Colombian Peso - COP
The currency in use in Colombia is the peso and it is known by the currency code COP on international markets. It is subdivided into 100 centavos but in reality there are no coins available in the centavo denomination. This means the prices you see will be in pesos only when you visit the country.
As is often the case with peso currencies, this one is represented by the dollar sign. However it is distinguished from other dollar (and indeed peso) currencies owing to the first three letters of Colombia being added before the dollar sign, hence COL$.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
There are five coins presently available as legal tender, although the smallest one in value – the 20 peso coin – isn’t often seen now, thanks to the effects of inflation. Other than that you have the 50, 100, 200 and 500 peso coins.
There are also several banknotes for the Colombian peso. These are the 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 peso notes.
From past to present – the history of the peso
The peso has been in use for a long time in the country – ever since 1837 in fact, although its history has been somewhat chequered in places. The currency used before this was the real and initially the new peso was divided into reales. Around 35 years would go by before the reales were replaced by the subunit the centavo. This occurred owing to the decimalisation of the currency.
How to get hold of Colombian pesos
Many people take travellers’ cheques denominated in US dollars into Colombia when they visit the country. They can easily be exchanged once you are there and they represent one of the safer ways to carry your money. You can also withdraw cash from cash machines and indeed there are lots of them around. However make sure you are extremely careful when you do this as robberies can occur. Some people are held until their accounts are emptied, so it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to take care. If you can possibly use a cash machine inside a bank, use this as your main option.
If you have foreign cash you wish to convert into pesos make sure you always choose a reputable outlet to change them at. Bureaux de change are ideal, as are banks, but don’t be tempted to change them with individuals on the streets. This is just asking for trouble. At best you could get a poor exchange rate and at worst you could be robbed.
You can use credit and debit cards when you go to Colombia but you need to exercise great caution when you do. Card cloning is known to be a problem here and if you let your card go out of your sight (something you should never ever do) you could be in for problems.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Colombian peso
The latest exchange rates with this currency will be available on a variety of currency converters. Try and use one that is regularly updated if you can. Just find the Colombian peso among the many currencies that are listed there and ensure you choose it as the currency to convert into. Your own home currency should be the one you start with. You can convert one unit or a specific amount depending on your needs. Money changing facilities such as a bureau de change will provide slightly different rates as they will charge commission on every transaction.
Information about the Colombian Embassy in London is available from the official website at http://www.spanishincolombia.gov.co/en/, along with a list of other embassies in other locations worldwide.
Travelling safely with Colombian pesos
If you are thinking about travelling to Colombia for any reason you should always consult the Foreign Office of the government at their official website before travelling. They update the travel information and advice for the country regularly (along with all other world destinations) so you will know whether or not it is deemed safe to visit the area. Some areas are advised to be no-go areas so make sure your travel is not intended to go through these areas.
Crime rates are unfortunately rather high in Colombia. Much of the crime is related to drugs and money laundering although other crime takes place as well. If in doubt avoid any area you are not sure of and don’t go out alone at night. Major cities are more liable to be affected by petty street crime than anything else, and this is the type of crime tourists are most likely to be affected by. Don’t assume this automatically means you will be affected, but it does make sense to take proper precautions. Don’t flash any money or valuables in public and make sure you don’t carry all your cash in the same place. A money belt is ideal but don’t take too much cash out of a cash machine inside a bank if you can help it either. The more careful you are the less likely you are to be affected.
Where to spend your pesos in Colombia – and what to spend them on
You will find Colombia in South America, situated in the north western corner of the land mass. It shares borders with five countries: Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. Some of the western and northern reaches of the country are coastal in nature.
The capital of the country is Bogota, which is reasonably central to the country itself. There have been improvements in safety in recent years and these have led to more people coming to Bogota to see what it has to offer. The tourism industry here is rather better than it was previously, therefore. Make your way to the historical centre of the city, known as La Candelaria, and see the many museums there that teach a lot about the history of the country and the city.
This is also a great place to go when you want to go shopping, as it is full of shopping malls. The malls here reach into three figures so regardless of what you would like to go and see or buy, you are bound to find a mall that suits you. Among them are Centro Mayor, Gran Estacion and Centro Andino.
Towering over the city is Monserrate Mountain, which is a popular destination for many tourists to visit. It is certainly a great place to go if you want to get a unique view of the city of Bogota from another angle. If you don’t want to climb to the summit without assistance you can always opt for the funicular railway. This will take you up to see and appreciate the views while enjoying a cup of coffee in one of the restaurants there.
Elsewhere in the country you can visit the Tayrona National Natural Park. This is in the northern part of the country, which means it also borders the Caribbean Sea. It is quite stunning and very diverse too, bringing with it areas such as the coastal beach right through to the mountains. It is much loved among all those who visit the country so it is worth finding the time to go here.
Another option is to visit the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park. This is based on a land mass that juts out from the body of the country. Some of the park exists underwater but it is still well worth a visit.
If you haven’t heard of the majestic sounding Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira you will have the chance to visit it when you go to Colombia. It is a Roman Catholic Church but it has been built underground. The name itself provides a clue in that it was constructed inside a salt mine. Needless to say it is popular – not to mention unusual – with tourists and there are various other areas you can see within the overall Salt Park as well.
Between these great sights and others, such as the Bogota Botanical Garden, 93 Park and the Rosario Islands, you will not run short of things to see and do in this country.
Colombia may not be the ideal choice as a holiday destination for many people. However the powers that be there are making every effort to turn it into a safer and more appealing tourist destination. To some extent they are succeeding and it has become a much better and safer place to be than it was prior to 2000 when many of the changes started coming into effect.
As you can see from the options and attractions listed above, there are some great places to visit in this country. From beach areas to mountains to the capital city itself, there is much to see and appreciate when you come to Colombia. If you wish to go there on holiday just make sure you check the latest travel information prior to leaving and you keep your valuables safe at all times. This will help you enjoy a safe experience in Colombia.