Traveling with Money in Colombia
One thing we always recommend to all of our travelers is to only carry the money you need for the day! As in every country of the world, there are pickpockets and other Bandidos in Colombia who for one reason or another believe they deserve your hard-earned money, phone, watch, or jewelry more than you do!
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A mistake made by many people is to convert their home currency into Colombian Pesos before traveling. They then bring all the cash they believe they’ll need for their vacation with them. This also is something that we recommend you do not do! There are many ATM machines that accept foreign debit cards throughout the cities and small towns of Colombia. You’ll also find that most cafes, restaurants, and retail stores will accept credit cards. Meaning unless you are going somewhere that only accepts cash, such as farmers or artisan markets, you can probably get away with only carrying $50,000 or $100,000 Colombian pesos on you at any time.
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Our suggestions for traveling with money in Colombia:
- Bring a small amount of your home currency for when you arrive back in your home country.
- Bring 2 ATM cards and 2 Credit cards. When leaving your hotel only take one of each out with you. This way if you lose your wallet, you still have your backup.
- Change a small amount in your home country into Colombian Pesos. $200,000 Colombian pesos (approx $50 USD) will easily be enough for food and extras for a day or so.
- Only carry the cash you’ll need for the day. Remember most cafes, restaurants, and retail shops will accept credit cards. But there are some which do only accept cash, so it’s always handy to have a small amount of pesos in small dominations for such an occasion. While you’re traveling with our guides, they will be paying the entrance fees, so you do not need cash for this.
- How much cash to carry? Assuming you are going somewhere you cannot use your debit or credit card we suggest carrying a maximum of $200,000 Colombian pesos. This is easy enough for some very nice meals and to purchase a souvenir or two. If you are going to a farmer’s or artisan market, you may wish to take more. Often you can also find an ATM machine close to these markets.
- Where to carry your cash? It’s a good idea to not keep all your cash in the same place. So perhaps put a little in a sock or separate it into different pockets, as well as in your wallet.
- Withdraw cash from an ATM during daylight hours. The safest places to do this are inside the airport or in a shopping center (Centro Comercial). And daylight hours are generally safer than nighttime, for obvious reasons.
- Always decline the exchange rate offered on the ATM when withdrawing cash. You’ll still withdraw your cash, but at your own bank exchange rate, which is always better!
- Check if there are any loose pieces on the ATM. If so, this could be a sign of tampering, and use another machine.
Colombia is not a country where tipping is expected. It is a country where tipping is hoped for, and very appreciated!
If you don’t tip you won’t receive worse service or bad looks!
- Tipping Guides. A tip of $50,000 pesos (per couple) is really good for a full-day tour. Especially if you feel you received great service and the guide is really knowledgeable. But with a tip of $20,000 pesos, a guide will also be happy and appreciative. It all depends on what you feel comfortable giving and is completely a personal decision. Having said this, sometimes our guides receive $100,000 or more for a tour when the travelers are exceptionally happy.
- Tipping Private Drivers. Much the same as with a guide, this is a personal decision, as to how happy you are with the service. As a guideline, we suggest $5,000-$10,000 for an airport or hotel pickup. And between $20,000 to $50,000 for a full day of service.
- Eating with the Team. When stopping for lunch during a tour the guide and/or driver will sit at another table unless you invite them to sit with you. Although they are sitting with you, you are not obligated to pay for their lunch, and they will not be offended if you ask for a separate bill. Having said this, it is quite common for our travelers to invite and pay for the lunch of our team members. But this is a completely personal decision.
- Restaurants/Cafes. 10-15% is generally very acceptable and appreciated.
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