Why not read our Retirement Reviews.
PLEASE NOTE: The official exchange rate at time of writing was US$1 = C$2,900 (Colombian Peso / COP).
Previously, I stayed a total of 3 nights in Riohacha.
Riohacha is really just a ‘transit point’ for adventurous, young backpackers who are heading further up the coast to Cabo dela Vela – where they kite surf, sleep in hammocks, and shower with buckets of water 🙂
… It was time to back-track to Rodadero … and, civilisation …
I had already done the same thing the previous day to inquire about bus times. I knew that an Express bus left to Santa Marta every hour at half past the hour. I was, also, told to just turn up on the day to buy my ticket.
MY ADVICE: In hindsight, this was poor advice as my bus was almost full … on another day, I may not have been able to get a seat. To make sure that you get on the bus that you want, buy your ticket in advance.
I arrived at 10am and bought a ticket for the 10:30am. The ticket price was C$25k. We started to embark at 10:20am. On embarkation, the driver charged me another C$5k to stow my suitcase (I paid it because they charged a Colombian in front of me the same to stow his ladder … but, often this is a SCAM, I should have asked the ticketing office for a ‘Final Price’). It was a modern long distance bus run by Brasilia. Brasilia had been recommended to me by a local Colombian. The journey tracks the main coast road and covers about 160kms.We arrived at the Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta at 1:15pm.
I tried to book an UBER taxi without success. The terminal is gated and swamped by normal yellow taxis – I guess that UBER drivers might not be welcome. A yellow taxi driver quoted me C$10k to take me the 8 kms to my hotel in Rodadero – I accepted.
When we arrived at my Rodadero Apartment (at the Hotel Brisas Marinas) he asked for C$15k (pointing at my suitcase). I knew that the Taganga to Santa Marta price was C$14k for a shorter distance … so, I didn’t haggle, I paid him (even though he knew that I had the suitcase when he quoted C$10k).
PLEASE NOTE: This is a standard ‘trick’ in these countries … if you care, make sure that you point at your suitcase(s) and agree the ‘Todo Precio’ (total price) in advance.
Samaria beach (the main beach) gets its name from a large mound of sand that the locals used to roll down for fun. Rodadero started to become a Tourist Centre in 1954 when a road was built connecting it to Santa Marta.
It now boasts modern high-rise hotels and rental apartments along with a multitude of restaurants and bars.
There are palm trees along the beach offering some natural shade. But, almost every such spot seems to be ‘claimed’ by kiosks, stalls, and locals offering chairs for rent under their group of palm trees.
This end of the beach is also a bit quieter and there is a small path beside the canal …
… as well as local cafe-marts.
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night mid June 2018 …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites usually display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. Also, some of the cheaper rooms have a Shared Bathroom … so, check the details first. In Colombia, only Colombian Nationals pay the 15-19% tax … Tourists (surprisingly) are exempt from that tax.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … Please Note: these prices are in US$s and display the average price per night …
Tripadvisor had nothing within GRANDPAcking price range.
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 ‘Cleaning Fees’ and the host site’s ‘Service Fee’. The Service Fee can add as 16%. Watch out for the Cleaning Fee – some can be more than 1 day’s rental!
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:
Try to find something in the green shaded area.
For me, Rodadero had ‘apartment living’ written all over it. I decided to try both sides of the Rodadero ‘experience’:
- Half my time in a Rental Apartment
- Half my time in an Hostel
A 2 bedroom apartment was being advertised for US$28 / night (the next day, I saw the same apartment being advertised for US$25!). I booked it for 5 nights. With cleaning and service fees added, it came to C$89k / US$32 per night. At check-in, each person has to pay an extra C$5k / US$1.65 for a security wristband. They need a photocopy of your passport for their files (you can get it next door for C$300).
There was no aircon in this room, only ceiling fans, but these were more than adequate with open windows providing a refreshing breeze.
The included free wifi was excellent in all rooms.
PLEASE NOTE: Most apartments price by the number of people. I got this price because I was single occupancy. Two people should expect to pay more. For 2 GRANDPAckers to get an apartment for under US$35 / night, you will need to put in some work … BUT, they are there! Be patient and wait for last minute deals if needs be.
My hostel was at the opposite end of the beach: the Tiskirama Hostel.
The Tiskirama were offering the best rates in town … they had to … their business was being damaged by a big building project going on next door. People were complaining about being woken up at 6-7am by work starting and lasting all day until 6pm.
I booked a Single Room for 4 nights at C$42k / US$15 per night. It did not include Breakfast. Hotels often use the term ‘Single’ differently in this area of the world … usually, it just means that there is one bed …
It had cable tv (all Spanish speaking channels) and a wardrobe!
INTERNET / WIFI:
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 had to top it up in Rodadero.
I got a 3G / 4G signal around town most of the time.
You walk everywhere.
To catch a local bus, you are best to get to the Amusement Park or up to the main road.
A yellow taxi to central Santa Marta should cost no more than C$15k.
You have lots of options.
The large supermarkets are at the south end of town on the border with Gaira. One Supermarket was in the same block as my apartment. I went down and stocked up …
In came muesli, unsweatened Greek Yogurt (C$17k for 1 litre!), etc … and about 10kgs of fresh fruits (C$12k from a street stall) to pump through the blender! Drinking 2kgs of liquified fruit every day couldn’t be that hard … surely! 🙂
I had every intention of eating all of my meals at home whilst I was in the apartment. I spent an average of C$16,500 per day on groceries. This seemed quite a lot considering that I only got in the basics … I could have eaten out for that price …
As always, get into the back streets to find the cheaper cafes.
I tried a ‘typical’ Breakfast over the road from the Tiskirama. With 2 ‘instant’ coffees it came to C$10k. Poor value for money. You will see a couple of places advertising the same thing for C$6k-C$7k.
There is a Subway on Carrera 2. The 6 inch daily specials go for C$7,900. This can be a nice alternative to the repetitive normal Colombian fare.
A burger place on the beachfront sells a burger special for C$8,900. A combo is C$11,900.
Lunch offers the best value for money. Look around for cafes advertising an ‘Almuerzo Ejecutivo’ (Executive Lunch). You can get a good meal for under C$10k … which means that you can have a smaller and cheaper Dinner.
Expect to pay an average of C$8,000 / US$2.65 for a cheap Breakfast with coffee / tea.
Expect to pay an average of C$10,000 / US$3.35 a cheap Ejecutivo Lunch 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 costs an average of C$3,500 / US$1.25 in a cafe. Up this to C$4,000 on the beach. In a Minimart, expect to pick up the same for C$2,500.
Around town you find (what I call) Minimart-Cafes. They have tables out the front where you can sit and enjoy your purchases. I think that they are a great idea – and, the Colombians hang out in them all of the time.
Around town you will find a couple of Nightclubs … but, I didn’t find anything that I would call a ‘pub’.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
Prices in the shops are a bit higher than normal because of the tourists … but not excessively so.
However, you may still want to come with the more expensive items and only shop here for convenience … or, just take the 1kmt walk down to one of the southern Supermarkets.
… and, your normal selection of tourist shops.
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
There are plenty of Banks and ATMs around. There are no Money Exchanges.
Read my write-up on Cartagena to see which are the best ATMs to go for.
I took money out from the Banco Colombia ATM: a maximum withdrawal of C$600k incurred a C$13,200 fee.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
I felt perfectly safe. I didn’t detect any malicious ‘undertones’ (not like I did in Taganga) … Probably because Rodadero doesn’t have the ‘drug scene’ that Taganga does.
As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
There were mosquitoes around which could get annoying at dawn and dusk. I didn’t experience any Sandfly problems.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
The climate of Rodadero 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.
Be very careful about going to the Santa Marta and El Rodadero region in the period straight after Christmas up until 15 January and over Santa Semana / Holy Week / Easter. Accommodation prices can double and the resorts and beaches are very crowded.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
SUNSET ON THE BEACH:
As with Taganga, many people bring their own drinks and settle down on the beach at sunset and into the early evening.
An evening on the beach is very popular for young people – the beaches are still open and they are safe. Often people have parties and play on the beach into the early hours of the morning.
WALK CARRERA 5:
The path does not continue on to Playa Blanca … the only way to get there seems to be by paying the C$12k per person round-trip boat fare (caught from the north end of the main Rodadero beach).
I doubled back and headed for home. Half way home, there is another track.
It is definitely worth coming up here for the views.
WALK CALLE 5:
You cannot continue around the bays and you will not find any goat tracks into the hills.
From Rodadero, I head to the San Andres & Providencia Islands via Barranquilla.
I will tell you more about that it my next post.
GRANDPAckers can afford to HOLIDAY in Rodadero to GRANDPAcking standard.
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 to GRANDPAcking standard.
I spent 5 nights at an average price of US$32 / night in a 2 bedroom Apartment followed by 4 nights in an aircon Double Room in an Aparthotel (at an average price of US$15.50 / night).
I walked everywhere and took no trips out of town.
I spent C$46k on a new Claro SIMcard and a 1-Month 2GB Data Plan when I was in Cartagena; I needed to top it up with C$43k to renew that 1 month plan.
My Breakfasts averaged just under C$10k / day – blame the expensive Greek Yogurt 🙂
I spent hardly anything on Lunches – I don’t eat Lunch anymore.
I averaged about C$9k / day on Dinners.
I bought 6 Litre bags of water for C$2,300.
My COE worked out to be about US$33 / day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
In / Out Costs: It cost me C$45k to get from Riohacha to Rodadero via Santa Marta.
Medical: I bought a course of antibiotics for a minor tooth infection.
Living Costs: I averaged just under C$11k / day on LIVING expenses. About $7k / day of that was on drinks (i.e. a couple of sunset beers or a rum back home).
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$65k / US$24 night (go as high as US$30 if it includes Breakfast). Once here, look around and find somewhere for about C$55k / US$20 per night (go as high as US$25 if it includes Breakfast). Target the ‘green shaded area’ (see ‘Where To Stay’, above).
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 included a Claro SIMcard and 1 month 2GB data plan.
Food & Beverages: Your budget is C$67,500 / day including water. This is to eat all of your meals in Cheap Restaurants.
Your COE is US$44 / day (80% of your total budget).
COST OF LIVING:
This leaves you C$30k / US$11 per day to LIVE on.
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 costs will be similar to your Holiday costs.
PLEASE NOTE: Strangely, it is likely to be cheaper for you to live in an Hotel and eat in restaurants than it is to rent an Apartment and buy in groceries.
As with Cartagena and Taganga you can get harassed every 10 minutes … whether that be by touts trying to get you into their restaurants or by trinket sellers walking the streets / beach. You can minimise this by not sitting on street fronts – choose a table a little further back (and harder for them to get to).
I would suggest that most GRANDPAckers will prefer Rodadero over Taganga: it is more sophisticated and has more options.