There’s good news for travelers who are keen on a luxury for less trip to Colombia: Joe Sandillo, a Colombia specialist and the founder of the Tampa, Fl. travel company Almaz Journeys, said that the country is a great value for those seeking an upscale trip, compared with more established South American destinations. “That said, there are absolutely ways to take even better advantage of the already lower prices to save even more,” he said.
Below, Mr. Sandillo’s tips:
For Cities, Weekends are Better: Bogota and Medellin are primarily business travel destinations, so hotel rates are highest on weekdays. On weekends, however, they drop by as much as 40 percent, and luxury properties such as the Four Seasons sometimes offer additional incentives like pay for two nights but stay for three. “These cities come alive on the weekends with a rich culture scene, and that’s when you want to go anyways,” Mr. Sandillo said.
Avoid Peak Times: Colombia is a year-round destination, and certain times of the year are more expensive than others. These include the weeks between Christmas and New Year’s, and before Easter Sunday as well as all of July, when Colombian schools are on break, and locals take vacations within the country.
Rent a Luxury Villa: For a group of friends or a family, it’s almost always more economical to rent a private villa than book several rooms at an upscale hotel. Many of Colombia’s villas are in beachside destinations such Cartagena or Isla de San Andres and have modern interiors and swimming pools; they’re also usually staffed with a housekeeper and cook. “Villa rentals are more fun than hotels because you have lots of private communal areas for socializing,” Mr. Sandillo said. His company has a range of villas available to rent. Airbnb and Oasis Collections also have luxury villa rentals in Colombia.
Spring for a Private Guide and Driver: Guides and drivers are a manageable expense in Colombia- a full day for both costs around $500, but the price can be even lower in less visited parts of the country. In pedestrian friendly cities like Cartagena, there’s little need to pay for a driver. “The best way to see these places is to hire a private guide and walk or explore on your own,” Mr. Sandillo said.
Save on Air: Avianca, Colombia’s main airline and part of the Star Alliance, has business class fares to the country from the United States that are between 30 and 50 percent less expensive than fares offered by U.S. carriers. Otherwise, Mr. Sandillo said that JetBlue, which flies to Colombia nonstop from both New York and South Florida, is a comfortable and economical option.
Visit Less Explored Areas: Less touristy parts of Colombia such as the picturesque Spanish colonial village of Barichara and the city of Medellin are a steal when it comes to hotels, meals and activities. And, they offer a myriad of engaging diversions. Travelers who stay in Barichara, for example, (Mr. Sandillo’s favorite hotel there is Casa Barichara) can learn about its history and architecture and also partake in active excursions such hiking in the surrounding countryside and white-water rafting in nearby Chicamocha Canyon.