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Retire in Cartagena: An Affordable & Cosmopolitan Caribbean Option

Retire in Cartagena: An Affordable & Cosmopolitan Caribbean Option

Posted by Shanelle Weir on January 21, 2015

Cartagena is a Spanish colonial city with plazas, cobblestone streets, courtyard homes and flowered balconies. Among the grandest cities in the region, Cartagena can make for an appealing retirement lifestyle option in the Americas.

Cartagena, located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast a two-and-a-half-hour nonstop flight from Miami, offers a unique cultural blend that combines the best of old Spanish America with the richness of the Caribbean. The courtyard homes and narrow streets take you back to old Spain, while the bright colors of the houses add a Caribbean flair. The traditional Colombian cuisine is reminiscent of Madrid, but the women walking about with giant trays of fruit balanced on their heads remind you you’re on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

Restaurants are varied and diverse. You can enjoy traditional Colombian arepas from a street vendor and international choices including fine Italian dining, traditional Cuban ropa vieja and a Middle Eastern kibbe.

Cartagena is not only a top example of Spanish-colonial splendor, but it’s also one of the world’s few remaining walled cities, surrounded by almost seven miles of stone walls. It’s also one of the best Caribbean lifestyle options you’ll find. If you’re in the market for a retirement that includes sun, sand and the sea, Cartagena should be on your list. Its beach areas are attracting growing numbers of expats for good reason.

Considered from a practical perspective, Cartagena gets high marks. The infrastructure is great, the water is drinkable, the streets are well-maintained, the Internet is high-speed and the international airport is just minutes away. Depending on the season, the weather in this part of Colombia is either warm and dry or warm and humid. May through November are the most humid months.

The big question to answer if you’re considering relocating or retiring to Cartagena is whether you want to live in the historic city or in the beach areas. If you prefer the colonial city, then your choice is whether to live inside or outside the wall. Within the wall, you’ll find Centro and San Diego, two colonial sectors that are almost 100 percent restored and the heart of Cartagena’s tourist industry. This area is safe, attractive and also the most expensive in the city. The U.S. dollar is currently at a six-year high against the Colombian peso. At these very favorable exchange rates, a decent 1,200-square-foot apartment with nice city views in Centro will cost you the equivalent of about $300,000. This would be the bottom of the market for what an American retiree might find comfortable in this part of the city. A bigger place in a better location with a sea view in Centro can sell for millions of dollars.

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