The current rate (17 November 2019) of COP (Colombian peso) is: 1 EUR = 3810 COP, 1 USD = 3447 COP. 1 Colombian peso = 100 centavo
The symbol for COP is $, what looks very similar (or identical?) to the USD’s sign $. Some taxi scammers use this similarity to trick unexperienced tourists, so be careful when paying with a credit card (not only in the taxi) and check not only the sign but also double-check the currency.
We were surprised to find out that almost all local ATMs charged quite high commission (between 2 and 4 EUR) for the money withdrawal from a German credit card. The only ATMs without commission were the ones from BBVA bank.
Power plug adapter
In Colombia, the power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 110 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. Thus, if you live in Europe, you will definitely need a power plug adapter for your trip to Colombia.
Choosing a sim card
In Colombia, there are about five famous mobile network operators: Claro, Movistar, Tigo, Avantel, Virgin Mobile. You can buy prepaid Claro, Movistar and Tigo sim cards at about any supermarket or also at the airport at your arrival. We have used Claro during our stay.
I have written about safety in Colombia here.
Colombian cuisine is very diverse and varies from region to region and is influenced by indigenous Colombian, Spanish, and African cuisines. But one thing is sure: Colombia is definitely not a paradise for vegetarians as the Colombian diet includes a lot of meat. Some of the dishes we tried are listed below:
- Arepa is a flat, round patty made of maize flour that can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed. The arepa is Colombian iconic food and can be prepared in about 75 different forms. According to a study conducted by the Colombian Academy of Gastronomy, “The arepa is part of our cultural heritage and can be considered a symbol of national gastronomic unity.”
- Bandeja Paisa is the national dish of Colombia. A crazy mixture of food on one plate, it consists of grilled steak, fried pork rind, chorizo sausages, on a bed of rice and red beans that is then topped with a fried egg and a side of sliced avocado and sweet banana chips. I can’t say it was my favorite, but it is worth at least a try.
- Empanadas are a stuffed fried pastry that can either be sweet or savory (filled with beef, chicken and/or cheese as well as with rice and coriander). That was usually our “meal on the bus” at you can buy empanadas in abundance at the bus stations.
- Sancocho is a Colombian soup which includes chicken, plantains, yucca, cilantro, corn, and potatoes.
- Patacones is a typical Colombian side dish made of green plantains squashed into thick pancakes that are deep fried in vegetable oil until golden brown.
- Yuca (or manioc or cassava), cut in pieces and deep fried is also a popular side dish in Colombia.
- Coconut rice or arroz con coco is a typical side dish for fish in Colombia, especially on its Carribean coast. It is made of white rice cooked with coconut milk and combined with shredded coconut meat, water, salt, raisins, and sugar.
Fruit: Colombia is a paradise for the fruit-lovers. When visiting a local market, you will find several sorts of bananas and mangos. However, we would recommend you to also try exotic tropical fruit such as pitaya (or dragon fruit), carambola (or starfruit), lulo (naranjilla), soursop (or guanábana), tree tomato (tamarillo or tomate de árbol), granadilla and guava. You can also try many of the fruit in as juice in local cafes or restaurants. Information about more exotic fruit of Colombia and their characteristics you can find here: https://medellinliving.com/22-exotic-tropical-fruits/.
When you travel to Colombia one of your dreams is most probably to taste authentic Colombian coffee which is known for its quality and distinct flavor. Though much of the world’s quality coffee beans come from Colombia, many Colombians still drink instant coffee rather than brewed. It is partly explained by the fact that the best coffee is being exported. Instant coffee is called “tinto”, meaning black coffee with white sugar or unrefined whole cane sugar (“panela”). on the side.
You can find local brewed coffee in Juan Valdez cafes, which we called Colombian Starbucks, as they can be found in almost every city, they are rather expensive and offer plenty of different coffee to go can be served there in brand-imprinted cups.
From the local stronger drinks we only tried aguardiente, which is translated from Spanish called “firewater” and contains between 29% and 60% alcohol by volume. It can be fruit- or grain-based. In Colombia, aguardiente is anise-flavored liqueur derived from the sugar cane which has 24%–29% alcohol content. It is usually drunk neat, not in the cocktails.
Michelada, I would say, was our favorite: it is a light alcoholic beverage made with beer, lime or lemon juice, chili-based sauce and spices. It is served chilled, in a salt-rimmed glass. Very savory and refreshing in summer.
Solo woman traveler
We met several girls traveling alone who mentioned that they are coping perfectly fine with their solo travels through Colombia. However, from my personal experience, while walking alone on the streets as a white blond woman I got much more attention than when I was walking on the side of my husband.
Street cats and dogs are not uncommon in Colombia. However, they are usually not big in size and were not perceived by us as aggressive or suffering from illness or hunger. Many hostels we stayed in had at least two dogs (which can be very loud at night).
It is important to get used to not throwing toilet paper (or any other objects) in the toilet, as the water is plumbed to the systems not intended to handle paper.