The first time I exchanged money in Colombia, I had no clue what was going on. Johanna did all the talking, and I walked away thinking I was a millionaire. I remember looking at the money, seeing all the bright colors, and seeing $50 mil pesos written on a few. I shoved the money in my wallet and thought, “We never have to work again! The dollar is worth millions!”
I know more Spanish now, enough to know that “mil” is one thousand, not one million. The current conversion rate is hovering around $3,100 mil pesos to the dollar. When you arrive in Colombia, only exchange enough money to get you around for a day. The airport gives one of the worst rates, but you need money to get around. I suggest exchanging about $40. Once in the city, tell your taxi driver to bring you to Galerías. Galerías is a mall with lots of security and multiple places to exchange money. Ask, “¿A como está el dolar?” at each place and see who has the best rate. Get the phone number for whoever has the best rate and call them each day as you get closer to needing to exchange again.
Putting it all in Perspective
Most taxis I’ve taken have been around 8 mil pesos, about $2.50, for about a 15 minute ride. At most places, you can get “corrientazo” for lunch. Corrientazo consists of a soup, a choice of meat, rice, salad and freshly made juice for around $6 to $10 mil pesos (between $2 and $3.25) depending on the area.
Now let’s really put things in perspective. I saw a six pack of beer for $1,700 mil pesos–just over fifty-cents!
Johanna and I have gone to two places for massages. I picked a spa down the street and she chose one about 15 minutes away that was a few pesos more.
Johanna’s spa: We received a 1-hour couples’ massage with hot oil and hot stones for 60,000mil each, about $20 a person. It was an amazing massage.
My “Spa”: For about the same price, I received the 30 minute, alien abduction package.
The masseuse took me into a small, dirty room, where she told me to take everything off. She came back in with another person at her side who, I suppose, was in training. They pulled my blanket up, leaving me fully exposed, and talked for a moment. Feeling uncomfortable with the girl in the corner staring at my crotch, I pulled the blanket down. Then, the masseuse put on food preparation gloves. I wasn’t sure if I was about to get a prostate exam or get prepped like a chicken. Then, the 30 minutes of calisthenics began. Sit up. Lay on your side. Turn. Sit up. Lay on your back. Lay on your stomach. During all of this, the girl in training stood in the corner, staring. No smile, no words, just staring. Johanna, you win this one.