How Much Money we Spent in Three Weeks in Colombia, South America

“Collect moments, not things.”

: CP (Colombian Peso). $3,000 CP was approximately $1.00 USD depending on where you exchange your money and the current exchange rate. At the time of our travels (May, 2017), the U.S. Dollar (USD) to Colombian Pesos (CP) exchange rate was 1 to 2,850.

All prices below are in U.S. Dollars

Eating Out $898.90 $40.86
Transportation $784.00 $35.64
Airfare $668.51 $30.39
Accommodation $289.10 $13.14
Cell Phone $106.64 $4.85
Entertainment & Leisure $106.44 $4.84
Groceries $103.87 $4.72
Clothing, Accessories & Gifts $94.71 $4.31
Toiletries $89.75 $4.08
Storage in Washington $65.00 $2.95
House Supplies $29.14 $1.32
COLOMBIA TOTALS $3,236.06 $147.10

TRANSPORTATION: rental cars, public transportation, gas, tolls, parking, Uber & taxis.

We only rented a car in between certain cities that were relatively close driving distance (under six hours), and for all other transportation we used city busses and Uber.

Number of Days: 7
Total Cost: $184
Unlimited kilometers
Tolls in Colombia range from $9,000 – $14,000 Colombian Pesos (around $3 – $5 USD). We passed five tolls from Medellin to Salento, so they added up!

Number of Days: 7
Total Cost: $185
Unlimited kilometers

TIP #1: Busses are extremely cheap (and sometimes the price is negotiable in certain cities based on how full they are and what time you are traveling.) Renting a car is a great way to do things independently and avoid the tourist crowds, but busses are a much more economic option.

TIP #2: In Coastal Colombia (Cartagena, Santa Marta) and many other cities in Colombia, taxi meters do not exist. You must negotiate your rate prior to getting into the vehicle! Look up the distance and know an approximate cost so that you know if you’re getting ripped off. If you look like a tourist, taxi drivers will absolutely try to rip you off. It’s best to take public transportation if available, or Uber, which exists in most bigger cities (Colombia only).

TIP #3: ** A note about Uber in Colombia: Uber is still technically illegal in Colombia. Uber vehicles are not required to have a sticker indicating that they drive for Uber like they do in the U.S. Therefore, it is important to make sure you match the license plate number with the one listed on the app so that you know your’e getting into the right vehicle. Because Uber is illegal, you must sit up front rather than in the back of the vehicle. The driver will almost always request this from you, otherwise they can get in a lot of trouble. Also, do not mention anything about riding in an Uber in public; taxi drivers are extremely hostile towards this and you could put the driver (or their vehicle) in danger of damage or violence from others who are against it.


While driving from Salento back to Medellin in Colombia, we picked up a 20-year-old hitch hiker from Poland who had spent the last ten months hitch hiking from Poland all the way to Colombia by car, truck and boat (wow!) He slept only in his tent and had not paid for a single leg of airfare. He got by on the kindness of humanity and the longest he had to wait for a ride was 2.5 days (in Italy). Sometimes the way he obtained food was by going to stores or markets right before they closed and took the food that would otherwise be thrown out. This is an extreme example.

Guy from Poland’s average daily expenditures: $5
Guy from Poland’s total expenditures in ten months: $1,500

MID-RANGE TRAVELER EXAMPLE: We met a couple our age from Austria traveling for 7 months. They had spent their entire 7 months in South America, traveling via bus and plane (no car rentals). They stayed in hostels (dorms only) and participated in over three work aways.

Austria couple’s average daily expenditures (for the two of them): under $31
Austria couple’s total expenditures in 7 months (for the two of them): $6,500

TIP: Nearly everything in Colombia is negotiable unless prices are published. When negotiating, start with a low price so that it gives the vendor wiggle room to come to an agreement. However, requesting anything over a 40% discount is considered rude and can offend the vendor. Be willing to walk away if you feel the price is too high than what you are willing to pay. If you’re in a place where there’s a lot of the same item (such as artisan shops in Salento, Colombia), take a look at everything and inquire about the price in each place so that you get an idea of who is selling the product for the lowest. There are no refunds! Once they have your money, don’t expect them to give it back.

Tipping in Colombia
Gratuities were more commonly paid in Colombia than they were in Ecuador, especially in established restaurants in the nicer areas such as Poblado in Medellin, or Cartagena. A 10% “propina voluntaria” (voluntary tip) is included in the bill and you may either accept or decline, but you’ll feel like a jerk if you decline because the server is usually standing right there, asking you directly or waiting for you to select your option. We always included it.

GROCERIES: Exito and Carulla are the two main large grocery stores in Colombia. For an unexplained reason, lines are always ridiculously long and very slow-moving. The check-out counters do not have any motivation to get through lines quickly, and unlike in America where the niceties of “did you find everything okay?” don’t exist – they either ignore you completely, or talk story with you forever (locals).

TIP: is a great site to book airfare, and Viva Colombia (also known as “Cheap-O Colombia”) is an inexpensive airline for travel within the continent. Keep in mind that you must print your boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport, otherwise they charge you. They do not include meals or water in-flight, which is fine because most inter-country flights are under one hour. Our flight from Bogota to Cartagena was $60 for the two of us (55-minute flight), and $50 from Medellin to Bogota for the two of us (35-minute flight). Keep in mind that they charge you for all checked bags which is either $20 or $25 depending on if you are flying intra-country or within the continent.

Categories: Colombia

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