Colombian Money

colombian-money-1The currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso, typically abbreviated as the $COP. Also, bear in mind that in Spanish the period symbol replaces what we normally use a comma for in English. So, for example, 5,000 Colombian pesos would be written $5.000 COP in Colombia, or just $5.000.

Over the past five years, it has consistently stayed in the $1.800 to $2.000 to the dollar range. In fact, it has been something of official government policy to keep it around $1.900.

If you are bringing money to exchange, it is by far the best idea to bring US dollars. Although "casas de cambio" or exchange houses, will normally change euros and pounds, you will get a better rate with dollars. Casas de cambio can be found in every major city of Colombia, but they are especially ubiquitous in downtown Bogota, mainly along Avenida Jimenez. You can also find them in Medellin in El Poblado.

Colombian bills come in denominations of $1.000, $2.000, $5.000, $10.000, $20.000, and $50.000. If you bear in mind that $2.000 is roughly a dollar, you will do well, and find it hard to get ripped off.colombian-money-2

Colombian coins come in denominations of $50, $100, $200, $500, and now $1.000 as well. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of coins in circulation: the old coins, which are larger, and the "new" coins, which the government introduced in 2012 to reduce the amount of metal used in coins. While a pocketful of coins would once get you a nice meal in Colombia, you will quickly find that coins do very little good in Colombia, especially in the cities. However, if you head to the Colombian countryside, you can often put your coins to good use. For example, in rural Huila, empanadas are still sold for $200!

Along with rapid economic growth, Colombia has experienced fairly substantial inflation, and don't be surprised at how quickly prices rise. Inflation here is higher than in the United States or Europe.

Colombia's bills commemorate important figures in the nation's history.

$1.000            Jorge Eliecer Gaitan...Revered leader of Colombia's Liberal Party who was assassinated in 1948, setting off the infamous Bogotazo, which saw much of Bogota burned to the ground.

$2.000            Francisco Paulaner de Santander...Leading General in the war for independence and subsequently president of Gran Colombia and New Granada.

$5.000            Jose Asuncion Silva...Renowned Colombian poet who was one of the founders of the genre of Spanish American Modernism.

$10.000          Policarpa Salavarrieta...A seamstress who spied for the revolutionary forces; she was ultimately caught by the Spanish and executed in 1817.

$20.000          Julio Garavito Armero...A Colombian mathematician and engineer who eventually focused his scientific talents on the field of celestial mechanics and lunar fluctuations.

$50.000          Jorge Isaacs...Born in Jamaica, Isaacs amassed a fortune through gold mining and commerce, bought his Colombian citizenship, and became an important writer, penning the epic novel Maria, which takes place in the southern department of Valle del Cauca, on the outskirts of Cali.

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