On February 3, 2023 by keirobyn

[January 2023] Keen to get Zoe excited about this year’s long break, we let her choose the destination and organize the trip. We are glad she chose Colombia! She designed an itinerary for us and helped me find all the hotels (mostly on and flights (all on Latam). We started and ended in Bogota and spent a few days each in Salento, Medellin, Guatape, Cartegena, Santa Marta and a small Caribbean village named Dibulla.

Colombia is blowing up, tourism wise. Over the last year, it seems that everyone we know has either recently been to Colombia or intends to go soon. It’s not hard to see why. Friendly, beautiful, cheap and lots to do. With so many places to go in the world, we rarely return to anywhere, but we might have to make an exception in the future…

Click on any image below to open up a gallery.

Travel notes and tips as of January 2023

  • Being the geek that I am, I compared exchange rates given by my US debit and credit cards, Chilean debit and credit cards and cash. All 4 cards gave the same rate, which was the best available. ATMs are widely available in cities and very hard to find in towns. By far the best ATMs available are from the banks Pachincha and Daviendab. Use google maps to find one near you. These will give you the equivalent of about $400 in one transaction, with no ATM fees. Other banks will typically give you about $100 with a $3-5 fee. You always need some cash, but you can (almost) exclusively use credit cards in cities, but not at all outside of them. US dollars can be converted easily at Casa de Cambio’s, but the rates vary widely so you need to check at a few and know what rate you are getting for your card purchases.
  • Flights are cheap and travel by road takes a long time, so it makes sense to take flights. Typically $75 for an internal flight, plus $15 or so for luggage. For simplicity, we booked everything on Latam and used the Latam app to keep track of all of our flights. Avianca is the other big carrier. You could save a small amount of money by using smaller carriers, but at the cost of a bit more complexity and risk. (I’ve been screwed a few times.)
  • We took a few buses and a few 1-3 hour cab rides. Buses were ok. Cabs were typically about $25 for a one hour taxi ride traveling 50kms. Cabs are best organized by googling a local taxi service and then directly contacting them via whatsapp.
  • Did I mention whatsapp? It’s the default form of communication with hotels, cab drivers etc…
  • We found to be super convenient to make and keep track of (most) of our hotel reservations. You can usually cancel up until the last minute.
  • Cartegena is the undisputed capital of tourism in Colombia. It’s a great place and should not be missed. However, it’s also the most expensive place in Colombia. IMO 3 days is good.
  • IMO, it’s best to stay in the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartegena. It’s cheaper, and still has some local flavor. It’s a short walk from the inner walls of Cartegena, which is almost completely gentrified and devoid of locals.
  • Uber is the easiest way to get around cities, etc… It is very cheap. Typically about $4 for a cab ride within the city.
  • Colombia is safe. Obviously you need to keep your wits about you in bigger cities, just the same as anywhere else.
  • If you get sick, tell your hotel. They will usually call an English speaking doctor who will visit you in your room, for about $30. I got an amoeba (very painful!), but it was cleared up in a day.
  • I highly recommend this airbnb in Dibulla. We stayed here for 4 nights at the end of our vacation – some downtime before starting work. With beach access and a view of the ocean it was the perfect vacation from our vacation. At $250 a night it was five times what we had been paying for hotels elsewhere, but worth it! Since we were content just lazing around the open air living room and playing games, we spent little other money.

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