Should you visit Brazil or Colombia?If you decide to travel to Rio de Janeiro, you will discover a very exciting atmosphere. You can relax on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, experience the Brazilian party scene, enjoy the view of the city from the Christ Redeemer on Corcovado Hill or learn more about Rio's historical past. And depending of the season, you can even take part in the Rio Carnival or the Oktoberfest. Rio de Janeiro is a large city, which can be a little overwhelming for visitors who are travelling for a getaway from a chaotic city or environment.
The Iguazu Waterfalls and Its 275 individual waterfalls spread over 3 km are a completely unique natural wonder. Just next to the waterfalls, you can also see visit the bird park and discover some beautiful birds such as the Hyacinth Macaw and toucans.
Long synonymous with drug cartels, kidnappings and corruption, the last two decades have seen Colombia evolve from failed narco state into one of Latin America's greatest destination. New restaurants, boutique hotels and craft breweries are appearing across Bogota, as local entrepreneurs capitalize on the country's newfound peace. In 2013, Medellin was voted the world's most innovative city: art, tourism and an impressive new cable car network have all contributed to the rebirth of this incredible city. You will see sculptures scattered around Medellin from Fernando Botero, the figurative painter and sculptor famed for his satirical works, which feature oversized subjects in exaggerated form. In addition, Bogota's decision to decriminalize graffiti in 2011 marked a creative new era for the city, whose flyovers, office blocks and municipal walls became canvases for some of the world's most exceptional street art. Cartagena is one of the most fabulous colonial cities in Latin America. You can dance in all-night salsa clubs in the southern city of Cali, which has the honorable distinction of being Colombia's salsa capital.
Colombia has plenty of hidden treasures. Trekking to the ruins of the mysterious Ciudad Perdida is one of Colombia's most rewarding adventures. Constructed some 650 years before Peru's Machu Picchu, Ciudad Perdida was only re-discovered in 1976. This ancient city is hidden in dense jungle atop the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a six-day hike from the nearest town. Mompox is also not very easy to access and has largely been bypassed by tourists, but it is well worth making an effort for. Not only is this sleepy city a place of beauty, with its well-preserved architecture and riverside location, but it was also the inspiration behind Gabriel Garcia Márquez's magical realism novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Colombia also has some wonderful popular attractions such as an underground salt cathedral in the quiet, colonial city of Zipaquira, a short drive or train trip from Bogota, a heritage railway, which offers a unique perspective on Bogota and the surrounding countryside, and the Guatape Lake, which is actually the result of a controversial dam. Colombia is also home to one of South America's prettiest national parks.
Tayrona National Park has all the attributes you want from the Caribbean, swaying palms, sandy beaches, limpid lagoons but being a protected area in Colombia's northern wilderness, this coastal reserve is refreshingly free of development. Colombia also has one of the world's biggest carnivals. The Barranquilla Carnival takes place 40 days before Holy Week, and the streets are filled with parades and parties, a big attraction for tourists, who are warmly received by locals.
When is the best time to visit Brazil and Colombia?
Colombia is a year-round destination, particularly along the Caribbean coast and in Medellin where warm, dry weather is prevalent for almost the entire year. Weather variations are determined more by region than clearly defined seasons. The dry season, which makes the high-season for tourists in Colombia is from December to March. With plenty of sunny days; ideal for exploring the country's charming towns and cities, the coffee district, cultural highlights, beautiful countryside, jungles and relaxing on the beach, Colombia is filled with domestic holidaymakers and international visitors. Early planning is crucial for December and January. Also remember that in the highlands, nights become chilly in areas of higher altitude all year-round. The lowlands enjoy a tropical climate during the whole year with little temperature variation, though more frequent rain showers will be noticeable in the wetter months of April to June and again in October and November. The start of the rainy season brings slightly wetter weather in some places, but persistent rainfall is very unusual. Long spells of dry weather can still be enjoyed, and many take advantage of off-peak travel to get a wider choice of hotels and lower rates than in the months to follow.
Why is Brazil more expensive than Colombia?In recent years, the Brazilian economy has boomed. As a result, increased wealth and inflation have augmented the prices. However it is difficult for some to keep up with the prices and the country's economic expansion is not necessarily benefiting the lower classes. While some services are less expensive in other areas of the country, food and transportation are quite costly around many areas in Brazil and especially in big cities including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Therefore research, plan and budget accordingly as you don't want to find yourself short of money while visiting.
Compared to other South American countries, Colombia is not the cheapest destination but certainly not the most expensive either. The falling value of the peso also makes it cheaper for foreign tourists than it was just a few years ago. The cost of living remains fairly low and there is not much difference in budget when travelling in Colombia or Ecuador.Activities are quite affordable by Western standards. For example, a paragliding session in San Gil costs USD$21 for a short flight and USD$60 or ?49 for a longer one. An hour-long private salsa dancing lesson in Medellin costs around USD$17. Museum entry is often free or only a couple of thousand pesos. Your biggest expense might be the 5 or 6 day Ciudad Perdida trek near Santa Marta, if this will be part of your itinerary. The price is standardized at $250 regardless of which trekking company you choose. While it is a bigger one-off expense, you also won't have to pay for food or accommodation for almost a week. Colombia is twice the size of France and bus travel is moderately expensive, so if you will be moving around the country a lot then this will add to your expenses.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Brazil and Colombia?
The most touristy and also priciest location in Colombia is the beautiful and historic colonial city of Cartagena. Cartagena's Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site, a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches that cast their shadows across leafy plazas. Beyond this, there are some expected price differences between the cities like Bogota or Medellin and the countryside.
How you can save money when visiting Brazil and Colombia?You should also agree on taxi prices for your journey with the taxi driver before setting off but taking the bus is much better most of the time. You can use couchsurfing for accommodation, which connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see. If you prefer to stay in a hotel get a double room. In Brazil, you will pay a premium for a single room, almost twice the cost of a double. Pair up with a friend to halve the cost of your accommodation if you're not keen on staying in a dorm. Finally, if you can, travel off season if you want to keep prices low.
The first tip to save money in Colombia is to negotiate. Prices for bus tickets and taxis are sometimes negotiable, so try to haggle to bring the costs down. In the off-season, you can also negotiate the price of your guesthouses if you speak Spanish.
If you're a student, make sure to bring your student card to get discounts at many of the museums and tourist sites in the country. Also many museums around the country are free on Sundays. However be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds, as they will be much busier.
Many hostels and hotels will include free breakfast so be sure to stay at a place that does so you can save on your food budget.
Take a free walking tour. Free Walking Tour Bogota offers an informative and insightful tour around the city, serving as a great introduction to the local way of life as well as the city's history. Real City Tours offer a free tour in Medellin, as well.
Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don't want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings.).