FOOD: Buying Groceries in Barranquilla

A six-pack of beer at a local supermarket.

Barranquilla has lots to offer in terms of groceries depending on where you are in the city. The northern part, near the shopping mall, Buena Vista, tends to be more expensive and the farther south you go towards Soledad, prices become more economical. Depending on the time of year, prices can vary as well on such dates such as Black Friday, the period around Christmas, and also during Carnaval season.

In general, there will be shorter lines in supermarkets towards the end of the month as many people spend the bulk of their money near their payday, which is usually at the beginning of every month. In terms of options of where to buy your weekly or daily groceries, Barranquilla has a decent selection, and you can find a local neighborhood store in almost every neighborhood. Let’s break down the options from the most expensive to the most economic.

Carulla is considered to be the most posh among supermarkets in this city. The newest one is on Cra. 51B at calle 93. These supermarkets tend to be more expensive for more or less the same products and are found in the northern part of the city. You may be able to find more imported products at Carulla than at other places, and the cafeteria often has nice lunches and even some really tasty dinners consisting of honey baked ham and mashed potatoes. The atmosphere of this fancy chain is very stylish and can be recognized by its trademark green and white colors. If you’re not pinching pennies, this is the place to go to find quality meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables. However if you can’t find the exact imported item that you’re looking for, try heading to PriceMart.

Before you go to PriceMart, be aware that you must buy a yearly membership that is similar to other stores such as Costco in the United States. Nonetheless, once you pay the 50 thousand COP to acquire it, you’ll have access to a wide variety of imported goods that you may not be able to find anywhere else in Barranquilla. Located far north in the city at Carrera 53 with calle 106, this is the only PriceMart in the city.

Exito is a very large chain in Barranquilla and throughout Colombia that you will find everywhere in the city. Many of the Exito stores are massive and are essentially complete department store where you can buy clothing and furniture. Although they’re considered fairly economic for groceries, they typically have long lines and mediocre customer service. The next step down in terms of price but still offering high quality food and descent selection for your everyday food needs is Olimpica. Comparable to the abundance of Exito, you will find Olimpica stores spread out in almost every neighborhood in Barranquilla. Depending on the specific Olimpica and time of day, lines can grow to be very lengthy.

Next in line, Jumbo offers a huge selection of goods and have very affordable cafeterias for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The prices here are sometimes higher than Olimpica depending on what food you buy, but for the most part are very economic. There are only a few locations of Jumbo available in Barranquilla; check out the one inside of Americano Shopping mall at Cra. 38 with Calle 74 to pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels or a cheap bottle of aguardiente.

To get the most bang for your buck but still buy at a respected chain, go to Ara or Mega Tienda. These stores sometimes have limited selection and are smaller, but the prices are outrageously low for still being a mega chain company. If your kitchen is out of eggs, bread, fruit, veggies, or any of the other common essentials, make your way to the shopping mall Unico at Calle 74 #38D, 103 and find Mega Tienda. If none of these places fit your budget, the last option is the street market in the neighborhood known as El Centro. Here you can buy your fresh avocados or mangos from vendors who have movable stands set up. In additional to food, you can find leather goods, tools, clothing, and almost anything else in El Centro. This street market closes at dusk so do your shopping during the day.

Last but not least, let’s not forget the most important and abundant stores around Barranquilla for filling your fridge with drinks and junk food among other goods, the local neighborhood stores known as Tiendas. Ask your neighbor or anyone around you where the closest tienda is and you will be surprised; it’s probably a few houses away. Depending on their size, tiendas are generally super mini grocery stores offering the most commonly used household supplies and food. Tiendas are typically more expensive than the super markets but they offer convenience – in fact, most tiendas have a free bicycle delivery service.  All out of drinks?  No prob – call the tienda and you’ll have some in a jiffy.