Colombia uses the Peso. The current exchange rate in Colombia is 1750 pesos to the dollar. It takes some mental acuity (or a quick calculator finger) to divide a large number by 1,750. We normally divide by 2, knock off a few zeros, and add 10%. Sometimes you get confused with the zeros.
The other confusing thing is that the Colombians (and much of the rest of the world) use a comma for a period and a period for a comma when writing numbers. So 50.000 isn't an extra-precise 50, but is really 50 thousand. I'm still getting used to reading the price labels in the grocery store.
One of the other things we've learned this week, is which ATM will give you more than 400,000 pesos (which is only $228). The 'Davidienda Bank', just down the street from Mimo's, the ice cream place, will let you make TWO 500,000 peso withdrawals from the ATM. So yesterday Dave sent me on a mission to get 1 million pesos, to pay for some work we are having done.
A few blocks walk, and two 500,000 withdrawals later, and I'm walking around with a million pesos in my pocket. Weird. The largest bill I've seen is 50,000 (the rough equivalent of a $30 bill).
The OTHER confusing thing is that in Spanish, 'one thousand' is 'un mil' (pronounced just like the beginning of 'million'). So 50,000 is Cinquenta Mil. So sometimes we hear the 'mil' and think million, not thousand. It is best sometimes when doing financial negotiations to write it down so there's no misunderstanding.
In Panama, the currency is the Balboa, and prices are quoted in B's. But, in 1941, Panama converted to using the US Dollar as their paper money, instead of printing their own. So the exchange rate there is easy... it is fixed at 1:1 to the US Dollar. So everyone in Panama uses the familiar old US 'greenbacks', but calls them 'Balboas'. Also weird.
Panama does have their own coins, but they are the same size, shape, weight, and metallic composition as US coins of the same denomination. So vending machines will accept US quarters or Balboas interchangeably.