Do you love the Caribbean? You can do better than that. Let's try again ... DO YOU LOVE THE CARIBBEAN? Ahhhh, that's better. Well you are in for a big treat. The notion that 'once you've been to one Caribbean Island, you've been to them all,' is an old wives tale that never was. More than likely perpetuated by the one-hit-wonder-traveler, who saw ocean, and yelled, "Eureka". You never yell, "eureka" on day one, fyi.
Well, okay, I did in the picture below, but this also wasn't my first rodeo.
CARIBBEAN? I Thought You Were In South America
As you travel through Central America and the northern tip of South America you will inevitably touch the Caribbean Sea. That is the case with countries such as Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana. San Andrés physically lies closer to Nicaragua, right off its coast, but is officially one of the Departments of Colombia, known as the Archipelago of San Andrés Providencia and Santa Catalina. For that reason, you will often find that the local Islanders will still refer to it as "Central America". With Spanish, English, and Creole as the local languages, just about anyone can fit in.
How To Get There
San Andrés is easy to get to. Here are some tips for your arrival.
I flew from Bogotá. I was already staying there for a few days prior to my trip to the Island, which wouldn't be a bad idea for you either, I'll blog about that later. It is about a two hour plane ride from Bogotá, El Dorado International airport. From there it is just a National Flight, so you have more options as far as local carriers go. But here is where I will tell you how to save money, but at your own comfort risk. Ready?
LAN, COPA, and, AVIANCA are the most well-known carriers in South America, and the most flown, therefore the prices will reflect it. I try to get around on minimal expense and save my splurges for my takeaways or on delicious meals, so if I don't have to pay the commercial price, I try not to. If you get your ticket way in advance you may be able to get it under $300 USD, however, and this can change seasonally, prices tend to run upwards to about $350 USD round trip. This is when I decided to see if there were a cheaper option for getting to the Island. There was.
VivaColombia is a local airline. My round trip to and from the Island of San Andrés was $190 USD. Here is the situation:
Caveat 1: VivaColombia allows you to 'pay' for your priority. This allows you to board the aircraft in the preferred zone. The closer to primary boarding, aka, zone 1, you'd like to be, the more you pay. I chose zone 2. And just like that, the cost of my ticket was cut in half.
Caveat 2: I also cut my comfort and amenities in half as well. For some, this could be a very uncomfortable irritation. Because it is cheap and local and only has two check-in service counters, on a good day, you have to line up hours in advance just to check in for your flight. And yes, you will be in line, standing for a very long time. You also have to pay for food and drinks on the flight (eat beforehand or bring on plane) as well as your luggage, if it goes over a certain weight. You are allowed one checked bag per person at 20lbs without having to pay anything. Or, if you can get everything you need into a carryon, not weighing more than 13lbs (check airline changes), plus a smaller personal item, you are good to go. Yes, they DO weigh your carryon.
Caveat 3: The airline is NOT punctual. Neither going nor coming did it arrive or leave on time. I was so late arriving to the island that the taxi I pre-requested, left. The airline also does not do assigned seating, therefore, the suggestion of paying for earlier zone boarding to claim your preferred seating. You will still find it massively hard to board the plane, because although everyone has an assigned zone, it is a feast or famine blockade to get through the crowds to board. Take a deep breath, try not to blurt out obscenities, and hold your ground. It is a cheaper way to travel, but if you don't have the patience or are on a more rigid schedule, go with the known commercial airlines. Or just refrain "I'm going to the beach," until you fasten your seatbelt and let the power of the ocean zen to you.
Caveat 4: There is an Island Conservation tax, that yup, you just may not learn about until you are about to board your very late flight to the Island (pointing to this girl right here). The cost fluctuates in USD due to the exchange rate but, is roughly 50,000 pesos ($25 USD) per person. When purchasing your ticket or when checking in for your flight, make sure you have paid this. You cannot enter the island without it. You will be given a receipt of payment which you must present at a mini 'customs' when arriving and another copy upon exit. DO NOT LOSE this receipt, because you will have to pay the amount again.
Caveats done. I think we are ready for take off.
A tall five-footer with a habit of wandering too far. I'm a trilingual interpreter looking to expand my polyglot status via my global footprint. My day job is my dream job so waking up everyday is awesome. I live in four seasons but my compass only points tropical. Getting out of my zip code is what I do best. Let me share some adventures and help you start your own.