Travel money guide for Colombia | finder.com

Travel money guide: Colombia

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The insider’s guide to travel money for Colombia

Colombians have a saying: “No dar papaya”, translated as “don’t let anyone take advantage of you.” Whether you’re walking the street of Bogota or exploring the Colombian Caribbean, know the best ways to use your travel money. Read our guide to save on fees and avoid getting taken for a ride by your bank when you travel to Columbia.

Our pick for use in Colombia: Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • Earn 7x Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
  • Earn 5x Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3x Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
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Compare travel cards for Colombia

When planning your trip to Colombia, take a look at your credit cards. Do you have one that’s good for travel? If you don’t, consider a travel credit card that offers rewards and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Updated December 11th, 2018
Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
None
$0
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
None
$250
See Rates & Fees
50,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & Fees
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$550
None (Charge Card)
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & Fees
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$95
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Enjoy a $0 annual fee on the first year and earn up to 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases. Rates & Fees
None
$195
16.99% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% foreign exchange fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    Who much should I budget to travel to Columbia?

    In a country where it costs a couple of pesos for a bed, you’ll have plenty of money to travel around the country. Travel in Columbia is very cheap for Americans, and you could survive on just a few dollars a day. Even the most luxurious vacation can be done for under $100 a day.

    Budget (Cheap) Mid-range Luxury (High-end)
    to-sleep Hostel dorm beds per night

    $1–$5

    Hotel rooms per night

    $8

    Hostel private rooms per night (based on double occupancy)

    $8–$34

    street food

    Arepa con queso, boiled/salted potatoes, fresh sliced mango street food

    $1

    Full meals including a meat (chicken) with small side (potatoes, french fries), hot dogs, hamburgers

    $2–$4

    • Typical set lunch (soup, meat, side of potatoes, rice or beans) with fresh fruit juice
      $2–$6
    • Dinner (appetizer, entree) at a restaurant in a touristy area (or Zona Rosa)
      $8–$13
    bus

    City buses

    $.50–$.75

    City taxi (metered, average distance)

    $1.50–$4

    • Regional (inter-city) buses:
      $3–$15 for up to a few hours.
    • $30 to go 8–12 hours between major cities like Bogota, Cali, Medellin and Cartagena
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    What is the best way to take money to Colombia?

    If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, it pays to do your research before you leave. Colombian pesos (COP) are the currency of the Republic of Colombia and the only currency accepted in Colombian towns and cities.

    Credit, debit and travel money cards are accepted in fewer places than the US and ATMs are expensive to use, so compare travel money options and apply for the product that’s going to let you withdraw cash for less.

    Travel money options for Colombia at a glance

    Travel money option Pros Cons
    Travel prepaid cards
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Multiple supported currencies
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Ideal for managing your travel budget
    • No prepaid travel money cards that let you load and spend COP
    • May charge currency conversion fees, ATM withdrawal fees and local ATM operator fee
    Debit cards
    • Security with chip and PIN
    • Direct access to money
    • Save on overseas ATM fee when you withdraw
    • $0 account keeping fees if you deposit the minimum requirement
    • Unlimited free withdrawals at selected banks
    • No American card holds the Columbian peso
    • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
    Credit cards
    • Some credit cards waive overseas ATM fee
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Features such as complimentary travel insurance and reward points earning
    • Cash advance fees
    • Higher spending limit
    Travelers Checks
    • Acceptance
    • Security
    • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
    • Not all merchants accept travelers checks
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • Difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How different travel money products work in Colombia

    Using a travel money card

    There are some restrictions to use travel cards in Columbia, including:

    • Currency conversion fees. There are no prepaid travel money cards that let you load and spend COP. This means you’ll be charged a currency conversion of 3% every time you use the card to make a purchase in Colombia. Travel card foreign currency exchange rates are also often worse than Mastercard and Visa debit and credit card rates. You’ll also incur an ATM withdrawal fee as well as the local ATM operator fee when you withdraw COP from a Colombian ATM.

    Using a debit card in Colombia

    It’s good to have cash when you’re traveling in Columbia. Keeping a debit card is handy because you’ll have access to your cash each time you come across an ATM. Compare debit cards based on if it waives the currency conversion fee and international ATM withdrawal fees.

    • Tip: A debit card can be used to shop over the counter, online and for ATM withdrawals in Colombia.

    Using a credit card

    Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted in Colombia, though you’ll find it difficult to make any online payments for reservations. Save money by finding a credit card that waives the foreign exchange fee. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

    Cash advance fees, interest charges, ATM charges and foreign currency conversion charges all apply when you withdraw cash on credit. As a general rule, credit cards should only be used for over-the-counter purchases.
    A couple of things to remember when you’re traveling in Colombia:

    • Número de cuotas. When the teller asks you “numero de cuotas?” they want to know how many months it will take to pay off the credit card transaction. For example if you make a $300 purchase and you ask for 10 months, you’re charged $30 a month in addition to any interest charges the credit card transaction accrues each month. One is always your answer.
    • Identification. It’s likely that you need to show photo identification, such as your passport, when you make an over-the-counter credit card payment. In most cases anything with your picture and your name will be enough to prove you’re the cardholder.

    Credit cards to consider

    Using cash in Columbia

    You’ll have a tough time using your credit card off the beaten track so make sure you have cash if you plan on visiting small towns. For example taxis, tiendas esquina (corner shops), and tiendas baratera (discount shops) and cafeterias don’t take cards.

    Using an ATM

    In the big cities such as Bogota, Medellin (pronounced Med-e-jin), Cali, Ibague, Cartagena and Barranquilla, ATMs and banks are everywhere. Keep in mind that if you need to see a teller, the lines can get be long.

    Here’s what to know about using an ATM in Colombia.

    • Security. ATMs are usually inside a small room behind a locked door adjacent to the street. If the ATM is attached to a bank, security guards stand right outside during business hours and your hotel may even be able to arrange an armed escort if you plan on withdrawing a large amount of cash.
    • ATM limits. The maximum withdrawal is lower for foreign cards — most Colombian banks let you withdraw up to 600,000 pesos at a time (about $200). Banks vary their limits foreign cards, usually displayed on the ATM welcome screen. Citi has the highest ATM withdrawal limit — but also with the highest fees.
    • Fees. You’ll pay international ATM fees for mostccash withdrawal in Colombia. Some ATMs tell you how much they charge, but some claim it’s not available. They vary between 6,000 and 9,000 pesos ($2–$3) per withdrawal.
    • Language. Banco de Bogotá, BanColombia and Banco de Occidente ATMs are Spanish only. Davivienda gives you the option of selecting English after you insert your card.
    • Donations. You’re given the option of making a donation to Colombian charities when you make an ATM withdrawal. You have a couple of options for how much you’d like to donate. Press no if philanthropy isn’t your thing.

    An expat in Medellin

    twomen_columbia_Shutterstock
    David took an English teaching position in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city. Before he started work, he spent a month traveling around Antioquia (Medellin is the capital of Antioquia). David based himself in Medellin and traveled by bus to the popular tourist spots: Laguna de Guatape, Santa Fe and Turbo.

    Which cards did you take with you?
    David says he took the Simmons Visa® and the Bank of America debit card to Colombia. As part of his contract, he was issued a debit card with Bancolombia debit card.

    Why did you take these cards?
    He says the Simmons Visa® gave him the benefit of no annual fee. The thing he liked the most is that it offers a low APR. He knew on his small salary, he wouldn’t be able to pay off his card in full each month if he had to pay for any emergencies. His Bank of America debit card was the bank he had at home. He was able to use this card in Columbia, but he had to pay fees each time he withdrew money. It was good to have access to his bank back home and to transfer money to his Bancolombia debit card once he started work.

    Where could you use your cards?
    David says he used his Simmons Visa® and never had a problem. When he bought beers from the local corner shop, he had to pay cash. He also had to pay cash when he purchased his bus ticket to Laguna de Guatape, Santa Fe and Turbo. The tickets were $10–$30 for each.

    What about ATM withdrawals?
    He used his Bank of America card to withdraw from ATMs. He paid the ATM operator fee of a couple of dollars each time he made a withdrawal and was pulling out about $200 per transaction. He stuck to ATMs attached to banks and never had a problem.

    What’s your travel money recommendation?
    Don’t cary too much cash around with you. Like anywhere else you travel, thieves look for tourists as targets. It’s best to have a variety of money options, and to leave some card in your hotel room safe just in case.

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    A guide to Colombian pesos

    Colombian pesos come in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 banknotes. Battered and worn 1,000 pesos notes are accepted by vendors within reason.

    colombian peso

    Foreign exchange and changing cash

    COP is the national currency of the Republic of Colombia, though Colombian pesos are not the same as Mexican pesos. COP is a volatile currency and exchange rates may change marginally during your trip.

    You can get your money changed at a bank or at a dedicated money changer. Banks are everywhere and money changers are found in a shopping centers in all Colombian capital cities.

    Foreign exchange offices have a cap on the amount of money you can change at a time. Brush up on some basic Spanish to ask about how much money you can change in one go.

    ¿Cuál es el máximo? – What is the maximum?

    Don’t be a papaya!

    Avoid being an easy target for thieves by showing some common sense and keeping your valuables on hand at all times.

    • Don’t leave your cellphone on the table when you’re at a bar or restaurant.
    • Keep a sharp eye on your bags — thieves are crafty and can switch one of your bags with a dummy bag in half a second.
    • Only carry what you need when you leave your hotel or hostel.
    • Aguardente is the local spirit and one of the most popular drinks. Don’t drink too much, it can sneak up on you.
    • Carry identification with you at all times. Police will often stop locals and tourists randomly to check for weapons and drugs.

    Colombia is safer than most people think it is. The civil war is all but finished and the dark days of Colombia’s history are just that: history.

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    Find cheap travel insurance options for your next trip to Colombia

    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info

    Frequently asked questions

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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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    4 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      NetteOctober 9, 2018

      Where in the US can I exchange US dollars for COP pesos?

      • finder Customer Care
        nikkiangcoOctober 10, 2018Staff

        Hi Nette,

        Thanks for your inquiry and for visiting finder.

        You can buy Colombian Pesos from your local bank though you may not receive the best exchange rates. You can also opt to exchange your USD when you get to Colombia at the airport or from reputable foreign currency exchange stores.

        As per our page, it says, “The price in US dollars will be dependent on the exchange rate offered by the provider, so it is important to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal. These exchange rates change daily, so be sure to do a comparison on the day that you’re planning to buy the currency. It’s also important to check what, if any, transaction fees the provider charges since this will greatly impact the price you pay.”

        Here is a helpful page about buying foreign currency. You can find more ways to spend in Colombia aside from cash.

        Hope this helps! For any clarifications, feel free to message us again.

        Cheers,
        Nikki

    2. Default Gravatar
      ZahavaApril 2, 2018

      Can an I exchange US dollars for COP in any bank in Colmbia?

      • finder Customer Care
        JoshuaApril 2, 2018Staff

        Hi Zahava,

        Thanks for getting in touch with finder.

        Yes, it is possible for you to exchange US dollars for COP in a bank in Colombia. However, you need to realize that it is not the primary function of a bank to exchange currencies. Thus, your transaction may be longer than you expect or you will be charged with higher fees.

        Other possible alternatives are going to a money changer or currency exchange office.

        I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

        Have a wonderful day!

        Cheers,
        Joshua

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