Situated in the northernmost part of South America, Colombia is a country blessed with natural beauty, wonderful people and lip smacking food. What’s better, its a country you can visit on a budget. It is infamous for drugs and guerrillas, but that description hardly fits the Colombia of today. It is one of the fastest developing economies in Latin America and also one of the richest in terms of biodiversity.
Recently, the government signed a peace deal with the FARC guerrillas and there is hope of ever lasting peace. If there ever was a great time to visit Colombia, then it is now. If you are from Europe, Asia or Australia, the country is a long way away.
But here is the good news. With a little bit of planning, it is possible to take a great trip in Colombia without spending much. You can travel for a month in Colombia by precisely spending 500 US Dollars. Want to know how? Here are our tried and tested budget tips!
Stay on a budget
Hostels are great value for money in Colombia. They are generally cheap and available in big cities across the country. Hostels costs up to 20000 pesos (570 INR/8 USD) for a night. This mostly includes a bunk bed and a fan. You will have to shell out more for an air conditioned room i.e about 40000 pesos (916 INR/13.5 USD).
But for an even better experience you can stay with Couchsurfers. Most Colombians are very friendly and love making new friends. So send couch requests or attend CS events. Strike a conversation, make new friends on the go and live with them.
Another way to stay cheap with locals is to use this website named Airbnb. It allows you to stay with locals at a very affordable price. We stayed in a spacious and beautiful apartment in Cali with a lovely couple as our hosts. For the two weeks we spent in their apartment, we paid 180 USD(12000 INR/ 520000 pesos). Can you believe that we were spending 6.5 USD per night per person???
And the house had a well-equipped kitchen, good natural light and a great view of the mountains. Freaking impossible right? But the impossible happens in Colombia.
If you travel to the remote areas, you will have to stay in lodges or guest houses which more or less cost the same.
What about the tummy?
Restaurants and food stalls serve everything from ‘hamburguesas‘ to lunchboxes across the country. A typical Colombian ‘desayuno’ (breakfast) can cost you around 5000 pesos (115 INR/1.8USD) while an ‘almuerzo‘ (lunch) costs around 7000 pesos (165 INR/2.5USD). Of course, we are referring to places where most locals eat and not fancy places.
A handy tip would be to buy things from the supermarket and make a quick breakfast every morning. That would save both money and time.
But for lunch, don’t forget to try the ‘bandeja’, the set meal of Colombia.
You can buy fruits and vegetables from the supermarkets. They are really good and don’t cost much. Most hostels and Airbnbs have kitchens where you can cook. Cooking can make a sizable difference to your daily budget. I remember one of my American friends saying, “let’s buy some fruits and vegetables. They sell it for free here in Colombia”. He was referring to the fact that you can buy quite a few veggies for less than a dollar!
No, you won't have to take one of these every day in Colombia
Colombia is well connected by buses. Taxis are pretty cheap for traveling within the city. A taxi ride from one part of the city to another costs around 8000 pesos (180 INR/2.75 USD). Some Colombian cities like Cali and Bogota are well connected with local buses. You can buy a prepaid card and use it to travel in buses or cable cars . If you ever go to Medellin, then the Subway is a must do. Tickets range from 5000 to 8000 pesos (110 – 180 INR/ 1.75 – 2.75 USD).
Domestic airfare is pretty cheap as well compared to other countries. Tickets start at 80000 pesos (approx 2000INR/ 30USD) if you book well in advance.
A friend of mine also bought a second-hand bicycle for 100,000 pesos (35 USD/ 2500 INR) and used it to commute within the city. Of course, it is feasible only if you plan to stay for a long duration in a particular city.
And other things to do?
You can dance your heart out in the Salsatecas of Colombia for under 20000 pesos (450 INR/7 USD). There are also a variety of activities like trekking, hiking or adventure sports on offer. The prices are cheap compared to other countries in South America(except for the lost city trek which is quite expensive).
If you are in Bogota don’t miss out the walking/cycling graffiti tour and the free walking tour in Medellin.
Here is a budget table for your easy reference:
|Colombian Pesos||Indian Rupees||US Dollars|
|Accomodation||20000 x 30 = 600,000 pesos||13700||205|
|Food (3 meals a day, provided you make your own breakfast)||15000 x 30 = 450,000 pesos||10200||154|
|Transport (8 long bus rides a month)||50000 x 8 = 400,000 Pesos||9095||137|
|Activities (will vary depending on what you want to do. But here’s a conservative estimate)||10000 x 30 = 300000 pesos||7000||100|
But what about the beer, bro?
Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world. Colombians love their cerveja too. Be it a party or dinner with friends, there are Poker or Club Colombia beers always for company.
A pint of beer would generally cost you 2500 pesos which is less than a dollar.
Colombia offers great value for money and coupled with its treasure trove of eccentric experiences, it is time you plan a trip there. Shouldn’t you? And if you have questions, leave them in the comments and we will get back to soonest!