Danger #1: Suffering a Heart Attack
Sticker shock – seeing all those zeroes makes your heart stop! Our hostel accommodations were between 75,000 – 101,000 Colombian pesos – and the knee jerk reaction was ” Wow! Too expensive!!!” when in reality it’s between USD $35 -$45.00.
After our first Colombian ATM withdrawal I thought we had been shortchanged and marched into the bank exclaiming the machine made a mistake as I tossed the money on the rep’s desk where he counted the $800,000 Colombian pesos into 8 stacks of 100,000 pesos. (The ATM machine dispenses a variety of banknotes in each transaction.) Why was he placing only two of the “smaller” 50s notes in a stack to equal 100,000? And then I realized I had counted the “50 MIL” banknotes as 50, not 50,000; they were of greater value than the 20,000 banknotes and not less!!! Chagrined, I apologized, and thanked him, feeling so relieved and embarrassed I couldn’t get out fast enough!
Danger #2: Getting Seriously Hurt
There is the constant danger of a misstep resulting in broken bones or severe sprains if one isn’t paying attention to high curbs and narrow sidewalks of broken paving, loose bricks, and holes of all sizes and depths – not to mention the dog doo too!
And I’m not talking about drugs, but fresh ripe fruit, whole, juiced and blended smoothies! For less than a $1 we loved sampling exotic fruit drinks. Our favorites were Lulo and Limonada de Coco (which is made with coconut milk and limes, not lemons.) So many choices: strawberry, blackberry, banana, guava, passion fruit, pineapple, guanabana, mango, papaya…and many others I had never heard of before, such as lulo.
Danger #4: Getting Straightened Out
If, as a child, you were deprived of orthodontic care and have secretly desired a more beautiful smile you can join the multitudes here. We noticed all ages wearing braces. Questioning this phenomenon with the brace-wearing hotel desk clerk, she informed us that the orthodontia business was very competitive. Her 2-year treatment will cost $1,800,000.00 – or about only $755.00 USD.
Colombia is also thriving as a medical tourism destination for many procedures other than dental care.
Danger #5: Falling in Love
There’s so much to love about Colombia. You could fall in love with the lush tropical, flowers and temperate year-around springlike climate of Medellin. Or the rich Colombian coffee. Or the huge cheap avocados. Or the reasonable prices. But travelers had warned us about the friendliness of the Colombians and true enough, the people we encountered were very friendly and helpful. Policeman, taxi drivers, vendors, waitresses, hotel employees, and people on the street were pleased to have us visit their country, and open to conversation.
Seriously, we realize that Colombia has had a scary reputation, but drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar is dead and the Colombians are recovering from that oppressive era of terror. Travel in Colombia isn’t dangerous. We never felt threatened or frightened. As always use common sense, be vigilant, and don’t flaunt money or expensive possessions.
We are headed to Europe but know that some day we have to return to Medellin!