This story starts in Costeña beach about a 40-minute bus ride from Palomino.
Long story, short. I ate some bad chicken quesadilla and reserved a hammock. Hammocks rarely work out for me but I really wanted to sleep outside near the beach and fall asleep to the waves. I never ended up sleeping that night, thanks to food poisoning. As much as I wanted to stay I figured I should get to the pharmacy. So I started my long miserable trek back to palomino. Costeno is about a 30-minute walk from the road so I made the voyage, waited 15 minutes for a bus and headed towards palomino. After arriving I promptly went to the drug store to pick up some antibiotics and found a nearby moto-taxi to take me down the road to my hostel so I could relax and after being up all night, horribly sick and all this immediately after hiking Tayrona National Park so I was pretty sore from top to bottom. After taking a seat and feeling a flush of relief I reached to grab my phone. Not in my left, not in my right, not in my fanny pack. A rush of anxiety shoots across me. I don’t put in my phone in any other place! I had just lost my 256gb unlocked iPhone 7 Plus In Colombia.
I immediately begin to retrace my steps and remember using it at the drug store for translation. “I must have left it at the drug store,” I thought. I rush out of my hostel racing towards the nearest moto Taxi I see.
He takes me to the drug store. The man I spoke to earlier is dealing with another customer and I am doing my best to be as patient as possible. I burst and ask the man if he has seen my phone, he said he has not seen it. It was this moment I was pretty certain it was gone forever. However, there was still one more place to look and that was on the dirt road I paid the moto-taxi to take me down to get to my hostel. I walked the dirt road eyes on the ground. Got all the way to my hostel without a trace.
I had to resort to Find my iPhone if I was going to have any luck. So I grabbed my iPad which was having problems connecting to WiFi, so I grab my laptop. Same issue no wifi… Hostel networks aren’t the most consistent. I go two hostels down where my friends are staying at. I jump onto iCloud.com on my laptop and begin to track the location of my phone. I locked and sent a message to my phone in English and Spanish informing the possessor of my location at Tiki Hut hostel, including their phone number and the promise of a reward upon return. Thankfully my phone was still on and I was locating my device on the map which was vague however I could see movement, up and down the length of the dirt road. 5 minutes or so went by with no response or arrival: I grew tired of waiting and decided as a final last-ditch shot in the dark effort I would play the sound and waltz down the road in hopes of hearing it. So I did just that, played the sound walked outside the hostel, didn’t get but 20 ft before I heard a muffled “ping, ping, ping”. I hear it once “Ping Ping Ping” more as I close in on a group of moto taxi’s under a shady tree. They look at me guiltily and awkwardly as I’m now directly not front of them when I hear “PING PING PING”. I reach out my hand curling my fingers in the “hand it over” gesture. He reaches into his bag and pulls it out and promptly hands it over. His friend said something in Spanish I could only assume translated into “where is the reward?”. I handed over decent cash but didn’t pay out like I would have had I not needed to hunt down my phone. Make sure to download and turn on “Find my iPhone”. It may be the only tool you have to get it back.
For a list of other great apps to have when traveling check out my TOP 20 apps for backpackers
The Top 20 apps on every seasoned backpackers phone
Apps you don’t leave home without
Here is a list of my TOP 20 Apps that are paramount during your travels. This list encompasses affordable accommodations, options for offline entertainment, free financial transfer and visibility, offline maps and more. If you feel have left anything out please make use of the comments below.
- Hostelworld – Every backpacker’s resource for finding and researching hostels. Find all you need to know about hostels here.
- Airbnb – Is to hotels what uber is to taxis. Community-based accommodations where you can rent a bed, room or entire apartment or house for an agreed duration. Often cheaper than hotels and sometimes cheaper than hostels.
- Couch surfing – Everyone has that friend who will let you crash on their couch. Couch surfing is an app you can use to find a couch to crash on all over the world. As well as amazing people along the way. Free accommodations!
- TripAdvisor – This app needs no introduction. Where to go to hear real experience and reviews as well as find exciting things to do.
- Maps.me – A new addition to the arsenal that I love. This is the perfect solution for those who travel without cellular reception and rely on WiFi, or just traveling through a dead zone… Maps.me allows you to download the map of your area and view your location while not connected (many people are under the impression you need cellular/WiFi to view your GPS location but this is untrue.) Not only can you view your location, you can easily bookmark locations, share those locations and get directions to and from with a couple of clicks. Like Hostelworld, you’ll find few backpackers without this helpful app on their phone.
- Skyscanner – A great resource for finding budget-friendly flights. Search by month view to see the cheapest flight possible given flexible dates. Set up email alerts for when the price drops considerably.
- CheapOair – I consistently find the cheapest flights on CheapOair (even when compared to Skyscanner) always cross-reference the two to find the best deal. I found a round-trip flight from Quito to Galápagos for 400 bucks and a one-way ticket from Medellin to Rio for the same price.
- Paypal – It’s always recommended to bring several sources of cash along with your journey. Paypal is a tried and true solution that many people feel comfortable using, even hostels. I say open up a Paypal account in the event you need to transfer cash or receive cash instantly for a very nominal charge. This service is free if you choose to send money to “friends and family”. I seriously recommend getting the debit card for it as well which can act as another source of cash in the event you lose your debit or credit card.
- Mint – If you don’t already know Mint is the business when it comes to the insight of your finances. Track and categorize transactions throughout multiple accounts. You can even view your credit score and pay your bills… all from one place. Makes taxes easier too. Set up your accounts before you leave so you are never surprised or suffer from the overdraft, late fees, and dings to your credit from missing your payment!
- Cash app – Similar to Paypal, completely free. Uses your bank account and is quick and easy to set up. You can set it up so that money is automatically redirected to your account after it enters your cash app account. You can make it instant for a fee. Otherwise, it takes 3 business days. You even get a digital card you can use to make online purchases. Made by square so you trust it’s validity!
- Speedtest – This one is a little geeky but stays with me. With Speedtest you can check the speed of the WiFi or cellular signal you are on. This is helpful when you want to find the best bed in the dorm, best dorm in a hostel, the best network between hostels or comparing cellular carrier data speeds.
- Audible – Great audiobooks for long bus rides, or drowning out partying hostel roommates.
- Kindle App – eBook and Pirated Lonely Planet Reader (Jk)
- Spotify – A great way to discover new international music by following playlists of your newly acquired friends.
- WhatsApp – The universal, international messaging app everyone unanimously agreed on, seemingly. No matter where they are from you can expect they have WhatsApp.
- Uber – Works well in larger cities (Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, don’t know about Cali but assume so. Usually around half as cheap as a taxi. Do not take uber from airport, my driver got busted by the policía, more on that here<- link>
- Find friends (Location Sharing App) – Great way to make sure you are never separated and can always find each other. You can allow the family to track your location as well, for peace of mind. You can revoke privileges whenever you want.
- Find my iPhone (Lost Phone Recovery App) – Allows you to track, lock, wipe, display a message or play sound on your iOS device. This literally saved my a** in palomino, read this amazing story here.
- Duolingo – To learn the fundamentals of the language of wherever you are headed to.
- Google Translate – The best translation app. Use voice or images to translate as well.