Ibagué, Colombia – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

Ibagué, Tolima, Colombia. 

Ibagué was originally founded in 1550, then re-founded the following year in its current location on the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes. That’s a pretty old city by Colombian standards, so you’ll find beautiful colonial Spanish buildings and historic details all over the city.

It is the capital of the department of Tolima and the 7th most populous city in Colombia.

Ibagué is known as “La Capital Musical de Colombia” (Colombia’s Musical Capital).

The city has a population of 500,000+ people, modern buildings, infrastructure, and the 8th fastest internet connection in Colombia.

POPULATION: 529,635 (2018)

 


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CULTURE IN IBAGUÉ

The cultural scene in the city is all about the music

Ibagué hosts important festivals that call out to local, national, and international artists to perform a series of music, dance, theater, and instrumental traditions.

Some of the most famous festivals are: the Colombian Music Festival, Colombian Folk Festival (declared Cultural Heritage), International Percussion Festival, as well as a film festival.

Cultural activities in this city are a-plenty with over 30 cultural stages ranging from auditoriums, libraries, museums, botanical garden, and much more.

Statue in Parque de la Música, Ibagué
Statue in Parque de la Música, Ibagué

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NOMAD & EXPAT COMMUNITY IN IBAGUÉ

You won’t see many foreigners here; learning spanish is a requirement. It’s a decent sized town, but you won’t find the same type of amenities available in Bogotá or Medellín. For digital nomads looking to base up, enjoy life, drink Colombian coffee, and live on the cheap for a month or two – Ibague is a great spot.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN IBAGUÉ

The “Centro” of the city is towards the west of the city. It’s not a bad area to stay, but it’s not a central location, either. The nightlife is all towards the east of the city, along with all the shopping malls and movie theaters.

The Historic Center area is made up of 3 neighborhoods: La Pola, El Centenario, and Belén. You’d have easy access to museums, public buildings, malls, parks, and theaters.

Ibagué 2000 is a good area to stay in if you’re looking for a more family-oriented vibe, away from the hustle and bustle found in the “Centro”.

Ibagué, centro
Ibagué, centro

DAY TRIPS & THINGS TO DO IN IBAGUÉ

In the city you can find multiple activities to do related to culture, music, and fun, such as: shopping centers, stadium, sports park, Olympic swimming pools, theatres, music halls, private clubs etc. Ibagué also has a wide variety of spas like Totumo, Comfatolima, Comfenalco, and Tierra Caliente, which are surprisingly affordable to visit.

Ibagué is driving distance from Bogotá – only 4 hours by car (and 45 minutes by plane). You should also check out the other cities in Colombia’s coffee triangle, namely Armenia, Manizales, and Pereira.

If you’re into hiking, you can take a bus to Juntas for a dollar and check out the Mirador, and Canon Combeima. In La Rivera boasts a cable car, and a zoo. The San Jorge Botanical Gardens and Playa Hawai (water park) are also great options.

La Rivera, Ibagué
La Rivera, Ibagué

 

La Rivera is located about an hour outside of Ibagué -perfect for a day trip or weekend away.

How to Get to La Rivera
How to Get to La Rivera

 

CAFES & COWORKING IN IBAGUÉ

Colombians are notorious for their tinto, so finding an espresso is easy.

Some recommendations:

Coffe Break: Coworking and café in Ibagué.

Café Con Alma: Wifi and great coffee.

Café Dos Molinos: Solid wifi.

Coworking in Ibagué
Coworking in Ibagué, Colombia

 

BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN IBAGUÉ

La Estación, Ukelele, La Tribu, and Tereque are the top party spots in Ibagué and are located on 5th Avenue between 42 and 37. Like most Colombian small cities, most nightlife is group oriented, but you’ll be able to mingle here. Ibagué nightlife is decent, but not as good as Pereira

You can also get on the Colombian version of a party bus, a chiva. They cost anywhere from US$5 to US$10. Most people do bar tours and hop on the chiva from bar to bar until they reach a nightclub as part of the final destination.

Nightlife Map in Ibagué
Nightlife Map in Ibagué. From left to right: El Tereque, Estan Comodos, La Estación

 

COST OF LIVING IN IBAGUÉ

According to LivingCost.org, you’ll need a minimum of $409 USD/month to live in Ibagué Colombia.

COST OF LIVING IN IBAGUÉ
COST OF LIVING IN IBAGUÉ

IS IBAGUÉ SAFE?

Ibagué is overall pretty safe.

There’s not much of a security issue in the city, however you have to be careful and not be too trusting.

The water isn’t of the finest quality. You can brush your teeth and take showers, but not recommended for drinking. Air quality is decent, better than Medellin.

 

HOW TO GET TO IBAGUÉ

Ibagué has an airport, but it’s not big nor international. Luckily, the bus system works great here. You can get to Bogotá, Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales within a five-hour bus ride to Ibagué. These bus rides cost around US$7-10.

You can find cheap flights from Bogota and Cartagena to Ibague, too. Bogotá to Ibague round trips can be found for $50-70 USD.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The people of Ibagué are friendly and warm whenever they are treated with respect, and making friends is of vital importance to be able to enjoy the experience.

It’s a city with a rich in musical history and many activities to keep you busy.

The city is well suited to digital nomads and travelers looking for decent wifi and infrastructure, an authentic experience, and a cheap place to stay.

Be sure to read our city guides to every city in Colombia’s coffee triangle – Armenia, Ibagué, Manizales, and Pereira!

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

 


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