Another day of transit, leaving Ecuador after almost 3 months, for a short one-city visit to Colombia. Our travel day:
- Cab from Atacames to Esmeraldas, Ecuador–45 minutes (including a pullover by the police to check license, registration), $25.
- Flight on Tame from Esmeraldas to Quito, Ecuador–45 minutes.
- Flight on Viva Colombia from Quito to Bogotá, Colombia–100 minutes.
- Flight on Avianca from Bogotá to Medellín, Colombia–60 minutes.
- Uber-ish ride from the Medellín airport to our AirBnB accommodation–45 minutes.
Bed at about 3:00 a.m., but we are now in Colombia and really looking forward to exploring what is supposed to be a very beautiful city.
We will not be flying with Viva Colombia again. You must pay for absolutely everything including refreshments (water/juice/coffee), the baggage allowances are lower than the other airlines, they weigh and measure all significant carry-on bags and those allowances are also lower. Their system automatically assigns seats without keeping booking buddies together and they won’t alter any seats without payment right up to the last.
Our plane flew with many people split up and the back of the plane crammed full, the front almost empty (we were hoping the weight and balance issues were managed with baggage positioning). One person moved without being noticed, but another asked if they could move and their request was denied.
We were surprised that we hadn’t discovered in our research the “reciprocal” fee that Colombia charges Canadians to enter the country. A lovely gesture offered because Canada charges Colombians to enter its borders. We had a special immigration line where we were required to pay 171,000 Colombian pesos (~$75CDN). We have this lovely ticket with reciprocity explanation to show for it.The immigration officer pointed out that this was not Justin Trudeau’s doing; I believe they are hoping that the charge on Colombians will change under the current administration.
We had planned to book an Uber from the airport, having been advised that they were plentiful, the airport had wifi, and that it would save us from grabbing Colombian pesos at the airport (cabs only take cash, but prices are competitive and the cars and drivers are safe). At the airport, the wifi was almost non-existent in the arrivals area, I couldn’t get Uber to accept the address, and I couldn’t get a message out to our host to see what was wrong.
A potentially suspicious gentleman came up and gently asked us if we needed a ride into Medellín. I explained the problem of lack of local currency (he spoke English so it was easier, especially at 2:00 in the morning), and he told us there was an ATM nearby in the airport. He pointed to his “cab,” an unmarked car; we were so tired we decided to trust him. He walked with us to the ATM, we withdrew cash, we loaded his car and off we went. He was very patient with my poor Spanish as we chattered away, and he provided all sorts of ideas for places we should go while visiting his fine city.
When we arrived at our accommodation, we unloaded, paid him, and thanked him for his kindness. It was raining, and we had not managed to get into the building yet. I didn’t have a suite number and no ability to phone. I was hoping that our host would hear us (we could see the only suite with lights on on the second floor, and assumed that was him), but he didn’t, despite a few callouts.
Our driver, Carlos, wouldn’t leave. He tried both the buttons for the suites on the second floor, chatting once with a groggy neighbour (not our host!). Carlos then allowed me to tether a tablet to his phone so I could look up a phone number for our host (I had everything else except a suite number, which hadn’t been provided, and the phone number, which was only on the site, not in our communications). I was able to do it quickly, he called, and we woke Alex, our host, from his late-night fog. We thanked our driver profusely for all of his help, and took his name and number as we hope to use him again, at least for the return trip to the airport in a week.