Colombia’s reputation is going through a huge shift from a danger zone to an ideal travel destination. You’re probably thinking of making the leap so you can be there before it becomes over-touristy, but as with all journeys, you want to make sure it’ll meet your budget.
Despite the challenges they cause, budget issues should never be a barrier to crossing a border. But, how much would you spend in Colombia? And how do the prices compare to those in neighboring countries? We’ll get to the bottom of some of these so you can get on the road.
Here’s what Wild Frontiers will cover in this article:
- Currency and exchange rate
- Average costs in Colombia
- Compare Colombia’s cost to neighboring countries
- Cash vs cards
- To tip or not to tip
- Planning your trip
Excited to plan your Colombian holiday? Book with us and we’ll take care of the planning part, so you can enjoy a true experience in one of the most breathtaking areas in this world.
Currency and Exchange Rate in Colombia
One common trend that Colombia shares with many other Spanish-speaking countries is that their currency is called the peso. Fortunately, the abbreviation is where it’s unique, and it’s shortened to “COP”.
They use the same sign as other countries using the peso (and those on the dollar…) - $.
To make matters more confusing, prices will often be written using “COL$” to make sure you know which peso you’re talking about.
The value of the currency obviously changes on a regular basis, but it was roughly the following at the time of this writing
- 1 GBP is equal to about 4,437 COP
- 1 USD is equal to about 3,426 COP
- 1 EUR is equal to about 3,816 COP
To properly prepare, make sure to check the updated rate at the time of your trip.
Average Costs in Colombia
To keep this section simple, all amounts will be listed in COL$ (unless otherwise specified).
It’s really tough to give a single price for anything in a country because of how many factors influence the price, so keep in mind that these numbers are incredibly general to give you a baseline idea of what to expect. You can always get better deals by shopping around or having local knowledge of where to go, and if it smells like a bad deal, it probably is. Also, as usual, major cities are generally more expensive than small villages (except for those in remote and hard-to-reach locations). If you need more tips on sticking to a budget during your travels, here are a few ways to save.
Living-related expenses in Colombia:
- Cheap restaurant – between 9,000 – 14,000
- Mid-range restaurant – between 20,000 – 45,000
- Pint of local beer – between 6,000 - 8,000
- Bottle of water – about 1,800
- Cup of coffee – about 2,000
- Bottle of Coca-Cola – around 2,200
Travel-related expenses in Colombia:
- Cheap – around $40,000 for a bed in a hostel
- Mid-range – around $80,000 - $90,000 per night for a double room in an average hotel
- Expensive – starting around $150,000 per night for something fancy
Traveling between cities completely varies depending on where you’re going and where you are, but here are some average rates.
- Transport between cities – around 40,000
- Taxi ride in a city – around 5,000
Comparing Colombia’s Cost to Neighboring Countries
Seeing average prices is great, but it’s hard to really grasp the amounts if you’re sitting in another part of the world. To put it in perspective, here is a sort of average daily cost for visiting Colombia and some of its neighboring countries (keep in mind, these numbers can involve keeping a close eye on your budget):
- Colombia: about 95,000 COP or 28 USD
- Panama: about 65 PAB or 65 USD
- Costa Rica: about 40,000 CRC or 70 USD
- Peru: about 150 PEN, or 45 USD
- Ecuador: about 40 USD
In other words, Colombia is a good place to go to stretch your cash!
Cash vs Cards in Colombia
Carrying plastic can be easier (and safer) than walking around with a stack of bills in your pocket, but be prepared that it might not always be the way to go in Colombia. It’s primarily a cash-based society, but cards are becoming more common and more places are starting to accept them.
A good rule of thumb is to keep enough cash in your pocket to cover your planned purchases, just in case. Many smaller and more remote places won’t be able to accept cards, and this will help keep you out of some awkward situations.
Also, you’ll often be asked for an ID when paying with a card, so make sure to keep that in your pocket as well.
To Tip or Not to Tip
Ah yes, the age-old question of how much to leave in a new culture. Too much and you look like a fool, too little and you probably shouldn’t ever order food at that restaurant again. Here are some tips on tips in Colombia.
They will often add on an extra 10% charge (referred to as “propina voluntaria”). As implied by the name, paying this isn’t technically required – it’s just a suggestion. Just make sure to watch for it, and don’t bother paying the whole amount if it’s inflated significantly above 10%. But, it’s a pretty common and recommended practice.
Also, if you had great service, you might add a little extra since the staff often split the tips.
Many bars tack on the same charge as restaurants does, so be aware of that to prevent over-tipping by accident. If nothing is added automatically, $0.50 - $1 USD is a pretty common tip. As with bars around the world, this will pay you back on your next drink...
You’re not required to tip after a ride in a cab, but rounding up is pretty common - especially if the driver did a good job.
It’s common to give about $1 USD to someone who helps you carry a bag. If you packed bricks, maybe add a little extra.
Visit Colombia with Wild Frontiers
If you want to have a great experience in Colombia, check out one of our tours.
Investing in an expert-led tour can get you a better experience for a lower price by taking advantage of our local knowledge. In other words, you won’t be standing in line at the tour guide’s brother’s shop next to all the old ladies from the cruise ship…