Airport Lounge Review: Avianca Sala VIP, Bogota, Colombia

Avianca Sala VIP is Avianca’s (Colombia’s national airline) lounge in the domestic wing of Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport.  Priority Pass cardholders have complimentary access to the lounge, so I visited it in February 2016 while waiting for a morning flight to Cartagena.  While I generally enjoy lounges, even those that don’t get great reviews, I was very disappointed with this lounge, only stayed for about 10 minutes, choosing instead to sit in the general boarding area, and I did not eat a thing.  Big shocker.

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Where is the beach in Cartagena?! Try Isla del Encanto

Cartagena is a gorgeous, well preserved colonial city right on the Caribbean Sea.  While it has beautiful architecture, interesting history, and really delicious food, despite being on the sea, it lacks a proper Caribbean beach!  Surprising to many, the idyllic Caribbean beaches are an hour away by car or boat.  Plan accordingly if you are looking for a Caribbean beach vacation!

There are three main Caribbean beaches around Cartagena.  Playa Blanca, Islas del Rosario and Isla del Encanto.  Playa Blanca has the Caribbean white sand beaches and can be reached by car (or public bus).  Since it can be reached by car, Playa Blanca is often the easiest and cheapest option, as you do not need to go with a tour.  It is also the most crowded and local option.

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Paloquemao Market in Bogota, Colombia

As a lot of people say, one of the best ways to see a culture is through visiting a local market and trying the foods that the locals eat on a regular basis.  But that can be very difficult.  Especially in countries without an advanced tourism markets and/or those where you don’t speak the language, like me in Bogota, Colombia.

Bogota’s biggest and most important market is Paloquemao Market, located right in the center of Bogota in the Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao.  The market is large and from afar and looks more like a big factory than a market.  It is also extremely busy, with very few tourists.


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Money Changing in Argentina: The “Unofficial” Blue Rate

If you are thinking of traveling to Argentina, you should research the status of their currency, the Argentine Peso, and the Blue Rate.

What is the Blue Rate you may ask?  It is the black market value of the Argentine Peso.  The Argentine government artificially sets their currency.  This results in an official exchange rate of $1 US to 8-9 Argentine Pesos.  This is the rate you will get using credit card, withdrawing from the ATM and at places run or monitored by the national government.

However, this rate does not reflect the true value of the Argentine Peso. There is a “black market” rate, the Blue Rate, which is currently about $1 US to 12.5 Argentine Pesos.  This is a huge difference. When exchanging $100 US, the difference is enough to pay for dinner and a bottle of wine at a mid-range restaurant.  Definitely makes your money go further and decreases the cost of the trip significantly.

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