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Colombia Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Colombia

Goods to look out for include gold jewellery, art, antiques and leather products. Colombia produces first-grade precious stones, and the emeralds are among the most perfect in the world. Shopping for these should only be undertaken if you know what you’re doing however; incidents of cheating are high. Try to get recommendations of reputable dealers and acquire some knowledge before shopping for precious stones.

Bogotá has numerous large shopping malls as well as several distinct shopping districts. Try the Zona Rosa for designer clothes and high-end jewellery stores, and La Candelaria for independent, unique shops.

In Cali you can find authentic handicrafts and goods from all over the country in the Parque Artesanía – perfect for souvenirs. Cali also has some ultra-modern shopping malls, such as Chipichape, offering more generic produce such as clothes and shoes at prices not much less than you would pay at home. These malls contain bars and restaurants for you to make an evening of your shopping trip, as well as big food courts serving a mixture of North American and Colombian fast food.

You can buy Colombian coffee throughout the country, not just in the Zona Cafetera, but if buying as a gift bear in mind that it might be opened at Customs. Also take care when buying souvenirs made of skin or feather – cultural artefacts and items of animal origin such as the above are prohibited.

Shopping Note

When visiting more rural areas and exploring tomb-ridden regions, guides may well offer authentic souvenirs, such as goods from tombs, and drugs. Taking cultural artefacts and illegal substances out of the country is prohibited: bear in mind that Colombian prisons aren't pleasant, and sentences are long.

Shopping hours

In colder cities such as Bogotá, typically Mon-Sat 1100-2100. In hotter cities, Mon-Sat 0900-2100.

Nightlife in Colombia

The hot-blooded Colombian people are known for their vibrant nightlife, with busy restaurants, numerous parties and nightclubs filled with dancers twisting hips to the beats of salsa, cumbia and merengue. The busiest nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Bogotá in particular offers ballet, opera, drama and music, as well as casinos. The Zona Rosa in Bogotá contains plenty of bars of all themes: a beer bar, an Irish bar and more Colombian bars than you can count, all with happy hours and offers. You’ll also find many clubs around this area, which often have entrance fees.

Cali is the place to go for all-night salsa clubs, which are full of sharp young things dressed up to the nines, all displaying an enviable dancing ability. Medellín offers a fantastic variety of bars and clubs. Most big cities have high-end hotels which come equipped with excellent bars, though this is the expensive way to do it. In Cartagena you’ll find smaller bars in the walled old town serving good rum cocktails, with a chilled-out salsa vibe.

In smaller towns you’ll more easily find local bars and a much more relaxed atmosphere, though the drink choice is largely limited to beers and rum. Colombia also has a well-developed hostel track, and most have their own bars where you can meet other travellers.

Colombia’s tourist trail is being steadily established, and along the way entrepreneurial young expats are setting up bars, restaurants and cafés. These places are good for happy hours and a taste of home, as well as free Wi-Fi.

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