Colombians are sort of badasses. They don’t give a crap about hygiene, neatness or food poisoning. During my last trip to Colombia I was constantly seeing people buying food and beverages and other unknown stuff on the street from pretty nasty sellers and hawkers. From my tourist point of view, it was quite an interesting experience. I mean, these stands on wheels were an exotic view for me. Here in Europe we don’t see much of them.
You may not be aware of the different types of stands and sellers there are. Somehow there is a strict link between selling products and sellers. Not everybody can sell whatever they want to.
Juices – a wooden wheelbarrow with a juice squeezer on the bottom. The booth is always covered with fresh colorful Colombian fruits – and that’s the part I most enjoyed. I observed that the most popular are mandarin and mango juices. It would be fine for me if they didn’t squeeze liters of juice in the morning, put it in a huge crystal recipient with ice and leave it there for the whole day (or maybe longer). I was literally able to see bacterias multiplying. The juice sellers seemed to be the coolest ones.
Coffee and other hot beverages – one man business (usually male) that consists of a guy carrying a big plastic basket with loads of medium size thermoses. Your hot drink is served in a tiny plastic cup. According to my observations these are the most popular street-sellers. They seemed to have their hands full all day long. Why? Well, because it’s cheaper than ordering a coffee in a bar.
Snack, cigarettes, other processed food – a wooden stand with thousand of snacks: chewing gums and candies, gummy bears, some Colombian biscuits (unknown to me). Its target are teenagers. The sellers are usually elder woman or men (kind of granny). They usually make you feel pity for them so you buy whatever they’re selling just to make them earn some money.
Shellfish – this one can be seen on Colombian Caribbean cost. A man with dirty hand fridge made of Styrofoam serving fried shrimps, ceviche, mussels (chipi-chipi), snails, oysters. Everything covered with hot sauce and lime juice. Call me a cry baby but I really don’t think that buying shellfish on a beach, in a 40 degree sunny day, is safe for your health.
Drinks – a wheelbarrow and a medium age man screaming his head off. Almost all drinks were served in a coconut. It may seem fancy to you but it was rather a shitty version of Coco Loco with the worst run and coco milk. Also it was served not chilled, no ice was added.
Arepas, buñuelos and other deep fried Colombian snacks – widely spread all over the country. These snack are pretty tasty so if you don’t care about hygiene, you can give a try.
Pieces of exotic fruits – in the Colombian Caribbean cost it was rather a tourist attraction rather than a real business. Elder Caribbean woman dressed in a colorful dress and a fruit hat on her head waw sitting on a street, cutting fruits in slices. You can usually get a watermelon, mango and pineapples from them.
Homemade candies and cookies – these were my guilty pleasure: typical Colombian sweets. The people of Cartagena de Indias happen to produce great sweets. The main ingredient of almost all of them is coco and other candied or sun-dried exotic fruits mixed with brown sugar. The flavor was very similar to Turkish typical sweets. I was enjoying them during my stay in Colombia and out of the blue I put on weight (2 kilos of sweet pleasure). But it was totally worth it.
Natural medicines – a trolley with a plastic basket full of little bottles with natural medicine. Apparently they had medicine for everything, starting with a headache and finishing with infertility. They always happen to have exactly what you need and tend to heal you with their creepy medicine.
The Colombian street business seems to do just fine. What does it mean for a tourist? Well, they won’t let you starve. Someone will always come close offering some rare deep fried snacks.
What about pricing? You probably know how it works, right? If you look rich, you’ll have to pay more than an average Colombian. But still, it would be cheaper than eating in a bistro.
By the way, I remember we had gone to a bar to grab some mojitos and we’d paid for them, let’s say $4. Then we came back the very next day and they tried to charge us $6 per drink. So as you can see, there are no fixed prices. I recommend asking about the price before ordering so they can’t trick you. It is also acceptable to bargain.