You won't be hungry in Colombia. Though every region has its own specialties, you're never far from a plate of beans, beef, plantains, and rice. Food is good, hearty, and generally cheap, if not particularly varied. For gourmands, major cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena also offer a huge range of upscale, gourmet, and international options. Some typical dishes to look for on your menu include ajiaco (chicken soup with potatoes, avocado, corn, and capers), bandeja paisa (rice, avocado, salad), chicharrón (minced meat, egg, plantain, and yuca), sancocho (plantain, yuca, potato, and beef, chicken, or fish soup), lechona (stuffed baked pork), arepa (flat cornbread, often topped with cheese or butter), and tamales (corn dough, chicken, and vegetables cooked and served in plantain leaves).
Tinto, black coffee, is Colombia's most popular beverage and can be enjoyed at anytime, just about anywhere. Other popular drinks are beer, aguardiente (the licorice-flavored national liquor), hot chocolate, and soda products. Bottled water (or bagged) water can usually be found at most stores and street stands. Thanks to its tropical climate and fertile soil, Colombia has countless exotic fruit juices such as guanábana (soursop), lulo, maracuyá (passion fruit), and tomate de árbol (tree tomato). Wine is not particularly popular in Colombia, and Colombian wines on the whole leave a lot to be desired. However, upscale restaurants and grocery stores generally offer high-quality Argentine and Chilean varieties.
Restaurants range from the rustic and incredibly inexpensive to polished places with impeccable service and international menus. Set three-course lunch menus are usually called comida corriente and can be had for COP$2,000 to COP$5,000 in rural areas. The majority of restaurants include taxes and service in their prices, and your bill will reflect the menu prices. For others, however, you might see a subtotal, followed by a 16% IVA (general sales tax). It’s primarily only higher end restaurants that do this. This is just a tax, not a tip.
Note: Dining hours are not much different from typical mealtimes in cities in North America or Great Britain, except that dinner (cena) is generally eaten after 8pm in restaurants. Colombians do not eat nearly as late as Spaniards. Although lunch (almuerzo) is the main meal of the day, for most visitors, it’s not the grand midday affair it is in Spain, unless it is the weekend and you are dining at a rural parrilla, where most locals linger over lunch for a couple of hours.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.