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PLEASE NOTE: The official exchange rate at time of writing was US$1 = C$2,819 (Colombian Peso / COP).
The in-room wifi was ‘variable’ during the day but OK early morning and at night.
It was time to move on to Taganga.
We played safe and purchased our Marsol Shuttle (don’t forget that there is an ‘M’ at the front of the name :-)) tickets from the Hostel Mamallena because it was a ‘pick up stop’ for the Shuttle (our hotel could buy the tickets … but, it wasn’t a pick up point). The price to Santa Marta was C$50k and to Taganga C$52k. By booking all the way to Taganga we avoided a US$5 Taxi between Santa Marta and Taganga. We were told to make sure that we did not lose our ticket … if you do, the Shuttle driver charges you again.
The Shuttles spend up to 1 hour collecting people from various Cartagena ‘pick up points’. Our Shuttle arrived at 9:55am. The Shuttle was larger than I am used to and (as a consequence) the seating was more comfortable.
We stopped at 10:05am at the Cartagena Marsol Shuttle Terminal to collect the last couple of people. There was a ticket check … one person on board did not have his ticket. We were delayed 15 minutes whilst that got sorted out … luckily, he did not have to pay twice.
By 10:20am we were on the road. By 12:20pm we were entering Barranquilla. The driver had his wife on board … we dropped her off in the City Centre. With all of the traffic, we didn’t get back on the motorway out of town until 12:50pm. This, and the delay back in Cartagena, added 1 hour to our journey.
We stopped at 1pm for 5 minutes so that people could use toilets and grab snacks. We dropped people off in Santa Marta at about 3:00pm and reached Taganga at 3:15pm.
Taganga is a traditional fishing village located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia about 10 minutes or 3 kms north of Santa Marta. Both Santa Marta and Taganga were founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas on July 29, 1525, making them two of the oldest remaining colonial settlements in present-day Colombia.
The touristic town and backpacker hub is famous for its sunsets, diving, and access to the Tayrona National Natural Park. Taganga is full of hostels and forms part of the South American Gringo Trail. In the months of July and August the village is visited by many Israelis who finished their military draft period.
The source of the name Taganga is uncertain; it is either derived from the Taganga people inhabiting the area before the Spanish conquest, from the words ta and gunmy; “Snake mountain range” or from the Tairona words ta and ganga; “Entrance of the sea”.
The village of approximately 1 square kilometre is situated south of the Tayrona National Park. It is home to the Tairona people and to a rich biodiversity. The mountain range is thought to have formed from to the easternward movement of the Caribbean Plate, along the Oca Fault, which forms the boundary with the South American Plate.
The main economical activity is fishing. The majority of the local population is active in the fishing industry with fishermen leaving the harbour early in the morning and returning around lunchtime with their catch … which ends up on your plate that evening.
You continue right along the beachfront road.
In these backstreets, you can get reasonably priced rooms with aircon … but, I found myself content in choosing my fan room on the beach (see, below).
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night early 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.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
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 …
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:
WHERE TO STAY:
If you want to stay on the beachfront, GRANDPAckers only really have one option: Hostel Dumbira.
I booked myself into a Triple Room at the Hostel Dumbira for 8 nights at US$14 / night. I took up their US$2 Breakfast option to bring my nightly cost up to US$16.
The beach-side location was exactly what I wanted.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Your accommodation should provide reasonable, free WiFi. My Hostel’s was fast enough to stream video but it could be a bit ‘variable’ during the day. In my room, the signal dropped in and out regularly during peak times.
I bought a Claro SIMcard 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 got a 3G or 4G signal most of the time.
You walk everywhere.
You enter the microbus at the front and pay the driver in cash as you pass through the turnstile. It drops you off at several places around town – just ask the driver to stop.
A taxi to Santa Marta costs C$14k / US$5.20.
You have several restobars to choose from, many have very similar menus.
You find the more expensive tourist restobars at the southern (left) end of the beach.
You find the mid-range restobars on the beachfront road.
This Fish Meal is common all around town and usually costs C$15-20k.
I had a (slightly nicer) Whole Grilled Fish meal for C$28k. But, in my opinion, it wasn’t worth almost double the price of what you pay and get elsewhere.
They automatically add a 10% tip to the bill. Compared with the up-market restaurants down on the beachfront, the Babaganoush was excellent value for money – and a very pleasant change.
In the mornings, you find stalls along the beachfront road selling various little snacks for C$2k. My favourites were the Egg Arepa and a Potato Ball filled with shredded chicken / beef, potato chunks, and egg. But most tend to be deep fried and oily … except for the Potato Ball.
There is one stall that we particularly liked that cooked their Arepas on banana leaves (so, they were less ‘greasy’).
Mixed chicken, sausage, and beef kebabs cost C$3k. Beef kebabs cost C$2.5k.
PLEASE NOTE: Many of these Whole Fish meals are big enough for GRANDPAckers to share … so, you can pay C$5-7k for a shared soup and C$15-20k for a Fish meal and end up only paying under C$13k each. Some of these places let you turn up with your own bottles of beer – which helps to keep prices down – just ask if it is OK on arrival.
Expect to pay an average of C$6,000 / US$2 for a cheap local Breakfast with coffee; C$9,000 / US$3 for something a bit better or in a nicer cafe.
Expect to pay an average of C$9,000 / US$3 for a cheap Lunch Snack with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of C$18,500 / US$6.50 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer.
Drinks bought in the Minimarts are cheap … especially the beer … you can buy a cold 1 litre bottle of Aguila Beer (4%) for only C$3,500 / US$1.25. A small beer will set you back only C$2,000 / US$0.75c. A good place to buy your beer is the Supermercado Taganga … they usually have the coldest beer.
This is how many people rumble … you can see the beach and beachfront walls strewn with people drinking cheap beers all day … especially at sunset and into the night.
There are inherent deposits on the glass bottle … but only the locals seem to be able to get that deposit back. As a consequence, ‘unkempt’ locals scour the beach collecting all of the empty bottles that they can find – don’t be surprised if they approach you to see if the one that you are drinking is empty yet.
The Minimart at the northern end of the beachfront road and a little bakery half way along have tables at the front. You can buy a cheap beer from them and drink at their tables.
Quality varies and so does the price … expect to pay C$15,000-20,000 for two.
This is typical of these on-the-beach bars. You pay for the music, ambiance, and the beachside view of the sunset.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
You may be better off catching a public bus into Santa Marta (C$1600 each way) where you will find a market and several large supermarkets. For example, the cheapest Bottle of Wine in Taganga costs $30k … in Santa Marta, we picked some up for C$15k. It pays for the trip into town … which is a nice break from Taganga anyway.
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
There are no Banks nor Money Exchanges in town. Some of the more up-market, expensive places will take Credit Cards.
They are frequently out of action. Bring plenty of cash … or, be prepared to pop into Santa Marta to get to a Bank / ATM.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is a visible Police presence on and close to the beach … but, you still need to be careful. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
If you are staying in a cheap hostel a few 100 metres from the beach, be careful late at night / in the early hours of the morning … drunks have been mugged … one girl that we met had been mugged at gunpoint.
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. Sandflies can be a problem: my friend got several bites and needed to use some of my ‘special ointment’.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
The climate of Taganga is BSh (Köppen classification), with hot days and warm nights with average daily temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) to 32 °C (90 °F) and night average of 24 °C (75 °F). Rainfall is scattered throughout the year with a total of 661 millimetres (26.0 in), but many dry periods cause water shortages in the village.
From November 2015 to May 2016 Taganga was in draught; it only rained for one day in this period. From January until March it is extremely dry.
Even though Taganga is only 3kms away from Santa Marta, it has a distinctly drier micro climate.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
Enjoy being a beach bum.
WALK THE NORTHERN BAYS:
Allow 90 minutes for the round trip.
TAKE A TRIP TO SANTA MARTA:
Jump on a public bus (C$1,600)… it is cheap and easy and the locals look after you.
Head for the Mercado. Here you will find a busy (and noisy) street with music blasting from almost every store. There is, also an under-cover market there.
200 metres from the Mercado, you will find a pedestrian shopping precinct which has more up-market options.
TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK:
Crystal Beach: Boat there and back. Day on beach. C$70k.
Mica: Day trip. C$130k.
Lost City: All inclusive. 4 days / 3 nights. C$900k.
PLAYA CABO SAN JUAN:
We bought our tickets from the Taganga Integracion Touristica office on the beachfront road. The standard price was C$75k; we negotiated him down to C$70k each for 2 people. The trip was described as being:
- A 1 hour boat ride around the coast to Playa Cabo leaving at 10:30am
- Time on the beach
- A 2 hour trek through the park to Canaveral
- A ‘white’ Minivan pick up from Canaveral Car Park at 4:30pm
- A 1 hour minivan ride back home
We were advised to take a swimming costume, towel, water & snacks (but we could buy those there), and walking shoes. We were, also, told that we would get wet during the boat trip – so, we were advised to put our backpack into a large plastic bag to keep everything dry. Pick up was from outside his office at 10:30am.
The boat trip was ‘rough’ in some parts but we didn’t get as wet as we were expecting … apart from one incident where our captain misjudged a big wave and almost capsized the boat … I found my side of the boat (and myself) only 1 inch away from being underwater. We landed at Playa Cabo at 12:30pm.
As we disembarked, we were directed to an official looking stall and instructed to purchase ‘Park Entry’ tickets … we had not been told about this and had not brought sufficient funds. We showed them our ‘return trip’ tour tickets to no avail. We were told to pay a US$15 / C$45k entrance fee each or we could not enter. We explained that we were only there to trek – not to stay overnight – it made no difference. I dug my heals in, refused to pay, and just walked away. They were a bit taken aback but made no attempt to stop us. We noticed that everyone else in the park was wearing a wristband (different colors show which ‘type of entry ticket’ you have purchased). Nobody stopped us to ask why we did not have one.
There are men there who help organise your transport. I showed each white van my ‘return ticket’ and I was told each time that I had to wait for another minivan. Eventually, the ‘organisers’ told me that me ticket was ‘no good’ and that we had to pay C$25k each for a van back to Taganga. We were not the only ones getting such a surprise …
I heard three Colombian boys being quoted $20k to Santa Marta … I, also, heard them negotiate this down to C$15k each and the ‘organiser’ say that this was his ‘minimum price’. Our minivan did not arrive so, at 5:10pm, we ‘bit the bullet’ and negotiated ourselves onto the next van leaving. They wanted C$25k each to Taganga … we got them down to C$15k each. We left at 5:15pm, dropped people off at their Santa Marta hostels, and arrived in Taganga at 6:30pm.
The first thing that we did was to go for a couple of nice, cold beers! We met up with the man that we bought our tickets from … he seemed genuinely surprised by our story … he said that the US$15 ‘park entrance fee’ was wrong and he was very disappointed that our minivan didn’t turn up to take us home.
PLEASE NOTE: You can reverse the direction of the trip if you want to: go by minivan, trek, and return by boat. This trip leaves at 8am and returns to Taganga at about 3:30pm.
MY ADVICE: Buy your Tayrona Park Trip ticket from your hostel and make sure that you know exactly what is (and what is not) included in the price. This should ensure that your ticket includes a full ’round trip’ from and back to your hostel.
MY ADVICE: The trek requires you to walk about 6kms. At an easy pace (and accounting for a couple of rest stops) and the ‘up and down’ nature of parts of the trail, you should allow 3 hours of walking. This gives you 1 hour to spend on the beach(es).
From Taganga, I head up the coast to Palomino.
I will tell you more about that it my next post.
GRANDPAckers can easily afford to HOLIDAY in Taganga to GRANDPAcking standard.
GRANDPAckers are advised to find a hotel that includes a free Breakfast. If you don’t, it is not the end of the world … but, you may find it more convenient (as well as it saving you at least C$4k / day).
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
MY ACTUAL COSTS:
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I lived in Taganga to GRANDPAcking standard.
I spent 8 nights at an average price of US$16 / night in a Fan Double Room.
I took 2 return trips into Santa Marta on the public bus.
I spent C$46k on a new Claro SIMcard and a 1-Month 2GB Data Plan when I was in Cartagena; it was still operational in Taganga – so, I didn’t have to spend more.
My Breakfasts were included in my room rate.
I averaged under C$7k / day on Lunches – I don’t eat Lunch anymore so, this was mainly for cappuccinos.
I averaged about C$16k / day on Dinners.
I bought a 5 Gallon bottle for C$11k that lasted me for my whole stay.
My COE worked out to be about US$23 / day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
In / Out Costs: It cost me C$52k for a Shuttle from Cartagena to Taganga.
Living Costs: I averaged about C$8k / day on drinks. I bought a couple of bottles of cheap wine for sunsets on the beach. I spent C$40k in Santa Marta on shower gel, etc and a C$7k haircut. I spent C$110k on excursions. I spent C$156k in Santa Marta on a new lightweight day-pack (C$110k) and other pieces of replacement equipment.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down in Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE:
Accommodation: Book yourself something for 2 nights at about C$50k / night including Breakfast. Once there, look around and find somewhere for about C$45k including Breakfast. This will be, most likely, something at least 200 metres from the beach (but a nicer room than what I paid for on the beach). At the latter, long term price, you may even get aircon.
Transport: You can walk everywhere around the town. I have included a weekly trip for 2 on local transport to Santa Marta.
Communications & Fees: I have oncluded a Claro SIMcard and 1 month 2GB data plan.
Food & Beverages: Your budget is C$57k / day. This is to eat all of your meals in Cheap Restaurants. I assume that your Breakfast is free.
Your COE is US$37 / day (66% of your total budget).
COST OF LIVING:
This leaves you C$50k / US$19 per day to LIVE on.
With a 1 litre bottle of beer going for C$3,500 in a minimart and a cheap bottle of wine (from a supermarket) going for under C$20k, you have enough to enjoy yourself.
THE GRANDPAcking ACID TEST: Can 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? YES.
Your Retirement Budget will be very similar to your GRANDPAcking costs.
Taganga is a pleasant, cheap place with a ‘hippy’ vibe.
BUT, it has a dark ‘undercurrent’. There is good tourist money to be had … those earning that money defend it. If a street food-seller strays into the wrong part of the beach (considered as ‘owned’ by a restaurant) that street seller can be harshly, physically, and angrily chased away; something that I witnessed on 2 occasions. Meeting someone who was mugged at 2am by a man with a gun at her head does Taganga no favours. A shoot out 1 block from the beach at a Mother’s Day party does Taganga no favours either.
If you are careful, you may never see this side of Taganga … but, it is there.
Would I recommend that GRANDPAckers holiday here? Yes. Would I suggest retiring here? Probably, no.