Colombia

The Colombian textile industry is well-recognized and reputable around South America and Europe. Clothing, including lingerie is particularly well-regarded as high quality and very affordable. Leather garments, shoes and accessories are also of interest to foreigners. The best place to buy either is Medellin, known for being the fashion capital of the country, where one can buy very high quality goods at a very low cost.

Colombian emeralds and gold 18k jewelry can also be very attractive for visitors. A typical Colombian style of jewelry is a copy of precolombian jewelry, which is fabricated with gold, silver and semi-precious stones.

The "mochila", the Spanish word for "backpack" or "rucksack", is also a traditional, indigenous, hand-woven Colombian bag, normally worn over the shoulder. They are commonly sold in shopping malls, especially in the Santa Marta/El Rodadero area. Mochilas usually come in three sizes - a large one to carry bigger things, a medium one to carry personal belongings, and a small one to carry coca leaves. Coca leaves are carried by local tribe members to reduce hunger, increase energy and to combat altitude sickness.

Handicrafts such as intricately designed jewelery are commonly sold in markets and on street corners. Many street vendors will approach people, selling t-shirts, shorts, glasses, bracelets, watches, necklaces, souvenirs, and novelty photographs. If you want to buy something, this is a good time to exercise your bartering skills. Usually you can go down by 2,000 to 3,000 pesos, however 10%-15% is the generally accepted rule. For example, if someone is selling a shirt for P$10,000, try asking if you can pay P$8,000. Go from there.

If you don't want to buy anything, a simple gracias, "thank you" and a non-committal wave of your hand will deter would-be sellers.

costs

For transport, accommodations, tourism and food:

Typical prices: modest but clean and occasionally charming hotel: US$25 50,000 COP, nice meal: US$15 for two, beers: US$0.60-1.50 depending on bar, bus: 100 km about US$6 cheaper per km for longer trips, more for dirt roads, urban transport: 50 US cents.

"Installments or one payment": When you get your check at restaurants, you will be asked two questions - credit? credit card or something else and whether you want to pay all at once or in installments. If you say "credito" and "uno" to the quetions that are asked, you will probably be answering the quetions correctly.

money

The currency of Colombia is the Colombian peso, often symbolised locally as "$". but in our guides using the ISO international symbolisation of COP. Most banks and money changers will exchange major world currencies such as the US dollar and the euro. The ubiquitous Giros y Finanzas also does Western Union transfers (https://www.girosyfinanzas.com) can be found in many shopping malls. It is interesting to note that currency exchange are traded below the market value meaning you can get for example dollars below market rate.