Planning a solo trip to Cali, Colombia? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Third largest city in Colombia, with a population of around 2.9 million.
- Officially known as Santiago de Cali.
- The salsa music and dancing capital of the world.
- Nicknames: La Capital de la Rumba, Cali Pachangero (“The Party Capital”).
- Currency: Colombian Peso (COP)
- Spoken languages: Spanish
- Best time to visit: all year round!
- Arriving via airport: the International Airport Alfonso Bonilla Aragón serves Cali about 20 minutes outside of town, reachable by bus (4,000 COP) and taxi (45,000 COP).
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers in Cali: La Palmera Hostel. A newer hostel, with great facilities and clean all around. The real attraction here are the staff, who work very hard to create a safe, fun, and welcoming environment. Spacious, with many areas to relax, hang out, and meet other travelers. Free daily salsa/bachata classes. Book ahead to reserve your spot (accommodation in Cali fills up fast).
- Almost all accommodations – including mid-range and five-star hotels) can be found in North and Southwest Cali, with backpacker hostels (more expensive than in any other city in Colombia) sprinkled throughout.
- The Masivo Integrado de Occidente (MIO) is a station-to-station bus system that costs 1.600 per ride.
- Non-MIO buses operate everywhere in Cali for 1.500 a ride.
- Taxis start at 3,700 by day and 4,600 at night.
CALI NIGHTLIFE BREAKDOWN
- Drinking age is 18, last call is 1:30 AM (some nightclubs stay open until 4 AM).
- Cali is the salsa capital of the world – dancers from Cali have been winning worldwide dancing championships for years.
- Colombians love music, dancing and partying more than anyone, and Cali serves as their cultural nightlife capital. It’s not just about getting drunk and acting rowdy, but celebrating traditional arts…hard.
- The Juanchito District is legendary for its salsa scene, so head over around 10 PM (you may want to take some lessons first!)
- Great bars to start your night: Icaro Bar, Cervecería Glück, and The Pub Legend.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Torre Mudéjar (Moor Tower) is an excellent example of Mudéjar Art and architecture. It’s part of the Immaculate Cathedral which flanks a sunny square.
- As Cali is almost 500 years old, architecture is its main draw during the daytime. There are too many distinctive churches to list here, but some of the highlights includes the gothic La Ermita Church – its stark white facade matches that of Ortiz Bridge a block away.
- Iglesia de la Merced is a stunning Spanish colonial church, and is the oldest in Cali.
- Parque de los Poetas is a plaza where poets write prose on typewriters for pedestrians – ten times more memorable than any other souvenir!
- Make sure to visit the hilly, historic neighborhood San Antonio’s streets and colourful cafes, best enjoyed on foot.
- Cali was a sleepy town until the sugarcane trade blew up. Take a day to tour the sugarcane plantations and the colonial estates that dot them right outside of town.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Cali isn’t the best place for a budget traveler. Thankfully, the cheapest eats in town can be found at LA 14 Supermarket, which has an array of affordable food stalls.
- Dangerous areas: in general, avoid the East. The Centro and some parks wouldn’t be the best areas to be alone at night. Most places in the North, South, and West areas are safe.
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days