Budget and Costs
How should I plan my budget?
Colombia can be one of the cheapest countries to visit due to a favorable exchange rate which has only increased in exchange value for Dollars to Colombian Pesos. However, it is vital to have a basic understanding of the Currency when you multiply by three, and start adding 2-3 extra decimal places to the value.
Here are some basic values to help you calculate your costs:
- All values are based on exchange rates for October 2019 via xe.com @ 3,492.41 COP = $1 USD. Do not hesitate to check current exchange rates when creating your own travel plans.
- 1 National Beer = ~3,000 cop = $1 USD
- Nice part of town = 5,000 – 7,000 COP = $1.50-3.00 USD
- 1 Import Beer = ~ 5,000 cop = ~$1.50
- Nice part of town = 10 – 12,000 COP = ~$2.86 USD
- Standard Typical Lunch = ~5-12,000 COP = $1.75 – $4.00 USD
- Upscale Lunch = 15 – 30,000+ COP = $3.00 – 8.00 USD
- Minimum Taxi Fee = ~3,900 (pueblo), 4,300 (city), 6,000+ (metropolis Bogota/ Medellin etc) In dollars = $1.10 – 1.71 (Note: these are only minimum costs)
- Airport Taxi in Pereira = ~15,000 – 20,000 COP = $3.00 – 5.72 USD
- Airport Taxi in Medellin = ~70,000 COP+ = $20 USD
- Airport Taxi in Bogota = ~ 30,000 COP+ = $8.00 USD
- Airport Taxi in Cartagena = ~20,000 COP+ = $5.72 USD
Can I use my credit/debit card?
Yes, in most cases foreign cards are accepted without any issues. Small restaurants, corner shops, cafes and bars may require cash only.
Keep in mind that you may need to call your bank or credit card company to notify them that you will be traveling internationally. This is an important step that can help you avoid headaches. Remember to always use caution when performing money transactions.
Colpatria, Scotiabank and Banco Caja Social will let you take out between 700,000 – 900,000 COP without ATM fees, but YOUR home bank may charge you. Be sure to check prior to travel.
What is the best way to exchange currency?
While having dollars is a necessary part of your trip, especially if you have a layover in Panama, it is more seamless to limit your physical cash, and then obtain Colombian pesos via an ATM. Depending on what bank you use, you may have little to no fees – while enjoying what is probably the most favorable international mid-market exchange rate.
Don’t forget to exercise caution and basic security recommendations when visiting a cash machine. Refer to our Safety page for more information.
- Tip: We recommend that you use the ATM next to Juan Valdez on the second level of the Bogota Airport for taking out money upon arrival.
There are a few banks in particular we recommend which will offer either no transaction fee, or a more favorable exchange rate. Keep in mind that your bank may charge you International fees so be sure to communicate with them prior to traveling. Your home bank may also have international agreements with certain Colombian banks.
- ColPatria, Banco Caja Social and ScotiaBank, is listed as some of the top picks for ATM cash withdrawal for exchange rate and/or little to no fees. They will let you take out a total of 900,000 per day ($257 USD) > or 700,000 COP ($200 USD) without ATM fees.
- Davivienda typically won’t charge international cards for up to 720,000 COP ($200 USD), and with an account and a card for them – you can take out up to 2,000,000 COP ($572 USD). Their exchange rate is reported as being much lower.
- Bancolombia is probably one of the more expensive options as they do charge transaction fees.
How much money should I bring with me?
Enough for airports and layovers. Especially if you are traveling through Panama, or even onward to Ecuador, you will need to have physical cash as an easy resource. In Colombia, we recommend pulling cash from an ATM.
- Tip: Always carry extra cash in a secondary part of your personal belongings. Could be a shirt pocket, hidden pocket or other similar method.
How much should I tip?
The nicer restaurants will usually add 10% Servicio to your bill as a tipping charge. This is the equivalent of tipping. It is also optional – in the case that you have a poor quality experience. If the tip is already included we don’t recommend giving more. NEVER tip taxis. When guides, baristas and hairdressers give you good service, tipping is greatly appreciated.
Can I use travelers checks?
This mechanism simply doesn’t exist in Colombia. Due to massive amounts of check fraud, they are rarely used except between banks or bigger business transactions. We recommend using a card or cash as the primary means of commerce. Keep in mind, many of the smaller, more traditional restaurants, bakeries and cafes in the pueblos especially – only accept cash.
Should I give coins to beggars I encounter in the street?
Only if they are rendering a value to your experience. Colombia does have social services to provide food and shelter to homeless people. Someone opening your door, or carrying an umbrella – and you permitting it (relax, sometimes you can’t do anything about it), means that basically you should give him a tip.
Avoid “tipping” in residential areas. These people will memorize your face and, not ask for, but expect you to give it to them every day after that. You do the math. It is better to give them a piece of food, than money which will probably be used for drugs. In the end, it depends on you. Follow what you feel is right.
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