Riohacha – Colombia – Information

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MAY 2018:

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PLEASE NOTE: The official exchange rate at time of writing was US$1 = C$2,898 (Colombian Peso / COP).

I stayed a total of 3 nights in Palomino.Palomino - Beach North - 4

I stayed in a hostel about 800 metres from the beach (the Hostel El Bohio) for US$21 / night including Breakfast.

In Palomino you can do lots of beach time.

You can hang around in the bars and restaurants around main street.

Or, you can take a tour.

… It was time to move on to Riohacha (the last bastion of civilisation on Colombia’s north eastern Caribbean coast) …


I walked the 500 metres up Palomino main street to the highway. The buses and colectivos stop at this junction.

A bus or colectivo should past at least every 30 minutes. I only had to wait 10 minutes for my Colectivo to arrive.

The price to Riohacha should be C$10k – but I was charged C$15k because of my suitcase.

The ride to Riohacha took 75 minutes.

I was dropped off at the highway roundabout in the centre of town.


Riohacha sits at the mouth of the Ranchería River on the Caribbean sea. Founded by conquistador Nikolaus Federmann in 1535, Riohacha was named after a local legend “The legend of the Axe”. The area is mostly desertic and inhabited by Amerindians.

The Spanish discovered a vast amount of pearls in the area, which made the original city a constant target for pirates. After the original city was destroyed by a pirate raid, Riohacha was relocated to the mouth of the Ranchería River (to confuse the pirates and give the city time to rebuild before the next attack). Pirate attacks soon resumed: Sir Francis Drake pillaged the city in 1569.


My hostal sat on a typical side street.

It was 1 block from the waterfront. At the western end of the waterfront, there are some quaint refreshment kiosks.

The beach is palm tree lined.

… and deserted.

… and, this continues as you head east. You can’t help wondering why no-one is down there enjoying the beach … and, no-one was swimming …

On the waterfront road you find indigenous people selling their goods.

At the eastern end you find a short malecon (beachfront promenade).

You cut back into town down more typical backstreets.

The highlight of town is the market area up near the highway.


Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night mid June 2018 …

HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):



PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites usually display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. Also, some of the cheaper rooms have a Shared Bathroom … so, check the details first. In Colombia, only Colombian Nationals pay the 15-19% tax … Tourists (surprisingly) are exempt from that tax.


If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.

Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … Please Note: these prices are in US$s and display the average price per night


Don’t bother with Tripadvisor.


PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any ‘Security Deposit’ (if required). BUT, the displayed price may also be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Extra Fees (which can add as much as 16%).

In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, here, they are worth a look.


There are plenty of GRANDPAcking options to choose from.


Have a look yourself:


Stay anywhere between the highway and the beach.

It won’t make any difference to your experience here … you won’t be staying very long.


The day before my arrival, I booked myself into a Double Room with Private Bathroom at the Kaisii (Sashii) Hostel for 6 nights at C$69k / US$23 per night including Breakfast. However, I arrived at the Hostel to discover that they did not have any Double rooms; they only had a Single room with a Shared Bathroom left. I declined and decided to look elsewhere. The owners were very helpful and they took me to a couple of nearby hostels to help find me another room.

I wasn’t impressed by the alternatives so (leaving my luggage in the care of Hostel Kaisii) I looked around for an hour inquiring about prices elsewhere … only to return to one of the hostels that they had shown me: Mi Cassona (not on the internet).

The Mi Cassona is near the Kaishii one block from the waterfront. It has 8 rooms.

I booked into a small Double Room at C$60k / US$20 per night excluding Breakfast.

It actually had a small wardrobe!

It had Cable TV.

It came with a small cold-water ensuite.

And it had good in-room wifi.


Your accommodation should provide reasonable, free WiFi. My Hostel’s was fast enough to stream video. In my room, the signal was strong and stable.

I already had a Claro SIMcard that I bought in a Minimart in Cartagena. Claro is said to offer the best overall coverage and service. The SIMcard was C$3,100 and I purchased a 2GB Data Package for C$42,900. This data package came with a few minutes of call time and a few free SMSs. I did not need to top up in Riohacha.

I got a 3G / 4G signal around town most of the time.


You can walk everywhere.

A taxi is cheap and you should be able to go anywhere within the town limits for C$2k-c$3k.


I did not do a thorough investigation.


In the back streets and in the parks you will find your normal suite of fast food stalls where you can get Small Fruit Drinks, Chicken Potato Balls, and Chicken Arepas for C$1k each.

In street cafes you can get a simple Breakfast (scrambled eggs with a plain Arepa) for as little as C$5k. In a local cafe in the backstreets you pay C$7k. On the waterfront you pay C$9k. All should include a coffee.

A Comida Del Dia (meal of the day) in a local cafe will cost C$10-C$12k. This usually includes a soup and a main. I tried the Fish Fillet meal for C$12k.

You can get a half chicken in a KFC-style cafe for C$11k.


Expect to pay an average of C$7,000 / US$2.35 for a cheap Breakfast with coffee.

Expect to pay an average of C$7,000 / US$2.25 for a cheap Lunch Snack with fruit drink.

Expect to pay an average of C$15,000 /  US$5.00 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer.


A small local beer in a restaurant or bar costs C$3,000-C$3,500 depending on which one you like.

You won’t find many (if any) tourist bars.


You can shop here at local, Colombian prices.

You have a large Supermarket on the highway near the main roundabout.

You have the open market.

You don’t have many (if any) ’boutique’ choices.


There are plenty of Banks and ATMs around. There are no Money Exchanges.


I felt perfectly safe. I didn’t detect any malicious ‘undertones’. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.

The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in these countries. Don’t leave anything unattended. Lock up your hotel room.

There were mosquitoes around but they were not a problem.

Don’t drink the tap water.


Riohacha, owing to the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSh).

Rain falls almost exclusively in May, and between August & November. For the rest of the year there are a mere thirteen wet days out of 212 in an average year.

Despite the lack of rainfall, humidity is high year round and adds to the uncomfortable heat.




There are 3 directions that you can go:

  • Further east towards Cabo dela Vela (get to the Colectivo park next to the Estacion de Policia)
  • Back west towards Santa Marta (get to the Terminal de Transportes)
  • Inland (get to the Colectivo Park between the, above, two)

Here’s a map:

I decided to head back west to civilisation. I will tell you more about that it my next post.


I have not bothered writing up GRANDPAcking costs.


THE GRANDPAcking ACID TESTCan a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? NO.


There is nothing for GRANDPAckers in this area of the country.

Riohacha is a ‘transit stop’ for adventurous young backpackers heading north to Cabo dela Vela. Up there, you find no luxuries … your accommodation is likely to be an hammock and the ‘shared bathroom’ is likely to be a bucket of water.


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