Oh my gosh!! I finally went on my very first INTERNATIONAL SOLO TRIP. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but I just never put forth the effort. Just so you know, I have traveled around the US quite a bit alone but I have never ventured outside of the country. Typically, I plan a girls’ trip each year but this time my friends could not go for various reasons. I decided to still move forward with planning a trip, leaving my laptop and daughter behind. When you travel with a group, you have to be mindful that things are much cheaper because you can split the cost. However, I did not let this deter me as I needed the break. I simply decided that I would travel for as less as possible.
If you have never traveled solo before, start with a weekend trip in the US. I encourage everyone to try it at least once! It forces you out of your comfort done especially if you are not a social person.
How I chose my destination
I used Skyscanner.com and searched for the cheapest destinations in November leaving from MSY, since it is the closest airport to my grandma’s house, where my daughter would be staying. I wanted to go somewhere warm that had a beach so Mexico and Colombia were at the top of the list for cheap international destinations. I never pay over $500 for an international flight. Just FYI. I went to Tulum, Mexico last year so I decided I would give Colombia a shot. I chose Cartagena since people spent most of their time there and Medellin since it was high on the list of cities to visit in Colombia. I started to compare flights for the dates I wanted with various travel sites such as Kayak, Google Flights, and TravelZoo to name a few.
What airlines I used for the flights
Spirit Airlines is typically my go-to because of the bare fare. For a while, I wouldn’t give them a shot because of the reputation but I gave them a shot in February of this year and been flying with them every since. The flight was $373 leaving from MSY and arriving in CTG. However, there was an overnight layover in FLL on Saturday, which required me to stay there and a four hour layover on the way back. I had no issues with the flights and they all arrived on time, if not earlier. I only traveled with a personal item so I did not have to pay for a carry-on and I also checked-in online each time so I did not pay for my boarding pass or have issues with any other fees.
In Colombia, I used Latham & Avianca airlines. Both of these airlines were fine as well. If you don’t speak Spanish, you will have a hard time knowing what the announcements are but it will be fine. Avianca even have tv’s on their plane.
Where I stayed
In Fort Lauderdale, I reserved a private room on AirBnB. It was my very first time reserving a private room so I was kind of afraid but it worked out. The host was very accommodating. The latest check-in was at 11PM and he was kind enough to allow me to check-in at 11:30PM. I stayed in a three-bedroom house and two of the rooms were on AirBnB and we had to share the guest bathroom.
For my first two nights in Cartagena, I stayed at the Oz Hotel. My stay there was fine for two nights. It was a four-star hotel but I think they should pay more attention to the maintenance there. If you are just looking for a place to lay your head and you know you won’t be there long, this is great for less than $100 a night. The shower was hot and the bed was nice. That was all that mattered to me. The receptionist did not speak much English so beware of that.
For my two nights in Medellin, I stayed at a cute little studio apartment. The check-in time was 3PM and they would not allow me to check in early. Ugh. However, they did allow me to drop off my luggage. They also had a 24-hour security guard so that was great but he couldn’t speak any English and he’s the one that does check-in. This AirBnB had all of the essentials: water, an iron (thank God!), towels, an extra blanket, and soap. The only issue I had was that after a period of time, the shower’s water would get cool and later would go back to hot. It was annoying but I just learned that I needed to stop trying to take extra long showers there and I was fine.
For my last night in Cartagena, I stayed at the Conrad. I loved my room! It is a five-star hotel so I was definitely expecting a great experience when I got there even thought I find a deal at $105 per night. Talk about a STEAL! I arrived before check-in and they allowed me to check-in early. However, I had to settle for two queen beds instead of the king sized bed I requested. The view was amazing. The hotel had a beach club that you can go to that’s included and you can get there via a golf cart. I relaxed there for the rest of the day. Beware. The hotel is far (30 mins or so) from the Walled City and they charge $55,000COP (around $17.50 USD) for their taxi to take you there. I didn’t realize this when I booked it so I decided that I would just hang out there once I got there.
What I did and how much I paid for each activity
It’s easier to share my itinerary. So here it is:
Park at Park N Fly New Orleans for seven days - $90.98
Arrive in Fort Lauderdale via Spirit Airlines: $373.91 roundtrip
Uber to the AirBnb: $16.39
Private room cost: $48.71
Uber to the Airport: $13.39
Breakfast - $6.64
Taxi to hotel - $4.25 (Only because I met another solo traveler)
Arrive at hotel - $125.07 for two nights
Eat dinner at Jeno’s Pizza - $9.87 (Don’t judge me - I was tired of walking and finding everything in Spanish. Hahaha)
Stop at the supermarket for some snacks - $2
Taxi to the Walled City - $2.47
Breakfast at Epocoa - $15 (I had an omelet and ORGANIC mimosas :) - they had a special that was 3 mimosas for the price of 2)
Free Tour - $6 tip
Arepa on the street/Water - $2
Arepa - $2
Drinks - $3
Castle - $6
Water - $1
Taxi to hotel - $3
Taxi back to the Walled City - $1.50
Margarita at a Bar - $6
Dinner - $10
Taxi - $1.50 (split)
Taxi to airport - $6
Breakfast - $1.50
Travel to Medellin w/Latham Airlines - $53.42
Arrive at AirBnB for two nights - $108.06
Taxi to AirBnB - $15.50 (split with another solo traveler - reg. $23)
Taxi to Pergamino - $2.50
Pergamino coffee/cookie - $2
Lunch/Drink at Hooter’s - $16.66 (Don’t judge. Both my phone and battery pack were dying - I needed somewhere to charge it and I spotted an outlet from passing by)
Uber to the AirBnb - $2.20
Uber to dinner - $3.03
Dinner/Drink at Gato’s - $19
Cab - $2.50
Uber to Parque el Poblado - $3
Guatape Tour (a small breakfast and lunch was included) - $26.03
Fee to climb El Pinol - $6
Coffee/Cookie - $3
Dinner at OCI.MDE - $17.78
Uber to AirBnB - $3.50
Uber to Airport - $25
Breakfast at Burger King - $2.16
Travel back to Cartagena w/Avianca Airlines - $75.22
Stay at the Conrad - $105.07
Lunch/Drinks at the Beach Club - $30
Taxi to Walled City - $17.21
Photoshoot via AirBnb Experiences: $55.03 (Yes! AirBnB has experiences)
Choco Museum - FREE entry
Souvenir shopping - $90 ($25 was spent at the Choco Museum on Cocoa Butter and Chocolate - The rest was spent on coffee, magnets, a shot glass, and tees)
Lunch at the airport - $7
Dinner at the airport - $12.97
Recap of the costs
Flight to/from CTG (Cartagena): $373.91
Flight to/from MDE (Medellin): $128.64
Approximate total trip cost including all flights, accommodations, activities, and spending: $1436.55 excluding gas from driving to and from Houston
Overall, I enjoyed this trip but I believe I should’ve just done one city (Cartagena) because of the time lost during the flights. I’m glad I didn’t let the travel advisory or other’s bad experiences to influence my decision. I met other solo travelers at the airports and on the tours and I didn’t feel that my safety was being compromised at any time! It’s just like being aware of your surroundings when you are anywhere else! Google Translate, Google Maps, and Waze saved me. Very few people speak English and I had to know where I was going. I had lots of time for self-care (sitting in silence, reading, and reflecting). I’m sad I did not get to go to Rosario Islands, Playa Blanca, or any of the beautiful beaches I read about. I simply ran out of time. Sigh. Wi-fi is not available everywhere so I ended up getting an International Pay-as-you Go Plan through AT&T, my cellphone carrier, at $10 per day that included unlimited calling, texting, and use of your data plan. It was definitely worth it for those places that did not have wi-fi. A lot of solo travelers did not worry about their phones but they could also speak some Spanish. I was struggling with basic Spanish. I heard that there was also an option to purchase a SIM card and get a plan there. As for photos, I asked the other solo travelers I met or the tour guides.
The taxi drivers will try and rip you off because there is no meter in Cartagena so be aware of that. Also, ask the cost of the ride before you hop in. I had a slight issue with a taxi driver because of this. In Medellin, the taxis are metered and it’s easier to use Uber there. However, they say Uber is illegal so it’s best that you sit in the front seat if you decide to use it. Also, Uber charges a few cents for their foreign transaction fee and you have to deal with surges in price. There’s also an app that useful in Medellin called EasyTaxi. I used it as well. Wi-Fi is at most places in Medellin. It seems to resemble the US more than Cartagena.
If you are wondering how I afford a trip as such, each year I typically take $1000 out of my income tax and put it in a savings account (I call it my travel fund) and I figure out how much more I need and save that per check. So in this case, I needed $436.55. Saving $50 a check or $100 a month allowed me to save up the rest. Just save how much you can until you have enough to book your flight (especially if you find a good deal because prices can fluctuate hourly), your hotel, and activities.
Right now, Chase Bank is giving you up to $350 to open a new savings or checking account!!
You know you could use them for the holidays or to put towards your solo trip!
I hope this helps you with your solo trip planning! Let me know below if you are thinking about taking a solo trip, or if you have done one let me know where you have been and where you want to go! Also, be on the lookout for the podcast where I will actually talk about my experience more in depth.