The comparatively low cost of travel in Colombia has helped make it a popular South American destination in recent years.
And due to the cost of living, expats who fall in love with cities like Medellin are able to more easily support themselves on a budget, by teaching, or by starting their own businesses.
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Colombian Peso (COP). Exchange rate in early 2011: 1,800 COP = 1 USD
Most ATM’s accept international checking and credit cards, though the maximum withdrawal allowed will vary between 300,000 to 720,000 COP.
ATM’s usually allow withdrawals in 10,000 COP increments, and most will dispense a mixture of 50,000, 20,000, and 10,000 COP bills.
Cost of Accommodation
Accommodations in Colombia range from cheap hostel dorm beds to 5-star luxury hotels.
In the middle, there’s a wide range of budget hotel options, and short term room and apartment rentals for those who prefer to stay base themselves in a particular location for a few weeks or months.
In the small pueblos, room rates are often higher on the weekends to take advantage of the Colombians visiting from the bigger cities.
For full list of Colombia hostels, B&Bs, and hotels click here
- Hostel dorm beds: 13,000 – 25,000 COP ($8 – $14)
- Hostel private rooms (based on double occupancy): 20,000 – 80,000 COP ($11 – $44)
- Budget hotel rooms: 20,000+ COP ($11+)
Most (if not all) hostels have broadband internet access, and Wi-Fi, which is common in Colombia. Wi-Fi quality can vary depending on the quality and quantity of routers, as well as their placement.
Overall, Colombia is well connected, and a good place from which to work if you’re a location independent professional.
Cost of Food
Typical Colombian food is a bargain when bought from street vendors or regular restaurants (outside a city’s Zona Rosa or a pueblo’s main plaza, where prices are higher due to tourism).
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- Arepa con queso, boiled/salted potatoes, fresh sliced mango: 2,000 COP ($1)
- Full meals including a meat (chicken, carne) with small side (potatoes, French fries, small arepa), hot dogs, hamburgers: 5,000 – 10,000 COP ($3 – $5.50)
- Typical set lunch (soup, meat, side of potatoes, rice or beans) with fresh fruit juice: 5,000 – 15,000 COP ($3 – $8)
- Dinner (appetizer, entree) at a restaurant in a touristy area (or Zona Rosa): 20,000 – 30,000 COP ($11 – $17)
600 milliliter bottle of water: 1,500 COP ($0.85)
Cost of Drinking / Going Out
The cheapest way to enjoy Colombia nightlife is to purchase beer, rum, or Augardiente from any number of small tiendas or convenience stores, and drink in the parks (drinking in public is legal, unless otherwise posted).
- Domestic beer: 1,500 COP ($0.85)
- 1/2 bottle Aguardiente: 15,000 COP ($8)
Bar or Discoteca
- Domestic beer: 2,000 – 13,000 COP ($1 – $7)
- 1/2 bottle Aguardiente: 35,000 COP ($19)
- Caipirinhas (and other cocktails): 7,000 – 20,000 COP ($4 – $11)
Cost of Transportation
Colombian cities, pueblos and major points of interest are all connected by an extensive network of bus and domestic air routes.
The cost of travel in Colombia is on par with other Latin countries. Within the cities, taxis and buses can take you everywhere. Share jeeps and moto-rickshaws are available in the smaller pueblos.
- City buses: 1,200 – 1,800 COP ($0.65 – $1)
- City taxi (metered, average distance): 4,200 – 10,000 COP ($2.30 – $5.50)
- Medellin metro: 1,550 COP ($0.85)
- Regional (inter-city) buses: 10,000 – 20,000 COP ($5.50 – $11) for up to a few hours. 80,000 COP ($45) to go 8-12 hours between major cities like Bogota, Cali, Medellin and Cartagena
Economy tickets for flights between major cities within Colombia can often be purchased on short notice for as little as 100,000 COP ($55).
Technically you’re required to have an onward or return ticket to enter the country, however in practice it’s more likely that the airline from your departure airport will be the one to check before you leave, rather than the Colombian immigration officials when you arrive.
In the past, cheap flights have been available from Washington, DC to Medellin for as little as $280. Flights out of the Colombia tend to be more expensive.
Cost of Activities & Attractions
There’s a wide range of things to do in Colombia, and most Westerners will appreciate the low costs, from museums to adventure sports.
- Gold Museum in Bogota: 3,000 COP ($1.50) and free on Sundays
- Salsa dancing lesson in Cali (1-hour private): 25,000 COP ($14)
- Paragliding in Medellin (25 minute flight): 80,000 COP ($44)
- Ciudad Perdida trek (4, 5 or 6 days): 500,000 COP ($275) to $400
- PADI open water diving certification in Taganga: 530,000 COP ($292)
Overall Cost of Travel in Colombia
The cost of travel in Colombia is less than Brazil, but higher than other South American countries like Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Budgets will vary based on the amount of partying one does.
Daily Travel Budget: $35 – $55+
Monthly Living Budget: $1,250+