Travel Costs: Colombia Budget Update

Colombian Pesos

We’re continuing to post our spending numbers as a resource for other travelers. Here is a breakdown of what we spent for two people over 41 days in Colombia — traveling through Cali, Manizales, Salamina, Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Costeño Beach, Palomino, and Riohacha.

The currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP) and the exchange rate was roughly 1920 COP to $1 USD in January/early February 2014.

Daily Spending

Here is a breakdown of our daily spending:

Activity $540.83
Food/Drink $1,232.14
Lodging $1,194.94
Misc. $148.03
Transportation $528.07
Grand Total $3,644.02

This works out to about $88/day for two people.

A few notes on our spending:

  • Major activity expenses included my trek to Ciudad Perdida ($156 for only me), tickets to the big concert at the Feria de Cali ($72/person), entrance to Tayrona National Park ($20/each), a bullfight, a salsa show, and various entries to museums and other cultural sites.
  • We averaged about $29/night on lodging. We paid as little as $18/night for nice private rooms with private baths in small towns like Salamina, Pasto, and Buga. On the coast we paid significantly more for significantly less (it was high season) — $60/night in Cartagena and slightly less elsewhere along the coast. We used AirBnb to rent rooms in apartments in both Medellin and Cartagena and got a lot more bang for our buck than staying in hostels or guesthouses.
  • We spent about $30/day on food and drink. Not too many guesthouses in Colombia include breakfast so this is for 3 meals a day for 2 people, plus snacks and drinks. We did a lot of menu del dias for lunch and ate a lot of pollo asado (rotisserie chicken) for dinner.  Arepas, plantains, rice, and beans definitely get old after a while.
  • Transportation includes inter-city buses and taxis/metro rides within cities. Buses are really expensive in Colombia — about 3x what they cost in Ecuador. In many cases, it’s actually more economical to fly. For example, we flew from Medellin to Cartagena for just $40/each on LAN. The bus was $75/each and took 12 hours. Tip: Look at the local versions of websites for the major airlines or use a consolidator like despegar.com for the best rates. You may have to go through a local travel agent to actually book the fares, since most websites only accept Colombian credit cards. And yet another reason that Colombia is awesome — they have the most honest taxi drivers on the planet. Everyone either used their meter or charged the official published fare.
  • Miscellaneous expenses include the usual: toiletries, a haircut, postcards, laundry, a few small souvenirs. Another tip: bring your own sunscreen and contact lens solution if you can, those items are both 2-3x the price of what they cost at home.
  • No immigration fees/visas are required for US citizens. However, there is a $38/person exit tax on all passengers departing by plane who stay for 60 days or less. We were also charged a smaller local airport tax at the airport in Riohacha. Neither of those were included in our airfare.
  • This includes only our spending in the country. It excludes our airfare/train here and upfront costs like immunizations, travel insurance, etc.

Colombia is definitely a budget friendly destination, but in all honesty wasn’t as affordable as we expected. It was easily more expensive than Ecuador and Peru, perhaps because we were there in the December/January school holidays. Either way, Colombia is awesome and will only get more expensive in the coming years as it becomes more popular.

Curious about the costs of the other countries we have traveled through? Click here for our other budget updates. And get excited — a comprehensive summary of what it cost us to travel the world for 13 months will be coming your way soon. Spoiler Alert: It’s not as expensive as you might think.

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