Colombia isn’t the cheapest country in the world to travel in, but it’s by no means the most expensive either – it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a long and fulfilling Colombia adventure on a basic travel budget. US$1000 can definitely be made to stretch to a month of travel, but it’s not that simple: so here are some tips to help you make the most of your Colombian travels with $1000 in your pocket.
$1000 in one month works out at a budget of just over $30 per day (which is, by most guidebook’s reckoning, a low-budget trip). At the current exchange rate, your entire trip budget would be in the region of 2.9 million Colombian pesos, or around 95,000 pesos per day. However, just because this seems like a difficult budget to stretch to 30 days of travel, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You simply need to be smarter about how you travel in Colombia.
In Colombia it tends to be the accommodation that eats into your daily budget the most – these days, what with Colombia’s tourism boom, a popular hostel in a backpacker town or city can easily set you back between $12-16 per night (up to half your allotted daily budget). In fact, in Cartagena or Medellin, the more popular backpacker hostels can be even pricier. However, there’s no need for despair: it’s easy to find more basic hostels at less than $10 per night, especially if you choose to visit more rural areas or lesser-visited cities. If you’re travelling in a couple, seriously consider checking out simple hotels instead of hostels: you get less service for your money, but a double room (often with air-con, Wi-Fi, TV etc.) is often less than a dorm bed in a fancy flashpacker hostel.
The other big expense in Colombia is travel – buses can be surprisingly expensive. One way to save money is to stick to night buses: you may be spending on the travel, but you’re saving a night’s accommodation in the process. Also, don’t dismiss air travel as a way of exploring Colombia – Viva Colombia is a budget airline which flies to most major cities and can often be cheaper than the bus, particularly if you’re prepared and book in advance.
Food isn’t really a challenge when it comes to budgeting in Colombia, but there are still ways to keep costs low. Try to choose hostels with breakfast included and, in the more expensive cities like Cartagena and Bogota, pick one with a kitchen as well. By making sure that at least one of your meals is cooked by yourself (using produce from local markets), you can keep food costs lower. For lunch, it’s simple: you can find a hearty meal, with soup and juice included for as little as $2. It’s called a Menu del Dia, and all cities and towns have plenty of little restaurants offering them every day. Another top saving tip is harder to observe than you’d think: leave the hostel bar well alone! Prices are often inflated at these bars, and a few regular nights of drinking in the hostel can really eat into your budget. If you really want to get some beers, then consider hitting up a local tienda (small, shop-style bars).
The thing that’s most difficult in Colombia is traveling on a low budget and still being able to do activities and really experience the country. If you want to make $1000 stretch over a month then you can’t really afford to do the Lost City trek or an Amazon rainforest tour (if things like these are essential to you, then it’s going to have to be a 2-3 week trip). If you are really saving on food and accommodation, then you should have around $10-15 available per day for activities.
Luckily, this is easily enough to have a great time in Colombia. Trips like the Cocora Valley hike or a coffee tour can be done on a shoestring budget, as can classic activities like tubing in Palomino, taking a graffiti tour in Bogota, or a city tour in Medellin. Budgeting is important, but there’s no point in being in Colombia for a month if you can’t afford to do anything most of the time. The good news is that if you are careful with your money in other areas, then you can have an amazing experience in Colombia, doing something new every day, on $1000 for a month.