Colombia Budget Guide – How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Colombia?

Colombian money

If you’re considering travelling to Colombia (which you absolutely should, you won’t regret it!) you may be wondering how much it will cost you. While your Colombia budget will largely depend on your travel style, the good news is this is an affordable country. 

As one of the cheapest countries in South America, Colombia is fast becoming a backpacker favourite. And, as someone who has spent more than two months travelling through the country on a budget, I can see why it’s loved by the thrifty and the frugal. 

So, without further ado, here’s all you need to know about how much it costs to travel in Colombia.


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How Much Does It Cost to Visit Colombia? 

Cost of Backpacking Colombia – Quick Answers!

  • Cost of Street Food – 3,000COP (approx. $0.75USD)
  • Cost of Local Food in a Restaurant – 18,000COP (approx. $4.50USD)
  • Cost of Western Food in a Restaurant – 30,000COP (approx. $7.50USD)
  • Cost of Water (price per litre) – 1,000COP (approx. $0.25USD)
  • Cost of Beer (price per bottle/can) – 7,000COP (approx. $1.50USD)
  • Cost of a Hostel Bed – 65,000COP (approx. $16USD)
  • Cost of a Private Room – 100,000COP (approx. $24USD)

Suggested Daily Budget for Travelling in Colombia 💰

  • Basic: 135,000COP (approx. $33USD)
  • Mid-range: 300,000COP (approx. $72USD)
  • Premium: 475,000COP (approx. $115USD)

Currency in Colombia 🪙

The currency of Colombia is the Colombian peso. The abbreviation is COP and the symbol is $. Don’t get this confused with the $ sign for US dollars, especially at ATMs where it’s easy to confuse withdrawing $200USD with 200,000COP (not that I ever did that! 😳). You may also see it written as Col$ to distinguish it from $USD.

Notes come in denominations of 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000 and 2,000 pesos. Coins are available in 1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 pesos.

Sometimes, on menus, the extra zeros will be dropped. Similarly, in conversation, the ‘mil’ (thousand) may be omitted, but this is on the understanding that everyone recognises that amounts are being referred to in the thousands.

Currency Conversions

Below are rough currency conversions for US dollars, British pounds and Euros. As currencies fluctuate regularly, check the current conversions before (and as) you travel. Xe.com is an excellent resource and the app can be used offline.

  • $1USD = 4,100COP
  • £1GBP = 5,200COP
  • €1EUR = 4,400COP

Cost of Street Food in Colombia 🥟

3,000-10,000COP (approx. $0.75-2.50USD) per meal

Colombia’s street food scene is dominated by two tasty treats: arepas and empanadas. Arepas are a traditional Colombian snack made from maize. Flat, round and doughy, arepas can be baked, fried or steamed and are a staple in Colombian cuisine. They are served either as a side or as a standalone snack or small meal. 

You will see arepas being cooked streetside all over the country. When served as street food they are usually cut in half and filled like a sandwich. Typical fillings are cheese, meat, beans and avocado, but the options (and flavours!) are limitless. Stuffed arepas can be picked up for around 5,000-10,000COP (approx. $1-2.50USD).

Cartagena-Colombia-arepa at La Pepiada
Stuffed arepas are cheap and delicious!

Second only to the arepa, is the cornerstone of Latin American street food, the humble empanada. These crescent-shaped pastries are made of dough and are oozing with delicious savoury fillings. They are found all over South America and each country has its own take on the recipe. The Colombian version is made from corn flour and is usually fried. Empanadas are commonly filled with beef, chicken, cheese or vegetables and cost around 3,000COP (approx. $0.75USD).


Cost of Restaurant Food in Colombia 🍽️

15,000-35,000COP (approx. $3.50-8.50USD) per meal

The cost of eating out varies widely across the country. As a general rule, food is more expensive in the north along the Caribbean coast, with Cartagena and San Andrés Island being significantly more expensive than other areas. Further south, and especially in the big cities of Bogotá and Medellín, it’s much easier to eat on the cheap.

The best value meals are the local almuerzos (lunches), often referred to as the menú del día. These set meals include a starter (usually soup), a main meal and a drink. Sometimes dessert is included too! Meals like this cost around 15,000-20,000COP (approx. $3.50-5USD)

soup and main meal - menu del dia in Colombia
Local almuerzos are a great option for your belly and your budget.

Western food, unsurprisingly, comes with an additional price tag. Expect to pay on average around 25,000-30,000COP (approx. $6-7.50USD), and in Cartagena, don’t be surprised to see prices from around 40,000COP (approx. $10USD).

“I found one of the easiest ways to save money on food was to make my own breakfast. I would often buy a pack of porridge oats and a banana, for a cheap and nutritious start to the day. As all you need for this quick breakfast is hot water, it’s easy to make even if you don’t have access to a kitchen.”

Lisa Barham, Writer at South America Backpacker

Cost of Water in Colombia 💧

1,000-2,000COP (approx. $0.25-0.50USD) per litre

A basic brand bottle of water costs around 1,000COP (approx. $0.25USD) per litre. ‘Fancier’ brands or smaller bottles will cost slightly more per millilitre. Of course, the larger the bottle, the cheaper the price per mil, but carrying around a 5-litre bottle of water is hardly convenient! However, if you plan to stay in one place for a few days, buying a bigger bottle to store in your room is both cost-saving and plastic-saving.

plastic bottles of water on a shelf
Stick to bottled or filtered water in coastal Colombia.

On the subject of saving plastic, it is always worth looking into investing in a water filter or purifier. Yes, the initial outlay may hurt the pre-travel budget but over time the investment pays dividends, saving you money in the long run. In addition, with a filter at your disposal, you can drink water from almost any source. Simply fill, filter and guzzle to your heart’s content. This is hugely convenient, especially if you’re hiking or find yourself miles from civilization. Plus, these bottles are great for the environment – a win-win!

It is also well worth noting that there are some areas where it is safe to drink tap water in Colombia. As a rule of thumb, the water is usually potable in the mountainous regions but should be avoided near the coast. Always follow local advice.

Some hostels provide free, or cheap, drinking water. Don’t forget to check if you can refill your bottle at your accommodation before buying more.


Cost of Beer in Colombia 🍺

6,000-8,000COP (approx. $1.50-2USD)

Local beers in Colombia (Club Colombia and Aguila) cost around 6,000-8,000COP (approx. $1.50-2USD) for a bottle or can. Expect to pay 8,000-11,000COP (approx. $2-3USD) for a Corona.

As in most countries, sticking to local beer is the most affordable way to enjoy a tipple. If you’re more of a cocktail connoisseur, keep an eye out for happy hour promotions, when many hostels and local bars offer great deals.

Purchasing beers from a supermarket is another way to keep costs down. If you plan to do this, check whether your hostel allows drinks bought outside to be consumed in the hostel common areas (if there is an onsite bar, the chances are they won’t!).

Local Bogota beers
For the best value beverages look for local beers.

Cost of Accommodation in Colombia 🛌

As with food, the cost of accommodation differs across Colombia. Expect the north coast to be more expensive than the southern mountainous regions.

Dorm rooms range from around 50,000-80,000COP (approx. $12-19.50USD) on average, but budget bunks can be found for as little 35,000COP (approx. $8.50USD) in Bogotá and Medellín. 

Budget double rooms start from around 80,000-100,000COP (approx. $19.50-24.50USD). Those looking for a little more comfort can expect to pay around 150,000-200,000COP (approx. $36-48.50USD).

Private rooms in hostels are not always the best value and can be significantly more expensive than a budget hotel room – sometimes twice as much! However, they do come with all the amenities of hostels, including a social atmosphere. The mix of hostel life with a private room is a win-win for travellers who are happy to pay the premium for privacy.

Casa Puerto Hostel and Suites – Cartagena
Hostels in Colombia are affordable and comfortable.

Airbnb usually competes in price with budget to mid-range hotel accommodation. Sometimes, Airbnb rooms offer better value for money as they often come with additional facilities such as a private living space or kitchen. They also offer more unique stays as well, ideal for those who like a bit of character in their accommodation.

Top Tip 🥐

Looking for accommodation that includes free breakfast is a great way to save some pennies!


Cost of Transport in Colombia 🚌

When it comes to getting around Colombia you have two options: buses or planes. The country has an excellent bus network and both local and long-distance buses are cheap. The cost of long-distance journeys equates to roughly 10,000-14,000COP per hour of travel (approx. $2.50-3.50USD). 

One of the longest bus journeys many travellers will take is the 14-hour ride between Cartagena and Medellín. The fare is around 190,000COP (approx. $46USD). In such a large country, flying is a tempting and affordable option. Many backpackers choose to hop on an hour flight rather than an overnight bus between these two cities, and in low season a flight ticket is comparable with the cost of land travel!

Medellín deserves a special mention for its excellent transport network. The city is very proud of its metro system which provides an exceptionally cheap and convenient way to get around. Unlike on buses, which only accept cash, to use the metro system you will need to purchase a travel card (10,000COP; approx. $2.50USD) and top it up before travelling. Each journey costs a few thousand pesos. The city also has a cable car system, an activity in itself, offering spectacular views over the city.

Van for Santa Marta
Using local transport is a great way to keep costs down.

Taxis are an affordable and safe option for short-distance journeys. Generally speaking, Uber is cheaper than regular taxis but isn’t strictly legal in Colombia. A 45-minute Uber journey from Bogotá airport to La Candelaria should cost around 40,000-50,000COP (approx. $10-$12USD). 

If you decide not to use Uber, make sure to use only licensed taxis and agree on a price before getting in. Using the Uber app is a good way of getting a rough idea of how much a journey should cost, but expect to pay a bit more in a regular taxi.


Cost of Activities in Colombia 🥾

Most activities in Colombia are very affordable and some of the most stunning natural landscapes can be enjoyed for a small entry fee. For example, Tayrona National Park, arguably the country’s most beautiful stretch of Caribbean coastline, can be explored for the reasonable cost of around 75,000COP (approx. $18USD). 

Visiting a coffee farm is a must when in Colombia and a tour of a local finca will set you back just 30,000-40,000COP (approx. $7-10USD). While in the coffee belt, you shouldn’t miss the Cocora Valley hike near Salento, one of Colombia’s top trails. It is easy to walk independently and the entrance fee is just 20,000COP (approx. $5USD). 

There is also plenty to do in the big cities, much of which costs just a few dollars! Take a free walking tour of Comuna 13 in Medellín (suggested tips are around 50,000COP; approx. $12USD); check out the street art in Cartagena’s Getsemaní quarter for free; or ride the funicular up Cerro Monserrate in Bogotá for just 17,500COP (approx. $4.50USD). Bogotá is also home to some excellent museums, including the Museo del Oro (5,000COP; approx. $1USD) and Museo Botero (free).

The Botero Museum in Bogotá is free to visit.

“The Botero Museum was one of my favourite places that I visited in Colombia. Not only did it have countless artworks by the man himself (including some of his most famous) but it had a number of pieces from his personal collection, including works by artists and sculptors such as Picasso, Dalí, Moore and Bacon. I loved it and it was made even better because it was free!”

Sheree Hooker, Editor at South America Backpacker 

Adventure sports and multi-day tours are where things start to get a little more expensive. Still, these activities offer excellent value for money. San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia. Here you can go paragliding, white water rafting (each 220,000COP; approx. $53USD), or canyoning (180,000COP; approx. $44USD), among other things! 

Tours to La Guajira, Colombia’s wild frontier and South America’s most northerly point, are an off-the-beaten-track adventure. Three-day tours cost between 730,000COP (approx. $176USD) and 1,575,000COP (approx. $380USD) per person. 

For many, the multi-day trek to the Lost City is an absolute highlight of their visit to Colombia. Prices for the tour are set by the government; a 4 or 5-day hike costs around 2,150,000COP (approx. $550USD). A sizeable chunk of your travel budget, yes, but oh so worth it!

Cocora Valley
A visit to the Cocora Valley won’t break the bank!

The beauty and diversity of Colombia make it many a traveller’s South American highlight. Most of its top destinations and must-do activities can be experienced on the cheap, and with a little time and planning it’s certainly possible to travel Colombia on a budget. 

With so much to explore for so little, the only question is, what are you waiting for? It’s time to book that flight!

Contributors

South America Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank the following for their input to this article…

🙏Sheree Hooker | Editor at South America Backpacker
🙏Tim Ashdown | Writer at South America Backpacker
🙏 Staff at Parapente San Gil
🙏 Staff at Maria Candela, Bogotá

Lisa-Barham-author-pic
Lisa Barham

Lisa is a writer and traveller who left her nine-to-five in London for life on the road. Today, she spends her time solo backpacking, navigating through life and unfamiliar streets. After eating, hiking and surfing her way through Southeast Asia, she headed for a new adventure in South America, to travel through the continent learning Spanish, and a few other valuable lessons along the way!

Follow her on: Instagram

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