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A Good Life in Manizales vs Pereira | Expat Lifestyle

A Good Life in Manizales vs Pereira | Expat Lifestyle

Expat Consulting, Lifestyle, Manizales, Pereira

Having lived in both cities for periods of time, I can tell you what the Pro’s and Con’s are to Life in Manizales vs Pereira, as a foreign resident. There are some distinct benefits and a few disadvantages to each which will define WHO actually has the best chance of creating their ideal lifestyle in each place.

Manizales vs Pereira

Disclaimer: This is a completely subjective observation based on my own experiences living and working in Manizales vs Pereira. There are ALWAYS exceptions and if you find the right niche/job or opportunity, at that point some of my experiences won’t have much affect on your own.

Take my ideas with a grain of salt, but be assured I have experience with everything I am talking about in some way. Yes, I am a bit nosy – I am curious about anything and everything that would affect my public, and I have even wandered down some dark streets a time or two.


manizales vs pereira

A city of not quite one million residents, Pereira has a DISTINCT commercial advantage that defines its position on a regional and national level. Especially during the Covid-19 lockdown, this city was more commercially active than Manizales was, which has to some extent protected the economy from a massive downturn. Click here for more information about the Cost of Rent in Pereira:

As the Capital del Eje, or the informal regional capital, Pereira has a much bigger transportation framework which includes an international airport. During times of normalcy, it can be accessed directly from Panama City, or Miami via international flights.

“I enjoy living in Pereira because of the friendly people and great weather. It is secure, my health is better and the area is beautiful. I have lived in Brasil, USA, as well as the Dominican Republic. However, my spirit and peace of mind is in love with Colombia. ”

Marcus, USA

On a personal level, I feel that Pereira has the best regional gastronomy and lifestyle services. Marketing and advertising is more modernized which also helps to establish and secure businesses from the time they begin operations until the time they decide sell or close down. People are more likely to invest in digital services, advanced technology and convenience.

There is one distinct thing. It DOES have a slight presence of mafia/cartel and even some guerrilla elements – like most larger cities in Colombia, with the exception of Manizales vs Pereira. What does this mean to a foreign resident?

  • Do not borrow money from informal money lenders.
  • Do not get involved in any kind of money laundering – even though much of the economy here moves on the back of it, which is actually an advantage because there is more capital available for projects and ideas.
  • Do not enter no-go zones such as neighborhoods like Japon, Boston, La Dulcera and Cuba – except Corrales (but note that due to close proximity there is more car theft and petty crime).
  • Do not bear witness to anything that doesn’t involve you, or get involved with illegal activities. The only people who ever have problems with these elements, are the ones who involve themselves in situations. 99.9% of foreign residents will never have a problem.
  • Stay away from any foreigner who you suspect might be involved in illegal activities. Protect your peace of mind and lifestyle at all costs.

In 6 years of living in Pereira, I have NEVER, EVER had any issues with any of the previous. By living a very normal life and minding my own business while being formal (or polite) to my neighbors, I have gotten on just fine.

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When gringos start to complain about being robbed (repeatedly), or threatened – 90% of the time they got themselves into the problem by being snitches, overly critical of others, or worse.

As an American retiree, and comparing to our experiences in Nicaragua and Panama, we feel that Pereira, is without a doubt a better quality of life, lower cost of living, the shopping, restaurants, are all very good. We had some minor experiences with medical/healthcare/dental and the quality/cost was good and extremely reasonable. For us the only negative is that the North American expat community is very small.

Grant & Eileen, USA

On the upside, Pereira has nicer, more modern infrastructure and is a top retirement destination for Bogotanos and Manizaleños. You will find better medical services – although many of the professionals here were educated in Manizales, which is a top education destination. What Manizales does NOT have, is the Spanish course/university option for student visas – while Pereira DOES!

Finally, I must mention that Pereira has nice weather with a variety of microclimates ranging from cool and rainy, to hot and dry. You will also find the biggest skate park in Colombia here, at La Villa Olympica near the airport.


manizales vs pereira
The zona rosa of Manizales at night (picture taken from Minitas neighborhood).

This is a city for academia, art, culture, tango, salsa, and outdoor sports. It is NOT a city for aspiring entrepreneurs. With incredibly beautiful mountain views, a colder more overcast climate, and a more hilly San Francisco-like terrain, Manizales is a place for contemplation and repose.

“The people here are so friendly and welcoming and from nearly every spot in the city there is a breathtaking view. It’s a walkable city once you get used to the hills you can lose weight and get in shape just walking around. But, if you get tired there’s also excellent public transportation. I love it here and I don’t think I would choose any other city in Colombia to live.”

Cynthia, USA

Money lives here – but doesn’t move here. That is to say, that much of the population is retired, but doesn’t necessarily spend money in the local economy. The elitists will go to Bogota, Medellin or Cartagena even to do small things, like clothes shopping, instead of supporting local business.

A benefit of life in Manizales is easy access to green zones, parks, athletic facilities, and even hot springs. You can spend a lot of time out in nature.

manizales vs pereira

Life is much slower. Many factors move according to local/regional politics. During the lockdown, Manizales was as strict as Bogota – which has a much larger population. Their unemployment shot from 10% to 30% which is a bad sign for crime indicators AND local GDP, which depends largely on factory labor/production and the universities.

“Climate, close to nature. You can have a really good lifestyle, no pollution unlike Medellin. And what I like is not too small, with enough culture. It’s a university city, young people and an open minded culture.”

Lucy, USA

Manizales has the best coffee shop scene and culture in Colombia. If you are a retiree and you visualize your life being a mix of outdoor activities, artistic endeavors and/or coffee shop encounters with friend, then you are in luck! Manizales is for YOU!

On the other hand, if you see yourself teaching English, or starting a small business, then this city is NOT for you. The local culture does not care for, understand, or appreciate modern business practices such as Agility, Digital Marketing and/or Website/Digital Infrastructure.

Click here for more information about Rent in Manizales vs Pereira:

This is not to say that foreign residents aren’t well received. On the contrary, you will have a leg up compared to a Colombian from another city. Even so, there is an elitist culture that judges on appearances, and you may or may not make the cut for them to invite you into their social groups. Also, the expat presence is very low and not unified in any way aside from little friendship groups.

Manizales IS the SAFEST city in Colombia. There is no noticeable mafia/cartel presence, and these people are blocked from upper class social involvement such as the local country club/city club and even some residential areas. You can walk in most areas both day or night with almost none, or minimal problems.

Ultimately, I left Manizales after only 2 years, because I needed to be able to work and earn money via my profession which is Digital Marketing, Commercial Journalism and Executive English. Even with the contacts I have, which are excellent, it was an intense struggle. Pereira in a COVID/Post-COVID world is much more apt for entrepreneurial pursuits.


I really love and enjoy both cities. Manizales is heaven for coffee drinkers, while Pereira is for Foodies.

Ultimately, Manizales is a wonderful “viviero,” or living place, while Pereira is ideal for entrepreneurs, and commercial interests. Retirees and digital nomads can get on quite well in Manizales – especially if they love sports or even Tai Chi, which is NOT available in Pereira.

Artistic, musical, or academic pursuits are plentiful and easily accessible in Manizales vs Pereira which also has quite a bit, but not as much attention or interest. In a sense both cities each complement each other. Cold in Manizales vs Hot in Pereira. Pick the one that suits YOUR lifestyle.

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About the author

Coffee Axis Adventures and Expat Lifestyles meet Wit and Wordpress! I have been writing my whole life in one form or another, and blogging since 2012. My career as a professional writer began in 2013 and this is what I have been doing ever since! My personal mission: Create love and appreciation for local brands, products and entrepreneurial projects of value and quality. Do my part to participate in and help create, a strong local economy that supports local people and their families!


  1. rick delay
    October 29, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    thanks for the personal overview!

  2. Mitch
    November 2, 2020 at 2:23 am

    Great post, Erin. It sounds like as a budding entrepreneur, living and working in Pereira, and decompressing in Manizales, would make sense. Maybe a few weekends a month or an extended weekend would be a nice respite.

    • Erin D.
      November 2, 2020 at 8:08 am

      Absolutely, I still love Manizales and Pereira both – but there aren’t any new and unique opportunities for me in Manizales due to the current political climate where potential clients are fighting to stay open in front of a hostile administration that doesn’t want to let anyone work – because of the covids.

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