what we spent in colombia

budget: £2700 / $4050

total spent: £2584 / $3979

# of days: 90

avg. daily spend: £28.7 / $45

all costs for two people in average exchange rate at time of travel - currencies are $COP / £GBP / $USD

days on budget: 4%

days under budget:  67%

   days over budget:   29%

We did not plan to spend 90 days in Colombia (the maximum our visa allowed) but, well, we sort of fell in love with the place. From the sweltering desert and colourful colonial cities of the north to coffee farms and hiking in the highlands and making home in the resurgent city of Medellin, we were learning and discovering so many great things about a country that had been written off by tourists for many years. 

The fact we came in under budget is due in large part to spending five weeks in Medellin where we made a home, worked on the site and discovered the city slowly. If we were in Colombia for a shorter period of time and covering the same distances, we would definitely have struggled. The country, given its level of development, is still pretty cheap for travellers but it would have been very easy for us to break the budget without even realising.

$4,140,501 / £1093 / $1683

When we arrived on January 8th, slap bang in the middle of high season for holidaying locals, we were worried that our budget of £15 a day each wouldn't last us very long at all! Rooms were very hard to come by and prices were bumped up by at least 25%. In Cartagena, two thirds of our budget was spent on a double room. In low season, a double in the Poblado area of Medellin was out of our price range necessitating a few nights in a dorm. The further south we travelled however, the more affordable the accommodation became. 

cheapest double: $32,000 / £8.5 / $13 in San Agustin

most expensive: $80,000 / £21 / $32 in Cartagena

Top tip: Cheap hostels are available, you just have to look a little harder! If, like us, you're determined to stick to a budget, try to seek out accommodation a little out of the popular areas - you'll be surprised how much the price can go down.

accommodation: 42.3%

$1,574,872 / £415 / $640

Considering how large a country Colombia is, and that transport can be relatively costly, we're actually quite shocked that the percentage of our budget spent on transport is relatively low. We know that had we not spent more than a month in Medellin it would have been much higher.

Top tip: We didn't realise at the start that the cost of the bus in Colombia is negotiable. Not every single one, but you can often get a few thousand pesos off, especially if you're buying as a group and the bus is leaving in the next hour.  

Top tip: We met a number of people who covered large distances with flights instead of buses, and they were very happy to tell us that occasionally rates were comparable - definitely worth considering if you're low on time.

transport: 16%

$902,700 / £238 / $367

In the big cities like Bogotá and Medellin, there's a thriving foodie scene which you can take advantage of, however prices are sometimes nearly on a par with home. That said, depending how far off the beaten track you've ventured and how long you've been on the road, a fantastic Italian-style pizza or authentic bowl of noodles might be just what you're craving.

We've heard a lot of people moaning about the quality of street food in Colombia, but from the amazing fish empanadas in Capurgana, fantastic meat kebabs up north  and arepas con queso available well, almost everywhere, we were very happy to eat more than a few in-between meal snacks!

Top tip: Most small comedors will have a set lunch cost little more than a couple of dollars and including a drink. Most places were usually happy to switch up the meat for an egg to satisfy the vegetarian too!

eating out: 9.2%

$586,990 / £155 / $238

The nightlife in Medellin was the closest we've found to what we enjoyed back home and we had more than our fair share of boozy nights out. Heading further south, you'll soon be off the gringo trail, and away from the party but don't be surprised to see locals necking back the Colombian favourite Aquardiente! It takes some getting used to (it kind of tastes like unsweetened mouthwash to begin with...) but is by far the cheapest drink available. 

Top tip: Look for the cartons (yes, cartons) of Aquardiente and rum available in supermarkets. It works out cheaper than buying a bottle!

alcohol: 6%

$1,249,619 / £330 / $508

During our five week stay in Medellin, we took full advantage of a nice kitchen and decent supermarket. There is a fantastic selection of affordable fruit and veg in Colombia and the supermarket chain, Exito, became our best friend. 

Top tip: For some reason, there is a bizarre phenomenom of exceedingly long waits at Exito checkouts across the country (they've even provided chairs in the queue!). If British, be prepared to huff and puff and stomp your feet a few times but eventually you'll get used to it :)

groceries: 12.8%

$243,421 / £64 / $99

We were struck by the propensity of cake shops throughout the country and became slightly addicted to a daily treat for around £0.3 / $0.5. 

Coffees come strong and small in the form of tinto and are available on pretty much every street corner for a lot less than a Starbucks (just look for the guys or girls with the box of flasks).

Top tip: Embrace arequipe! This sent-from-heaven dulce de leche loveliness is put in or on top of a significant portion of Colombian cakes, and as tourists, it is your duty to eat as much as you can!

sweets & treats: 2.5%

$172,305 / £45 / $70

As with most countries in Latin America, toiletries don't come cheap. We bought in bulk and tried to make everything last as long as possible. 

Top tip: There's not really any fantastic way around this if you choose to wash with any semblance of routine but Exito supermarket had weekly offers if you were willing to chop and choose on brands.

toiletries: 1.8%

$889,840 / £235 / $362

Most of our activities in Colombia were free - hiking in Minca and Salento, wandering the charming streets of Cartagena and enjoying beaches in the north. However, we also splurged on a day-trip to Puntas Gallinas, a football match for Andrew, horse-riding in San Agustin and entrance to a few museums and sights.  

Top tip: There is a lot of stuff going on in Colombia, and it's easy to get overwhelmed and blow the budget. However, try to remember that a lot can be done independently and with a lot of advanced planning you can spend your cash where it's really necessary

activities: 9.1%

$0 / £0 / $0

Colombia thankfully has no entrance or exit fees and the entrance visa for us Brits didn't cost a penny!

crossing borders: 0%


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Colombia is THE new destination for backpackers heading to South America. Within this post you'll find a breakdown of everything we spent exploring one of our favourite countries, to help you plan your budget.

so, you're off to colombia? take a look at some of these!