This Caribbean island is indeed a paradise. But, you need take into consideration that it is quiet expensive. Everything is more expensive than on mainland Colombia. San Andres on budget? Hell yeah, it’s possible. That is why we would like to share with you how you can save money and enjoy the island without going broke. We also wrote an article about San Andres, the best beaches and what to do there. Check it our HERE.
In order to enter the San Andres island you need to pay a tourist tax. You won’t be able to board, if you don’t pay the tax first. Some airlines include this tourist tax in their plane ticket but a budget airline probably won’t. At the moment of our visit, the tourist tax was 109.000 Pesos for 1 person. This price is for everyone, locals and foreigners. It does not matter where you come from. At least that’s what we know now or thought… So when you have to pay the tourist tax, ask around how much others pay, so you won’t get overcharged. Remember for now (March 2018), it is 109.000 Pesos.
HOW WINGO AIRLINE STOLE MONEY FROM US
We flew to San Andres from Cartagena with Wingo airlines. To make this incredible story short at the gate in Cartagena, a Wingo employee stole money from us. AT THE GATE! We didn’t know exactly know how much the tourist tax would be. Lonely Planet mentioned 44.000 Pesos. But you know how it is with prices, they always change and the prices mentioned in guides are quickly out-of-date. You need to pay for the tourist tax at the gate and the Wingo employee asked for 190.000 per person. Nico was shocked but we were quiet stressed out as the plane was boarding. There is no possibility to pay with credit card at the gate. How very convenient, right? So Nico had to go to an ATM outside. He came back and the employee saw that he had his German passport in his hand. He asked: “Are you an American?” Nico answered: “No, we are from Europe”. He “returned” 50.000 Pesos to us just because we were not US citizens. He still robbed us. Thank you Wingo airlines for this generous discriminating discount.
NO POSSIBILITY TO PAY BY CARD AND NO RECEIPT
At the end we paid 165.000 per person instead of 109.000. We asked for the receipt, but he said that he can’t give us any receipt. How convenient again, right? After, we found out that Wingo overcharged us and of course, we complained. None of the employees at the airport in Cartagena helped us. They barely spoke English or pretended to speak no English. Aeronautica Civil (the Colombian “authority” in that matter) was more or less useless or let’s say oblivious to the issue. We wrote many emails (even to the CEO). But no one took responsibility and no one ever replied to us. If you want to save money, please, DO NOT TAKE WINGO AIRLINES UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Because of ‘companies’ like Wingo, Colombia has such a bad reputation and it’s very sad that they continue to treat tourists like that. Wingo just like your name, your staff’s behavior towards customers is a disgrace.
TAXIS ARE EXPENSIVE
The taxi to city centre cost 15.000 Pesos. This is not a negotiable price and taxi drivers won’t go lower. We wanted to walk to our place but realized that the 2.7 km to our hotel might be a little to far and it was so hot that you just couldn’t do it. We ended up asking a police officer to help us find a taxi. Taxis in San Andres don’t necessarily have signs indicating that they are taxis. So maybe you can find your host to organize you a pick up for cheaper.
STAY OUTSIDE THE CITY CENTER
The hotels in the city center of San Andres are very expensive. So we stayed a bit outside. We felt safe in San Anders, but we never walked around at night. We booked accommodation via Booking.com and only for 2 nights to see how the town looks like, if it’s easy to commute around the island, and if we like the location. And we really liked this location. It was quiet, without tourists running around. I would definitely recommend you to stay in this area as well. We also felt very safe. We didn’t really go outside after it got dark, but to be honest if we had to it wouldn’t have been a problem. If you are going to South America, you can read our article about all our Safety tips HERE.
NO NEED TO RENT A SCOOTER
San Address is a small island, and once you arrive, you will feel like you need to rent a scooter or a golf car to get around. But you don’t actually have to. We rented a scooter for 2 days to drive around the island and see what parts of the islands we like the most. To rent a scooter costs from 70.000 Pesos, and this is not even 24 hours. It’s just half a day, so for example from 9 till 6. Around €20 for half a day. In that moment we missed Asia a lot 😀 but if there is another option to get around.
TAKE THE LOCAL BUS
You do not need to rent a scooter every day, there is a very convenient bus going around the island. You just need to figure out the route and you can stop the bus anytime you need. That means that you don’t need to go to a particular station. When you see the bus you just wave and the bus stops. The bus ticket is 2.200 Pesos one way. When you want to go to the centre you need to get a bus that says “Centr0”. When you want to go back and you stay somewhere along the East coast you need to take a bus going to “San Luis”.
We really liked to take these cute buses, it was cheap, you can see how the locals travel and they go regularly. Almost every 3 minutes. We have never waited longer than 5 minutes for a bus in both directions. Many locals recommend to go the direction San Louis. Whenever you want to get off, you just ring a bell or let the bus driver know that you want to leave (in broken Spanish that would be: “Puedes parar aqui.”) and the bus will stop for you.
JOIN A LOCAL ON HIS MOTORCYCLE / SCOOTER
Another option to commute around the island is with the locals on scooters or motorcycles. You can wait next to the road and within a few minutes someone on a motorcycle will ask you if you need a ride. We did it only once, though. There is simply not enough space for three people on 1 motorcycle. It wasn’t very conformable. Also, you need to be careful as you don’t want to get ripped of neither. From the area we stayed in it is 2.500 per person to the city centre. Be aware that if you are two, some people might try to convince you that you negotiated a price for 1 person and not 2. So make it clear that it is for two people.
BE AWARE THAT SOME PRICES ARE PER PERSON
It can be very confusing to ask for prices in San Andres. Many time we were surprised that the price was set per 1 person. For instance in a hotel. For the first we felt that traveling solo could save money which usually is not the case. We were asking around for a hotel or a room and we were very happy when we found one for 50.000. We thought that must be a price per room. But in San Andres the prices communicated are per person. So all together we would have to pay 100.000. That same holds true for joining a local on his motorcycle as mentioned before.
BRING GROCERIES FROM THE MAINLAND
We knew before that groceries are much more expensive than on mainland Colombia. That is why we decided to bring some easy things with us. Such as: muesli, oats, pasta and couple of instant soups. In San Andres we would have paid double the price.
COOK AT YOUR HOTEL OR GUEST HOUSE
If you would like to go to the restaurants, the prices are very high for simple meals. For example a simple pizza costs around 40.000 which is crazy expensive. We booked an apartment with a little kitchenette so we could cook our own food. The place was quiet spacious and had an amazing balcony with this view on the sea. We would cook and then enjoy our dinner with an ocean breeze and the blue sea in the distance.
We made our own breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact we never went to eat in restaurants. That is if you count fast food joints not as restaurants. Instead, we went to the ubiquitous Colombian grocery store called Exito in the city centre and got our groceries. As mentioned before groceries are more expensive than on the mainland. However, still much more affordable than going out every night. Plus the basic things are still quiet cheap. We got butter for 1.500 pesos, cheese for 3.500, bread for 3.000, pasta for 2.200. Our shopping was always around 30.000 for the both of us. That covered our dinner and also a breakfast and lunch next day. We would buy bread rolls and prepare sandwiches for the next day. Like this we saved a lot, and we really enjoyed to cook and then have a dinner on the balcony.
STAY AT HOSTAL MI BUENA VISTA
We can really recommend Hostal Mi Buena Vista (link to booking.com). Andres the host is great and can help you with boat tours and rent you a scooter.
San Andres on budget is possible and now then you know how to save money in San Andres, you can spend them all on a better things. We wrote an article about the best things to do in San Andres. Read it here. Have fun 🙂
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