My mom and I flew roundtrip from San Francisco to Bogota for about $310 on United. No complaints. The trip was about 9 hours long.
Day 1: TRAVEL DAY
On day one, we arrived in Bogota near midnight and got a cab to our hostel.
Airport Cab Tip: In the terminal, search for the cab service counter. In this place you should give the address of where you are going, and the person at the counter will give you a paper with the information for the cab driver and the price you should pay for the trip. The price is $20,000 Colombian pesos (about USD$12). Dont pay more than the fare on the paper. Call your hostel if there is pushback.
We stayed at Kozii Hostel D.C. It was a cute & cozy place, but a little out of the hustle and bustle. I'd recommend staying closer to Zona T or Zona Rosa. We paid $105 USD for three nights.
A few notes about the city...Zona G, Zona Rosa, Chapinero, and Calle 70 are all considered safe. That was definitely our experience. You might not want to be around Calle 60, Carrera 7, or the Candalaria at night.
Day 2: BOGOTA
We used this day just to explore the city by foot. It was a Sunday, and museums are free in Colombia on Sundays, so we went to both The Gold Museum and The Botero Museum. Botero is a must, Gold you could skip.
We also explored the Candalaria, which was interesting and definitely safe enough in the daytime for two women, but probably the sketchiest part of Colombia we saw.
Day 3: BOGOTA
Today was our day to visit the Monserrate, aka the mountain in the middle of Bogota. I cant recommend this experience enough, simply for the cable car ride experience and the views of the city.
We followed this up with some exploring of the Zona T, a trendy area with shops, bars, and restaurants. This is Colombia trendy, not LA trendy. I think I would have liked to stay in this area.
For our last hurray, we "went out" to the famous multi-level Andres. It's very Senor Frogs, but the Colombians are quite proud of it. Definitely check it out for the massive menu and fun drinks. I heard from friends that Theatron was a fun place to go out, too!
Day 4: MEDELLIN
We flew to Medellin around 4 pm. The one-way, one-hour flight was $50 each on Avianca. No complaints.
Note that there are two airports in Medellin, one smaller inside the city and one larger one an hour outside. We flew into the farther, larger one and got a cab into the city.
For housing, we stayed at the Poblado Park Hostel, which was about $100 for three nights. We loved the location, but disliked how young and noisy the crowd was. Hostels are a very different experience when you're traveling with your mom - shocker!
Day 5: MEDELLIN
One of our favorite things we did in Colombia was the Real City Walking Tour in Medellin. You will see most of the biggest sites this way, it is free, and so informative and fun.
Tour Tip: Allow about half a day and wear comfy shoes
After the tour, we rode the city's famous Metro Cable Cars up to Parque Arvi, which sits on top of the city. One hundred percent recommend the cable cars, but only halfway up. No need to go all the way to Parque Arvi, in my opinion.
Other sites and activities recommended by friends. We only made it to the first two via our walking tour:
- Parque Lleras
- Plaza Botero
- Coffee Tours & Barista Workshop
- Toucan Cafe: http://bit.ly/245vhQg
- Biblioteca Espana
- Museo de Arte Moderno (MAMM)
- Café Pergamino
- Salsa dancing
And some restaurant recommendations from friends:
- Carmen: You can order ostrich here & apparently it's pretty good
- Mondongos or Tres Tipicos: Traditional Colombian Food
- San Carbon: Good steak
Day 6: MEDELLIN
Escobar & The Rock Tour. Just do it. This was hands down our favorite day in Colombia. You will get:
- Transportation to & from
- Jeep 4x4 ride up to one of Pablo's "country homes"
- Lunch inside
- Tour of the property
- Boat ride to Guatape
- Transportation to El Penon
- Sunset lookout
- A bunch of foreign friends!
We booked this tour through our hostel on the day we showed up, so no need to book in advance. I think it was about $40/person.
At night, we met our friends from the tour at the Happy Buddha Hostel for Ladies Night, then went out to a Colombian dance club. Latino pop is life.
Day 7: SANTA MARTA
I had a raging hangover the next day and a 9 am flight to catch. WOULD NOT recommend. My mom literally just laughed at me.
We took a one-hour flight to Cartagena (CTG) on LAN for $51. From there, we took a tiny little Marsol bus from the outskirts of town to Santa Marta. The bus took four hours and cost $20 each. The bus system was really pretty archaic and a little sketchy-seeming, but we got to our destination in one piece with all of our luggage.
We were only stopping over in Santa Marta on our way to Tayrona, but we had an amazing hostel called the Masaya. It was $47 for the night, but truly luxurious for a hostel. Totally recommend.
Day 8: TAYRONA
In the morning, we took a public bus to Tayrona. It was a strange as it sounds. But $3.50 for a one hour trip is very economical, and again, we arrived intact.
Getting to Tayrona Tip: The trick is to have your accommodations in Tayrona written down on a piece of paper, along with any instructions the owner can provide, in Spanish. Give this paper to the bus driver and preferably use what little Spanish you have to confirm he knows where to drop you. You can follow along on your iPhone GPS, because even without wifi, the satellites pick you up. Just make sure to pin your destination while in wifi!
Our driver knew where we were going, since the Playa Pikua Ecolodge is right next to a very popular hostel. You recognize the stop by the motortaxi's waiting alongside the road.
We loved our little ecolodge in Tayrona, after getting used to the open air nature of the place. It has very cool, minimalist, romantic vibes (hi mom). It's super private, with only three huts total, but located right between two hostels that have a vibrant traveler scene, so there are friends and food nearby.
For three nights, we paid $252 total.
Day 9: TAYRONA
Since it's a little tougher to stay inside the park, we opted for accomodations a few miles away. To actually get into Tayrona National Park, we grabbed a motortaxi to the entrance.
Tayrona Tip: You MUST bring your passport to get in! Bonus points for your student ID, which will get you a discounted entrance fee.
The park entrance fee in 2016 was $19 + $1 shuttle to where you begin walking. You can walk, motorcycle, or take a horse all the way through.
It's about a 10-mile walk in and out, but in about 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. We wore super loose comfortable clothes & tennis shoes, stuffing food, water, money, swimsuits, & towels into our backpacks. Dont forget sunscreen!
Day 10: TAYRONA
Finally, a day to rest. We had breakfast on our porch, then I did beach yoga at the hostel next door, fell asleep in a hammock reading my book, and tanned on the sand while meditating to a Tara Brach podcast.
A day of rest is essential for me when traveling for multiple weeks. This was truly my day to find the blue sky in Colombia.
Day 11: CARTAGENA
Back to Cartagena! Playa Pikua booked us a shuttle back to Santa Marta for $3.50 each. From there, we got on a bus to Cartagena for $17 each. We arrived in Cartagena after dark, so this was a full day of traveling.
We stayed at El Viajero Hostel in Old Town Cartagena. We thought this was a great hostel for travelers. Note that the AC shuts off during the day, so you cant hang out in the rooms. Which is tough in Cartagena, where the humidity is always about 80-90%
For two nights, we paid $116 total.
Some advice I recieved when picking a place to stay:
- Stay in Old Town or Getsemani
- Try for Baru
- Avoid Bocagrande
Day 12: CARTAGENA
We only had one full day in Cartagena regrettably. We started with a free walking tour through Old City, then wandered around on our own for the day.
We ended the night at Cafe Havana, a famous Cuban music club with live salsa dancing. It was a blast, but neither of us could stay out very long. We were tired from our travels.
I would have loved to have another day here to explore the nearby islands. I heard Playa Blanca and Rosaria Beach were lovely.
A couple other sites & activities to possibly check out:
- Castillo de San Felipe
- Castle Federale
- Mud Volcano Bath
And a few restaurant recommendations I collected:
- Don Juan: Probably the best value meal we had in all of South America
- Alma: On the fancier side
- Cevicheria: If you like ceviche, this is the spot!
- Cafe Abacoba: Cool cafe
Day 13: TRAVEL DAY
We flew home at 2 pm. We took a taxi from our hostel to the airport. Flights from Cartagena to San Francisco were about $421 per person, with a quick stop in Ft. Lauderdale. I slept the full six hours from Florida to California.
- Estimate: $777
- Actual: $833
- Estimate: $240
- Actual: $311
- Estimate: $180 (12 days x $15/day)
- Actual: N/A
- Estimate: Idk, not that much!
- Total: N/A
- Estimate: $1,197
- Actual: ~$1,244
For the long & involved on each of the cities we visited, check out the full length post for each below:
Bonus Extra: Happy Travel: Colombia Packing List
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