064 pesos per USD) for 2014.
Tablets are also not subject to the 16 percent IVA tax if they do not exceed the price of 1,181,855 pesos ($573) for 2014.
The exchange rate also fluctuates so if the U.S. dollar strengthens, stores in Colombia do not necessarily immediately adjust prices higher of computers and tablets that are priced in Colombian pesos.
Colombia has also been putting place free trade agreements with several countries, which has helped reduce the costs of electronics in Colombia over the past several years.
Colombia Adjusts Price Limits Annually
The above price limits for computers and tablets for avoiding the IVA tax in Colombia for computers and tablets are for 2014 and are adjusted each year.
This avoidance of IVA tax for computers and tablets was established in 2012 under Colombian Law 1607 under Article 38.
The maximums are based on a multiple of Unidad de Valor Tributario (UVT), which is a tax value unit. The computer price limit for avoiding IVA tax is established at 82 x UVT and for tablets the limit is set at 43 x UVT.
UVT in 2014 is set to 27,485 pesos. UVT is adjusted each year based on the inflation between the months of October to October for the prior period.
Where to Buy a Computer or Tablet in Colombia
When buying a computer or tablet in Colombia you have many options, with several listed here.
Chile-based Falabella has an electronics department that sells Apple and other brand computers and tablets. Falabella has two stores located in Medellín in the San Diego and Santafé malls.
Falabella also has stores located in Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena and Pereira. Falabella frequently has sales listed on its website and you can sometimes buy for cheaper on their website and pick up products in the store.
Both the Exito and Jumbo big box retailers in Colombia that are similar to a Wal-Mart or Target in the U.S. also have electronics departments that sell computers and tablets.
These two retailers have many locations in each of the big cities in Colombia. Both Exito and Jumbo frequently also have sales.
Alkomprar is like a small Best Buy selling televisions, computers, appliances and other electronics and they frequently have sales. They sell Apple and other brand computers and tablets.
You can find Alkomprar in several malls in Medellin including Florida Parque, Los Molinos, Puerta del Norte, San Diego, Mayorca and also in El Centro.
Alkomprar also has stores located in several cities including Apartadó, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Cali, Ibaque, Pereira and Rionegro.
In Colombia, you can also find iShop stores that specialize in Apple products.
In Medellín you can find iShop in the Santafé and Los Molinos malls. There are also iShop stores in Bogotá and Cali.
In Medellín, you can also buy many brands of computers and tablets in the many shops found in Monterrey, Medellín’s technology mall.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to find computers and tablets for sale in Colombia for similar prices that can be found in the United States.
I believe that Colombia has taken the right approach to not tax personal computers and tablets to help keep prices lower to make it easier for Colombians to afford them.
Several other countries in Latin America tax computers and tablets. When I was in Perú last year, computers in stores looked to cost at least 30 percent higher than in Colombia.
When I was in Chile last year, I found that computers cost roughly 10 percent higher than in Colombia. And in Brazil, computers and tablets can cost more than double what they cost in the United States due to very high taxes.
I was in Brazil in April this year and was surprised to see that iMacs in a store there were more than double the cost listed on Apple’s website in the states. For example, an iMac cost about $4,300 in Brazil vs. $1,999 in the states for the same model listed on Apple’s website at the time.
I also saw a 16GB iPad Mini with retina and WiFi that cost $680 vs. $299 in the United States at the time. I also saw a 64GB iPhone 5S with a crazy price of $1,637.
From 1999 to the present, the Brazilian government has tried several times to enable cheap computers for the masses. But these efforts have foundered in a sea of red tape, a dysfunctional tax system, political infighting, and pricing that is still out of reach for many.
This is why I have seen many computers, tablets and phones in carry-on bags on flights from Colombia to Brazil. Brazilians can buy computers and tablets and other technology items much cheaper in Colombia.
Great article! Nice to know why computers and tablets in Colombia have similar prices to the U.S.
I also saw on a flight to Brazil early this year many passengers with computers in boxes, clearly buying in Colombia because of the crazy prices of computers and other technology items in Brazil.
Want a good deal on a computer, then check out the prices @ “Price Smart” a fairly new store in Medellin. I looked all over from Jumbo, Mackro, Fallabella , Exito & everyplace I could think of. Falabella & Exito were the most expensive. So I checked out Price Smart when they opened in Medellin. What a deal I got! I bought a 14″ Toshiba l45 B, Satellite, 500 GB HD, 4GB Ram,Win 8.1,Alum. Case, with Skullcandy Speakers on top (not bottom) for 849,900 pesos that was $366.30 U.S:A: marked down from 939,960 pesos! They have a 30 day return policy on cash. Also if they dont have what you want, you can look on a PC @ their website store in Miami & they will order it for you. Via con Dios.
Hi “Johnny” — thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve approved both your comments here, however, our editorial policy requires that commentators use their real names. In the future, please do so, otherwise, your comments may be deleted. Thanks!
The exchange rate today for the US dollar is about the highest it has been in over five years. So a 16GB iPad mini that I saw today costs 499,000 pesos in Colombia equals $238 at the exchange rate of 2098 pesos per USD. On Apple’s website the same 16GB iPad mini costs $249.
I’m considering sending an old iPad and iMac to family in Colombia. My worry is repair. Are there repair places?
Yes, there are Apple-certified resellers and repair places. I had my Macbook Air’s keyboard and battery replaced under warranty at an iShop in Santafe mall last year, for example.
Hello David, hello everyone!
I’m a bit confused by the prices.
On the US Apple website I can see that an unlocked iPhone 6 Silver 16GB costs USD 649,00. (Link: http://store.apple.com/us/buy-iphone/iphone6)
But, when I look at the Falabella website the same unlocked iPhone 6 Silver 16GB costs COP 499,990, which roughly translates to USD 209,00. (Link: http://www.falabella.com/falabella-cl/product/4229575/iPhone-6-16-GB-Silver)
How is that even possible?! I must be doing something very wrong!
Could you please enlight me, David?
Thank you very much. 🙂
Hi Thiago, the reason is that you are looking on the Falabella website for Chile (cl), not Colombia (co). In Colombia the unlocked iPhone 6 Silver 16GB costs COP 2,099,900 which is $878. No way that you can buy an iPhone in Colombia for cheaper than in the U.S. Here’s the Colombia Falabella page:
Hahaha, of course not! I realized my mistake the moment I posted my comment, but it was too late. 😛
Anyway, thank you for your answer. AWESOME blog you got there. 🙂
Thanks for this really helpful article.
I live in Guatemala at the moment and just tried to buy a laptop here without success.
It seems all the ones I could find here were low quality ones so i’m thinking of waiting til I get to Medellin in July and buying a macbook air in that Falabella place you mentioned in Sna Diego or an istore.
I was wondering is it possible to buy laptops with english layout i.e like this:
instead of the Spanish layout which has the ñ key and ç keys tucked in under the return key making it a strange shape and the ? key up with the numbers. I am so used to my old macbook pro I suspect that it will drive me crazy typing on a Spanish keyboard (I played with a mac here in the istore and kept hitting the ñ key etc.
Sorry if this is a bit of a random question. Any advice would be most welcome.
Hi Peter, Unfortunately I don’t believe it is possible to buy without the Spanish layout keyboard in Colombia. I also don’t like the layout but it really didn’t take long to get used to it.
But I did replace the keyboard on the iMac I bought in Colombia with a corded Apple keyboard bought in the U.S. I also replaced the mouse that came with the iMac with a cheap Logitech I bought in Colombia. I don’t like the battery eating Apple wireless keyboard and mouse. Plus I prefer a full keyboard. I sometimes also use the U.S. wired full keyboard on my Mac laptop.
Thanks for the helpful info Jeff 🙂
HI Peter.Johnny here: I had the same problem. So I found a PC wizard, & he changed the keyboard from Spanish (which all PC in Colombia are programed in) to English. The only drawback is that all the vital PC instructions for usage are always in Espanol and cannot be changed. As I do not speak fluent Spanish, it became a nightmare, so I tried translating all the Spanish to English but that turned out to be a monumental task. So I just have to fight the PC. Hope this helps. Via con Dios.
Thank u Jeff + David for all the great work + fast responses … Awesome info
I’m looking for a second screen/monitor (full HD, 21″ or more) but quite disappointed with the selection.
Check out the stores in Monterrey, Medellín’s technology mall. That mall has the biggest selection of technology items in Medellín. Both HP and Samsung have shops in that mall that may sell some monitors. Some of the other small shops definitely sell monitors as I bought one in another small shop in that mall. Also make sure to check prices as some shops are cheaper than others.
Hey can help me find my find stores in Cartenga that sells reasonible price TV”s 32″ to 50″ size
my wife she just started university and wants to be able watch tv in her free times Thanks
I bought a Lenovo laptop a few days ago in Colombia and didn’t bother to check the price on Amazon or another US based site because I thought any difference in price would be worth the immediate gratification of returning home with the laptop that day since it couldn’t possibly be THAT much of a difference.
Today I stumbled across the US price online and was shocked to see it is less than HALF what I paid. I basically paid $1300 for a laptop that costs $600 on Amazon. Bought it from Panamericana and Exito had the same price.
Never in my life expected the laptop to be over DOUBLE the price ($700 difference!) here in Colombia. So my experience differs greatly from your experience described in this blog. $700 definitely wasn’t worth the instant gratification. I would have either waited until I was in the US or tried to mail one in for cheaper. Pretty annoyed at myself to say the least.
“In Colombia, personal computers and laptop computers are not subject to Colombia’s 16 percent IVA tax (value added tax) if they do not exceed the price of 2,253,770 pesos ($1,092 at exchange rate of 2,064 pesos per USD) for 2014.
Tablets are also not subject to the 16 percent IVA tax if they do not exceed the price of 1,181,855 pesos ($573) for 2014.”
Is that per item or shipment? I.e. is that the limit to how many computers and tablets you can bring in before paying duties?
That is per item. Also keep in mind the value adjusts each year as the article says. The UVT in Colombia for 2017 is 31,859 pesos. Also the exchange rate has changed since 2014 when this article was written so the value in terms of USD is lower. The computer value at the current UVT is 2,612,438 pesos ($897) and tablet is 1,369,937 ($470).
Also that is not a duty, it’s a value added tax (VAT) for new items imported into the country and sold and the VAT was increased from 16% to 19% since this article was written. Colombia has free trade agreements with many countries and computers and tablets are not subject to duties from many countries.
I’m not sure what the limit is in the number of computers and tablet you can bring into the country. I have brought 3 laptops and 2 tablets at the same time with no problem.
Great article! I have tried to register and purchase a webcam for a friend of mine who lives in Colombia. I live in the U.S. However, on MercadoLibre when I go to checkout, they have a form field called “Documento” and then has a drop down menu with “C.C., C.E., N.I.T”. Does anyone know what these are? There was already a place to enter the credit card number and the security code, so I am at a loss.
Also, I tried registering at Linio and Exito and Linio asked me for an “Identification Card” and Exito asked me for a “Citizenship Card”. What does this mean?
I appreciate any help anyone can provide.
My sister is nun in Bogota. I bought her a laptop about 15 years ago when she here for a visit.
Her laptop does not work anymore. We use to talk on Skype.
Can i buy her a laptop from here on my credit card. If so how do i go about it. Thanks Joe
Thanks for this article Jeff – it is very useful.
I have had a bad experience recently with an ASUS laptop I bought in Panama. I came to the conclusion that a warranty with most tech companies is either worthless or virtually worthless because the time lost and stress incurred in making claims is so high that customers are better off not making a claim. As this link suggests in tip 10, the most promising source of recourse with faulty appliances is to take them back to the shop you bought them from: https://consumerist.com/2008/07/16/10-secrets-to-getting-better-tech-support-from-asus/
With that in mind, I did some research to see what the stores mentioned (Falabella, Exito, Jumbo and Alkomprar) offer in terms of return policies and in-house warranties. I thought I may as well share this research here.
In terms of ONLINE sales by Alkomprar, it seems that they offer 5 business days for returning a product that is not to the customer’s satisfaction. However, if there is a fault after 8 days then customers are dependent on the manufacturer of the appliance: http://www.alkomprar.com/politica-cambios
In terms of Falabella, it seems that they offer a 10 days for returning a product that is not to the customer’s satisfaction. It seems to me that customers can also return faulty goods to the store they bought it from if the fault occurs within the period of warranty offered by the manufacturer: https://www.falabella.com.co/falabella-co/static/staticContent1.jsp?active=9&id=cat1850985
In terms of Exito, they seem to offer the 5 day right of return. I could not find any information about an in-house warranty beyond that: https://www.exito.com/centroayuda/cambios-devoluciones
In terms of Jumbo, they seem to offer an 8 day right of return. It also seems to be possible to return the goods to the Jumbo stores. However, my understanding is that the product will still need examined by the manufacturer. If the product fails again after an attempted repair then a refund is possible: https://www.tiendasjumbo.co/institucional/terminos-y-condiciones
Somewhat to my surprise, I am now leaning toward Jumbo because they seem to have the most well-thought out returns policies and processes (including a national phone line). If my recollection is correct, some of the Jumbo stores also have a kiosk for dealing with returns, which is appealing
Does anyone have any thoughts to add in regard to policies?
Can anyone share their experiences with returning goods to any of these stores?
I’m searching a person who could perhaps
help a jung lady in Santander with her computer problems
I think she has a memory problem or
an inferior internet provider
Expenses I would pay for her by paypal
I tried to help her on line
but that was difficult
I m in France , myself
Please let me know
and I give you the items