Colombia round up & budget

Colombia was a last-minute addition to my itinerary based on the rave reports I’d read from other travel bloggers, and as I travelled through Central America, I heard more and more people gushing about how it was their favourite country in South America. So how did it turn out?

After a very disappointing start in Bogota, I ended up loving the country. For a country with such a dangerous reputation, I actually felt safer in Colombia than any other country so far. You’d never know either that mass tourism is relatively new here either – it’s a very easy country to get around andI stayed in some of the nicest hostels to date.

Freshly picked coffee beans

Freshly picked coffee beans

There were plenty of highlights – Villa de Leyva is one of the finest little colonial towns I’ve seen so far; Tayrona gave me the best beaches I’ve ever seen; climbing Nevado del Ruiz took me above 5,000m for the first time; Medellin is one of the most fun cities I’ve ever visited; visiting Hacienda Guayabal to see how coffee is grown and made was both beautiful and fascinating; San Gil gave me the opportunity to try paragliding, and the Lost City trek is the best hike I’ve ever done.

Colourful Guatepe

Colourful Guatepe

I even grew to love Bogota in the end. It’s funny how much of a difference the weather can make to my enjoyment of a place – after a cold, wet and grey first experience, on my second visit I arrived to glorious sunshine, blue skies, and warm weather. And suddenly the city looked beautiful (and not like Croydon so much). I ended up in a much nicer hostel (the fantastic DN) in a slightly safer-feeling area, discovered some beautiful little side streets and some of the nicest and friendliest little bars and restaurants I’ve seen on my trip so far.

Every country has its downsides, and for me the only real letdown was the food. The Colombians seem to have a penchant for deep-frying everything, which was not great, and pretty much everything that wasn’t deep-fried seemed to be stuffed with cheese (even when you least expect it). It was generally quite expensive too, compared to other countries I’ve been to, and even the supermarkets were poor – I found a better selection of many things even in Guatemala, a much poorer country. There were some highlights, such as the hot chocolate with cheese, and some excellent street-food chorizos, but on the whole it was all a bit disappointing.

But my happiest memory of Colombia is nothing intrinsic to the country – it was instead the other travellers I spent time with. In the Macondo hostel in San Gil I met a fantastic selection of Brits, Irish & Americans. I did the Lost City trek with six of them, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better group of people. After that, every place I visited ended up being with a selection of the group from San Gil. Thanks for helping make Colombia such a special experience.

The unusual Bolivar statue in Manizales

The unusual Bolivar statue in Manizales


I’m now getting used to the fact that each country never turns out to be as cheap as I was hoping, and Colombia was no exception. I found food to be especially on the costly side, although as usual I did myself no favours by spending far too much partying. Still, on the brightside I spent the least since Guatemala, and only a touch more than I spent in Mexico. Here are the daily averages:
Transport: $6.69
Accommodation: $7.80
Museums, activities & excursions: $9.58
Food & drink: $24.52
Miscellaneous: $1.27

And now onto the serious business – here’s how Colombia shapes up in numerical terms (and what’s really noticeable now is how much church fatigue has set in – the number has plummeted since Mexico)
Buses 20
Taxis 21
Flights 1
Jeeps 2
Churches 3
Beaches 4
Beds 13
Hammocks slept in 5
Night buses attempted to sleep on in the face of over-enthusiastic aircon and suicidal drivers 3
National Parks 3
Hot springs 1
Laundry 6
Postcards 2
Phone calls 3
Cash withdrawals 12
Museums 2
Lost cities 1
Volcanoes 2 (1 mud, 1 normal)
Coffee farms 2
Cable Cars 2
Days spent hiking 8
Paraglides 1 (disappointing)
Water Parks 1
Ants eaten – several (which was probably several too many)

On the people I met front, the biggest disappointment is that I didn’t get to spend more time with Colombians – all the ones I met on the street and so on were incredibly friendly, but because I met such a fantastic group of travellers early on in San Gil, I ended up spending most of my time with them and didn’t make enough of an effort to go out and meet more locals. Must try harder. On a positive (geeky) note, Colombia did give me the opportunity to add a few more unusual countries to my list (French Guiana, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Egypt)
UK 21
US 15
Israel 12
Australia 9
Colombia 7
Ireland 5
Argentina 3
Canada 2
Isle of Man 1
Norway 1
Egypt 1
French Guiana 1
Poland 1
Guernsey 1
Romania 1
Uruguay 1
Germany 1
Spain 1
Belgium 1
France 1

You can catch up on any of my Colombian posts that you’ve missed here and see all my photos here.

13 responses to “Colombia round up & budget

  1. I’ve had friends who visited and said Colombia is much nicer and safe than they’ve heard about in the news. Good to hear Bogota grew on you.

    The fried food wasn’t any good or do you just not like fried food?

    • A certain amount of fried food is OK, but there was just far too much unfortunately. Having said that, I’m sure there are probably loads of great things I missed food-wise, I’m just not always great at making the effort to track them down!

  2. Love the photos Geoff! We heard so many great things from travelers about Columbia, we are sad to have missed out :(

    • That’s the tough thing about travelling, there’s always tough choices to make on which countries to visit and which to miss out – still, there’s always time to visit it on a future trip!

  3. Hello!

    I was just perusing lonelyplanet.com for information on Colombia, and it pointed me to your website. I find it a little amazing that you’ve gone out and started your trip and I’m at home planning my next one now :)

    Anyway, I’m thinking of going to Colombia. Only problem is, of course, the fact that I’m a solo female biker. I think backpacking there is relatively safe now, especially in groups, but what’s your opinion on safety for someone spending a lot of time by themselves on the road? Think the situation is improved enough that it would be ok?

    Glad to read that all is well so far!

  4. Federico Mac Master

    Hey there! Being a Colombian living abroad, it was interesting reading on your experience since I haven’t been there in the past several years. I keep on hearing positive experiences about foreign travelers going to Colombia.
    The only thing I could testify from my experience living there is that the food is GREAT. Yes, there is a lot of oh-so-yummy deep fried foods—but the culinary offerings don’t stop there. The gastronomy there is as varied as the country’s geography, varying from region to region and with many foreign influences brought from Colonial times to the waves of imigration that took place during the last century from Europe and Lebanon in particular.
    The dishes are hearty like any in the indigenous cuisines of western countries. Next time, hopefully you’ll be able to better appreciate the food as a representation of its people and enjoy the culinary delights that the country has to offer.

    • Thanks Federico – I think next time I go I need to make more of an effort to find the really good stuff, I was a bit lazy when it came to tracking down restaurants, so I´m sure I missed loads of stuff. Must try harder next time!

  5. Very pleasant moments reading your comments about your trips visiting Colombia. I am a very proud to be Colombian, and I am one who can say that know very well this country.

    In Bogotá there are a lot of treaking and excursionists groups (specialized on ecotourism). It is the best way to know very special and amazing places.

    If you can other opportunities to visit Colombia again, you can choose many other places; I recommend to you to visit:
    .- visiting Bogotá, not to loose Zipaquirá with the Salt Cathedral, and Nemocón, with The Mine, very special place where you can see other hiden treasures on mines.
    – In Santander, near San Gil, the place you visited, it is Parque Nacional Chicamocha (Panachi) with the one of the largest cableway (teleférico)
    – Amazonas (Leticia, Parque Amacayacu, Puerto Nariño); it is an inmersion on the jungle.
    – Chocó (El Valle & Bahía Solano and Ensenada de Utria). in July you can see wales and dolphins, dark sand beaches where the sky and clouds and sunset reflected what huge mirrors.
    – Desierto de La Tatacoa (espectacular in my opinion)
    – Isla Gorgona
    – Caño Cristales (five colors river)
    – Islas del Rosario, from Cartagena.
    – Guajira and Cabo de la Vela
    – San José del Guaviare
    – Cerros de Mavecure, near Puerto Inírida and the spectacular rapids and whith a view of a big rock plenty of pictographs.
    – Villavicencio and the Llanos Orientales: Restrepo and the Parque Los Ocarros.
    – Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, in Boyacá, with two of the most beautiful ‘paramos’: Ocetá, in Monguí, and Siscunsí.

  6. You can see picture of most of the places I mentioned before on Picasa Web in this address:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/viajeraColombia

    Unfortunately, there are not all albums of the places I had recommended; only I placed what I took from digital way. Some day I will scan the rest on slides.

    I you can take some moments to see, enjoy them. I am sure.

    Thank you for you great comment about my country and to show the other face of Colombia.

    If you need to contact to me you can write to my e-mail: catorra001@hotmail.com

  7. GUYS!! you can not miss Barranquilla’s Carnival.. they best mixture of Spanish, Indians and African traiditions in Colombia.

    Quien lo vive es quien lo goza!

  8. I was checking out LP planning my next trip to Asia, and out of curiosity went on to see what was said about my country: Colombia. I got lost in your blog, and because of our difficult history, you can’t imagine how exciting it is to read that people from around the world are coming over find paradise.

    I am very glad you liked it here. Because of the big social differences if you ask for travel advise, the answer really depends on the person’s social-economic stature, which gives you a wide variety of things to see and do. I am guessing you missed Andres Carne de Res, near Bogotá, simply the most amazing night club there is. Difficult to explain but just amazing.

    I hope next time you get the chance to spend more time with the locals, I am from Bogota and I admit we arent the nicest ones around, not like you’d find in Medellin, but there isn’t one Colombian thrilled to see a tourist wander around.

    If you ever come again don’t miss the Amazon nor Guajira, don´t hesitate to ask me for advise, as I’ve travelled most of Colombia.

    Best Regards

    • argh….I really wanted to go to Andres Carne de Res but it didn’t quite work out, and it’s one of my big regrets now!

      Thanks again for the tips – I definitely want to come back, as there is still so much I want to see – Cali, Popayan, the amazon, the pacific coast, an Agustin, the Parque Nacional El Cocuy, Guajira….there’s enough left for several more visits!

  9. “Night buses attempted to sleep on in the face of over-enthusiastic aircon and suicidal drivers”

    Jajajaja Best Comment Ever.
    Only the people who’ve experienced it know exactly what a nightmare is to travel in a “flota”.

    As a colombian, it’s always great to read positive comments about the country, so thank you.

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