I awaken to the sound of birds, there is a chill in the air and the rain is gently falling. The sun will probably come out at some point, it always does – in between the passing of clouds as they come dancing down off Nevado del Ruiz, our friendly neighborhood volcano. This is the story of My Life in Manizales.

My Life in Manizales

Some foreigners compare Manizales to Portland, Oregon USA or Vancouver, British Colombia. Our weather is rainy, the flowers are abundant and the air always carries a slight chill in it. If you adore bright sunny weather, this isn’t for you. But, if you love falling asleep to the sound of rain drumming the roof and waking up to birdsong – Life in Manizales could be your paradise.

Cost of Life

We prefer a more minimalist lifestyle – dining out is a rare treat as our true passion is cooking at home. We are always saving up for the occasional pueblo adventure or purchasing certain health essentials from the US. With the best farmers market in the Coffee Axis, Manizales has a wealth of fresh food including the colder weather foods like broccoli, sweet potatoes and gulupa (a type of exotic fruit). At this point I probably sound like a hippy.

Cost of Rent

Our average monthly costs are around $800 USD. Since this is the safest city in Colombia, and at this point over two months without a single murder – we can live in a lower strata. Our house is small yet comfortable with beautiful white floors, big windows on the front and sky-lights in the bathroom and patio. Rent = ~$137.00 USD or 450,000 COP per month

Cost of Food

Like I said before we mostly cook at home so our biggest cost of food is buying the basic essentials: beans, veggies, local fruits, grain/flour, organic  eggs, and meat. The most expensive foods are coconut oil, coffee, health supplements (vitamins, medicinal mushroom powders, iodine for thyroid), and cocoa.

Food = $122 – 183 USD or 400-600.000 COP per month

Cost of Services

Utilities in Colombia vary according to strata. If you are living in a strata 6 neighborhood, water and power will cost a minimum of 225,000 COP per month, NOT including internet, tv or gas. In strata 3 it costs about 100,000 – 140,000 COP plus 78,000 COP for internet and landline phone.

Services (power, water, internet, phone) = ~ $70 USD 218,000 COP 

Cost of Transport

In 2019 one bus passage costs 2,050 COP for city bus. The “cable areo” or metro cable is 2,000 COP and the inter municipal bus between Manizales and Villamaria is 2,150 COP. Since we live in a neighborhood that isn’t very close to the center or zona rosa, this is our main form of transit.

The minimum taxi fare is 4,000 COP. The average taxi fare in Manizales is around 7,000 COP.

Transport = ~$30 USD or 100,000 COP per person (going and coming 5 days per week)

Cost of Entertainment

Life in Manizales

Eco-Park Alcázares Arenillo

In Manizales, a national brand beer is 2,500 COP (~ $0.75), and a “craft” or import brew ranges between 5,000 – 20,000 COP (~$2 – 7 USD). Wine starts in the 40,000 COP range. A nice meal can cost 10 – 75,000 COP (~$5 – 25 USD).

The biggest benefit for us living here, is all the green spaces and eco-parks. There are 3 free eco-parks with hiking trails, open grass spaces and entertainment for kids. There are 2 eco-parks which you must pay for the entrance but which offer more specialized bird tours, butterfly gardens etc. This does not include Parque Los Nevados, which is a national park for more extreme hiking, biking etc.

We also have the #1 Theater for acoustic sound quality in South America. Each month are dance shows, theater acts and musical presentations. The average cost of a ticket is 60,000 COP or ~$30 USD per person. However, there are also free presentations by the local universities and the Secretary of Culture on almost a weekly basis.

Manizales Culture and Lifestyle

People who take time to really know the city, describe it as the most European and cultured city in Colombia. This city has some of the biggest cultural events in South America, including the oldest international theater festival on the continent with over 50 years of tradition, and the most famous city fair in Colombia.

The people here are often described as snooty, reserved, “better-than-everyone-else” and placing value on appearances. This can be difficult for a foreign resident to handle because they also tend to be a bit more closed off to newcomers – warming up gradually over time. On the other hand, I have found many people who were very open, kind, welcoming and warm towards newcomers. It all depends on your own life perspective and social aspect.

Dressing well is essential. Let me repeat that: YOU CAN AND WILL BE JUDGED ON APPEARANCES. Even the poorest street inhabitant will try to at least ensure their shoes match their clothes and poncho. Closed toed heels, leather oxford style shoes, and stylish tennis shoes rule the day. long pants, skirts – no shorts. Button up shirts, blouses and sport jackets/suit coats or other nice neat looking jacket should be worn.

You will stand out excessively if you wander the streets in flip flops and shorts. At least try to ensure your clothes match. If you are considering opening a business, or finding a job – keep these guidelines in mind.

Conclusion

Definitively, Manizales is not for everyone, or even most foreign residents. If you are looking for sun, flip flops and a margarita – Pereira and Armenia are probably the ideal choices. But, if you value art, culture, dance, music and theater – then this may be your slice of heaven on earth. We love it here for the air quality, hearing birds – even in the middle of the city, and the beautiful clean streets and architecture.

For coffee shop junkies – there is no equal, even in Bogota. I’m not here to argue in favor of Manizales to anyone. For us it works out exceptionally well. I am confident that my son will receive a good education here. He will have five major universities to choose from. The mountain views, the intense green-ness, the stylish way people dress and dancing tango are all reasons I absolutely love My Life in Manizales!