When I first moved to Barranquilla, learning how and where to find the products I needed was a trial-and-error process. Below is a very random set of tips that I hope will help others avoid the “error” part. Some street addresses are included in the descriptions below. Others can be found via the hyperlinks. If you have your own tips, please post them in the Comments section. We’ll all thank you!
Food and Grocery:
- These are the main grocery/super stores: Éxito, Jumbo (which used to be Carrefour), and Super Almacen Olimpica, which is sometimes referred to as the “SAO.” There are also smaller “regular” Olimpicas, which sell groceries only (no clothes or electronics). The other main US-style grocery store, which is more high-end than the above, is Carulla.
- All the above stores have “point systems”. If you shop at one store regularly, you will want to participate. You earn points for everything you buy. The points are tied to your cédula or ID number. Olimpica points can be used to purchase anything except food and sale items. Olimpica points last for one year. Éxito points can be used only for specified items; a review of their weekly circular will tell you what’s permissible. Also, at Éxito, some items can be purchased only with points.
- Not all produce is created equal. Generally speaking, the produce at Carulla is fresher than the produce at Éxito is fresher than the produce at Olimpica. While I have not yet been, I am told that the place with the freshest produce is the Mercado Campesino (a farmer’s market) at Carrera 43 and Calle 70.
- Ingredients for non-Colombian food are most easily found at Carulla and Éxito. You may have to do a little digging, but you can find what you need to make basic Thai, Mexican, Indian, and Japanese.
- The baked goods are best at Olimpica. Éxito tends to use margarine in their products; Olimpica uses butter. You can taste the difference. That being said, the best baked goods are at La Baguette.
- Wine is 25% at Carulla on Fridays. Important info to know! 🙂
- For ready-made home decor, you’ll want to check out the following: Home Center, Falabella (a Chilean-based department store that is lovely), Coral Costa, and Tugo.
- Fabric stores abound! William Chams is one of the biggest. If you need curtains for your house, someone at a fabric store can usually give you the number of someone who can make them. Once that person tells you the width and amount of fabric you need, you can pick out your own. In Barranquilla, you can hit most major fabric stores all at once by going to the corner of Carerra 44 between Calles 70 and 72.
- For inexpensive wood furniture and/or inexpensive custom-made furniture, head to Carrera 38 and Calle 30. You will find an array of small furniture stores. Staff inside will also work with you to produce custom pieces. In these same locations, you can also order quality mattresses at good prices. Be prepared to haggle for everything, including for prices of custom-made items. Remember to negotiate the cost of delivery. And be careful: do not stray off this street, and don’t “dar papaya” (take out your phone, show your cash, etc.) in this area.
- Buying furniture on credit may be your only way to begin building a credit history in Colombia. For this reason, you may want to consider buying furniture on credit even if you have the cash. Muebles Jamar is very generous with their credit. While their furniture is a little flashy for my personal style, we bought our couch from there and have been very happy.