Money and Costs in Colombia

If you’re coming in from Ecuador and Bolivia, Colombia is going to seem like you’ve just stepped back into a European pricing system. It is more expensive than many countries in the area, and many in South America consider the country to be extremelyexpensive but, in reality, it’s far cheaper than Europe, the States and even Argentina and Brazil.

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= > Bargaining is accepted in Colombia but usually you should not expect more than a 10-15% drop from the original price. Of course, in the more travelled places and for souvenirs, you can expect your bargaining skills to get you further.
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A 20,000 Pesos Note

The money in Colombia is the Colombian Peso. Current rates against major currencies are : 1,800 Pesos per US Dollar, 2,800 Pesos per British Pound and 2,300 Pesos per Euro.
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ATMs are your best source to get money. You can usually pay by Visa and Mastercard in hotels and nice restaurants, at least in the main cities.

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= > To put things in perspective, remember that the Colombian minimum salary is 550,000 Pesos per month, that's just over 300 USD.
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= > IMPORTANT: Check with your bank before departure (limits on withdrawals, authorizations...). If you go a bit off the beaten tracks make sure you have enough cash with you.
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Typical Colombian Lunch, Your Carbs for the DayThe main thing that’s available on the cheap in Colombia is food. For backpackers this is a paradise in terms of cuisine, since one meal can cost as little as $3,500COL (about $1.75US) and comes with unlimited juices, a soup to start and more carbohydrates in the meal than you can shake a fork at (we’re talking pasta, chips, rice, plantain, yuca and sometimes potato).

Higher-end restaurants are similarly low in price (comparatively speaking), and even dining in the finest restaurants it can be difficult to spend more than $50US, drinks and desert included.
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=> Check our pages Colombian food and Restaurants for more.
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Going out and drinking can depend on where you are, and what kind of night you’re after. One of the most astonishing things about pricing in Colombia is that you can go from spending $1,500COL ($0.70c) for a beer in one bar to $14,000COL ($7) next door. In Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena, expect to pay between between 10-20,000 Pesos to get in a club, it will be roughly half in the rest of the country. We actually paid 5,000 Pesos to be fully VIP in the best club in Neiva!

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=> If you want to save money when going out, head for tiendas or licorerias, they are basically liquor shops and they often have chairs in or outside the place. A good place to warm up the evening before heading out.
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Travelling around in Colombia isn’t as cheap as you might like, but it’s reasonable. For an average inter-city bus (nothing like the quality you get in Argentina, but decent enough), you’ll be paying around $65,000COL (Bogotá - Medellín). Flotas, which are small buses that leave the bigger cities to surrounding areas, are substantially cheaper.

Flights within Colombia are relatively expensive, but they’re getting cheaper. Airline taxes are lowering and in mid-2012 a new airline called Viva Colombia (cofunded by RyanAir) will be offering cheaper flights for all. You can expect to pay between 200,000 to $300,000COL for a one way flight between Bogota and Cartagena.

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In terms of rent and living, bigger cities are predictably more expensive, and you’ll pay around $400,000COL to share a flat in a decent area of Bogotá. If you’re just travelling through, you’ll find that accommodation is reasonable, especially on the hostel scene. You can usually find dorms for 17,000 to 20,000 Pesos per night (so 8 Euros or 10 USD).
Hotels can be expensive, however, and seem to run closer to US prices than you might expect. You should budget for a hotel costing around $40-$50US. Below you’ll find a list of average prices in Bogotá. Other areas of the country (excluding Medellín and Cartagena) are a little cheaper.

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Meal in a cheap restaurant: $5,000
Meal in a mid-range restaurant: $16,000
Meal in a high-end restaurant: $28,000
Beer in a cheap bar: $3,000
Beer in an expensive bar: $9,000
Bottle of rum in a liquor shop: $12,000
Bottle of rum in a cheap bar: $40,000
Bottle of rum in an expensive bar: $100,000
Entrance for a club: $15,000
Weekly groceries: $50,000 (although much cheaper if you buy in a market)
Cinema ticket: $15,000
Rent per month in a 2 bedroom flat in a nice area: $1,500,000
500g of meat: $8,000 (although cheaper at a market)
A loaf of bread: $3,000
A cup of coffee: $500 - $3,000
Bus ride: $1,450
Taxi ride: $6,000
Transmilenio: $1,750
Inter-city bus (Flota): $20,000 to nearby town, $80,000 long-distance (Bogotá to Medellin, for example)

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  • Guest (barrumundi)

    The quoted weekly groceries bill of $50,000 is probably for someone that likes to eat out a lot.......not that there is anything wrong with that. Restaurants and cafes are usually good value.....just watch what you eat or you will definitely put on weight. I spend around $100,000 at the supermercado and about $50,000 at the fruit & veg market each week for 2 adults. Plus we eat out several times a week. Rent is cheaper in the country towns. I am 1.5 hrs from Bogota and you can rent an apartment or house for $300,000 - $400,000 per month.

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