Backpacking Colombia on a Budget: Top Tips for Thrifty Travelers

Backpacking Colombia on a Budget: Top Tips for Thrifty Travelers

Backpacking through Colombia offers an enriching experience that combines breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cities, and a welcoming culture. For thrifty travelers, exploring this South American gem doesn’t have to break the bank. With careful planning and smart choices, you can enjoy the beauty and diversity of Colombia on a budget. Here are some top tips to help you navigate through this exhilarating journey without spending a fortune.

1. Travel During the Off-Peak Season

Like many destinations, Colombia has its peak and off-peak seasons. Prices for accommodation, tours, and flights can vary significantly during these periods. The off-peak season, typically between April to June and September to November, sees fewer tourists. This is when you can find better deals on accommodations and experiences. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also enjoy a more authentic experience with fewer crowds.

2. Use Public Transportation

Colombia’s public transportation system is both affordable and reliable. Long-distance buses connect major cities and towns, offering a budget-friendly alternative to internal flights. Within cities, metro systems (in Medellín), buses, and colectivos (shared taxis) provide inexpensive ways to get around. Embrace these local forms of transport not only to save money but also to immerse yourself in the daily life of Colombians.

3. Choose Budget Accommodations

Colombia offers a wide range of budget accommodations, from hostels to guesthouses (casas de huespedes). Staying in hostels is not only cost-effective but also provides opportunities to meet fellow travelers. Many hostels offer free breakfast and have kitchens where you can cook your meals, further reducing your costs. For a truly local experience, consider staying in a guesthouse. These accommodations are usually family-run and offer a more personal insight into Colombian culture.

4. Eat Like a Local

One of the joys of traveling in Colombia is the food. To keep your expenses low, eat where the locals eat. Street food, local eateries (fondas), and markets are great places to enjoy delicious and authentic Colombian dishes at a fraction of the cost of tourist-oriented restaurants. Don’t miss trying arepas, empanadas, and fresh tropical fruits. Additionally, many restaurants offer “menu del día” (menu of the day), which is a set meal that’s both affordable and filling.

5. Take Advantage of Free Activities

Colombia is rich in natural and cultural attractions, many of which can be enjoyed for free or a nominal fee. Explore the vibrant street art in Bogotá’s La Candelaria neighborhood, hike to stunning viewpoints, visit local markets, or relax on the beaches of the Caribbean coast. Many cities also offer free walking tours – a great way to learn about the history and culture while saving money.

6. Be Smart About Money

To avoid unnecessary fees, use ATMs sparingly and withdraw enough cash to last you several days. Inform your bank of your travel plans to prevent your card from being blocked for suspicious activity. Additionally, always have some cash on hand, as not all places accept credit cards, especially in remote areas.

7. Travel Light and Pack Wisely

Airlines, especially low-cost carriers, can have strict baggage policies. To avoid extra fees, travel light and only bring essentials. Make sure to pack versatile clothing suitable for Colombia’s diverse climates, a sturdy pair of walking shoes, and any necessary medications.

8. Learn Some Spanish

While you can find English speakers in major tourist areas, knowing basic Spanish will enhance your experience and can also save you money. Being able to communicate with locals can help you negotiate prices, find cheaper options, and avoid tourist traps. There are many free language learning apps and online resources to get you started.

Recreating the Experience

Backpacking through Colombia on a budget is an adventure that leaves lasting memories. To recreate the experience at home, consider hosting a Colombian-themed night. Cook some traditional Colombian dishes, play Colombian music, and share your travel stories and photos with friends and family. It’s a great way to relive the adventure and inspire others to explore this vibrant country.


Q: Is Colombia safe for backpackers?

A: Colombia has made significant strides in improving safety in recent years. However, like any travel destination, it’s important to stay informed, be mindful of your surroundings, and take standard safety precautions.

Q: What is the best way to get around Colombia?

A: Long-distance buses are the most cost-effective way to travel between cities. For shorter distances, local buses, metro systems (in Medellín), and colectivos are convenient and affordable.

Q: Can I drink the tap water in Colombia?

A: In major cities and many towns, the tap water is safe to drink. However, in rural areas or on the coast, it’s advisable to drink bottled or filtered water.

Q: Do I need a visa to visit Colombia?

A: Many nationalities can enter Colombia without a visa for short stays. However, visa requirements can change, so it’s always best to check the latest information from an official source before your trip.

By following these tips, backpacking through Colombia on a budget is not only possible but can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. With its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and warm hospitality, Colombia is a destination that captivates the heart of every traveler.

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