San Andres - North End - 7

San Andres – Colombia – A Beginner’s Guide & Where To Stay


JUNE 2018:


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OVERVIEW:

PLEASE NOTE: The official exchange rate at time of writing was US$1 = C$2,900 (Colombian Peso / COP).

I came from Rodadero near Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast of the Colombian mainland.Rodadero - Carrera 5 - 13I stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment for 5 nights at US$32 / night …Rodadero - Brisas Marinas Apartment - Lounge Rodadero - Brisas Marinas Apartment - Bedroom 1 Furniture

Rodadero was a pleasant surprise. The beach was good and there were plenty of budget restaurants where you could get a reasonable meal for as little as C$10k / US$3.35 (but, C$15k / US$5 was more ‘normal’).Riohacha - Cafe - Comida Del Dia Fish C$12k

And, you find cafe-marts overlooking the beach where you can have a beer for C$3,500 / US$1.20c at sunset.Rodadero - Cafe Sunset 1

… It was time to have a look at the San Andres & Providencia Islands …


GETTING THERE:

The San Andres & Providencia Islands are nearer to Nicaragua than they are to Colombia.Barranquilla to San Andres Map

When I flew from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia¬†I used WINGO and I was happy with them … so, I had a look at their flights out to San Andres. I booked a flight from Barranquilla for US$53 including 20Kgs of stowed luggage.

RODADERO TO BARRANQUILLA:

Rodadero to Barranquilla MapA taxi from my Rodadero Hostel to the Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta was C$12k / US$4. By road, it is about 7kms.

From the Terminal, I caught the next bus to Barranquilla. They leave frequently, so I only had to wait a few minutes. It was a small bus with lots of leg room.Santa Marta Bus to Barranquilla

The price was C$13k. The trip takes 2 hours.

A NIGHT IN BARRANQUILLA:

For safety, I did not want to make the trip from Santa Marta to Barranquilla for a same-day flight. I wanted 1 night in an hotel near the airport.

The Terminal de Transport Terrestrial de Barranquilla is on the south side of the city in the Soledad Area. The airport is 3kms further south of there (as the crow flies).Barranquilla Town Map

I saw no point in catching a taxi into a city centre hotel to catch another taxi back again the next morning. I booked myself into an hotel opposite the Bus Terminal: the Sol Caribe.

I got a Double Room with Breakfast for C$75k / US$27 night.Barranquilla - Sol Caribe - Bed Barranquilla - Sol Caribe - Room Entry

It was OK, and so was the cold-water ensuite. Barranquilla - Sol Caribe - Ensuite ToiletBarranquilla - Sol Caribe - Ensuite Shower

The Breakfast was very basic.

I ventured out onto the streets that evening for Dinner. It is a ‘rough’ area. Don’t get me wrong … it was safe enough for my purposes and I could eat in the restaurant next door if I wanted to … but, I went for a walk-about anyway ūüôā

100 metres or so up the road were Disco Bars. I ate near there and the friendly waiter advised me not to use my phone on the way home (not if I wanted to still have it when I got there).

In front of the Bus Terminal were Venezuelan refugees camping in shabby tents along the footpath. They slept and ate on that side of the street and did their ‘ablutions’ on the other side of the street.

BARRANQUILLA TO SAN ANDRES:

I travel with digital scales. Over the years they have saved me many times what I paid for them. I weighed up my luggage and made sure that everything complied with WINGO requirements.

I ordered an UBER taxi and headed for the airport 3 hours before my flight. The UBER taxi charged C$21k / US$7.70. I prefer to use UBER if I can … you know that you will be charged correctly and not ripped off.

WINGO had only 1 counter that happened to open as I arrived.Barranquilla - Airport - Wingo Check In Desk

There were only about 8 people in front of me but it still took 30 minutes to check me through. I was glad that I arrived early. My luggage weights were spot on … so, there were no ‘excess fees’.

However, I had to buy my San Andres & Providencia ‘Tourist Card’ at the WINGO counter. The price was C$109k / US$40 each. I advise you to fill it in before you land in San Andres.

From there, you make the short walk to the main Airport building. I found the foodcourt, bought a coffee, and settled down to do some work whilst I waited.

Our flight was delayed 30 minutes. We arrived in San Andres Airport at 4:30pm.San Andres - Airport Terminal

It took about 30 minutes for our bags to arrive. I walked out of the airport through the gauntlet of taxi touts to find myself facing Calle 4.San Andres - Airport View Down Calle 4


ABOUT SAN ANDRES:

San Andrés is a Colombian coral island in the Caribbean Sea.San Andres Island Map

Historically tied to the United Kingdom, and politically part of Colombia, San Andrés and its two neighbouring islands form the department of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. The official languages of the department are Creole, Spanish, and English.

The archipelago is approximately 750¬†Km north of the Colombian mainland. The area of the islands is 45¬†km2¬†(17¬†sq¬†mi). In 2000, it was declared a¬†UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, named ‚ÄúSeaflower Biosphere Reserve‚ÄĚ, which not only includes the islands but also about 10% of the Caribbean Sea, amounting to a vast marine area of 300,000¬†km2¬†(120,000¬†sq¬†mi). The purpose of this declaration is to ensure that the ecosystem, which is rich in biodiversity, is well preserved and conserved.

The department’s capital is located on the northern end of the island. Named¬†San Andr√©s¬†but nicknamed El Centro. Along the 30¬†Km road that circles the island there are many picturesque beaches,¬†coral reefs, cays, blowholes, and coves. There are coconut palm plantations, lush pastures, and tall native trees reaching 20 meters (66¬†ft). Surrounded by the warm Caribbean Sea, all of these features have made the island an “exotic holiday destination”.


NORTH END –¬†PHOTO GALLERY

We start at Plazoleta Coral Palace on Carrera 1 on the north-eastern side of the island.San Andres - North End - 1

This is typical of the coastline all the way up to the northern end.San Andres - North End - 2

The street into town is, also, typical.San Andres - North End - 3

We pass Tonino’s Marina (where people catch the Catamaran to Providencia).San Andres - North End - 4

Soon, we are on the nicer roads close to the main beach.San Andres - North End - 6

I have read a few reviews that are not very complementary about the main beach.San Andres - North End - 7

But, I thought that it was nice sand with good swimming.San Andres - North End - 8

Half way along the beach, there is a pier that gives us a view back …San Andres - North End - 9

And forward towards the airport.San Andres - North End - 10

It is an opportunity to show you the corresponding street fronts of each direction …San Andres - North End - 11 San Andres - North End - 12

A similar street that invites us to look further into town.San Andres - North End - 13

Here, we find the start of the usual suite of tourist shops and a few Duty Frees.San Andres - North End - 14

But, first, we double back to the rest of the beach …San Andres - North End - 15

This end of the beach is quieter but just as nice … and, the beachfront seems more picturesque.San Andres - North End - 16

There are some nice, up-market hotels.San Andres - North End - 17

And, finally, we get to the end of the beach.San Andres - North End - 19

The beach road, from here, turns ‘less picturesque’ very quickly.San Andres - North End - 20

The next time we see water, the beach has gone.San Andres - North End - 21

And, from all of the reading that I have done, it is like this all of the way down the west coast.San Andres - North End - 22

By now, we are at Calle 6 and about 1Km from the beach.San Andres - North End - 23

In this area, we find some of the cheaper hostels listed on the internet. For example, Calle 6 takes us past the Sarie Bay Inn. At the end of Calle 6 we meet the air strip. The view south is unpaved and unappealing.San Andres - North End - 24

The view north isn’t much better … but, it is paved.San Andres - North End - 25

I’m not sure that I would want to be around these streets alone at night. I was quickly back to the little gardens on Calle 4.San Andres - North End - 26

And back on the main streets …San Andres - North End - 27

We continue past the Stadium ‘Park’.San Andres - North End - 28

The area around the junction between Calle 4 and Avenida 20 de Julio is the ‘Shopping Centre’ and the nicest area of town.San Andres - North End - 29

Avenida Las Americas takes us back to Carrera 1.San Andres - North End - 30


NORTH END –¬†WHERE TO STAY:

You want to be in the Green Zone.San Andres - North End - Where To Stay

To find something more affordable, expand your search into the Yellow Zone.

PLEASE NOTE: Whatever you do, keep away from the Red Zone – this area is dangerous – even the locals tell you not to go there … and parts of it are only 400 meters from where you might be staying.

PLEASE NOTE:¬†Whilst I was on the islands there was an home invasion in La Loma town which resulted in 3 residents of the home being stretchered away to hospital. Locals told me that there is also a ‘bad crowd’ in the San Luis area.


NORTH END –¬†ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS

Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night at the end of June 2018 … due to the May-June rains (see ‘When To Go’, below) this is, theoretically, ‘Shoulder Season’:

HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):

BOOKING.COM:

San Andres Booking

AGODA.COM:

San Andres Agoda


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:

Tripadvisor had nothing within GRANDPAcking price range.

AIRBnB:

San Andres AirBnB


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.

IN SUMMARY:

GRANDPAckers are going to have to start their search early and wait for some pretty deep discounts.¬†More likely than not, GRANDPAckers won’t be able to afford to stay here.

You need to seriously ask yourself why you would want to be further out from the Green and Yellow zones. If you are going to have to pay close to your upper limit of US$30 / night for a room … Why would you want to be 100s of metres away from the beach in a shabby area and/or a shabby hostel?

MY ADVICE:¬†If you can’t get into one of these 2 zones at an affordable price, go elsewhere. Look at my HOLIDAYS MENU (on the left).


NORTH END –¬†ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:

Booking.com


NORTH END –¬†MY ACCOMMODATION:

I already knew about the Red Zone. But I didn’t (yet) know about the other areas.

I pre-booked myself into the Posada Nativa Tristan Centro for 3 nights so that I could have a good look around. It was on Avenida 20 de Julio only 1 block from Carrera 1 and the waterfront. I paid C$72k / US$26 per night.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Frontage

I arrived just in time … they were closing up at 6pm and they had forgotten about my booking. My room was on the 1st floor in a group of 8 rooms.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Rooms

My room was a Double.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Room Entry

It had a decent double bed.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Room Bed

It had Cable TV (but mainly Spanish channels).San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Room Furniture

The ensuite was a decent size.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Ensuite Toilet

And it came with a cold water shower.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Ensuite Shower

There was a separate area with a table, chairs, and small fridge at the back.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Room Annex

With a back door that opened out onto the shared balcony.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Balcony

The balcony led to a shared deck area.San Andres - Posada Nativa Tristan Centro - Shared Deck

In summary, the room was OK but I was in the middle of nowhere … 100s of metres from the beach. I had no decent restaurant options around me – those were at least a 600 metres walk away.


EAST COAST –¬†PHOTO GALLERY

We start at the same place: Plazoleta Coral Palace on Carrera 1 on the north-eastern side of the island …San Andres East Coast Map

… and head south down the coast road.San Andres - Walk South - 1

You might find a small patch of sand along the way.San Andres - Walk South - 2

But they are not really places where you can stop.San Andres - Walk South - 3

We exit El Centro at Barrio El Bight.San Andres - Walk South - 4

And go a couple of kms down the coast road.San Andres - Walk South - 5

Without any sight of the coast.San Andres - Walk South - 6

Until we reach Cocoplum Bay where we find a small beach …San Andres - Walk South - 7

… just before we reach the Sea Horse Hotel.San Andres - Walk South - 8

Past here, it is more beach-less coastline.San Andres - Walk South - 9

Until you get to Bay Marina.San Andres - Walk South - 10

It is just a short walk around the corner from there to San Luis Beach (north).San Andres - Walk South - 12 San Andres - Walk South - 13

The roads inland from here offer some budget accommodation. The roads look decent.San Andres - Walk South - 16

We continue south along the road into San Francisco.San Andres - Walk South - 14

There are several accommodation options listed in this area, but the waterfront promenade offers no beach.San Andres - Walk South - 15San Andres - Walk South - 17San Andres - Walk 2 - 5

There are a couple of accommodation options on the waterfront.San Andres - Walk 2 - 3 San Andres - Walk 2 - 4

But most are to be found in the (unappealing) backstreets.San Andres - Walk 2 - 1 San Andres - Walk 2 - 6

Soon after exiting San Francesco to the south, you hit Playa San Luis (south).San Andres - Walk 2 - 7

This beach is a bit more unkempt than Playa San Luis (north).San Andres - Walk 2 - 8 San Andres - Walk 2 - 12

But, you have more on-the-beach restobar options to choose from.San Andres - Walk 2 - 9 San Andres - Walk 2 - 10 San Andres - Walk 2 - 13

… and the swimming is good.San Andres - Walk 2 - 11

We have to exit the beach at Donde Fransesca.San Andres - Walk 2 - 14

We soon pass one more very small patch of sand that (hilariously) advertises itself as Play San Luis.San Andres - Walk 2 - 16

But, from here on, we find a narrow strip of sand fronted by rocky seas.San Andres - Walk 2 - 17 San Andres - Walk 2 - 19 San Andres - Walk 2 - 20

Our walk stops here.


EAST COAST –¬†WHERE TO STAY:

You want to be into one of the Green Zones depending on which beach you are targeting.San Luis Where to Stay Map

Consider the Playa San Luis (south) Green Zone to end at the Reggae Bar.San Andres - Walk 2 - 18

To find something more affordable, expand your search into the Yellow Zones. But, personally, I would consider all of San Fransesco to be Yellow Zone … it’s just not very nice.

If you are happy to walk further, have a look at the Orange Zones.


EAST COAST –¬†ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS

Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night at the end of June 2018 … due to the May-June rains (see ‘When To Go’, below) this is, theoretically, ‘Shoulder Season’:

HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):

BOOKING.COM:

San Luis Booking

AGODA.COM:

San Luis Agoda


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:

Tripadvisor had nothing within GRANDPAcking price range.

AIRBnB:

San Luis AirBnB


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.

IN SUMMARY:

GRANDPAckers are going to find it a bit tough finding something within budget near an east coast beach too.


EAST COAST –¬†ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:

Booking.com


EAST COAST –¬†MY ACCOMMODATION:

I was committed to being on the San Andres & Providencia Islands until the 27th of June. I had already purchased my US$93 flight from San Andres Island to Cali on the 27th.

I had already purchased a C$341k / US$124 return Catamaran Ticket to leave San Andres for Providencia on the 6th of June returning on the 20th June.

My plan left me with 1 full week back in San Andres Island before flying out to Cali. My investigations left me in no mood to muck around.

On AirBnB, I found a place that had just been discounted down from US$25 per night to US$18 per night. It was in the Green Zone about 75 metres from San Luis Beach (north). I booked it. It is called the Cabana Caribbean Raizal.San Andres - Cabana Caribbean Raizal - Frontage

I will tell you more about my stay in San Luis when I get back from Providencia in 2 weeks time.


TRANSPORT:

I caught a public bus back from San Francisco to El Centro.San Andres - Public Bus

The price was C$2,400.


EAT:

My El Centro accommodation was so far away from everything that I didn’t bother to investigate much.

I bought in groceries.

CHEAP EATS:

I found a local cafe a couple of 100 metres down the road where I had Breakfast for C$8k. When I walked around the northern beach area, the same thing was going for close to C$15k.San Andres - Cafe Breakfast C$8k

I went down to Subway one night for their C$7,900 Daily Special.

I will give you a better breakdown of costs when I get back.


WHEN TO GO:

The island experiences a¬†tropical wet and dry climate¬†that borders on a¬†tropical monsoon climate.¬†Average temperatures range from 24¬†¬įC (75¬†¬įF) to 30¬†¬įC (86¬†¬įF) in two periods dominated by dry and rainy spells.San Andres Climate Chart

The rainy season is from September to December and also from May to June, when humidity is also high here. The trade winds from the north begin to blow in late October and during November and December until mid-January, the wind usually blows from the east, when there are storms in the northeastern Caribbean.


GETTING AWAY:

From San Andres Island I catch a Catamaran to Providencia Island. It leaves from San Andres 5 days each week at 8am.

I will tell you more about that it my next post.


CONCLUSION:

Some areas of San Andres are dangerous. There are reports of break-ins and knife-point muggings. San Andres has a high percentage of murders for its small population.

MY ADVICE: For your own safety keep as close as you can to the Tourist Beaches. San Andres tries hard to protect its tourist trade and keeps an eye on these areas.

San Andres Island is ‘tourism mature’. If someone has accommodation to offer, they are almost certainly already on the internet. You are unlikely to find any unlisted ‘hidden gems’ by walking the streets.

I can already see that LIVING on San Andres Island on a GRANDPAcking budget is going to be ‘challenging’ … come back and see what I have to say when I return from Providencia.¬†

TTFN


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