Budget Breakdown: Colombia

Colombia. Just the name evokes strong emotions, good and bad. For travelers who have been there in recent times Colombia often tops their list of favorite places in South America, if not the world. For your Aunt Ester, Colombia means cocaine crazed gangsters passing out Colombian Neckties with FARC rebels kidnapping everyone in sight.

The truth is mixed. Palmira and Cali are still in the top 10 for most murders in the world but the violence is way down from the civil war period in the 1940s and 50s and the drug wars of the 1980s and 90s. While cocaine is still a part of Colombia, it was more prevalent in Peru and Bolivia in my experience. However, I’m with most of the backpackers, Colombia is an amazing country and I’m counting the days until I can return someday.

One of the marvelous things about Colombia is the price. Thankfully most American and Canadian tourists haven’t discovered Colombia yet so prices remain low. Unfortunately, I spent just six days in Colombia, all in Cali. Let’s look at the numbers:


Due to the fact that it was the end of my South American leg and that I met some very cool other travelers, I really enjoyed the nightlife. I spent $32 on beer, or $5.33 per day. Beer costs $1-$2 per bottle at most places.

I spent $30 on accommodation ($5 per day (PD)), which included five nights in a hostel and one night on a red eye flight. Although it was a six-bed dorm, it felt like a private room as I bunked with three other travelers I had met on a bus in Ecuador.

The next biggest cost was other which included a departure tax of $15 at the airport and a souvenir. I usually don’t buy souvenirs because I don’t want to carry them around but since I was going home for Christmas I did. Overall, I spent $24 ($4 PD).

I spent $20 on cabs ($3.33 PD) of which $15 came on the ride to the airport. That is another reason I hate to fly. The hidden cost of getting to and from the airports that are usually not close to the city center.

Oddly, I spent exactly $17 on lunch ($2.83 PD) and $17 on dinner while adding $2 on breakfast ($.33 PD) and $8 on snacks ($1.33 PD). The less than $6 a day average for breakfast, lunch and dinner combined may seem like I was starving myself but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I gorged myself several days and could have got by on far less.

I also spent $2 on water ($.33 PD) and $3 dollars on tours ($.50).

Overall, in six days, I spent a total of $155 or an average of $25.83 per day.

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