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Prices in Colombia

Like most people who have never been to South America I was under the impression that Colombia was one of, if not the most, dangerous country in the entire continent. Colombia has that winning combination of left win paramiltiaries living in the jungle and right wing paramilteries living in the jungle and government soldiers trying to bomb the shit out of the junlge. Combine that rep with the likes of Pablo Escobar and the enoromous coke trade and you have a PR problem. However, oddly enough present day Colombia is a generally safe country to visit and the rewards for doing so are great: the people are friendly, cities like Medellin and Cartegena are thriving and developed metropolises. There are great Caribbean beaches, things are cheap and the culture buzzes with a blend of colonial, African and modern. The FARC, wrongly or rightly have been largely blown to smithereens thanks to the helping hand proferred by the US military. Now there’s is only the smallest chance of encountering guerrillas on the main tourist trails. They are mostly confined to the deep Amazon basin in the south east of the country. This blog is a record of our expenses in Colombia. Our budget for 2 people is $60 a day. On our first exchange at the border we got 1,950 Colombian Pesos to $1. The rate varied with exchanges, often considerably lower than quoted on the web. I try to adjust daily budgets accordingly.

28/08/09 Pasto, Colombia

Taxi to Carcelen Terminal Norte in Quito, Equador = $7
The terminal is miles out of town and many people go to the one closer into town and get another taxi to Carcelen. Be warned it’s not mentioned in the old LP.

Bus from Quito to Tulcan ($5 per person) = $10

Fags and lighter = $3
Everywhere only wanted to sell singles. It required effort and strained communication skills to get a whole pack.

Toilet = $0.25

Bus station tax ($0.20 per person) = $0.40

Taxi from Tulcan to Combian border = $2
We shared with 3 other travellers.

Taxi from Colombian border to Ipiales = 5,000 pesos

Bus from Ipiales to Pasto ($4 per person) = $8
They nicely let us pay in dollars at a good rate. However, bus rates are not fixed in Colombia (except the bus from Medellin to Cartagena) and you have to haggle.

Taxi from Pasto bus station to Kaola Hostel = 3,500

Dinner = 9,000 pesos

2 beers and 1 coke = 5,400

Kaola Hostel (12,000 per person) = 24,000

Total = 101,667 pesos (15,333 pesos under budget)

29/08/09, Popayam, Colombia

2 breakfasts = 10,000

Taxi to bus terminal = 3,000

Fags and water = 7,000

Bus from Pasto to Popayam (20,000 per person) = 40,000

Lunch = 8,000

Changed $30 at 1,800 to $1 at a clothes shop in Popayam – a terrible rate.

Food for dinner = 8,600

Hostel Trail (15,000 per person for a dorm bed) = 30,000

Total = 106,600 (10,400 under budget)

Dog at Hostel Trails

Dog at Hostel Trails

30/08/09, Cali

Bus from Popayam to Cali (11,000 per person) = 22,000

Taxi from terminal to Iguana Hostel = 5,000

Iguana Hostel (17,000 per person for a dorm bed) = 34,000

Shopping = 29,000

Red wine = 6,500

Coke = 1,400

Changed $50 with a bloke at the hostel for 2,000 per $1

Total = 97,900 (19,100 under budget)

Sex Shop in Cali

Sex Shop in Cali

31/08/09, On bus to Medellin

We went to a supermarket and changed $420 at 1,850 at a proper forex place. It turned out that that dodgy bloke at the border gave the best rate!

Supermarket = 13,400

12 Malarone tablets just in case we get malaria, purchased from a kind traveller = 40,000

Taxi to bus terminal = 4,000

Night bus from Cali to Medellin (35,000 per person) = 70,000

Dinner = 12,000

Toilet = 850

Total = 140,250 (23,250 over budget)

01/09/09, Medellin

Taxi from bus terminal to hostel = 4,500

2 hotdog combos = 10,000

Hostel Casa Kiwi (18,000 per person) = 36,000

Shop for breakfast = 8,860

Exito Supermarket = 30,000

Fags and cigarette papers = 7,000

Beer = 5,000

Total = 101,360 (9,640 under budget)

Fernando Botero Statue in Medillin

Fernando Botero Statue in Medillin

02/09/09 Medellin

Casa Kiwi = 36,000

Gear = 4,000

2 tube tickets = 3,000

Drinks = 3,500

Tube = 3,000

Museum entry (8,000 per person) = 16,000

tube = 3,000

Fags = 3,200

Supermarket = 26,231

Total = 97,931 (13,069 under budget)

03/09/09, On bus to Cartagena

Internet = 2,000

Bread = 1,400

Lunch = 11,000

Fags and water = 6,000

Internet = 1,400

Taxi to terminal de Norte = 10,000

Bus from Medellin to Cartagena (98,000 per person) = 196,000
This is one of the biggest and most unavoidable rip-offs in the country. Had to take it on the chin. Only alternative is hitching or flying (which can be the same price).

Dinner = 12,000

Water = 1,500

Total = 241,300 (130,300 over budget)

04/09/09, Cartagena

Taxi from bus terminal to Casa Media Luna = 10,000

Casa Media Luna (22,000 per person for a dorm bed) = 44,000
An expensive hostel but the weather was very hot and the hostel had a small pool as well as a cool roof top bar.

Green = 20,000

Supermarket = 20,000

Shoppping for beach = 51,000

Dinner = 10,000

Beer = 10,000

Changed $300 @ 1,900 per $1

Total = 145,000 (31,000 over budget)

05/09/09, Playa Blanca

Boat from Cartagena to Playa Blanca (30,000 per person) = 60,000

Tax (12,000 per person) = 24,000
This was very expensive. The flat bottomed speed boat banging over the waves is fun but not worth it. There is a bus going to Playa Blanca for a fraction of the price. The hostel people were keen not to help us with the cheaper alternative.

Fags = 7,000

Camping on Playa Blanca (3,000 per person) = 6,000

1 bucket of water for shower = 2,000

Grande fish dinner = 21,000

1 plain rice = 2,500

2 soft drinks = 5,000

Total = 135,000 (21,000 over)

Playa Blanca near Cartagena

Playa Blanca near Cartagena

06/09/09, Playa Blanca

Camping = 6,000

Spaghetti chicken = 18,000

1 rice = 2,500

2 buckets of shower water = 4,000

3 cokes = 7,500

Total 38,000 (76,000 under budget)

Playa Blanca was our favourite beach of the holiday. Warm water like Thailand, very clean, few people, no hotels and pools, no village infact. Just miles and miles of perfect caribbean beach. The choice was a day trip or camp or stay in a hammock. We went for the camping. If only every day was on Playa Blanca.

07/09/09, Playa Blanca

Camping and water = 10,000

Grande chicken for dinner = 18,000

1 rice = 2,500

3 cokes = 3,500

1 beer = 5,000

5 litres of water = 5,000

Total = 44,000 (70,000 under budget)

08/09/09, Cartagena

Boat from Playa Blanca back to Cartagena (15,000 per person) = 30,000

Cold drink = 2,500

Casa Media Luna = 44,000

Exito supermarket = 36,000

Total = 112,500 (1,500 under budget)

09/09/09, Santa Martha

Bus to bus terminal (1,500 per person) = 3,000

Bus from Cartegena to Santa Martha (25,000 per person) = 50,000

2 pisses = 1,600

Lunch = 4,500

Taxi from bus terminal to Casa Familiar Hostel = 5,000

Casa Familiar Hostel (15,000 per person) = 30,000

Green = 35,000 $5 & 5,000 (taxi fare) = 49,500

2 cokes = 3,000

Supermarket = 36,000

Suntan lotion = 21,000

Fags = 7,000

5 litres water = 4,000

Total = 214,600 (100,600 over budget)

10/09/09, Tayrona National Park, ‘El Cabo beach’

The National Park and especially the furthest beach, El Cabo, was spectacularly beautiful. It was a hard slog through the forest carrying our provisions for camping but worth it. However, the water was just a tad chilly – well chillier than Playa Blanca

Changed $300 @ 1903 per $1

Baggage storage = 2,000

Avocados = 5,000

Supermarket = 32,000

Bus from Santa Martha to El Zaino (4,000 per person) = 8,000
This bus was a bugger to find – it’s not at the terminal but rather from a side street.

Park entry (31,000 per person) = 62,000

Taxi from park entrance to trail head (2,000 per person) = 4,000

El Cabo campsite (12,000 per person with own tent) = 24,000
This was really overpriced.

Cokes = 8,500

Total = 141,500 (27,500 over budget)

El Cabo Beach in Tayrona National Park

El Cabo Beach in Tayrona National Park

11/09/09, El Cabo, Tayrona

Camping = 24,000

Cokes = 9,000

Chicken rice = 17,000

Total = 50,000 (64,000 under budget)

12/09/09, El Cabo

Camping = 24,000

Water = 4,000

Coke = 3,000

Dinner = 16,000

Water = 4,000

Coke = 3,000

Total = 54,000 (60,000 under budget)

13/09/09, Santa Martha

Coke = 3,000

Hit & coke = 5,000

Taxi from trail head to road = 4,000

Taxi to Santa Martha (We shared with another traveller) = 10,000

Casa Familiar Matrimonal room = 30,000

Supermarket = 17,600

Beer = 2,000

Beer = 4,000

Internet = 2,000

Total = 77,600 (36,400 under budget)

Running Totals

Argentina $1,079, Bolivia $1,016, Peru $1,904, Equador $594.15 and Colombia $1,000

Total Spent = $4,999 US Dollars

Total Budget = $6,360

Total Difference = $1,361 (to the good)

So despite Colombia being the most expensive country so far, at this point we are still over a grand under budget.