With the highest VAT in Colombian history, food shopping on a budget has become a popular practice in most households around the country. It is normal that discount food retailers have such wide popularity in a city like Bogotá and it’s fairly common to see at least one of these shops in every neighborhood you visit. Here are the 3 most popular shops if you’re buying on a budget!
Bogotá might come across as a fairly cheap city for many tourists, but compared to the other cities in the region, it ranks quite highly as one of the most expensive ones. In all fairness, it’s an issue that every capital city in the world faces and its citizens know that that is the price to pay in order to live in a cool place like Bogotá. That’s why the so-called “budget-friendly grocery shops” or “discount food retailers” are popping up around the city and everybody seems to love them! Their business model is so popular that in just 2017, these three shops grew a total of 5.2%, which is a high number considering that mass consumption in the world only grew 1.9% in comparison to 2016.
Paying a lot for groceries is not a wise move when you can save up some money and spend it on cool activities like going to music festivals or eating out in a cool restaurant every night. Here is a list of the 3 biggest discount food retailers you can find in Bogotá and my advice on what to buy in each of them.
D1 was the first of these grocery shops/supermarkets that opened in Bogotá and it became an instant go-to for everyone. Even though their shops are not the prettiest to look at, they have the biggest number of stores in the city and most of the products they sell are great. D1 is famously known for its high-quality cleaning items and their big snack section of sweet and salty treats that are significantly cheaper than other stores like Éxito or Carulla. Their alcohol selection is also pretty good. They import cheap Belgium and German lager for only $0.50 USD/$1,600 COP a can and their Chilean wine has become a staple in every social gathering you will attend.
Avoid buying: their sausages and cold meats – the quality is not that good there.
Worth trying: the sparkling wine mixed with their orange juice is the best low budget mimosa you can get in the market.
What you can get with $15 USD/$50,000 COP: 31 beers, one beer for each day of the month!
Click here to find the closest store to you.
Ara has the biggest space of the three grocery shops and was the last one to hit the market. It is also the “most complete” supermarket in the way that they have a wider selection of produce and vegetables compared to the other two shops. You can also find all sources of cheap and surprisingly good quality kitchen appliances like an air fryer or a food processor (I got both things from Ara over a year ago and I love them). Ara is also famously known for selling rotisserie chicken for a bit over $3 USD/$12,000 COP; just pay attention to the catchy song “ya está listo el pollo” and run to the counter because they sell out fast.
Avoid buying: their mouthwash – it’s not great.
Worth trying: the rotisserie chicken and the fairly cheap pork cuts.
What you can get with $15 USD/$50,000 COP: a special treatment shampoo and conditioner set – 2 bottles of micellar water and a hair treatment bottle to pamper yourself!
Justo & Bueno
Meaning “Fair & Good,” Justo & Bueno is probably my favorite of the three shops because their stores are all very colorful and the whole brand focuses on emulating a classic Colombian “tienda de barrio” (corner shop), which is also a great alternative for buying essential goods on the go. These supermarkets are famously known for having a wider variety of products in comparison to the other two mentioned above and the quality is also a bit better. There is always free coffee or hot chocolate in every Justo & Bueno and their selection of cold meats is the best value for your money that you can get in any shop. They are also very active on social media and it’s worth following them on Facebook and turning on their notifications because usually on Tuesdays, they post special offers that can get you a discount of up to 50% off.
Avoid buying: the peanuts – somehow, they taste a bit old.
Worth trying: the pesto sauce and the Tostao coffee
What you can get with $15 USD/$50,000 COP: 2 big jars of hazelnut spread, two bags of chocolate chip cookies, two big bags of nachos with cheddar cheese sauce, and four 2 liter bottles of soda to lock yourself in your house for a whole weekend and catch up on Netflix.
Click here to find the closest store to you.
To keep in mind before you visit any of these stores:
- Always bring your own bag, not just because you will get charged for every plastic bag you use, but also because it’s the right thing to help the environment.
- You can pay by card in any of these shops, but your purchase has to be over $3.14 USD/$10,000 COP, otherwise, you will get asked to pay in cash.
- Most of these shops have very limited parking areas.
- If you cannot find a product you need, ask the clerk for help because they are constantly selling out of stuff and sometimes they don’t have time to immediately restock, so you can ask someone to go and fetch your desired product from the back.
Even though there are some other specialized supermarkets and stores in Bogota where you can find almost everything you can think of, I strongly encourage you to go and visit these 3 budget-friendly shops, not just because the prices are significantly lower in comparison to the other stores, but also because their products are great quality and most of them are made in Colombia.
My advice if you are looking to save up some money is to visit one of these budget-friendly grocery stores in Bogotá and get all the essentials and all the products that you can and then visit those other bigger shops for the specific products on your shopping list. By doing this, you will save a lot of money that can be spent on more exciting things like eating out or visiting some cool places outside the city.
For other grocery alternatives to support locals, check our article here.
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