Colombia is becoming a hot destination amongst travelers. If you’re ready to head to South America, here are some travel tips for Colombia that can help you on your journey!
Colombia should be on your radar, especially if you are heading toward Latin America. Even if you’re not, you won’t regret making a stop in this delightful country.
The beautiful country was once known for Pablo Escobar, violence, and drugs. Now, everyone is heading there to eat some Colombian food and learn some things about the Colombian culture, as they should!
Colombia is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The people are nice, the nature is impressive, and the food is delicious.
After you read these travel trips for Colombia, get ready to pack your bags!
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The more you find out about this amazing country, the more you’ll love it and want to stay (I know I did!)
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world; the first being Brazil.
Per square kilometer, Colombia is the most biodiverse in the whole world. Colombia holds 10% of the Amazon or about 403,000 square kilometers. From the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Sea, Colombia has the Amazon Rainforest, Andes Mountains, and more.
With almost 2,000 species, Colombia has the most bird species in the world.
Colombia has 59 protected national parks. Altogether, they cover over 165,000 square kilometers, which is 14% of the total area.
You can join a bunch of Facebook groups and that way you will meet new people on your trip.
Of course, take precautions such as meeting in a public place and so on.
The countries that surround Colombia include Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Perú, and Panamá. The Caribbean Sea borders the country to the north with the Pacific Ocean bordering Colombia to the west.
Along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, you have popular cities such as Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. And you can’t forget the other well-known cities such as Medellín, Cali, and the capital, Bogotá.
Do You Need a Visa to Enter Colombia?
If you are from the US, Canada, or Europe, you will only need a visa if you are staying in the country for more than 90 days.
However, even though you are usually allowed 90 days, it actually depends on what the immigration officer gives you. You will want to double-check the number that they wrote to avoid penalties.
If you want to stay in Colombia longer than 90 days, you can request an additional 90 days from Colombia immigration.
So you could possibly spend 180 days in one year in the country without needing a visa. And you will probably want to!
Things to Know Before Visiting Colombia
- Know the basics of Spanish
- Unless you are going with a travel guide, you will want to download an app such as Duolingo to learn some basics. I recommend downloading Google Translate as well and you can even download the language if you won’t have cell service.
- If you want to learn Spanish, Colombia is the best place to start
- The Colombian accent is very clear. Also, the locals are very helpful and nice. There are Spanish classes that you can find in Medellín or another major city that will help to improve your Spanish.
- With the major tourist cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena, you might be able to get by without knowing much Spanish but you should always prepare
- The smaller towns and cities in the country will be more difficult. If you plan on taking taxis or using public transportation, you will want to know Spanish. When my taxi drivers found out that I could speak decent Spanish, they would talk my ear off, welcoming me into their appealing country and telling me places that I should visit. It was a great way to practice my Spanish.
- The WiFi around Colombia is not that great
- Don’t let that deter you away from traveling to Colombia! You can get a Claro SIM card for around USD 1. You can either get the SIM card from one of the stands on the side of the road or go to a Claro store. You can choose a plan that fits your needs and pay as little as COP 30,000 (USD 8) for the month. If you need to add more data, you can top it up at a convenience store.
- Although you can drink tap water in some parts of Colombia, I recommend bringing some sort of water filter, whether it’s just UV light or another type of filter.
- Don’t forget the sunblock. Part of Colombia is on the equator so make sure your sunblock is strong!
What Not to Bring to Colombia
You definitely won’t need any heavy winter coats. Or actually, any winter clothes in general. Bring a pair of pants if you plan on staying in Bogotá because it can get a bit cooler there.
For the most part, you won’t need thick clothes such as heavy coats and pants. For the bigger items, I think you will just need a raincoat. Keep in mind that part of Colombia is on the equator and the elevation level plays a factor in the climate.
What is Traveling to Colombia Like?
Traveling to Colombia is extremely easy, especially if you are going as a tourist. You should always check your country’s requirements and advice in advance.
For US citizens traveling to Colombia to wander around the country, you will need your passport and a suitcase. Of course that all depends on how long you want to stay and the rules and regulations can also change so keep that in mind.
How to Travel Around Colombia
If you’ve ever been to Colombia, you will know how huge the country actually is. I had no idea how big the country was until I set foot in it and had to find a way to get around.
Some useful apps to download for your phone include:
- redBus- use this app to buy bus tickets
- TransMi App- you can find stations, routes, news, tourist stops, and more
*For some of the apps, you will need a Colombian phone number and basic Spanish knowledge.
This method of transportation is definitely the cheapest but can also be the longest. As mentioned above, the country is huge. A bus from Medellín to Santa Marta can take up to 11 hours. However, if you’re budgeting, that might be the best option.
If you are from the US, you should know that you might have trouble booking with South American airlines with your American credit card. I tried to book flights through Avianca and Viva Air and the flight would be accepted but then once I got to the airport, it wasn’t valid.
Once I booked through Expedia, everything worked out fine. I had the most hectic times at the airports in Colombia because I never knew which flight I would catch.
In my experience, Avianca and Viva Air are terrible airlines. However, they might be the only options so if you are going to fly with them, be sure to sign up for their reward programs because they are both big airline companies in South America so they might come in handy if you plan on traveling through other parts of the continent.
The metro in Medellín is effortless and reasonably priced. You can buy a metro card for less than USD 2 and then you can add money to it at the station.
Download the apps above to make your travels easier around Colombia.
Taxis are super common, especially in the main cities. Always make sure you tell a friend or share your location, especially if you are a female traveler. This is not just a tip for Colombia but for traveling worldwide.
Uber is actually illegal in Colombia so you have to be careful using the service, especially if you get pulled over and don’t know Spanish. It also may not be available in all parts of Colombia. In Manizales and Minca Uber was not available.
Places to Visit in Colombia
Visiting Bogotá for a few days is worth it. I recommend staying up to three days max (that might even be a lot). There is more beauty in Colombia that is worth seeing. If you are near Bogotá, it is worth checking out La Candelaria, Monserrate, El Chiflón and La Chorrera waterfalls. The two waterfalls are about an hour’s ride from the capital. You can purchase a day tour here.
Cali is known to be the salsa capital so if you love dancing, make sure this area is on your list.
Cartagena is a go-to if you love warm waters, tropical weather, and great nightlife. You can visit Getsemani while you’re there too. The history and architecture are just a few things that make Cartagena attractive.
A few things to know before traveling to Cartagena: the weather is BOILING, and the vendors on the street will follow you. Still, the energy of Cartagena is unlike any other city. They have some of the best empanadas I’ve ever tasted on Carrera 7. It is close to SV Hostal Badillo. You won’t regret it.
There are over 70 islands in Colombia so make sure you try to see at least one! You can even book a day tour and travel around the Rosario Islands.
Your Colombia itinerary has to have Medellín on it. It is enormous and there will be locals and tourists or ex-pats that will want to meet up. The most common tourist neighborhoods include El Poblado, Envigado, and Laureles. Comuna 13 is another magnificent place to add to your bucket list. If you end up in Medellín, take a day trip to Guatape to see El Penol.
Minca in Santa Marta is getting more recognition from tourists; it is peaceful, there’s a ton of hiking/walking to do, and you are in nature.
If you find yourself choosing between Santa Marta and Minca, choose the second. Minca is only about an hour from Simón Bolívar International Airport (SMR) which is the airport in Santa Marta. The Lost City, “Ciudad Perdida” in Spanish, is believed to have been founded in 800 CE, which is about 650 years older than Macchu Picchu in Perú.
Heading toward Santa Marta, you have the world’s tallest coastal mountains: Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, which has snow-capped mountain peaks. Tayrona National Park is close by along the coast in Magdalena.
Salento is the place with the tallest palm trees in the world! Head to the Cocora Valley to check out the palm trees and exceptional views. I recommend staying in Salento for at least two nights.
Viajero Hostel has a few locations around Colombia. Viajero Hostel in Salento is only about a five-minute walk from the center!
Is it Safe to Travel in Colombia?
Don’t believe everything you read!
Before I went to Colombia, everyone was giving me their tips for Colombia, without having even visited. Long story short, I am happy that I decided to go and form my own opinion because if I had listened to what everyone was saying, I would’ve never gone.
Violent crimes in Colombia have dwindled down within the past few years. As long as you don’t flash your money and walk at night (which you shouldn’t do anywhere!!) then you will survive.
I was in Colombia for a whole month traveling and exploring with myself and sometimes others and it was a great experience.
Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Even though you might not need it, I recommend getting travel insurance.
It can be a little over USD 100 for the month. Even if you are going on a short vacation to Colombia, it is always smart to have travel insurance and it’s always better to be safe.
Since pickpocketing and theft can happen anywhere, it might be a good idea to look into getting a policy.
Travel Tips for Colombia that You Didn’t Know You Needed
- Try street food- if locals are there, you should be there. That is always a great rule of thumb to decide if you should eat at a restaurant.
- Try Colombian desserts
- Try: granadilla, guanabana, and lulo. There are many other fruits if you’re feeling adventurous! The fruit in Colombia is rare and you can get them at local markets for a reasonable price.
Colombia is a huge and magnificent country. You can spend days, weeks, or months in the country. Just make sure you bring enough pesos with you or get yourself a Charles Schwab account to withdraw money without the hefty fees!