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Travel money guide: Colombia

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.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Compare travel cards for Colombia

Rates last updated February 24th, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
0% of transaction value
$0
$10 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
2%
of transaction value
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
0% of transaction value
$0
Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.

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-rangeLuxury (High-end)
    to-sleepHostel 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

    Exchange rate history (USD to COP)

    USD to COP for the last 10 days

    Feb 14 Feb 15 Feb 16 Feb 17 Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Feb 22 Feb 23
    1 USD = 2869.0000 Inverse: 0.0003 2899.1597 Inverse: 0.0003 2835.5000 Inverse: 0.0004 2835.5000 Inverse: 0.0004 2899.1597 Inverse: 0.0003 2817.4603 Inverse: 0.0004 2861.5000 Inverse: 0.0003 2899.1597 Inverse: 0.0003 2859.0000 Inverse: 0.0003 2844.0000 Inverse: 0.0004

    USD to COP for the last 10 months

    Apr 2017 May 2017 Jun 2017 Jul 2017 Aug 2017 Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017 Dec 2017 Jan 2018
    1 USD = 2899.1597 Inverse: 0.0003 2911.5000 Inverse: 0.0003 3021.0667 Inverse: 0.0003 3017.3900 Inverse: 0.0003 2924.2500 Inverse: 0.0003 2899.1597 Inverse: 0.0003 2952.4000 Inverse: 0.0003 2976.3000 Inverse: 0.0003 2963.5500 Inverse: 0.0003 2817.4603 Inverse: 0.0004
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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 optionProsCons
    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 Card 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 Card gave him the benefit of no annual fee or foreign transaction 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 Card 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
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info

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