Definitive Colombia Travel Guide

In this article, you will learn everything about Colombia.

You will discover all the best places to stay in Colombia, things to do, where to eat, how to get around and more.

Let’s dive in

tayrona park cabo san juan colombia
Table of Contents

Colombia is a beautiful country and it is as if they have put a facade on it where there is a lot of violence so that people do not visit it, which is not true at all.

Colombia is a country that many people from all over the world have dared to visit and they do not stop telling about their magnificent experiences.

In recent years it has become a very attractive tourist country where you get a very lively trip and good experiences for a low price, as it is a very cheap country to live and travel in.

Prepare your trip Colombia before everyone wants to travel there.

cartagena colombia
Cartagena Colombia

Why Colombia ?

Human warmth

If we put together the calendar of festivities in each department and the number of public holidays, we realize that there is at least one holiday a day in Colombia.

Whether it’s during the Holy Week processions, the Barranquilla Carnival, or the festivities in the squares to the sounds of the orchestras, the Colombian joie de vivre is palpable at every moment.

Colombia loves dancing, singing, getting drunk! The hospitality, enthusiasm, spontaneity and good humour of Colombians are generally what one remembers most about a trip to Colombia.

silvia colombia
Beautiful testimony of the cheerfulness of the people in Colombia. Indigenous Misaks at Silvia's market

The omnipresent nature

Communion with nature is easy in Colombia, since there are so many areas free of human presence.

Cordilleras with green valleys, snow-covered peaks, the immense llanos (flood plains) of the east, the powerful rivers, the wild beaches of the Pacific are so many places where nature imposes itself.

In rural areas, traditional farms are increasingly turning to agro-tourism, welcoming foreigners in search of green pastures and authentic peasant culture.

 

ciudad perdida colombia
The Exhuberant Nature all around Colombia

Historical and cultural heritage

The mixture of pre-Hispanic, African and Spanish cultures, merged in the Republic and modernity, make Colombia a territory where heritage is striking; 

architecture of the big cities mixing skyscrapers and colonial houses, archaeological remains of pre-Columbian civilizations, Amerindian villages along the rivers or in the mountains.

Colombia is a mosaic of peoples, with cultural peculiarities and many hidden treasures.

cartagena colombia

Adventure and extreme sports

The variety of relief allows the practice of many water, air or land sports.

The surroundings of Cali, Medellín or San Gil attract lovers of paragliding, mountain biking and rafting.

Climbers will put their boots on the cliffs of Suesca and mountaineers will have the choice between several Andean peaks at over 5,000 m.

The sea bed, coral or volcanic, will delight divers.

A mask and a snorkel are enough to observe an unforgettable spectacle, all the more so as the water temperature is pleasant everywhere.

Finally, the Amazon and the little-known Eastern Llanos offer incredible adventures, on foot, by bicycle or in dugout canoes.

llanos extreme sport colombia
Rafting in the Llanos RegionÙ

Geopolitical Facts avout Colombia

The Republic of Colombia borders Venezuela and Brazil to the east, Panama to the northwest and Ecuador and Peru to the south.

It has a multicultural population (mostly the result of crossbreeding between Europeans, indigenous people and Africans, with minorities of indigenous people and Afro-descendants) and is the only nation in South America with a Pacific Ocean coastline and access to the Atlantic through the Caribbean Sea.

  • Official name: Republic of Colombia
  • President:  Ivan Duque
  • Area: 1,141,748 km².
  • Language: Spanish – but many dialects still exist.
  • Capital: Santa Fé de Bogotá (Bogotá)
  • Religion: Catholic (85%)
  • Motto: Libertad y orden (Freedom and order)
  • Hymn: ¡ Oh Gloria Inmarcesible! (O imperishable glory!)

The people

  • Total population: 49.3 million (2017)
  • Density: 42 inhabitants/km².
  • Annual growth: 1.2
  • Birth rate: 16.3 ‰
  • Mortality rate: 5.4 ‰
  • Infant mortality: 17 ‰
  • Life expectancy: 75 years (men: 72 years, women: 79 years)

The Economy

  • GDP: US$ 282 billion (2016)
  • GDP/capita: US$ 5,800 (2016)
  • Growth rate: 2% (2016)
  • Unemployment rate: 10.5% (2016)
  • Population below the poverty line: 28% (2017)
  • Inflation: 5.7% (2016)

Geography

  • Surface area: 1.1 million km² (twice the size of France), divided into 32 departments.
  • Population: 47 million inhabitants, 3rd most populated country in Latin America (after Brazil and Mexico).
  • Density: 40 inhabitants/km², 70% urban population.
  • Colombia has the world’s largest population of internally displaced persons (around 4.5 million).
  • Capital: Santa Fe de Bogota (8 million inhabitants)
  • Other cities: Medellin (4 million inhabitants), Cali (3 million inhabitants), Barranquilla (2 million inhabitants), Cartagena (1.5 million inhabitants), Cucuta (1.3 million inhabitants), Bucaramanga (1.2 million inhabitants) Neighbouring countries: Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama.
  • Maritime borders: Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
  • Highest point and relief: Pico Cristobal Colon and its twin peak Simon Bolivar (5775m) in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
  • On the border with Ecuador, the Andes Cordillera is divided into 3 branches: Western, Central and Eastern.
  • Longest river : The Rio Magdalena (1,550 km) crosses the country from South to North.
  • Colombia alone holds 60% of the water in Latin America.
  • Literacy rate: 93%.

Practical Information

Language

Colombians speak Spanish even though there are many dialects according to regions and communities.

In tourist cities, you can make yourself understood in English.

English is little practiced.

Time difference

Time difference: 6 hours less than in France in winter, 7 hours less in summer.

Voltage

110 V, American type plug with 2 flat plugs.

If you travel to Colombia from Europe you will need an adapter

Telephone & Internet

The country has a good mobile phone network and several operators (Movistar, Claro or Tigo).

It is necessary to have a tri-band telephone, check that your operator has an agreement with a local operator and that the “world” option is activated on your phone.

Otherwise, the “minutos” allow you to borrow a mobile phone from a mobile provider for a few cents a minute.

From France to Colombia, add 0057 in front of the 7-digit telephone number (Example: 00 57 1 702 70 69).

From Colombia to France, add 00 + operator number (5, 7 or 9) + 33 + telephone number.

(Example: 00 5 33 4 50 46 90 25)

For landline phones, the 1st digit is the area code.

Mobile phones start with 3 and have a total of 10 digits.

  • Long distance: From Colombia to Colombia (from different regions), add 0 + 5, 7 or 9 (telecom code) in front of the phone number (Example: 0 + 5 (7 or 9) + 1 + 702 70 69).
  • Local: From Colombia to Colombia (same region), only tel.

(Example: 702 70 69 if you are in Bogota and you call Bogota).

For Internet, you will find wifi zones in restaurants and hotels, so you can bring your laptop.

Otherwise, in all cities, you will have no trouble finding Internet cafes.

Currency and budget for a Trip in Colombia

Currency

The currency is the Colombian Peso (COP).

  • 1 Usd = about 3.400 pesos.
  • 1 Euro = about 4.100 pesos.

Current rate of the Colombian Peso by clicking here.

It is easy to change Dollars or Euros in Colombia, in the exchange offices (“casa de cambio”).

However, it is cheaper and more convenient to withdraw cash from ATMs (“cajero”); those of ATH and Bancolombia are present all over the country.

Note: maximum withdrawal of $600,000 (160 Usd ) with a commission of approximately 7 Usd (depending on your bank).

You can find ATMs that can withdraw a maximum of $780 000 (300€) (Da Vivienda bank, present throughout the country).

You can also pay by credit card (mainly Visa and Mastercard) in some shops, hotels, restaurants and car rental companies.

Budget and cost of living in Colombia

  • Entrance fees to parks/sites/museums: 5 to 15 Usd.
  • Price of drinks (water, fruit juice, beer…): 2 Usd.
  • Price of a light meal per person: 3 to 8 Usd.
  • Price of a larger meal: 10 to 15 Usd
  • Taxis : 5000 Cop minimum to 30.000 Cop for a 30min ride
  • Public Transportation : 2400 Cop aprox
 

From hammocks to 5-star hotels, family guesthouses and youth hostels, Colombia offers multiple housing options.

Reservations are required during the high tourist season or for a special celebration.

The average cost per person :

  • $25-50,000 : Dormitory bed
  • $50-80000 : Basic bedroom
  • $80-200,000 : comfortable double Room with private bathroom,
  • $250,000 and more for more luxurious bedroom

For many, it can be interesting and original to rent a finca (rural property), with optional staff.

See also : Currency and Budget for a Trip to Colombia

Best time to visit Colombia

Climate and Weather

If Colombia knows all the climates (arid desert of La Guajira, snowy summits…), almost all the Colombian territory is subjected to a climate of humid tropical type.

The rainy season (April to November) is called ‘winter’ and the dry season (December to March) is called ‘summer’.

In general, it is difficult to avoid rain completely during your stay.

Seasonality

You can travel all year round, but the best season to visit Colombia (and avoid the rain) is from December to March.

Three periods correspond to the high tourist season (temporada alta): 

  • Mid-December to mid-January (school holidays)
  • Semana santa (Holy Week, mid-April) 
  • and to a lesser extent, mid-June to the end of July (school holidays).

During the numerous three-day weekends (puentes festivos), some establishments also charge the prices of the high season.

Everything is much more expensive at Christmas and during Holy Week.

During the rest of the year, prices are more accessible.

Accommodation in Colombia

The hotel business in Colombia is relatively good.

Depending on the number of visitors to the region, the offer of accommodation is more or less extensive.

You can find excellent hotels in the big cities, especially in Cartagena and Bogota.

Other charming and authentic addresses are offered in more confidential areas such as Barichara, Salento or San Agustin.

Tips: alternate between the various categories to discover the best of Colombia!

Standard Hotel

Hotels, equivalent to our European 2* hotels, including single rooms with private bathroom, without frills but pleasant.

Hotel Comfort

Addresses full of charm representing a comfortable alternative and benefiting from a certain standing.

Luxury hotel

Prestigious accommodation corresponding to the best of the hotel business.

Beyond the quality of the rooms (worthy of the great international hotels), they offer top-of-the-range infrastructures, an enchanting setting and superior services.

Hacienda

Farms also offering hotel services. Depending on the location, they offer simple or charming rooms.

The “hacienda cafetera” is the ideal place for an in-depth discovery of coffee, on the side of Armenia and Pereira.

Ecohabs

Individual constructions made of natural materials represent the most comfortable offer in the heart of Tayrona National Park.

As the number of rooms is limited, it is highly recommended to book well in advance.

Due to the exclusive character of this offer, the prices are very high.

Cabaña

Accommodation similar to eco-housing offering excellent services at a more affordable price.

Maloka

Other accommodations very well integrated into the natural environment and closer to the local population, offering more basic comfort.

Offered especially in the Amazon, the Malokas allow authentic encounters and the discovery of traditional life.

Lodge

Option benefiting from the proximity to nature, while ensuring superior comfort to accommodation in local communities in the Amazon.

At the inhabitant’s home

Not yet widespread in Colombia.

An option is offered in a beautiful house in Barichara.

Sometimes small hotel and family facilities allow a direct contact with the local population (towards San Agustin in particular).

Ranch and camp

In the regions of La Guajira, Caño Cristales or when trekking to Ciudad Perdida, accommodation is often limited to hammocks with mosquito nets (“chinchorros”) or beds with very basic comfort.

Sanitary facilities are common.

It is currently the only option.

The welcome is very warm.

Culture & History of Colombia

Mixed population: The Colombian population is a mixture of Spanish, African (especially on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts) and several types of Afro-Hispanic-Indian mixes.

Catholic religion for more than 90% of Colombians but the country also has Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

Food and drinks

Colombia is the 3rd largest coffee producing country in the world.

On the spot, Colombians drink “tinto” (poor quality coffee) in order to export the best of the production to Europe and North America.

But by visiting the farms and farms in the coffee triangle (Manizales, Armenia and Pereira), you will be able to savour all the richness of the aromas.

Harvest between October and February and from April to June.

Corn is the basis of many Colombian dishes, especially the arepas (patties) served at every meal.

Colombians are fans of beans, plantains, fish and potatoes.

The wide variety of fruits allows for a multitude of delicious squeezed juices.

Local alcohols are aguardiente (an aniseed liqueur made from sugar cane) and rum.

Famous characters

  • Yuri Buenaventura, Juanes, Shakira (singers)
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize for Literature 1982, deceased April 17, 2014)
  • Fernando Botero (watercolorist and scuptor)
  • Alvaro Uribe (President 2002-2010)
  • Pablo Escobar (former cartel boss, died in 1993)
  • Sergio Cabrera (film director-producer)

How to Get to Colombia

The best options to fly to Colombia, as always, you can find them in Skyscanner, the best current flight search engine.

Best places to visit in Colombia

Tourists are increasingly letting the world know about the incredible experiences they have in Colombia.

It is a very complete country that offers everything that any tourist would want in a country, cities, rural areas with incredible landscapes, beautiful white sand beaches, exquisite gastronomy, unexplored wild places, colorful towns, among many other things.

Colombia is a country that continues to grow and improve its ability to offer a unique experience to all its tourists.

It is definitely going to become a very visited country, so you should visit it before it becomes very popular.

To give you an idea of what you will find in this country we will give you a short summary of the places you should visit yes or no.

 

Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias is Colombia’s spoiled city.

There is no doubt that it is very cheerful and colorful.

Every corner of its streets is full of history that will make you fall in love.

You can walk around the historical center of Cartagena which has streets full of life, surely it will be one of the places you will like the most.

Cartagena is the living example of the colonial city that is still intact.

Prepare your trip to Cartagena de Indias when you are on Colombian soil.

To help you prepare your trip to this wonderful city we have prepared a guide on what to see in Cartagena de Indias and not miss anything.

cartagena de indias colombia
Colombia Travel Guide - Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Medellin

Medellín is a city that enters through the eyes, it is joyful and has a very peculiar architecture.

Its streets are full of history, some good and some not so nice.

Medellín is the only city in Colombia that has a metro system and is constantly growing.

Probably what you will like most about Medellín is its climate and its nightlife which is really lively.

You can visit the towns that are around it, it is totally worth it.

If you are looking for a safe way to stay there you should look at the southern part of the city.

To learn more about this city check out our guide to the best places to see in Medellin and you’re sure to be delighted.

To the east of the city of Medellin we find the department of Santander, specifically its capital Bucaramanga.

Great destination for those who seek to spend their stay in Colombia in one of the most developed places in the country.

It has urban parks, markets every day with traders selling a multitude of food and typical dishes, beautiful squares and buildings and much more.

Discover one of the best cities in Colombia in our guide to what to see in Bucaramanga

medellin colombia
Colombia Travel Guide - Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Salento and the Cocora Valley

The coffee belt is another of the most visited places in all of Colombia.

Salento is a very colorful and happy town that will leave good memories in your mind.

Every morning Willys leaves Salento for the Cocora Valley, a magical valley full of wax palms so high that they will make you feel small, even if you are 3 meters tall.

You can ride or walk through the valley, both ways are special.

Note: Since it is a coffee zone you can’t leave without visiting one of the coffee farms and trying the authentic Colombian coffee, the original one.

Not tasting coffee in the coffee zone would be like not having made that trip to Colombia.

valle de cocora eje cafetero colombia
Colombia Travel Guide - Photo © Tristan Quevilly

San Andres and Providencia

This is one of the most beautiful places in Colombia, paradise islands that are part of Colombia, San Andres and Providence is the Colombian paradise in the Caribbean, with its sea of 7 colors and white sands.

You will definitely find exquisite food, water sports and a great variety of marine life.

The rainy season for San Andres is April and November (we recommend not visiting San Andres during these seasons).

You cannot stay without visiting these wonderful paradisiacal beaches of crystalline water.

If you are going to stay in the northern part of the country but do not have much time, we offer you to consult our recommendations on what to see in Santa Marta in 3 days, a coastal city in the department of Magdalena that enjoys a natural environment with rivers, bays, squares, monuments and an endless number of landscapes and sunsets that will leave you stunned.

Bogotá

On a trip to Colombia, Bogotá is the city you should visit, yes or yes.

The center of Bogota is the most beautiful part that you can find, the walk through the neighborhood of the candelaria, Bolivar Square, the funnel street, the nightlife, which you can find in its fullest splendor in the zone T, 97 park or in Usaquen.

Around Bogota you can visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá, one of the most popular places in Colombia.

If you have time and want to visit other departments of the country we recommend going to the city of Boyacá where you can see amazing landscapes, swim in its lake or walk through its large hills enjoying the view at your feet of the city.

bogota colombia
Colombia Travel Guide - Photo © Tristan Quevilly

The Amazon

The Colombian Amazon is a magical place full of much wildlife, you can cross the jungle by the river in kayak, see unique animals and in freedom, alligators, piranhas, monkeys, etc.

It is definitely a perfect place for those who like adventure and the wildest places, for sure you will love it.

leticia amazonas colombia
Colombia Travel Guide - Photo © Tristan Quevilly

National Natural Park Tayrona

This is one of the most important natural parks in Colombia, in recent years it has become quite touristy.

It has more than 15 thousand hectares, it has a lot of biodiversity, its white sand beaches and Caribbean sea will make you fall in love.

You can make the typical excursion to the Tayrona, but you must reserve a day of those who are there to go to some beach where tourists are not so abundant, you will not regret it.

tayrona park cabo san juan colombia
Colombia Travel Guide - Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Safety in Colombia

The foreign media and people you know who have never set foot in Colombia tend to be very alarmist about the situation in “the country of FARC and cocaine”.

However, the armed conflict in some rural areas and the insecurity in the large urban centres is undeniable.

Yes, the ELN guerrillas and criminal gangs are still very much present.

But they are unlikely to attack a passing tourist if he does not look for it himself (for the taste of adrenaline or white powder).

The situation has improved considerably over the last ten years: the number of kidnappings has been divided by ten (less than 1 kidnapping per day on average in Colombia in 2017, compared to 10 in 2005), and the homicide rate is steadily decreasing.

The police are also well present and generally behave cordially towards foreigners.

They will recommend a minimum level of vigilance, but do not become paranoid: to avoid problems, it is enough, as everywhere, to have common sense and to respect basic rules, such as :

  • No dar papaya: don’t attract attention by displaying your valuables (camera, jewelry, smartphone, etc.), don’t lose sight of your luggage, don’t leave your purse lying around when you go dancing…
  • At night, take a taxi.
  • Don’t hail it on the street: call a taxi radio company or use an application like Easy Taxi.
  • Don’t go just anywhere: in tourist areas, don’t go far from lighted streets.
  • In Bogotá, be careful at night in the Candelaria district.
  • Do not carry parcels or luggage for a recent acquaintance, however friendly.
  • Avoid going out at night with your passport (a photocopy is sufficient) or credit card.
  • Take the money you need for the evening.
  • In case of an assault, keep calm, do not play the hero, give what you are asked. It is advisable to always have some money to give just in case.
  • Avoid withdrawing money on the street, preferably during the day and in shopping malls.
  • In bars and discos, keep control of yourself and stay in groups; most reported problems with tourists are due to alcohol abuse by tourists.
  • Don’t accept drinks, food, cigarettes or chewing gum from strangers, and don’t leave your drink lying around unattended, it could be laced with scopolamine, a burudanga-based drug, leaving you with no conscience.
  • Ask the right people and get several opinions: local authorities, Foreigners people living on the spot, hotel manager can all offer you valuable advice.

Visa

Travellers from Europea and North America do not need a visa to travel to Colombia

The passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of arrival.

Be careful however to justify a return date when you enter the country, your ticket may be required.

It is possible to stay up to 90 days from the date of arrival indicated on the passport bucket.

Beyond this period you can renew for 90 more days by going to the migration Office. 

Advice

During your trip, keep a photocopy of your documents with you, or at least on a drive

Vaccines and treatments recommended

No vaccination is administratively compulsory for travellers from North America / Europe to Colombia.

However, the following are recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B (check with your doctor as you may be naturally immune)
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio
  • Yellow fever and anti-malaria treatment recommended for certain regions such as the Pacific coast, the Amazon, La Guajira (Riohacha – Punta Gallinas) and when trekking to Ciudad Perdida.

Yellow fever is normally requested when visiting Tayrona Park but to date no control is done.

In general, protect yourself from mosquitoes and insects (especially dengue fever) and avoid drinking tap water.

You can easily find bottled water wherever you are. 

Top Tips

Do

  • Speaking Spanish, even badly, is much better than talking to a Colombian in English, the language of the gringos.
  • French is not widely spoken, but the French are generally well regarded.
  • Greetings: Colombians are rarely satisfied with a quick hello and ask all sorts of questions before getting down to business.
  • Possible variations: ¿ Qué has hecho? ¿ Q’hubo? ¿ Qué más? ¿ Cómo le ha ido? ¿ Como andas? The answer is almost always muy bien (gracias a diós) y tú? As a general rule, be in a good mood and smile like Colombians do so well, even when things are not going well.
  • Stop grumbling, positive!
  • Keep calm under all circumstances, avoid raising your voice, Colombians are not used to direct verbal conflicts and your little nerves will be seen as particularly rude.
  • Avoid criticizing Colombians and use diplomacy when dealing with cultural, political and religious differences.
  • Keep yourself clean, even when travelling: clean shoes especially! Be aware that the French have a reputation in Latin America for not smelling very good…
  • Be gallant with Colombian women, pretty princesses used to being held out to when getting off the bus or car, to carrying their luggage or packages…
  • Compliments and piropos are appreciated!
  • Avoid jokes associating Colombia and cocaine, Colombian and traffickers… They will make Colombians who are fed up with this reputation laugh.
  • And don’t be afraid if you come across an Escobar, it’s a very common family name in Colombia.
  • Be flexible in your travel plans and be patient: schedules are very flexible in Latin America.
  • Ahorita literally means “in a little while”, but that moment in reality tends to last forever or never happen? ¡ Tranqui cogela suave papi!
  • In Bogotá, close the taxi door with great delicacy, otherwise beware!
  • When driving on the roads, give back salvation to the soldiers who raise their thumbs…
  • Also leave tips (propina) and don’t haggle over anything.

Not to do

  • Dar Papaya. A papaya puesta, papaya partida, the equivalent of “giving the stick to be beaten”.
  • Avoid showing off your valuables, behaving too ostentatiously and trusting a stranger.
  • In big cities like Bogota, don’t accept drinks from a stranger.
  • Photograph people without their permission, especially in Amerindian communities. And if you promise to send photos, be sure you can do so!

Spanish Glossary

Useful expressions and questions to make yourself understood in Colombia

As in the majority of Latin American countries, the official language in Colombia is Spanish.

Blessed are those who manage to remember the teachings given at the high school, for others here are some simple and useful expressions that will help you immerse yourself in the heart of the local culture and forge ties with this population that deserves to be known throughout the world.

The Colombian B.A ba

With unparalleled kindness, Colombians could spend their day greeting each other and inquiring about the well-being of their fellow man.

There are a thousand and one ways to express a simple “how are you? ».

Here are a few examples: Qué mas, Qué hubo, Como le va, Como le ha ido, Como esta, Como ha estado.

To these questions it is of course customary to answer by Good or Evil, as in French, with the accent in addition!

  • Bonjour, salut : Hola
  • Good morning (morning): Buenos días
  • Good morning (afternoon): Buenas tardes
  • Good night: Buenas noches
  • Bye, bye: Adiós
  • Goodbye (more formal): Hasta luego
  • Please: Por favor
  • Thank you: Gracias
  • You’re welcome: De nada
  • Nice (to meet you): Encantado de conocerle
  • I don’t understand: No entiendo
  • I don’t speak Spanish: No hablo Español
  • If you wish to go further in the conversation
  • What’s your name? ¿Cómo se llama usted?
  • I am French : Soy Frances (e)
  • How do you say that in Spanish? ¿Cómo se dice esto en Español?
  • Excuse me (to ask for information): Perdón
  • I would like to (…) : Quiero (…) por favor
  • Great! (expressing enthusiasm): Goat or Bacano
  • Can you repeat that, please? : Puede repetir, por favor?
  • Can you speak slower, please? Puede hablar mas despacio, por favor?
  • Useful questions depending on the situation
  • Where’s the bathroom? ¿ Dónde se encuentran los lavabos?
  • I’m lost, could you help me : ¿ Estoy perdido, me puede ayudar?
  • Where is the train station / the city centre / the airport : Puede indicarme como ir a la estaciòn de tren / al centro / al aeropuerto.
  • At what time does the train / plane / bus leave? A qué hora el trén / el avion / el bus para (city), por favor?
  • Could we have some water / bread / check, please? ¿ Nos podria traer agua/ pàn / la cuenta, por favor?

Anyway, you should know that Colombian Spanish is one of the most comprehensive forms of Spanish.

Although some dialects differ from region to region, the language is nonetheless soft and musical.

You will enjoy conversing with a festive and welcoming Colombian population that will make fun of your imperfections.

So don’t be afraid of ridicule and in a word “dare”

What souvenir to bring back from your trip to Colombia?

The memories you bring back from a trip contribute to the happiness of your loved ones and feed the imperishable character of your stay in Colombia.

They can therefore constitute, depending on your nature, an important part of your vacation.

Whether they are durable or consumable, the important thing is what they represent and the pleasure you had in unearthing them.

The “artesanias”, popular handicraft markets, are full of treasures that will delight lovers of popular art and craft souvenir fetishes.

Thus, we can only recommend that you buy one of these magnificent hand-woven hammocks, a comfortable “ruana”, a kind of sheep’s wool poncho that will warm your long winter evenings, of chic “guayavera” shirts typical of the Caribbean coast, a hat “vueltiao” national emblem, a Colombian “mochila”, a jewel in filigree of Mompox, an object in “werregue” or any leather object of which you can have the insurance of an irreproachable quality.

Do you prefer to work in gastronomy? Then don’t hesitate for a second to spoil the coffee lovers.

If there is one country that is known worldwide for the quality of its coffee, it is Colombia.

Finally, if you have preferred to enjoy the present moment during your trip and have skipped the “souvenirs” stage, you will find many shops at the airport that will still allow you to spoil your loved ones who will not have had the chance to take part in the trip!

Gastronomy : What do we eat in Colombia?

Colombian gastronomy is a reflection of its country: rich, varied and multicultural.

Far too little is known about it, and it consists mainly of dishes of pre-Colombian origin that were transmitted orally by the conquistadors and colonists.

Thus the multiple Spanish influences that can be found throughout Latin America.

To know everything about Colombian cuisine, follow the guide!

The three daily meals eaten in Colombia are desayuno (breakfast), almuerzo (lunch) and comida (dinner).

A traditional meal usually consists of rice (or potatoes), kidney beans, meat or fish and plantains, to which you must necessarily add the arepas, small corn cakes that are the national “baguette”!

Colombia, the fourth largest country in Latin America with a very diverse climate, has agricultural crops specific to each region and thus contribute to the richness of its cuisine.

Cereals, tropical fruits, citrus fruits, wheat, corn and potatoes form the basic ingredients of Colombian cuisine, which are available in many forms.

Making phone calls, connecting to the internet while traveling in Colombia?

As in many emerging countries today, it will be very easy for you to communicate with the rest of the world during your trip to Colombia.

The Internet is relatively widespread throughout the country.

Hotels often offer free or paid internet access, and all medium and large cities in the country have internet cafes where it is very easy to get online for a very cheap hourly rate.

Telephone services are also of good quality.

You can always use your mobile phone by activating the “world” mode and respecting the telephone codes according to the nature of the extension and the country from which you are calling, but we advise you to be vigilant at the risk of being greeted on your return by a very salty bill.

Finally, if you want to control your communication budget during your trip to Colombia, we recommend the use of free internet telephone software such as Skype, which will also have the luxury of providing you with video!

Suitcase : The essentials to put in your suitcase for Colombia

With such great climatic variations, there is no doubt that you should think about the contents of your suitcase for your trip to Colombia.

The essentials:

  • – Plan rather a large backpack or large canvas bag than a suitcase with wheels for your trip to Colombia.

The cobbled streets of its colonial cities or the excursions that will take you off the beaten track do not favour a good walk on wheels!

  • A small backpack of 30 to 40 liters for visits and outings.
  • A waterproof jacket…unfortunately, you are never safe from a small “squall” wherever you are!
  • Sun protection: hats, sunscreen, sunglasses …

the sun can appear at any time and hit hard depending on the exposure of the day!

  • A camera and its charger as well as several spare memory cards.
  • An electrical adapter for 110V plugs (the same as in the USA).
  • A flashlight so that you don’t miss any part of your stay, even on a dark night.
  • A first-aid kit (disinfectants, bandages, paracetamol, anti-mosquitoes, anti-diarrhea…).

We thought it wise to provide you with a non-exhaustive list of essentials to take with you in your travel bag according to the regions you will visit during your tour in Colombia.

What to Pack For the Andes

Plan for:

  • Warm clothes (pants, fleece, jacket, hat, gloves, socks…)
  • A windbreaker…

you may be surprised by the winds that can blow through the many valleys in the area.

  • Hiking boots.
  • UV-protective lipstick.

What to Pack For the Amazon

In addition to the essentials, remember to bring:

  • Light clothing, preferably with long sleeves and legs to protect against mosquito bites.
  • A high-performance mosquito repellent.

Do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist for advice.

  • A microfibre towel and a swimsuit for the swimming stages of your stay.

What to pack For the Caribbean coast

Incredible diversity both in terms of the landscapes encountered and the activities promoted in this region of Colombia, your travel bag will adapt to the details of the program that awaits you on the spot.

Whether it is for a lazy stay on the paradisiacal beaches of Santa Marta, an excursion in the jungle of the Tayrona Park to discover the Cuidad Perdida or a night stroll in the alleys of beautiful Cartagena, design a custom-made suitcase that will adapt to your needs.

Thus, we recommend that you add to the must-haves of your trip, the Andes and the Amazon, the kit for a perfect seaside holiday.

This means :

  • Shorts.
  • T-shirts.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Open, comfortable and light shoes.

Finally, for more details and according to the specificities of your tour in Colombia, we invite you to contact your consultant who will be pleased to tell you precisely what you should bring according to the details of your program.

Family : Can I travel with my children?

The idea of a family trip to Colombia thrills you but you wonder if safety and activities will take away their wonder? Rest assured, Colombia is not a country exclusively for grown-ups! The little ones will also find their happiness if the tour is adapted to them!

Special itineraries specially designed to travel serenely with your family will be proposed to you by your specialized advisers.

Travel time, accommodation and activities will of course be adapted.

Young and old alike will marvel at a whale and dolphin watching trip along the coast or a horseback ride in the heart of the edifying Valle del Cocora.

They will also enjoy a stroll through the colourful streets of Cartagena or a few days at the beach playing in the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Are there discounts for children?

Some accommodations offer discounts for children according to their age.

In many hotels, free accommodation is available for children under 2 years of age.

Naturally, we undertake to include these discounts in the price of your trip to Colombia.

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Colombia Travel: Complete Tourism Guide

In this article, you will learn everything about Colombia. You will discover all the best places to stay in Colombia, things to do, where to eat, how to get around and more. Let’s dive in

Colombia is a beautiful country and it is as if they have put a facade on it where there is a lot of violence so that people do not visit it, which is not true at all.

Colombia is a country that many people from all over the world have dared to visit and they do not stop telling about their magnificent experiences.

In recent years it has become a very attractive tourist country where you get a very lively trip and good experiences for a low price, as it is a very cheap country to live and travel in.

Prepare your trip Colombia before everyone wants to travel there.

cartagena colombia
Cartagena Colombia

Why Colombia ?

Human warmth

If we put together the calendar of festivities in each department and the number of public holidays, we realize that there is at least one holiday a day in Colombia.

Whether it’s during the Holy Week processions, the Barranquilla Carnival, or the festivities in the squares to the sounds of the orchestras, the Colombian joie de vivre is palpable at every moment.

Colombia loves dancing, singing, getting drunk! The hospitality, enthusiasm, spontaneity and good humour of Colombians are generally what one remembers most about a trip to Colombia.

silvia colombia
Beautiful testimony of the cheerfulness of the people in Colombia. Indigenous Misaks at Silvia’s market

The omnipresent nature

Communion with nature is easy in Colombia, since there are so many areas free of human presence.

Cordilleras with green valleys, snow-covered peaks, the immense llanos (flood plains) of the east, the powerful rivers, the wild beaches of the Pacific are so many places where nature imposes itself.

In rural areas, traditional farms are increasingly turning to agro-tourism, welcoming foreigners in search of green pastures and authentic peasant culture.

 

ciudad perdida colombia
The Exhuberant Nature all around Colombia

Historical and cultural heritage

The mixture of pre-Hispanic, African and Spanish cultures, merged in the Republic and modernity, make Colombia a territory where heritage is striking; 

architecture of the big cities mixing skyscrapers and colonial houses, archaeological remains of pre-Columbian civilizations, Amerindian villages along the rivers or in the mountains.

Colombia is a mosaic of peoples, with cultural peculiarities and many hidden treasures.

cartagena colombia

Adventure and extreme sports

The variety of relief allows the practice of many water, air or land sports.

The surroundings of Cali, Medellín or San Gil attract lovers of paragliding, mountain biking and rafting.

Climbers will put their boots on the cliffs of Suesca and mountaineers will have the choice between several Andean peaks at over 5,000 m.

The sea bed, coral or volcanic, will delight divers.

A mask and a snorkel are enough to observe an unforgettable spectacle, all the more so as the water temperature is pleasant everywhere.

Finally, the Amazon and the little-known Eastern Llanos offer incredible adventures, on foot, by bicycle or in dugout canoes.

llanos extreme sport colombia
Rafting in the Llanos RegionÙ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjbRrRfyvW4

Geopolitical Facts avout Colombia

The Republic of Colombia borders Venezuela and Brazil to the east, Panama to the northwest and Ecuador and Peru to the south.

It has a multicultural population (mostly the result of crossbreeding between Europeans, indigenous people and Africans, with minorities of indigenous people and Afro-descendants) and is the only nation in South America with a Pacific Ocean coastline and access to the Atlantic through the Caribbean Sea.

  • Official name: Republic of Colombia
  • President:  Ivan Duque
  • Area: 1,141,748 km².
  • Language: Spanish – but many dialects still exist.
  • Capital: Santa Fé de Bogotá (Bogotá)
  • Religion: Catholic (85%)
  • Motto: Libertad y orden (Freedom and order)
  • Hymn: ¡ Oh Gloria Inmarcesible! (O imperishable glory!)

The people

  • Total population: 49.3 million (2017)
  • Density: 42 inhabitants/km².
  • Annual growth: 1.2
  • Birth rate: 16.3 ‰
  • Mortality rate: 5.4 ‰
  • Infant mortality: 17 ‰
  • Life expectancy: 75 years (men: 72 years, women: 79 years)

The Economy

  • GDP: US$ 282 billion (2016)
  • GDP/capita: US$ 5,800 (2016)
  • Growth rate: 2% (2016)
  • Unemployment rate: 10.5% (2016)
  • Population below the poverty line: 28% (2017)
  • Inflation: 5.7% (2016)

Geography

  • Surface area: 1.1 million km² (twice the size of France), divided into 32 departments.
  • Population: 47 million inhabitants, 3rd most populated country in Latin America (after Brazil and Mexico).
  • Density: 40 inhabitants/km², 70% urban population.
  • Colombia has the world’s largest population of internally displaced persons (around 4.5 million).
  • Capital: Santa Fe de Bogota (8 million inhabitants)
  • Other cities: Medellin (4 million inhabitants), Cali (3 million inhabitants), Barranquilla (2 million inhabitants), Cartagena (1.5 million inhabitants), Cucuta (1.3 million inhabitants), Bucaramanga (1.2 million inhabitants) Neighbouring countries: Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama.
  • Maritime borders: Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
  • Highest point and relief: Pico Cristobal Colon and its twin peak Simon Bolivar (5775m) in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
  • On the border with Ecuador, the Andes Cordillera is divided into 3 branches: Western, Central and Eastern.
  • Longest river : The Rio Magdalena (1,550 km) crosses the country from South to North.
  • Colombia alone holds 60% of the water in Latin America.
  • Literacy rate: 93%.

Practical Information

Language

Colombians speak Spanish even though there are many dialects according to regions and communities.

In tourist cities, you can make yourself understood in English.

English is little practiced.

Time difference

Time difference: 6 hours less than in France in winter, 7 hours less in summer.

Voltage

110 V, American type plug with 2 flat plugs.

If you travel to Colombia from Europe you will need an adapter

Telephone & Internet

The country has a good mobile phone network and several operators (Movistar, Claro or Tigo).

It is necessary to have a tri-band telephone, check that your operator has an agreement with a local operator and that the “world” option is activated on your phone.

Otherwise, the “minutos” allow you to borrow a mobile phone from a mobile provider for a few cents a minute.

From France to Colombia, add 0057 in front of the 7-digit telephone number (Example: 00 57 1 702 70 69).

From Colombia to France, add 00 + operator number (5, 7 or 9) + 33 + telephone number.

(Example: 00 5 33 4 50 46 90 25)

For landline phones, the 1st digit is the area code.

Mobile phones start with 3 and have a total of 10 digits.

  • Long distance: From Colombia to Colombia (from different regions), add 0 + 5, 7 or 9 (telecom code) in front of the phone number (Example: 0 + 5 (7 or 9) + 1 + 702 70 69).
  • Local: From Colombia to Colombia (same region), only tel.

(Example: 702 70 69 if you are in Bogota and you call Bogota).

For Internet, you will find wifi zones in restaurants and hotels, so you can bring your laptop.

Otherwise, in all cities, you will have no trouble finding Internet cafes.

Currency and budget for a Trip in Colombia

Currency

The currency is the Colombian Peso (COP).

  • 1 Usd = about 3.400 pesos.
  • 1 Euro = about 4.100 pesos.

Current rate of the Colombian Peso by clicking here.

It is easy to change Dollars or Euros in Colombia, in the exchange offices (“casa de cambio”).

However, it is cheaper and more convenient to withdraw cash from ATMs (“cajero”); those of ATH and Bancolombia are present all over the country.

Note: maximum withdrawal of $600,000 (160 Usd ) with a commission of approximately 7 Usd (depending on your bank).

You can find ATMs that can withdraw a maximum of $780 000 (300€) (Da Vivienda bank, present throughout the country).

You can also pay by credit card (mainly Visa and Mastercard) in some shops, hotels, restaurants and car rental companies.

Budget and cost of living in Colombia

  • Entrance fees to parks/sites/museums: 5 to 15 Usd.
  • Price of drinks (water, fruit juice, beer…): 2 Usd.
  • Price of a light meal per person: 3 to 8 Usd.
  • Price of a larger meal: 10 to 15 Usd
  • Taxis : 5000 Cop minimum to 30.000 Cop for a 30min ride
  • Public Transportation : 2400 Cop aprox
 

From hammocks to 5-star hotels, family guesthouses and youth hostels, Colombia offers multiple housing options.

Reservations are required during the high tourist season or for a special celebration.

The average cost per person :

  • $25-50,000 : Dormitory bed
  • $50-80000 : Basic bedroom
  • $80-200,000 : comfortable double Room with private bathroom,
  • $250,000 and more for more luxurious bedroom

For many, it can be interesting and original to rent a finca (rural property), with optional staff.

See also : Currency and Budget for a Trip to Colombia

Best time to visit Colombia

Climate and Weather

If Colombia knows all the climates (arid desert of La Guajira, snowy summits…), almost all the Colombian territory is subjected to a climate of humid tropical type.

The rainy season (April to November) is called ‘winter’ and the dry season (December to March) is called ‘summer’.

In general, it is difficult to avoid rain completely during your stay.

Seasonality

You can travel all year round, but the best season to visit Colombia (and avoid the rain) is from December to March.

Three periods correspond to the high tourist season (temporada alta): 

  • Mid-December to mid-January (school holidays)
  • Semana santa (Holy Week, mid-April) 
  • and to a lesser extent, mid-June to the end of July (school holidays).

During the numerous three-day weekends (puentes festivos), some establishments also charge the prices of the high season.

Everything is much more expensive at Christmas and during Holy Week.

During the rest of the year, prices are more accessible.

Accommodation in Colombia

The hotel business in Colombia is relatively good.

Depending on the number of visitors to the region, the offer of accommodation is more or less extensive.

You can find excellent hotels in the big cities, especially in Cartagena and Bogota.

Other charming and authentic addresses are offered in more confidential areas such as Barichara, Salento or San Agustin.

Tips: alternate between the various categories to discover the best of Colombia!

Standard Hotel

Hotels, equivalent to our European 2* hotels, including single rooms with private bathroom, without frills but pleasant.

Hotel Comfort

Addresses full of charm representing a comfortable alternative and benefiting from a certain standing.

Luxury hotel

Prestigious accommodation corresponding to the best of the hotel business.

Beyond the quality of the rooms (worthy of the great international hotels), they offer top-of-the-range infrastructures, an enchanting setting and superior services.

Hacienda

Farms also offering hotel services. Depending on the location, they offer simple or charming rooms.

The “hacienda cafetera” is the ideal place for an in-depth discovery of coffee, on the side of Armenia and Pereira.

Ecohabs

Individual constructions made of natural materials represent the most comfortable offer in the heart of Tayrona National Park.

As the number of rooms is limited, it is highly recommended to book well in advance.

Due to the exclusive character of this offer, the prices are very high.

Cabaña

Accommodation similar to eco-housing offering excellent services at a more affordable price.

Maloka

Other accommodations very well integrated into the natural environment and closer to the local population, offering more basic comfort.

Offered especially in the Amazon, the Malokas allow authentic encounters and the discovery of traditional life.

Lodge

Option benefiting from the proximity to nature, while ensuring superior comfort to accommodation in local communities in the Amazon.

At the inhabitant’s home

Not yet widespread in Colombia.

An option is offered in a beautiful house in Barichara.

Sometimes small hotel and family facilities allow a direct contact with the local population (towards San Agustin in particular).

Ranch and camp

In the regions of La Guajira, Caño Cristales or when trekking to Ciudad Perdida, accommodation is often limited to hammocks with mosquito nets (“chinchorros”) or beds with very basic comfort.

Sanitary facilities are common.

It is currently the only option.

The welcome is very warm.

Culture & History of Colombia

Mixed population: The Colombian population is a mixture of Spanish, African (especially on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts) and several types of Afro-Hispanic-Indian mixes.

Catholic religion for more than 90% of Colombians but the country also has Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

Food and drinks

Colombia is the 3rd largest coffee producing country in the world.

On the spot, Colombians drink “tinto” (poor quality coffee) in order to export the best of the production to Europe and North America.

But by visiting the farms and farms in the coffee triangle (Manizales, Armenia and Pereira), you will be able to savour all the richness of the aromas.

Harvest between October and February and from April to June.

Corn is the basis of many Colombian dishes, especially the arepas (patties) served at every meal.

Colombians are fans of beans, plantains, fish and potatoes.

The wide variety of fruits allows for a multitude of delicious squeezed juices.

Local alcohols are aguardiente (an aniseed liqueur made from sugar cane) and rum.

Famous characters

  • Yuri Buenaventura, Juanes, Shakira (singers)
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize for Literature 1982, deceased April 17, 2014)
  • Fernando Botero (watercolorist and scuptor)
  • Alvaro Uribe (President 2002-2010)
  • Pablo Escobar (former cartel boss, died in 1993)
  • Sergio Cabrera (film director-producer)

How to Get to Colombia

The best options to fly to Colombia, as always, you can find them in Skyscanner, the best current flight search engine.

Best places to visit in Colombia

Tourists are increasingly letting the world know about the incredible experiences they have in Colombia.

It is a very complete country that offers everything that any tourist would want in a country, cities, rural areas with incredible landscapes, beautiful white sand beaches, exquisite gastronomy, unexplored wild places, colorful towns, among many other things.

Colombia is a country that continues to grow and improve its ability to offer a unique experience to all its tourists.

It is definitely going to become a very visited country, so you should visit it before it becomes very popular.

To give you an idea of what you will find in this country we will give you a short summary of the places you should visit yes or no.

 

Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias is Colombia’s spoiled city.

There is no doubt that it is very cheerful and colorful.

Every corner of its streets is full of history that will make you fall in love.

You can walk around the historical center of Cartagena which has streets full of life, surely it will be one of the places you will like the most.

Cartagena is the living example of the colonial city that is still intact.

Prepare your trip to Cartagena de Indias when you are on Colombian soil.

To help you prepare your trip to this wonderful city we have prepared a guide on what to see in Cartagena de Indias and not miss anything.

cartagena de indias colombia
Colombia Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Medellin

Medellín is a city that enters through the eyes, it is joyful and has a very peculiar architecture.

Its streets are full of history, some good and some not so nice.

Medellín is the only city in Colombia that has a metro system and is constantly growing.

Probably what you will like most about Medellín is its climate and its nightlife which is really lively.

You can visit the towns that are around it, it is totally worth it.

If you are looking for a safe way to stay there you should look at the southern part of the city.

To learn more about this city check out our guide to the best places to see in Medellin and you’re sure to be delighted.

To the east of the city of Medellin we find the department of Santander, specifically its capital Bucaramanga.

Great destination for those who seek to spend their stay in Colombia in one of the most developed places in the country.

It has urban parks, markets every day with traders selling a multitude of food and typical dishes, beautiful squares and buildings and much more.

Discover one of the best cities in Colombia in our guide to what to see in Bucaramanga

medellin colombia
Colombia Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Salento and the Cocora Valley

The coffee belt is another of the most visited places in all of Colombia.

Salento is a very colorful and happy town that will leave good memories in your mind.

Every morning Willys leaves Salento for the Cocora Valley, a magical valley full of wax palms so high that they will make you feel small, even if you are 3 meters tall.

You can ride or walk through the valley, both ways are special.

Note: Since it is a coffee zone you can’t leave without visiting one of the coffee farms and trying the authentic Colombian coffee, the original one.

Not tasting coffee in the coffee zone would be like not having made that trip to Colombia.

valle de cocora eje cafetero colombia
Colombia Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

San Andres and Providencia

This is one of the most beautiful places in Colombia, paradise islands that are part of Colombia, San Andres and Providence is the Colombian paradise in the Caribbean, with its sea of 7 colors and white sands.

You will definitely find exquisite food, water sports and a great variety of marine life.

The rainy season for San Andres is April and November (we recommend not visiting San Andres during these seasons).

You cannot stay without visiting these wonderful paradisiacal beaches of crystalline water.

If you are going to stay in the northern part of the country but do not have much time, we offer you to consult our recommendations on what to see in Santa Marta in 3 days, a coastal city in the department of Magdalena that enjoys a natural environment with rivers, bays, squares, monuments and an endless number of landscapes and sunsets that will leave you stunned.

Bogotá

On a trip to Colombia, Bogotá is the city you should visit, yes or yes.

The center of Bogota is the most beautiful part that you can find, the walk through the neighborhood of the candelaria, Bolivar Square, the funnel street, the nightlife, which you can find in its fullest splendor in the zone T, 97 park or in Usaquen.

Around Bogota you can visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá, one of the most popular places in Colombia.

If you have time and want to visit other departments of the country we recommend going to the city of Boyacá where you can see amazing landscapes, swim in its lake or walk through its large hills enjoying the view at your feet of the city.

bogota colombia
Colombia Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

The Amazon

The Colombian Amazon is a magical place full of much wildlife, you can cross the jungle by the river in kayak, see unique animals and in freedom, alligators, piranhas, monkeys, etc.

It is definitely a perfect place for those who like adventure and the wildest places, for sure you will love it.

leticia amazonas colombia
Colombia Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

National Natural Park Tayrona

This is one of the most important natural parks in Colombia, in recent years it has become quite touristy.

It has more than 15 thousand hectares, it has a lot of biodiversity, its white sand beaches and Caribbean sea will make you fall in love.

You can make the typical excursion to the Tayrona, but you must reserve a day of those who are there to go to some beach where tourists are not so abundant, you will not regret it.

tayrona park cabo san juan colombia
Colombia Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Safety in Colombia

The foreign media and people you know who have never set foot in Colombia tend to be very alarmist about the situation in “the country of FARC and cocaine”.

However, the armed conflict in some rural areas and the insecurity in the large urban centres is undeniable.

Yes, the ELN guerrillas and criminal gangs are still very much present.

But they are unlikely to attack a passing tourist if he does not look for it himself (for the taste of adrenaline or white powder).

The situation has improved considerably over the last ten years: the number of kidnappings has been divided by ten (less than 1 kidnapping per day on average in Colombia in 2017, compared to 10 in 2005), and the homicide rate is steadily decreasing.

The police are also well present and generally behave cordially towards foreigners.

They will recommend a minimum level of vigilance, but do not become paranoid: to avoid problems, it is enough, as everywhere, to have common sense and to respect basic rules, such as :

  • No dar papaya: don’t attract attention by displaying your valuables (camera, jewelry, smartphone, etc.), don’t lose sight of your luggage, don’t leave your purse lying around when you go dancing…
  • At night, take a taxi.
  • Don’t hail it on the street: call a taxi radio company or use an application like Easy Taxi.
  • Don’t go just anywhere: in tourist areas, don’t go far from lighted streets.
  • In Bogotá, be careful at night in the Candelaria district.
  • Do not carry parcels or luggage for a recent acquaintance, however friendly.
  • Avoid going out at night with your passport (a photocopy is sufficient) or credit card.
  • Take the money you need for the evening.
  • In case of an assault, keep calm, do not play the hero, give what you are asked. It is advisable to always have some money to give just in case.
  • Avoid withdrawing money on the street, preferably during the day and in shopping malls.
  • In bars and discos, keep control of yourself and stay in groups; most reported problems with tourists are due to alcohol abuse by tourists.
  • Don’t accept drinks, food, cigarettes or chewing gum from strangers, and don’t leave your drink lying around unattended, it could be laced with scopolamine, a burudanga-based drug, leaving you with no conscience.
  • Ask the right people and get several opinions: local authorities, Foreigners people living on the spot, hotel manager can all offer you valuable advice.

Safety

Colombia is becoming a safe destination for tourists, security being the government’s priority since 2002.

In fact, this destination attracts many American and European travelers every year.

As everywhere else, every traveler must respect a few simple rules:

  • Do not “dar papaya”, i.e. attract the eyes of malicious people by showing off your wealth and your status as a US or European tourist.
  • Always keep an eye on your personal belongings (do not entrust them to strangers).
  • Keep a photocopy / scanned version of your passport with you.
  • A photocopy of your plane ticket may also be useful.
  • Call a taxi rather than taking it from the street.
  • It is recommended to avoid conflict zones (especially in the forests of the West coast and in the south of the country).

The military are present throughout the country to ensure the safety of inhabitants and tourists.

see also : Is Colombia Safe to travel : Complete Guide

Visa

Travellers from Europea and North America do not need a visa to travel to Colombia

The passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of arrival.

Be careful however to justify a return date when you enter the country, your ticket may be required.

It is possible to stay up to 90 days from the date of arrival indicated on the passport bucket.

Beyond this period you can renew for 90 more days by going to the migration Office. 

Advice

During your trip, keep a photocopy of your documents with you, or at least on a drive

Vaccines and treatments recommended

No vaccination is administratively compulsory for travellers from North America / Europe to Colombia.

However, the following are recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B (check with your doctor as you may be naturally immune)
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio
  • Yellow fever and anti-malaria treatment recommended for certain regions such as the Pacific coast, the Amazon, La Guajira (Riohacha – Punta Gallinas) and when trekking to Ciudad Perdida.

Yellow fever is normally requested when visiting Tayrona Park but to date no control is done.

In general, protect yourself from mosquitoes and insects (especially dengue fever) and avoid drinking tap water.

You can easily find bottled water wherever you are. 

Top Tips

Do

  • Speaking Spanish, even badly, is much better than talking to a Colombian in English, the language of the gringos.
  • French is not widely spoken, but the French are generally well regarded.
  • Greetings: Colombians are rarely satisfied with a quick hello and ask all sorts of questions before getting down to business.
  • Possible variations: ¿ Qué has hecho? ¿ Q’hubo? ¿ Qué más? ¿ Cómo le ha ido? ¿ Como andas? The answer is almost always muy bien (gracias a diós) y tú? As a general rule, be in a good mood and smile like Colombians do so well, even when things are not going well.
  • Stop grumbling, positive!
  • Keep calm under all circumstances, avoid raising your voice, Colombians are not used to direct verbal conflicts and your little nerves will be seen as particularly rude.
  • Avoid criticizing Colombians and use diplomacy when dealing with cultural, political and religious differences.
  • Keep yourself clean, even when travelling: clean shoes especially! Be aware that the French have a reputation in Latin America for not smelling very good…
  • Be gallant with Colombian women, pretty princesses used to being held out to when getting off the bus or car, to carrying their luggage or packages…
  • Compliments and piropos are appreciated!
  • Avoid jokes associating Colombia and cocaine, Colombian and traffickers… They will make Colombians who are fed up with this reputation laugh.
  • And don’t be afraid if you come across an Escobar, it’s a very common family name in Colombia.
  • Be flexible in your travel plans and be patient: schedules are very flexible in Latin America.
  • Ahorita literally means “in a little while”, but that moment in reality tends to last forever or never happen? ¡ Tranqui cogela suave papi!
  • In Bogotá, close the taxi door with great delicacy, otherwise beware!
  • When driving on the roads, give back salvation to the soldiers who raise their thumbs…
  • Also leave tips (propina) and don’t haggle over anything.

Not to do

  • Dar Papaya. A papaya puesta, papaya partida, the equivalent of “giving the stick to be beaten”.
  • Avoid showing off your valuables, behaving too ostentatiously and trusting a stranger.
  • In big cities like Bogota, don’t accept drinks from a stranger.
  • Photograph people without their permission, especially in Amerindian communities. And if you promise to send photos, be sure you can do so!

Spanish Glossary

Useful expressions and questions to make yourself understood in Colombia

As in the majority of Latin American countries, the official language in Colombia is Spanish.

Blessed are those who manage to remember the teachings given at the high school, for others here are some simple and useful expressions that will help you immerse yourself in the heart of the local culture and forge ties with this population that deserves to be known throughout the world.

The Colombian B.A ba

With unparalleled kindness, Colombians could spend their day greeting each other and inquiring about the well-being of their fellow man.

There are a thousand and one ways to express a simple “how are you? ».

Here are a few examples: Qué mas, Qué hubo, Como le va, Como le ha ido, Como esta, Como ha estado.

To these questions it is of course customary to answer by Good or Evil, as in French, with the accent in addition!

  • Bonjour, salut : Hola
  • Good morning (morning): Buenos días
  • Good morning (afternoon): Buenas tardes
  • Good night: Buenas noches
  • Bye, bye: Adiós
  • Goodbye (more formal): Hasta luego
  • Please: Por favor
  • Thank you: Gracias
  • You’re welcome: De nada
  • Nice (to meet you): Encantado de conocerle
  • I don’t understand: No entiendo
  • I don’t speak Spanish: No hablo Español
  • If you wish to go further in the conversation
  • What’s your name? ¿Cómo se llama usted?
  • I am French : Soy Frances (e)
  • How do you say that in Spanish? ¿Cómo se dice esto en Español?
  • Excuse me (to ask for information): Perdón
  • I would like to (…) : Quiero (…) por favor
  • Great! (expressing enthusiasm): Goat or Bacano
  • Can you repeat that, please? : Puede repetir, por favor?
  • Can you speak slower, please? Puede hablar mas despacio, por favor?
  • Useful questions depending on the situation
  • Where’s the bathroom? ¿ Dónde se encuentran los lavabos?
  • I’m lost, could you help me : ¿ Estoy perdido, me puede ayudar?
  • Where is the train station / the city centre / the airport : Puede indicarme como ir a la estaciòn de tren / al centro / al aeropuerto.
  • At what time does the train / plane / bus leave? A qué hora el trén / el avion / el bus para (city), por favor?
  • Could we have some water / bread / check, please? ¿ Nos podria traer agua/ pàn / la cuenta, por favor?

Anyway, you should know that Colombian Spanish is one of the most comprehensive forms of Spanish.

Although some dialects differ from region to region, the language is nonetheless soft and musical.

You will enjoy conversing with a festive and welcoming Colombian population that will make fun of your imperfections.

So don’t be afraid of ridicule and in a word “dare”

What souvenir to bring back from your trip to Colombia?

The memories you bring back from a trip contribute to the happiness of your loved ones and feed the imperishable character of your stay in Colombia.

They can therefore constitute, depending on your nature, an important part of your vacation.

Whether they are durable or consumable, the important thing is what they represent and the pleasure you had in unearthing them.

The “artesanias”, popular handicraft markets, are full of treasures that will delight lovers of popular art and craft souvenir fetishes.

Thus, we can only recommend that you buy one of these magnificent hand-woven hammocks, a comfortable “ruana”, a kind of sheep’s wool poncho that will warm your long winter evenings, of chic “guayavera” shirts typical of the Caribbean coast, a hat “vueltiao” national emblem, a Colombian “mochila”, a jewel in filigree of Mompox, an object in “werregue” or any leather object of which you can have the insurance of an irreproachable quality.

Do you prefer to work in gastronomy? Then don’t hesitate for a second to spoil the coffee lovers.

If there is one country that is known worldwide for the quality of its coffee, it is Colombia.

Finally, if you have preferred to enjoy the present moment during your trip and have skipped the “souvenirs” stage, you will find many shops at the airport that will still allow you to spoil your loved ones who will not have had the chance to take part in the trip!

Gastronomy : What do we eat in Colombia?

Colombian gastronomy is a reflection of its country: rich, varied and multicultural.

Far too little is known about it, and it consists mainly of dishes of pre-Colombian origin that were transmitted orally by the conquistadors and colonists.

Thus the multiple Spanish influences that can be found throughout Latin America.

To know everything about Colombian cuisine, follow the guide!

The three daily meals eaten in Colombia are desayuno (breakfast), almuerzo (lunch) and comida (dinner).

A traditional meal usually consists of rice (or potatoes), kidney beans, meat or fish and plantains, to which you must necessarily add the arepas, small corn cakes that are the national “baguette”!

Colombia, the fourth largest country in Latin America with a very diverse climate, has agricultural crops specific to each region and thus contribute to the richness of its cuisine.

Cereals, tropical fruits, citrus fruits, wheat, corn and potatoes form the basic ingredients of Colombian cuisine, which are available in many forms.

Making phone calls, connecting to the internet while traveling in Colombia?

As in many emerging countries today, it will be very easy for you to communicate with the rest of the world during your trip to Colombia.

The Internet is relatively widespread throughout the country.

Hotels often offer free or paid internet access, and all medium and large cities in the country have internet cafes where it is very easy to get online for a very cheap hourly rate.

Telephone services are also of good quality.

You can always use your mobile phone by activating the “world” mode and respecting the telephone codes according to the nature of the extension and the country from which you are calling, but we advise you to be vigilant at the risk of being greeted on your return by a very salty bill.

Finally, if you want to control your communication budget during your trip to Colombia, we recommend the use of free internet telephone software such as Skype, which will also have the luxury of providing you with video!

Suitcase : The essentials to put in your suitcase for Colombia

With such great climatic variations, there is no doubt that you should think about the contents of your suitcase for your trip to Colombia.

The essentials:

  • – Plan rather a large backpack or large canvas bag than a suitcase with wheels for your trip to Colombia.

The cobbled streets of its colonial cities or the excursions that will take you off the beaten track do not favour a good walk on wheels!

  • A small backpack of 30 to 40 liters for visits and outings.
  • A waterproof jacket…unfortunately, you are never safe from a small “squall” wherever you are!
  • Sun protection: hats, sunscreen, sunglasses …

the sun can appear at any time and hit hard depending on the exposure of the day!

  • A camera and its charger as well as several spare memory cards.
  • An electrical adapter for 110V plugs (the same as in the USA).
  • A flashlight so that you don’t miss any part of your stay, even on a dark night.
  • A first-aid kit (disinfectants, bandages, paracetamol, anti-mosquitoes, anti-diarrhea…).

We thought it wise to provide you with a non-exhaustive list of essentials to take with you in your travel bag according to the regions you will visit during your tour in Colombia.

What to Pack For the Andes

Plan for:

  • Warm clothes (pants, fleece, jacket, hat, gloves, socks…)
  • A windbreaker…

you may be surprised by the winds that can blow through the many valleys in the area.

  • Hiking boots.
  • UV-protective lipstick.

What to Pack For the Amazon

In addition to the essentials, remember to bring:

  • Light clothing, preferably with long sleeves and legs to protect against mosquito bites.
  • A high-performance mosquito repellent.

Do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist for advice.

  • A microfibre towel and a swimsuit for the swimming stages of your stay.

What to pack For the Caribbean coast

Incredible diversity both in terms of the landscapes encountered and the activities promoted in this region of Colombia, your travel bag will adapt to the details of the program that awaits you on the spot.

Whether it is for a lazy stay on the paradisiacal beaches of Santa Marta, an excursion in the jungle of the Tayrona Park to discover the Cuidad Perdida or a night stroll in the alleys of beautiful Cartagena, design a custom-made suitcase that will adapt to your needs.

Thus, we recommend that you add to the must-haves of your trip, the Andes and the Amazon, the kit for a perfect seaside holiday.

This means :

  • Shorts.
  • T-shirts.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Open, comfortable and light shoes.

Finally, for more details and according to the specificities of your tour in Colombia, we invite you to contact your consultant who will be pleased to tell you precisely what you should bring according to the details of your program.

Family : Can I travel with my children?

The idea of a family trip to Colombia thrills you but you wonder if safety and activities will take away their wonder? Rest assured, Colombia is not a country exclusively for grown-ups! The little ones will also find their happiness if the tour is adapted to them!

Special itineraries specially designed to travel serenely with your family will be proposed to you by your specialized advisers.

Travel time, accommodation and activities will of course be adapted.

Young and old alike will marvel at a whale and dolphin watching trip along the coast or a horseback ride in the heart of the edifying Valle del Cocora.

They will also enjoy a stroll through the colourful streets of Cartagena or a few days at the beach playing in the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Are there discounts for children?

Some accommodations offer discounts for children according to their age.

In many hotels, free accommodation is available for children under 2 years of age.

Naturally, we undertake to include these discounts in the price of your trip to Colombia.

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