Spending Like a Drunken Sailor… And Getting Change Back!

I noted in my first article on super cheap trips how I arrived at my choice to visit Bogota, Colombia in part because round trip flights to there were so ridiculously cheap.

Having now completed that trip, it isn’t just the flights that are ridiculously cheap. Everything there is so inexpensive it’s a little hard to imagine.

My friend and I landed and we each exchanged US$300 into Colombian Pesos. That gave us each COP$828,000 for five days.

For any self-respecting vacation in the US, Europe or most islands in the Caribbean, that would not be nearly enough to last five days. In some places it might not even last one day.

Between us, we arrived with one medium-large carry-on and we each had one average sized checked bag. Plus, inside one of the checked bags was an empty collapsible duffle bag that we intended to fill with souvenirs to bring home.

For five days we roamed the streets of Bogota spending like drunken sailors, eating like kings, taking guided tours and generally living the good life.

There were times when I know for certain that we were being charged “American” prices; usually 50%-100% above normal simply because we were seen as being rich gringos. Other times I suspected we might be getting charged extra but didn’t know it for certain.

Even then, I usually just let it go. These were hard working shopkeepers and business people trying to make a living. They weren’t “cheating” me; I retained my choice to buy what they had to offer or not buy it.

Sometimes I walked away. Or negotiated. Other times, I let them have their little victory. Especially when the deal I got felt like a victory to me too.

We filled that extra duffle bag plus bought extra items that had to be crammed into every pocket and available space of our other bags. Every one of our bags was practically bursting its seams.

Items stuffed inside of shoes, clothing rolled tightly for maximum compactness… every ninja packing trick I know was utilized to its fullest.

Five days later, back at the airport getting ready to come back home we still had COP$531,000 between us that didn’t get spent.

So the cost for airfare and lodging for two people was $791. (This also included an extra day in Panama.) Our cost for taxis, meals, tours, entertainment, souvenirs, drinks, incidentals, tips, ice cream, pastries, Colombian coffee and chocolate to smuggle back — everything — was around $460.

That’s for two people for five days.

Pina Colada on Vera Cruz beach in Panama

Pina Colada on Vera Cruz beach in Panama

Even sitting on the beach during our extra “free” day in Panama, I enjoyed tacos for $1.25 each and a freshly made piña colada for $5 then swam in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean for free.

Because that’s just how I roll when I’m on vacation.

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