After traveling all around Colombia for months on end, it was time to get back to one of my favorite cities: Cali, Colombia. With a strong Colombian flavor and cheap prices, the city offers a lot for travelers and digital nomads.
As I’ve visited the city a few times, I wanted to throw together this Cali, Colombia travel guide for digital nomads. It’s an amazing place, but certainly not for every travelers or expat.
A city consistently on the top 25 most dangerous cities in the world list, Cali can be rough around the edges. But that’s part of its charm. You’ll find fewer foreigners here than most places in Colombia due to the violence. So let’s dive in:
Stunning views in Cali, Colombia.
Cali, Colombia Travel Guide
Population: Stats vary with regards to the population of Cali. Many estimates say the city has around 2.4 million people, but it feels much smaller to me. Some claim it’s the second biggest city in Colombia, but that’s not true (Source). Medellin is much larger.
Weather: The weather in Cali is absolutely ideal. It’s hot, but not too hot. During the evening, you don’t have to have an air conditioner. I love the weather here and find the climate to be the best of Colombia. During the day, it’s absolutely pool weather.
Safety: Cali is dangerous (Source). You can’t run around like a moron here at all hours of the day and expect nothing to happen. However, if you stay in a nice neighborhood and avoid flashing wealth, you shouldn’t have much of an issue.
Language: Spanish is the primary language spoken in Cali, Colombia. As the city sees significantly fewer tourists than other large Colombian cities, you’ll find English levels are a lot lower. Still, the upper-class Calenos will be able to speak decent English due to their frequent trips to Miami.
Costs in Cali, Colombia are embarrassingly low. It’s almost crazy. This is by far the cheapest big city in Colombia. Furnished and serviced apartments can be found for $300 USD a month. A great meal can be found for $3-4 USD. It’s amazing.
The dirt cheap prices are one of my favorite things about Cali, Colombia. So let’s look at some common costs in the city:
Apartment Costs: For furnished apartments in safe neighborhoods, you can plan to spend $250-900 a month. The wide range of prices depends on the length of your stay, the location, and the amenities your place will have. For a solid studio or one-bedroom in a good area with Wi-Fi and AC, you’ll pay around $450-550 for a one to two-month rental. You can lower those costs to $300-400 on a longer rental or if AC is negotiable. If you want a luxury place with a pool, expect to pay $600-900 a month for a good location.
Gym Membership: Gyms are surprisingly expensive in Cali. I paid $40 a month for my membership. The cheapest I found was around $35 a month. This is the only thing that was just as expensive as Bogota.
Typical Meal: My daily breakfast cost $2.50 and came with a fresh beet juice, too. Lunch ranged from $4-6 depending on the location and which day it was. A coffee from Juan Valdez is about $1.75 and it’s amazing. Dinner could be $4, but a nice meal in Barrio Granada would run about $7-10 at night.
Beer in Bar: Drinking can be fairly cheap in Cali – if you find the right spots in solid neighborhoods. I paid $2-4 for a solid beer.
Drinks in Nice Bar: A nice drink at a rooftop bar in Granada ran me about $2.75. Obviously, you may end up paying up to $7 USD for a cocktail.
Haircuts, Etc: Beard trims, haircuts, manicures, and all similar services are dirt cheap in Cali. A full beard trim with a hot towel and all was $3.50. A beard trim and haircut was $8. Manicures were $3. Talk about cheap.
Where to Stay
Cali is a dangerous city. You need to invest in a solid apartment in a good locale to ensure you stay relatively safe. As such, you’ll definitely want to stay in neighborhoods like:
Parque del Perro
Outside of these neighborhoods, I’d be quite concerned about staying anywhere else in Cali. These areas are relatively safe. The other places won’t be. If I had my pick of any neighborhoods in Cali, I’d choose Granada or Penon.
Just. Use. Uber. The service is dirt cheap in the city and the drivers have fewer issues with taxi companies than in other Colombian cities.
Just use Uber while in Cali. It’s safe and dirt cheap. I had rides that took 30 minutes and only cost me $3 USD. There’s really no reason to ever take a taxi in the city with Uber available.
Plus, there are a ton of Uber drivers in Cali. So you should never have to wait more than 3-5 minutes for your ride to show up.
As we already talked about, Cali isn’t that touristy of a city. It’s stuffed into the South of Colombia and not that many tourists visit due to the reputation of violence.
As such, you’ll want to know some Spanish before visiting the city. Not many people outside the upper class speak English. Even the people who do, don’t like to use it much – because they rarely get a chance to practice and are not confident in their abilities.
So learn some Spanish before you go. Better yet – take some classes while you’re there. Spanish classes in Cali, Colombia only cost about $5-10 per hour for individual lessons.
While Cali, Colombia isn’t a touristy city, there’s still enough stuff to keep you entertained. So here are a few things to do in Cali, Colombia:
Learn to Dance Salsa: Cali, Colombia is the salsa dancing capital of the world. Or so I’ve been told. If you want to learn to dance salsa, there’s no better place to practice. If you’re looking to learn, check out El Manicero.
Hike Tres Cruces: If you’re looking to get a little exercise and enjoy some stunning views of Cali, then head to Tres Cruces. You can start hiking from Barrio Granada. Just be forewarned, while the views are ideal, the hike is fairly difficult when you get closer to the top. Bring some extra cash for a juice or protein shake once you get to the top, too.
Cristo Rey: Ok, so the Jesus statue in Cali, Colombia isn’t as big or well-known as the one in Rio. However, it’s an easy taxi ride from anywhere in Cali and offers what may be the best views of the city. Just hop in an Uber and check it out one afternoon.
Visit Pance: Another fun little hike in Cali, Colombia is at the Pance River. Take an Uber to the small town just south of Cali and start walking. Ask some locals where La Chorrera del Indio is. Everyone knows it. Once you make it there, enjoy some swimming in the freezing cold water before grabbing some food. This is a great day trip from Cali and takes about 3-4 hours total.
Visit Lago Calima: If you’re looking to head out of Cali for a night or weekend, check out Lago Calima. An hour and a half from Cali, Colombia towards the Pacific coast, you’ll find this lake. Here you can ride jet skis, fish, and just enjoy nature. There’s also great hiking and biking trails. Make sure to stay here if you go. I had a great time at Local House Hostel in Calima.
Lago Calima is beautiful.
Nightlife in Cali
I’ll be honest. I partied in Cali, but not like I normally do. However, I can tell you that most of the people go out in big groups of friends to dance salsa.
If that’s not your scene, you’ll find it difficult to enjoy a night out in Cali. Still, I did find a few decent spots:
Quickly: This is a small disco in Barrio Granada. It can be hit or miss, but it’s usually packed on Saturdays. Just remember to bring a group, as people will look at you funny if you’re alone. Reggaeton is played here.
La Purga: This is a half-gay, half-straight club near Barrio Granada. It’s a huge spot and can be fun. Again, don’t go here alone – as you’ll be aggressively approached by members of the same sex if you do.
La Topa Tolandra: This is a salsa-only spot known as an ideal place for beginners to practice on Monday nights. I’m not a huge fan, but you’ll always find people here.
There’s also a singles salsa night on Thursdays, but I can’t remember what club it’s at. You’ll have to ask around when in the city. Most of the taxi drivers know where it is.
Unless you’re taking the bus to the coffee region, you’ll want to fly out of Cali. Luckily, flights are dirt cheap to Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena. I would not recommend busing to any of the other major cities – as long bus rides in Colombia are absolutely terrible.
Cali, Colombia Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
I’m high up on Cali, Colombia – but I still think there are better places for expats in Colombia. The city has a lot to offer, but the nightlife is certainly lacking and you have to be adjusted to Colombian culture to get the most out of the city.
Still, I’m a fan. I hope this Cali, Colombia travel guide for digital nomads is of us to you. As the cheapest big city in Colombia, you can live a great life here for dirt cheap. Just remember how important salsa and Spanish are in the city.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.