Colombia: A South American destination that’s becoming increasingly popular for travelers, thanks to its budget-friendly prices, kind locals, colorful pueblos, and gorgeous landscapes.
What exactly did our Colombia travel budget look like? Well, to date, Colombia has been the least expensive country we’ve ever visited. We operated from an overall mid-range budget – balancing some categories where we tried to economize with some categories where we were happy to spend a little bit more.
So with that in mind, in this article I’m going to detail exactly what we spent in a variety of categories, to give you an idea of how you can plan for your Colombia trip costs.
Where We Visited
We spent 15 days in Colombia and were able to visit four different cities in Colombia: Medellin, Salento, Bogota, and Cartagena. Prices and available activities varied a bit from place to place, so we’ll highlight those so you can better plan your Colombian budget and activities.
When we visited, the dollar was strong against many international currencies, and so we enjoyed a very favorable exchange rate of about 4300 Colombian pesos to 1 US dollar.
While it isn’t always that strong, it is a decently inflated currency, and so their bills are all “mil”, or thousand, in denomination.
In Colombia, Colombian pesos can be represented by either the “$” sign, or by the “COP” abbreviation. (In this article, however, whenever I use the $, it will be referring to USD).
Our Colombia Travel Budget
We kept really careful notes about exactly how much we spent – tracking every last peso that left our wallets. Hopefully this will help you plan out your Colombia travel budget, and get some good ideas for what is worth spending your money on, and where might be some good places to save!
Note: While I do note prices per person throughout this post, when I give the “Total Cost” at the end of each subheading, that cost is for two adults.
Flights will vary depending on where you fly from, but if you’re flying from the US, you can regularly find deals to Colombia for between $200-400. However, in summertime, those prices can easily double.
Since we are always looking for ways to save money on flights, we used credit card points to pay for our flights to Colombia!
We stayed in four different hotels or hostals (one in each city) as part of our Colombia trip costs. Generally, we try to be pretty frugal in our hotel costs, as we are spending most of our time out and about and not in the hotel. Still, it’s very important to me that we stay in a nice place that is extremely clean, in a good part of town, and has good Wi-Fi.
- Medellin: Hotel Asturias Medellin – $173 for 4 nights
- This hotel was located in the quiet and residential Laureles neighborhood. I know it’s super popular to stay in El Poblado in Medellin, but we are not big partyers and preferred the quiet, less touristy area in Laureles.
- The Asturias was a really fantastic property – updated, immaculate rooms, good breakfast, very helpful staff, and in a great location – safe and not too far from downtown. There were also many nice restaurants nearby.
- Salento: La Cigarra Hostal – $78 for 3 nights
- This hostel is located just outside of the city of Salento, about a 5 minute walk to the main square. This was definitely a hostel – our private bedroom with private bathroom was at the back of a dorm room (which was empty the entire time we were there), and there were animals outside that you could hear really well.
- However, the price was right, the owners were really laidback and chill, and the property in general was nice. The animals were loud, but if you can turn on some white noise and not wake up to the roosters, I’d stay here again.
- Bogota: Magdalena Guest House – $134 for 4 nights
- I really, really loved this guest house in Bogota. It’s located in a very nice area in the Candelaria district and is within walking distance to the vast majority of the sights in Bogota. It’s in a historic home, which has some character, and you have use of the living room, kitchen, and laundry(!) while you stay. I would for sure recommend this guest house to anyone!
- Cartagena: Maloka Boutique Hostal – $250 for 4 nights
- Cartagena is for sure more expensive than anywhere else in Colombia, and we really noticed it as we were searching for hotels. This boutique hostel has some dorm rooms, but also a large selection of private rooms with bathrooms. We really enjoyed the cafe aspect of the front reception, the strong AC and Wi-Fi, the rooftop terrace, and the pretty courtyard area. This property is a great value in Cartagena.
Total Cost: $625 for 15 nights, for an average of $41/night
Food + Drink
For breakfast, about half of the time our hotel provided breakfast, and the other half of the time we either went out to a cafe or restaurant for breakfast, or ate some groceries that we bought.
We almost always went out for dinner at a restaurant, and lunch was split between a restaurant, or picking up a variety of street food items. We also picked up drinks, snacks, and the occasional easy meal from the grocery stores.
Typical Street Food Costs
Street food was extremely cheap and very easy to come by. An empanada, pastel, or a cup of fruit ran around 2000-2500 pesos (about 50 cents).
Bakeries were fairly plentiful around Colombia, and you could buy a variety of bread products for around 1000-4000 pesos (25 cents to 1 dollar)
Typical Restaurant Costs
Dinner at a sit-down restaurant usually cost us between $10-15 total for two people. This includes both our meals, plus non-alcholic drinks (such as water, smoothies, juice, or soda). Two noteworthy exceptions were in Cartagena, where we splurged on two dinners at nicer rooftop restaurants – WORTH IT. Those expensive dinners came out to $34 and $27.
Lunch was often similarly priced to our dinner, although usually more in the $5-10 range for two people. At least half the time for lunch, we bought a variety of cheap and easy street food items that ended up counting for “lunch” (e.g. pick up some fruit from this stand, then pick up a sausage over here, and an empanada over there, etc).
Total Cost: We spent approximately 1,633,200 pesos on food over 15 days, which is about $379. This works out to an average of $13 per person per day on food in our Colombia travel budget.
Two Amazing Food Experiences in Colombia
We also did two food activities (that definitely served as our meals those days) that were really fantastic experiences:
This Food Tour in Bogota, where we went to 7 different restaurants in the city to try 7+ different foods and meals traditional to different parts of Colombia. We learned more about the culture and history surroundings some of these foods and regions and ate a lot of really unique and delicious dishes, with really pleasant company. I would highly recommend this food tour to anyone!
This Cooking Class in Cartagena, where we prepared a several traditional Colombian dishes in the kitchen of a local restaurant, learning the process and the tips and tricks to make delights like patacones, coconut rice, and fresh caught red snapper. This was, hands down, one of the most delicious meals we ate in Colombia and a very fun way to spend an afternoon.
(Note: The food total given above does not include the two food experiences mentioned in this section – these are counted in the “Activities” section, below. However, since they do kind of merge between the two categories, I thought it was worth noting here as well).
This category includes beverages we purchased as we were walking around town, and does not include anything we ordered with a meal. As we don’t drink alcohol, these beverages would include things like water, soda, or occasionally juice.
Generally, a water bottle or can of soda on the street cost around 2000-3000 pesos (50-75 cents), and fresh juice was a little bit more – 4000-6000 pesos.
Total Cost: 86,400 COP ($20)
Colombia Travel Budget: Transportation
Due to the hilly and mountainous landscape of Colombia, transportation between cities can take a long time. If you are spending an extended period of time in Colombia, taking a 9 hour bus between Medellin and Bogota might not be a big deal and a good way to save some money. However, domestic flights in Colombia are really inexpensive, and instead of 9 hours of nonstop winding roads, you can arrive in 45 minutes by plane.
TL;DR: If you’re doing a 1-3 week vacation in Colombia, I would recommend you just fly. We had some experience with several of the domestic airline companies in Colombia (EasyFly, Viva Air, Avianca, Wingo, and LATAM are the main ones), and we found Avianca to be the easiest to work with, across the board.
We did three domestic flights in Colombia, and paid 145,000, 215,000, and 220,000 COP ($37, $54, and $55) per person for each leg. This cost included our luggage fees.
Total Cost for Domestic Flights: $285
Taxis/Ride Sharing Apps
By a large margin, taxis were the most common way we got around cities in Colombia. Medellin has a bus and metro system, but the bus system was incredibly confusing and the metro had only a few lines, so it didn’t go everywhere.
In Bogota, there was no metro system, only buses. Again, the bus system was incredibly confusing to us (and we’re really good at figuring out bus schedules!), so we opted for taxis almost exclusively.
Thankfully, taxis are very inexpensive in Colombia – our average cost for a taxi ride was usually around $2-4, with a few rides to and from the airport in Medellin and Salento being much more expensive ($20, $23 and $32).
Ride Sharing Apps
While you can use Uber in Colombia, we found that the cost was actually fairly comparable to what we would be paying a taxi directly.
However, more than Uber, Colombia has local apps. We used Cabify or InDriver, but had a mixed experience with those apps. We did not have good luck with Cabify actually getting us a driver – it would just wait and wait for a driver.
We started to use Cabify to mainly give us an idea of what the ride should cost and then would switch and use InDriver. InDriver has a unique premise where you put in your route and then offer a bid for the drive (which you will pay in cash). Then, drivers can either accept or counter. We had more luck with actually getting a driver through InDriver, although still had several times where no driver would accept the ride.
In general, when we were able to ride through an app, we had really good experiences with the drivers. We had mostly good experiences with taxis we hailed on the street, with a few notable exceptions (one tried to massively scam us, we were pretty sure another driver was high, and with another we had a big miscommunication about the price).
We would often try to get a driver through Cabify or InDriver first, and then if no one was accepting the ride request, we’d just hail someone off the street.
A Few Notes About Using Taxis in Colombia
In Medellin, the taxis all had meters that displayed your price right on the meter. Make sure the taxi driver turns it on before you start going – the meter starts at 3800 pesos.
In Bogota, the taxis all had meters, but the number on the meter correlated to a chart, where you could find the price associated with the number on the meter. This chart should be in every taxi, so you can refer to it and make sure you’re getting charged correctly. Again, make sure the meter is on before you start going – it should start at 28.
In Cartagena, none of the taxis had meters and you had to negotiate the price of the ride. Make sure you agree on a price before you get in the cab! And haggling is acceptable here.
I would also recommend that you always take a picture of the Taxi number before you get in.
Total Cost for Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps: $198 for 36 rides
While we mainly used taxis or ride shares for our transportation needs, we did also take public transportation at some points. Here are the costs and things to know about these different methods of getting around.
Okay, I said above that we did not really use the bus system in Colombia. A big exception to that is 1) taking day trips from Medellin and Bogota and 2) Going from the Salento to the airport in Pereira.
The bus system between cities is very well-developed, easy to use, comfortable, and inexpensive. For example, the 2 hour journey from Medellin to Guatapé one way cost 14,000 pesos, or just over $3. For these rides, you go to the main bus station in the city to buy tickets and board the bus. These experiences all went smoothly.
Total Bus Cost: 128,600 pesos, or about $30. This budget included round trip Medellin to Guatapé, Bogota to Zipaquira, and Salento to the Pereira bus station (to catch a flight in Pereira). Average price per ticket per leg was $3.
The only place we visited that had a metro line was Medellin. The metro system in Medellin is actually really nice, except for the fact that the lines don’t go everywhere. However, if you are on the line, I would choose metro over taxis everytime.
The first time we rode, we also had to pay for the refillable card, but then we could refill rides onto the same card for no extra charge. Rides were 3000 pesos, or about 70 cents USD.
Total Cost: 18,000 pesos, or $4
This style of transportation was unique to Salento. While you could in theory take taxis to get from Salento to places like the Cocora Valley or the coffee farms, the main form of transportation were the willy jeeps.
There’s a stand in the main square where you can buy tickets for the jeeps, and then you just hop inside or stand on the back and away you go.
Tickets for the jeeps generally cost between 6,000 to 11,000 COP round trip (about $1.50-2.50)
Total Cost: 46,000 COP, or $10
Activities + Entrance Fees
We had a wide range of costs in our Colombia travel budget for the different things that we did. Entrance fees were generally very cheap, whereas the activities/experiences we did definitely ran the bill up a lot more. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of those costs:
Entrance fees varied somewhat between locations, but in general were between $1-6, with a few exceptions.
For example, per person, the Museum of Antioquia in Medellin, which showcases the works of Botero, was 21,000 COP (about $5). The Gold Museum in Bogota was 4,000 COP ($1). The coffee farm tour in Salento was 30,000 COP ($7), and the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral was 78,000 COP ($18). The Convent of Santa Cruz in Cartagena was 13,000 COP ($3).
This category also includes entrance fees for places like climbing the Piedro el Penol rock in Guatapé (10,000 COP – $2), or playing tejo in Salento (12,000 COP – $3).
Total Cost: 895,000 COP ($208)
I’m including activities as a slightly different category here, because these things tended to cost a little bit more money.
However, this was such a fun part of our experience in Colombia and definitely worth the cost in our Colombia travel budget. I really loved everything we did and would highly recommend it all. Here’s the breakdown:
- Parasailing in Medellin (including the add-on of a GoPro)
- Comuna 13 Tour in Medellin
- Food Tour in Bogota
- Cooking Class in Cartagena
- Sunset Cruise in Cartagena
- Kayaking in Guatapé (20k COP)
Total Cost: $273
Read More: 28 Amazing Things to Do in Cartagena
Colombia Travel Budget: Souvenirs
We brought back many items – some for our kids, several for my parents and brother who were watching our kids, and a few small things for ourselves. Of course, what you buy and how much is totally variable and individual to the person, but I’m including some details in this category of our Colombia travel budget, just to give some context.
We bought several pairs of handmade earrings for around 8,000 COP ($2) per pair, plus a necklace for 17,000 COP ($4).
We also bought a really nice platter for my mom (she loves platters and big bowls – we bring her one from most places we visit) for 145,000 COP ($33)
We picked up several nativities carved from rock salt from the Zipaquira salt cathedral for 8,000-30,000 COP ($2-7). There were also a couple colorful little purses for 25,000 COP each ($6) that we purchased for our daughters.
We grabbed a couple of Colombian futbol jerseys for my dad and brother, each for 40,000 COP ($9)
And of course, we brought back a variety of Colombian candy. This was really cheap – less than $4 for a large bag with a variety of candy.
Total Cost: $144
Colombia Travel Budget Extras
This category includes a few miscellaneous things in our Colombia travel budget, both before and during our trip.
Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. (If covid has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what could happen!)
I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.
Occasionally we had to pay to use the bathroom in Colombia, and it was almost always 1000 COP (about 25 cents) to go. We only had to do this about 4 times, so it’s definitely not a big part of any Colombia travel budget, but I’m including it here mostly as an FYI.
Totals For Our Colombia Travel Budget
|Category||Colombian Pesos||US Dollars|
|Taxi (or Cabify, etc)||852,160||198|
|Total for 2 People for 2 weeks||9,312,620||2176|
|Per person per week|
(not including souvenirs)
|Per person per day |
(not including souvenirs)
I am extremely happy with these totals. We had a great time and did everything that we wanted to do, while sticking to a pretty inexpensive travel budget in Colombia.
Again, I would say this is a lower end of mid-range budget – we ate out plenty, did some fun, more expensive activities, but also chose less expensive accommodations and didn’t spend anything on alcohol.
A Few More Important Things to Note About Colombia Trip Costs
Cash versus Card
While you can use your credit card in some places, you will mainly need to pay in cash in Colombia – we even had to pay cash for a couple of our hotel stays! However, there are ATMs widely available in the country so it’s not hard to find a spot to pull out more money.
When you first arrive in Colombia, I would pull out some pesos at the airport before you head into the city. However, skip the official exchange counters (the exchange rate you get there is terrible) and find an ATM – you’ll get a much better exchange rate there. Fees weren’t usually too bad, and rates varied between ATMS, but the worst was consistently Bancocolombia. So avoid them if you can.
Another Exchange Rate Travel Tip: If and when you are paying in credit card, always choose to have your card run in pesos (or whatever the local currency is) instead of having them do the transaction in dollars (or whatever your home currency is). You will end up getting a better exchange rate by having your bank do the exchange instead of the merchant.
Can I use USD in Colombia?
Unlike some countries in Latin America (like Costa Rica, for example), you cannot use US dollars to pay for things in Colombia.
Final Thoughts on Your Colombia Travel Budget
So, is Colombia expensive to visit? Personally, I would say definitely not. I’m very happy with our trip costs in Colombia and felt that we got great experiences for a very reasonable total cost. I hope that helps you in your trip planning for Colombia!
Check Out My Other Colombia Articles:
- 28 Amazing Things to Do in Cartagena (A Travel Guide)
- 34 Delicious Traditional Colombian Foods to Eat in Colombia