February Update: Exploring Colombia (Kind Of)

We left our Medellin apartment a few weeks ago and began our travels around Colombia. It started well with trips to the quiet villages of Jardin and Salento set amongst green hills in the coffee region, where we did some challenging but fun hikes and horse rides. When we reached the busy capital Bogota, two and a half days spent on cramped buses on windy mountain roads began to take it’s toll. To make matters worse we struggled to find an affordable private room – the hostels only had dorms available and after a frustrating day knocking on doors we were stuck with a very overpriced, rather depressing hotel. This and the cold Bogota nights convinced us to leave the city after a few days and saving ourselves 20 hours of bus time, fly to the coast. We did enjoy wandering around the vibrant, student filled streets of La Candelaria though – Bogota’s colonial area with attractive architecture, colourful graffiti and cool cafes.

Our luck didn’t improve in Santa Marta. At the airport we were ripped off by a taxi driver, refused to pay the extra charge and were followed around by him threatening to call the police on us. We gave in and paid, but it was a rather upsetting incident and we lost our trust in people somewhat. Finding a place to stay was the next challenge – again all the reasonably priced, recommended hostels were booked and the affordable hotel we found was not somewhere we wanted to spend another night. Colombia just isn’t compatible with our budget, and as the beaches seemed too crowded for our tastes, we decide to move on to our final stop: Cartagena.

The constant accommodation hunt was getting depressing and the colonial city of Cartagena is probably the most expensive destination in Colombia. We decided to blow the budget and treat ourselves to a boutique hotel with a pool. Relaxing in the sun was just what we needed, and we love wandering around the old city. Still, we can’t keep spending at this rate so tomorrow we are flying to Panama. Just four days before our one year travel anniversary we’ll be leaving South America behind.

Never Ending Voyage Around The Web

Here’s where we appeared in the last month.

I wrote my first hostel review for the South America Tourist site – read about La Serrana Eco Farm and Hostel in Salento.

My guest post 7 Compelling Reasons to Visit the Cook Islands was published on Gap Year Escape.

We had the pleasure of meeting the mother and son travelling team Lainie and Miro from Raising Miro in Medellin. We had lunch with a group of travellers and Miro surprised us with some interview questions. Here’s the resulting podcast (we had some questions for him too).

Andrea the Vagabond linked to a couple of our posts in her post 5 More South American Travel Ideas.

Digital Nomad Update

Simon has taken a well deserved break from web design, although quite a few enquiries have come in so he’ll be back on it soon.

Don’t forget travel insurance for your trip! We use and recommend True Traveller, which is the best option we’ve found for UK and EU residents. For everyone else, World Nomads is a great choice. 

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24 thoughts on February Update: Exploring Colombia (Kind Of)

  1. Thanks for the mention. Sorry to hear you didn’t have much luck in your travels around Colombia. At least you’re flexible enough to change your plans when you have to. Where are you heading to after South America?

    • Yes we are lucky to have that flexibility. WE are heading to Central America today, and we’ll be there until June when we go to Vancouver for the TBEX conference.

  2. Sorry to hear that Columbia is so expensive, who would’ve thought! I hope you’ll be luckier in Panama, although, we met some people who came from there who said it was not cheaper than Costa Rica and we’re blowing our budget here at the moment… You might be quicker in Nicaragua than you think 😉

    • Yes, I think it’s the most expensive country we’ve been in South America except for Brazil. I have heard that Panama is cheaper but looking at the prices of accommodation I’m not so sure. At least there is Nicaragua!

  3. I’m sorry that happened to you, but this is what teaches people to make reservations ahead of time. I wouldn’t think it would be necessary for a hostel if you were willing to stay in a dorm, but I’m not surprised that it’s necessary if you want a private room.

    Colombia has really taken off in the last 10 years as a tourist destination, and it’s showing.


    • The problem is, we usually don’t know when we are leaving until the day before. I did try emailing some places in Bogota and Santa Marta a few days in advance but they were booked up and there was nowhere else that stood out as being a good place to stay. In those situations we prefer to look around, which has worked for us everywhere else in South America.

      I think the problem is that Colombia has really taken off as a tourist destination but as it’s fairly recent it doesn’t have the amount of hostels to handle it.

      • Ah ok I understand, well not your fault then.

        Yes, I would actually expand that from hostels to include pretty much everything: the infrastructure in Colombia isn’t set up to handle the volume of tourists they’re getting, the whole country is ill-prepared for it. Which, of course, isn’t their fault, they were very rapidly vaulted out of decades of crime, poverty, and political and economic instability into the position of the 2nd(? – I think…) most prosperous country in Latin America next to Brazil.


  4. Since we’re heading there in 2 months it’s good to know that hostels do get booked up (we weren’t planning to book ahead in advance except for our very first city – Cartagena). Do you know if this time of the year coincides with their high season as well? Maybe that could also partly explains why the accommodation’s so scarce?

    • High season is December and January, so I imagine in a few months it will be quieter. Cartagena and Bogota seem to be the most expensive, booked up places so you may want to reserve for them. It could also be that we were in Bogota on a weekend.

      • Yea, I think your timing is playing a big part with the hostel situation. It’s the end of Summer in Colombia, which is the best (driest) time to visit if you’re from the northern hemisphere.

        What you said about the rise in tourism is certainly a factor too. I bet more people are using online reservation sites as well, especially if they’re on a shorter trip, so they can book in advance.

        If I’m concerned about finding a place to stay, I’ll usually check Hostelworld.com in advance to get a feel for availability. I’ve used them a few times to lock in rooms with a deposit too. It doesn’t cost a lot, but sometimes I like the security of knowing there’s a cheap bed waiting for me in a new town.

  5. Colombia was definitely a hit to my budget as well. I was able to keep it to 30/day but I had to be really careful with my money.

    Panama was cheap for me, I skipped through Costa Rica and Nicaragua is amazing and so affordable.

  6. So sorry to hear about your unfortunate events. We travelers definitely experience super highs and super lows. Sad you’re leaving SA, but CA is just as special!!! Buen viaje!

  7. Wow, I never imagined Colombia would be so expensive! I wish you luck on your journey and pray you find easier days ahead. It would just be amazing to be where you are right now, just keep in mind how lucky you and your wife are to be able to do this, even if you have a budget. Enjoy it! And keep sharing, I love to hear about the experience!

  8. Perfect timing – I spent a wonderful trip to Panama last year and the experience is spectacular! I was at Bocas Del Toro for three nights we went hiking, biking and surfing at Isla Colon. You should also try to visit Bastimentos Island before you decide to hop to another place. Here’s a great guide to Bocas Del Toro – http://bocastravel.com/

    I hope you enjoy your vacation despite a bad start 🙂

  9. Hi, I found your blog by chance after googling for something related to Colombia.We are headed there in a months time and can fully appreciate your comments on how expensive it is. I too am shocked by the prices of the hotels which I can partly stems from more demand and less supply.

    Could you suggest which areas in Bogota and Cartegena are best for spending a few nights including any suggestions you have on hotels etc.

    Enjoy your travels


    • We liked the Candelaria area of Bogota and the old town in Cartagena but we can’t really recommend particular hotels as we struggled to find good options. We ended up paying $100 a night in Cartagena for a hotel called Don Pedro de Heredia, but it was way over our budget. If you can afford it it is lovely and in a good location.

  10. Reading your post from our apartment in Medellin. Sorry to hear about your experiences with the cab driver – luckily so far we’ve had good experiences here in Medellin. Looking forward to exploring more while we’re here.

  11. The coastal cities are definitely what I am after, in Colombia. I have never been – but really excited to visit.
    I’m think I am going to use the hostel options in the local areas. Cheaper and we get to meet other similar-minded people. Win-win to me 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story!

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