D'Norberto Peluqueria in Colombia
This is D’Norberto Peluqueria, one of the best salons in Colombia. Christmas 2010.

Let’s face it – traveling can take a good chunk o’ change out of your wallet. Many people consciously prepare for the necessities before they venture out, such as flights, hotels, tours, and food, and this is great because it is necessary. However, most travelers do not prepare for the cost of the little things that may take place in the days leading up to a trip. Some people want to start their vacation already half-pampered so that on their first day of arrival, they can look and feel their best. Shedding off the stress prior to travel may help you relax as you slowly accustom yourself to the next few days without business meetings and power lunches, but it can wreak havoc on your wallet.

Manicures, pedicures, and haircuts can give you that initial sense of well-being before your journey, but why not take care of these abroad? Assuming, since you are reading this blog, that your primary language is English, many of the countries where you may travel have a great chance of offering these same services at a much more economical rate. If you are coming from the United States, Europe, or Australia, and are traveling to Latin America or Southeast Asia, you can probably pay less than half of the going rate which you are used to back home, for a comparable, or perhaps better, experience.

For example, on my most recent trip to South America, I had wanted to get a haircut prior to leaving. I usually pay $20 USD for a cut from my local guy in Brooklyn, NY. But then we had a snowstorm, and I could not get my haircut, as my barber closed shop for a few days. I was forced to forgo my cut until I returned home, at least that was what I thought. When I arrived in Bogotá, Colombia, my girlfriend noticed the discomfort that I was experiencing with my hair. You see, I like to get a trim every three weeks to the day, and I rarely ever am late. At three weeks and one day, I could feel the difference, and it was annoying. The smallest things seem to bother me the most.

My girlfriend, Kathe, suggested we go for a girls day out. This prospect excited me, as I was anxious to rid myself of that unwanted few grams of hair. Kathe told me we were going to D’Norberto Peluquería, what many in Bogotá consider to be the best in the city. Colombians are a gorgeous people, so I was certain that almost any salon there would suffice, but the “best” salon in Bogotá? I was trying to suppress a mild anxiety attack as I estimated the cost.

I calmed down and entered the salon, and because mi español is not adequate yet, Kathe told the receptionist what kind of cut I wanted. Then, she asked the young lady to add the manicure package to my haircut, as she looked further at the menu of services. She stole a glance at my bushy eyebrows and finally was content after adding the eyebrow threading for me. My heart rate spiked further at my assumed costs of all these services combined, until I finally surrendered and said, “Fuck it.” I started thinking of finding cocaine to smuggle back to New York to sell so that I could recoup some of my losses in this place.

The haircut was great, and it included a facial shave, which would have cost an extra $7.oo USD alone at my local barber. While one man was snipping away at my hair, another girl came over and sat down on a stool beside me, and grabbed my hands. I felt slightly embarrassed when she inspected my nails, as I take all my frustration and pent-up stress out by chewing on them, and thus they were not in great shape. She agreed that my nails were horrible. The manicure took longer than the haircut and shave, which was fine, because then another woman came up behind me with some twine. I forgot the threading that I had ordered for a second, and I imagined briefly that this was some hot latina spy, coming to end my life.

When the whole thing was done, it had been about 40 minutes of me sitting in the same chair, but I had everything completed. Three people had attended to me in all, and it really saved a lot of time, as everything overlapped. I appreciated the sense of urgency in the place, yet they were not in the least bit careless. I tipped all three of them 5,000 COP, which is about $2.75 USD as of early 2011, and they were very grateful, as tips are included in the tab. I went to the counter estimating a bill over $100 USD for all services rendered, and was shocked when I was handed my tab. The total bill, including the gratuity that they added, was $34,000 COP. That comes out to roughly $19 USD!!! I was completely shocked at the low price, after receiving pampering of such high quality by three different people. And, this was the best salon in Bogotá!

So you see, this is why I am an advocate of outsourcing your treatments overseas. Time spent was under an hour, which is sometimes less time than I wait for the chair to open up at my barber in Brooklyn. I spent about $25 total, including double-tipping everyone, and I had a haircut, a facial shave, a manicure, and eyebrow threading. Since I now am in the habit of going to Bogotá once a month to visit Kathe, I try to wait a little longer to get the works when I get there.

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