Understanding Colombian Pesos
Do to previous inflation, what was once hundreds became thousands. And that is where Colombian currency can get a bit confusing. Our smallest denomination is 50 pesos. It is worth about 10 – 20 cents. The largest is the 100,000 peso note – but try to avoid those when possible.
When you can visualize that one dollar is equal to a value of 3,000 pesos – while also understanding local costs, only then are you able to travel in a way that protects your budget while maximizing your local experience. That is the key to Budget and Costs in Colombia.
How much should I carry?
Always keep 50,000 – 100,000 pesos available in one segment or your purse/wallet, then smaller bills like 1,000, 5,000 10,000 and 20,000. When you are on the street – try to have smaller denominations at hand in a shirt or pants pocket for easy access. Then, have your larger bills available for meals or purchases in bigger stores.
Like any other travel destination in the world, it is necessary to always exercise discretion to avoid being targeted by petty criminals.
Always Carry Change
Unlike some countries, Colombia often keeps small amounts of money on hand at small shops like corner tiendas and tipico restaurants. Therefore it is important to know the value while planning ahead to have smaller denominations on hand. These smaller shops struggle to always have enough small change at hand. Having the exact amount can save you a lot of time and money.
For example, if you get into a taxi – especially if you are in a smaller city, and all you have is a 50,000 note, be sure the driver can give you change before you get in. Otherwise he may charge you the cost of stopping and making change at a gas station.
How to Find the Current Exchange Rate
Advisory, while dollars are accepted in some places, this is illegal – it is advised to always carry pesos and be prepared to pay using pesos.
There are several online tools for checking currency. We recommend: https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/
Keep in mind that the current exchange rate is affected by the Mid-Market Exchange Rate.
This is the “actual” rate you get when buying/selling currencies, with the percentage those entities charge as handling rates subtracted. Some of the most expensive options for this would be a company like Western Union. The cheapest rate we have found is through https://www.worldremit.com/ which can go into either a bank account or be picked up at a national money sending/receiving entity like ServiEfecty.