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Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Colombia

Cheap To Travel, But Not Everywhere!

View of the Café del Mar, on the City Walls, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

View of the Café del Mar, on the City Walls, Cartagena de Indias

Type Of Travel

My two visits to Colombia were quite different: in summer 2009, shortly after my first Round The World Trip, I was traveling on a (tight) budget. In 2016, I was back for 7 weeks to Colombia, and was actually “Flashpacking”: sleeping in nicer hostels or even some more upscale guesthouses, indulging quite a few activities and local tours, partly flying instead of long bus drives and also going to areas Off The Beaten Track like La Guajira (actually no longer a well kept secret), El Chocó (Pacific Coast) and especially Caño Cristales, which turned out to be very expensive…

 

 

 

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

In 2007, I spent 7 weeks in Colombia and discovered Salento & the Zona Cafetera; Popayan, San Agustin, Tierradentro & the Desierto de Tatacoa; Bogota; Villa de Leyva, San Gil, Barichara & Bucaramanga; Medellin (during the Feria de las Flores); Santa Marta, Taganga & Tayrona National Park; Rioacha & La Guajira (up to Punta Gallinas) and last but not least Cartagena de Indias.

In 2016, I also traveled 7 weeks there and visited Villa de Leyva, Monguí, Barichara & San Gil; Riohacha & La Guajira (up to Punta Gallinas); Medellin (during the Feria de las Flores) & Jardín; El Chocó (Bahia Solano); Bogota; Caño Cristales; Popayan & San Agustin; and last but not least Cartagena de Indias.

 

Global Budget

Colombia is a cheap country to travel, though there is a significant difference between the main touristic areas, where is infrastructure is good (transport, accommodation…) & hence costs low and areas that are more Off The Beaten Track, which can be significantly more expensive!

As a consequence, for 2016 I took out El Chocó (105,5 € per person per day) and especially Caño Cristales (155+ € per person per day) from the budget: both places would have completely distorted the overall image…

The difference between 2009 and 2016 can mostly be explained by a different standard of travel: we chose a much higher level of comfort in 2016, which resulted in higher costs for accommodation, for transport (both local and long distance) and for various activities. Maybe worth mentioning is that back in 2009, with tourism in a very early stage in Colombia, a more comfortable type of travel was mostly impossible, as the infrastructure simply did not exist back then (at least in lesser popular parts of the country). This has changed tremendously!

Costs per Person per Day in € 2009 2016
Long Distances’ Transport € 5,70 € 7,90
Short Distances’ Transport € 1,30 € 2,70
Total Transport € 7,00 € 10,60
Hotels € 12,00 € 16,80
Restaurants & Food € 8,80 € 6,30
Drinks & Going Out N.A. € 2,50
Every Day Life € 1,40 € 1,60
Total Living € 22,20 € 27,20
Visits & Tours € 5,30 € 9,40
Activities € 1,20 € 2,60
Total Tours & Activities € 6,50 € 12,00
Total Country: € 35,70 € 49,80

 

Hostels & Hotels

Back in 2009, the hostel infrastructure was, apart from a few places, really basic, and it was quite a challenge to find somewhat pleasant places to stay! Things have changed tremendously, though… The hostel infrastructure is now well developed, catering for every budget and every expectation, even in more remotes parts of the country. We even enjoyed some of the nicest places we have experienced in South America, far from the bad souvenirs we had in 2009, when we were desperate to find something reasonable…

City Hostel / Hotel
Name
Type of
Accommodation
Type of Room Price
per Night (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Bogota Hotel Casa Guadalupe Hostel Single Room 28,96 ****
Villa de Leyva Hostal Renacer Hostel Single Room 30,18 ****
Mongui Calicanto Real Hostal Hotel Single Room 15,24 ***
Barichara Tinto Hostel Hostel Single Room 36,58 *****
San Gil Sam’s VIP Hostel San Gil Hostel Single Room
Shared Bath
25,91 ***
Rioacha Hapiness Hostel Hostel Single Room 33,53 ***
Santa Cecilia Hostal Hostel Single Room 18,29 ***
Medellin Black Sheep Hostel Hostel Single Room 22,86 ****
Jardin Casa Particular Ramirez Casa Particular Single Room 7,62 **
Bahia Solano Posada del Mar Hostel Bungalow 30,79 ***
Bogota Hotel Casa Guadalupe Hostel Double Room 37,99 ****
La Macarena Hotel Shalom Hostel Double Room 0,00 **
Medellin Poblado Park Hostel Hostel Double Room 53,34 **
Salento Posada Casa Salento Guesthouse Double Room 21,34 ****
San Agustin Hotel Casa de Nelly Guesthouse Double Room 29,26 **
Popayan Hotel Los Balcones Guesthouse Double Room 42,61 ***
Cartagena Hotel Boutique La Artilleria Hotel Double Room 55,16 ****
Total Colombia 32,74  

 

Restaurants & Food

In Jardín, Antioquia, Colombia

In Jardín, Antioquia

With many hostels offering a well-equipped kitchen, we actually had only relatively few meals at restaurants. The infrastructure is now, as it is the case for hostels, well developed, ranging from simple “Comida Corrientes” (only lunch) to restaurants for Gringos in need of some international food (a welcome change once in a while, we are no exceptions there) to some quite fancy places. So the choice is yours to make, and prices are comparatively low.

 

 

 

City Restaurant
Name
Type of Meal Price
Food (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Villa de Leyva Hostal Renacer Diner 6,71 ****
Villa de Leyva Restaurante Tropical Breakfast 2,74 **
Monguí Restaurante Lunch 2,13 ***
San Gil Gringo Mike’s Lunch 7,47 ****
San Gil Plaza de Mercado Breakfast 2,53 *****
Medellin Black Sheep Hostel Diner 5,49 ****
Bahia Solano Las Delicias Lunch 2,44 **
Bahia Solano La Cazuela Diner 8,53 ****
Bahia Solano Playa Mecana Lunch 3,66 ***
Bogota De Una Travel Bar Diner 3,52 ****
Salento El Camino Real Diner 8,81 ****
Salento Cafe Bernabe Diner 8,55 *****
Salento El Rincon de Lucy Lunch 2,13 *****
San Agustin El Fógon Lunch 3,05 ****
San Agustin Casa de Nelly Diner 4,57 ****
San Agustin El Alto de los Idolos Lunch 2,13 ***
San Agustin El Faro Diner 5,03 ****
Popayan Restaurante Italiano Diner 4,88 *****
Cartagena Gastrolab Sur Diner 8,55 *****
Cartagena Restaurante Coroncoro Diner 4,57 ****
Cartagena Gaucha Diner 20,79 *****
Total Colombia 4,87  

 

Drinks & Going Out

At the Café Havana, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

At the Café Havana, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias

Depending on where you have a drink, a beer will cost you on average 1.1 €, quite a bargain! If you want to switch to cocktails or especially wine, prices are much, much higher, though! Especially wine is considered a luxury product here…

 

City Bar
Name
Type of Drink Type of
Bar
Price
Drink (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Monguí Beer Bar 0,61 **
San Gil Sam’s VIP Hostel Beer Hostel 0,91 ***
Riohacha Hapiness Hostel Beer Hostel 1,22 ***
Cabo de la Vella Beer Camp 1,07 ***
Punta Gallinas Beer Camp 0,91 ***
Riohacha Beer Beach 0,76 ****
Jardín Café Del Atrio Beer Bar 0,76 ****
Jardín El Café 1935 Beer Bar 0,91 ****
Medellin Black Sheep Hostel Beer Hostel 0,76 ***
Bahia Solano Posada del Mar Beer Hostel 0,76 ***
Bogota De Una Travel Bar Beer Restaurant 1,51 *****
Bogota Tejo Beer Bar 0,91 ***
La Macarena Beer Bar 0,91 ***
Medellin Poblado Park Hostel Beer Hostel 1,22 ***
Salento El Camino Real Beer Restaurant 1,34 ****
Salento Billar Danubio Hall Beer Bar 1,07 ****
San Agustin Casa de Nelly Beer Hostel 0,76 ****
San Agustin El Faro Beer Restaurant 1,37 ****
Popayan Rincon Payanes Beer Food Stall 1,07 ***
Popayan Café Colombia Beer Bar 1,04 ***
Popayan Restaurante Italiano Beer Restaurant 1,37 ****
Cartagena Gastrolab Sur Beer Restaurant 1,51 *****
Cartagena Restaurante Coroncoro Beer Restaurant 1,07 ***
Cartagena Luxury Restaurante Beer Restaurant 2,74 *
Beer Colombia 1,11  
Salento Cafe Bernabe Wine Bottle Restaurant 14,63 ***
Cartagena Cafe del Mar Cocktail Bar 7,04 ****
Cartagena Gaucha Wine Bottle Restaurant 28,50 *****
Cartagena Cafe Havana Cocktail Bar 5,03 ****
Others Colombia 13,80  

 

Transport

Bus between Pereira & Pitalito

Bus between Pereira & Pitalito

Travel time is significant in Colombia, and is even greater when you move further south. So plan accordingly, and consider flying some legs to save time!

Note that transports have significantly improved over the last years, and that you partly find extremely comfortable buses at least on some legs, like those “Doble Piso”, with a great “VIP zone” on the ground floor. But beware of icy temperatures on long distance busses, and take warm clothes along!

From To Type of Transport Schedule Distance
Route
(Km)
Travel Duration
(Hours)
Price
(€)
Price per
100 km (€)
Bogota Villa de Leyva Bus 08:45 – 11:45
12:00 – 13:15
177 05:30 € 7,47 € 4,22
Villa de Leyva Mongui Minibus 07:00 – 07:55
08:00 – 09:30
09:50 – 10:30
121 03:30 € 5,27 € 4,36
Mongui Barichara Bus
Minibus
07:30 – 08:20
09:00 – 15:00
15:00 – 16:15
277 08:45 € 13,20 € 4,76
Guane Barichara Minibus 10:15 – 11:00 12 00:45 € 0,61 € 5,08
Barichara San Gil Minibus 11:00 – 11:45 20 00:45 € 1,40 € 7,01
San Gil Bucaramanga Minibus 120 03:30 € 3,66 € 3,05
Bucaramanga Riohacha Bus 19:30 – 08:15 632 12:45 € 38,10 € 6,03
Riohacha Cabo de la Vella Jeep Tour 180 04:00 Tour € 0,00
Cabo de la Vella Punta Gallinas Jeep Tour 143 03:30 Tour € 0,00
Punta Gallinas Riohacha Jeep Tour 240 06:00 Tour € 0,00
Riohacha Medellin Plane 12:03 – 13:37
15:29 – 16:28
1 611 04:25 € 103,24 € 6,41
Medellin Jardin Minibus 09:20 – 12:40 134 03:20 € 6,10 € 4,55
Jardin Medellin Bus 09:30 – 12:50 134 03:20 € 6,10 € 4,55
Medellin Bahia Solano Plane 10:00 – 11:05 200 01:05 € 90,63 € 45,31
Bahia Solano Bogota Plane 11:46 – 12:53
14:14 – 15:10
739 03:34 € 138,26 € 18,71
Bogota Macarena Plane 05:00 – 09:30 398 04:30 Tour
Macarena Bogota Plane 14:30 – 16:00 398 01:30 Tour
Bogota Medellin Plane 09:49 – 10:48 539 01:10 € 72,50 € 13,45
Medellin Salento Minibus 09:00 – 15:00 272 06:00 € 13,11 € 4,82
Salento San Agustin Minibus
Bus (x2)
17:50 – 18:50
20:00 – 11:45
559 18:00 € 23,32 € 4,17
San Agustin Popayan Minibus 08:30 – 13:00 136 04:30 € 9,14 € 6,72
Popayan Silvia Minibus 05:50 – 07:00
11:40 – 12:50
106 02:20 € 3,66 € 3,45
Popayan Cartagena Plane 08:24 – 09:52
12:30 – 13:50
1 185 05:30 € 101,39 € 8,56
Cartagena Bogota Plane 13:24 – 14:54 663 01:30 € 0,00
Total Colombia 8 996 129:45 € 637,15 € 7,08

 

Tours & Activities

Compared to other countries, tours & activities are relatively cheap in Colombia:

  • Costs for museums and cultural sites belong to the lowest I have seen so far, and many things are actually free! The only noticeable exception was San Agustin, and especially guides are absurdly expensive there…
  • Many day-tours (like horseback riding, boat tour in the Pacific or on the Caribbean Coast…) are also absolutely reasonably priced, at least if you shop a little around and avoid touts.
  • San Gil is an invitation for all “Adrenaline-Pumping Activities” (but there are other places in Colombia for many of those activities, without the crowds and at lower prices), and offers also (comparatively) very cheap opportunities – White Water Rafting on Rio Suarez was great, Paragliding in the Canyon de Chicamocha was unique, and all in all not expensive. Yes, Colombia is definitely a good place to be a little crazy!
Horseback Riding in San Agustin, Colombia

Horseback Riding in San Agustin

Nonetheless, some places can only be reached on a tour (La Guajira, Caño Cristales), and those can turn very expensive… So check prices carefully before you decide to go there (though it is definitely worth it!)

 

Splurge At Reasonable Costs?

No matter what your standards are, Colombia is an ideal place to upgrade a little your style of travel, as costs will comparatively remain quite low:

  • There is a wide range of hostels / guesthouses / hotels now, and many of them are fairly priced.
  • There is an even wider range of restaurants, at least in more popular areas and larger cities, and if you are fed up with the “Comida Corrientes”, you have a large number of alternatives, up to very fine dining possibilities in places like Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena de Indias…
  • Buses are now partly very comfortable, and on many routes you find those “Doble Piso”, with a VIP area in the first floor, offering beautiful seats where you can have a decent night of sleep. And if you do not feel like spending a night on a bus, flights are comparatively quite cheap, frequent and reliable in Colombia, at least on most routes.
At La Gaucha, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

At La Gaucha, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias

 

Reduce Costs?

The largest impact on your budget will maybe not be how you travel (standard of travel) but where you travel: if you stick to the more popular areas, Colombia is an ideal place for people on a budget, and you can reduce the expenditures given above by one third quite easily!

However, reaching some areas more Off The Beaten Track, like La Guajira (up to Punta Gallinas), El Chocó (Pacific Coast) or Caño Cristales will be a major drag on your budget, and costs of traveling will go through the roof.

So consider wisely where you want to travel before you take the decision… At least if budget is a major concern for you!

Beach in Bocagrande, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Beach in Bocagrande, Cartagena de Indias

 

 

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